Juventus vs. AC Milan: Bianconeri Should Not Take Struggling Rivals Lightly
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Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
On Sunday, Juventus will travel to Milan to take on an AC Milan team experiencing their worst season in recent history. And that's not an overstatement.
The perennial powerhouse is ranked 12th in the league after 13 games, with a lowly 15 points. That's less than half the amount of points current league leaders Juventus are sitting on.
Both teams are coming off wins in the midweek UEFA Champions League fixtures, but while the Bianconeri dominated current European champions Chelsea, the Rossoneri needed a strong second half to narrowly dispose of Belgian champions Anderlecht—a side that hasn't survived the Champions League group stages since 2001.
Juve have continued their great form that saw them win the domestic title last year, going unbeaten in the process. They've lost just a single game so far this season, at home against Inter Milan. They've scored 13 times in their last four games and have conceded only once, a 1-6 beatdown of Pescara.
Fans are already looking ahead at the showdown with Shakhtar Donetsk in two weeks, that will decide the Bianconeri's fate in the Champions League. The general consensus seems to be that Juve will easily dispose of their struggling domestic rivals and will add to the Rossoneri's misery.
Not so fast, my friend.
A golden rule in sports is that you should never overlook a rival, no matter what their current form may be. When it comes to rivalry games, you can throw all statistics out of the window.
Juventus play two in a row, at Milan and at home against cross-town rivals Torino.
Milan might be struggling, but they are far too talented to be ranked this low in the Serie A table. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva may have departed the club for greener pastures (and a lot of oil dollars) but stars like Kevin-Prince Boateng and Nigel De Jong still don the red and black, while new players are emerging in the form of Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio.
Juve might be favourites going into this game, it's the Rossoneri that need this win badly. They need to get some momentum going, and there's no better way to start than knocking off the league leaders and arch rivals in a game you're expected to lose.
Every fan knows the phenomenon of kick-starting.
A team is having a bad run of games, not catching any breaks, and then they unexpectedly get a big win. Suddenly, they become invincible. They find their swagger, start beating opponents into the ground and have luck on their side.
The Bianconeri are coming off two high-paced games against Lazio, Roma and Chelsea that saw their starters play with high intensity for 180 minutes. Players are looking ahead at Shakhtar and the return of their head coach, Antonio Conte.
No one will think of Milan as some lowly team, but given both team's current forms, victory is expected. In case you haven't noticed yet, Juve is starting to resemble something like the Empire from Star Wars around Italy: An unbeatable giant the little guy doesn't like rooting for.
Momentum might be with the Bianconeri, the people want to see the Rossoneri win.
Massimiliano Allegri might be able to save his job with a win in Turin, and you can bet he's been preparing his team for weeks going into this game.
Add to that the feelings of injustice Milan still harbour towards Juve, and you get an idea of what kind of game this will be. The referee needs to have a perfect game, because Milan will call out every bad decision as typical Juventus bias and the Bianconeri will call it overcompensating. Odds are the pattern of officials being afraid to give Juve an advantage in the Serie A continues.
The stage is set for a massive upset, with Milan fighting for their lives and their 2012-2013 campaign.
Juventus have enough quality in their squad to overcome anything the Rossoneri can throw at them, but they will have to be at their best and play a very focused game. This is still the game of the week in the Serie A, and for all of the trouble that Milan is going through right now, they should not be underestimated.
It's 2010-2011 all over again, but this time the roles have reversed. Juve should be careful not to fall into the trap Milan will present.
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