AC Milan vs. Juventus: Where the Game Will Be Won
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The simple answer is this: The locker room. That's where Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte will fill in the lineup cards prior to the Sunday kickoff at the San Siro.
Both clubs are coming off mid-week Champions League fixtures. Juventus defeated Chelsea at home and Milan travelled to the Belgian capital to face Anderlecht. The starting 11 selections and the manager's game management are a vital factor in league games following on the heels of European competition.
With five games remaining on the schedule before the winter break, Milan finds itself in unfamiliar territory in the Serie A table.
Currently sitting in 12th place, the Rossoneri are 17 points behind their Sunday opponents and eight points adrift of Lazio who occupy the last Europa League qualifying spot.
Milan is doubly burdened by injuries which limit Allegri's options against the league leaders. Djamel Mesbah, Luca Antonini, Ignazio Abate, Daniele Bonera and Sulley Muntari were all left off the roster for the match against Anderlecht. 17-year Milan veteran Massimo Ambrosini will also not lace up in Brussels. Who will be available vs. Juventus remains to be seen but Allegri will have to patch together another lineup, especially on the back line, from his depleted inventory of healthy players.
There's further evidence of Milan's struggles this year considering their form in league games occurring the same week as Champions League fixtures. Milan has recorded just one win and three losses after European matches.
Juventus, on the other hand, has four wins and no losses thus far.
|Champions League (Result)||Serie A (Result)|
|Milan||Anderlecht (0-0)||@Udinese (1-2)|
|@Zenit (3-2)||Inter (0-1)|
|@Malaga (0-1)||Genoa (1-0)|
|Malaga (1-1)||Fiorentina (1-3)|
|Juventus||@Chelsea (2-2)||Chievo (2-0)|
|Shakhtar Donetsk (1-1)||@Siena (2-1)|
|@Nordsjælland (1-1)||@Catania (1-0)|
|Nordsjælland (4-0)||@Pescara (6-1)|
|Chelsea (3-0)||@Milan (?)|
Juve will be riding high on confidence when they make the short trip to Milan on Sunday having soundly defeated the defending European champions 3-0 at home, a result which effectively ended the tenure of Roberto Di Matteo at Stamford Bridge. Conte must also feel good knowing that when he returns to the touchlines in only a few weeks time he'll find the club where he left it last spring, atop Serie A.
While there's still a ways to go in the Serie A season, the Bianconeri appear to be solid bets on defending their title.
Even as they rotate Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Matri and Nicklas Bendtner atop their formations in search of consistent goal scoring contributions from their strikers, Juve's total goal tally is second in Serie A only to Roma. Their strength remains a core of gifted midfielders anchored by the irrepressible Andrea Pirlo and a stingy defense which has only conceded nine goals in 13 matches.
Such depth in the squad and the flexibility to rest key personnel against even a rival like Milan makes Conte's job vastly easier than Allegri's. Milan's success in Europe and domestically looks increasingly dependent on the emergence of Stephen El Shaarawy. His two clinical strikes against Napoli last weekend rescued a point from a crucial away game.
Who Allegri places around the phenom known as the Il Faraone will go a long way in determining who takes the points on Sunday.
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