TIM Trophy: What We Learned About AC Milan and Juventus

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TIM Trophy: What We Learned About AC Milan and Juventus
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What can you learn about two European superpowers from a series of 45-minute mid-summer friendlies? Not a lot. 

The TIM Trophy might be important for Serie A's main sponsor, but the cup holds little significance for its participants.

Or for two of them, at least. Because even if it is a little pointless, there won't be too many Sassuolo fans complaining after seeing their side beat AC Milan and lift the trophy. 

That's right, Serie A new boys Sassuolo, from a small city in Emilia-Romagna, were unbeaten in normal time against Juventus and the Rossoneri. How they'd like to be able to say that at the end of the season. 

Last year's Serie B champions beat the Rossoneri and drew with Juve before losing to the Bianconeri on penalties, and since Antonio Conte's and Max Allegri's sides drew in the event's box office clash, the Neroverde ended the tournament as the only side with a win from open play.

Neither Conte nor Allegri will lose much sleep over the result, of course. The Juve boss was able to give a run-out to new signings Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, an exciting pair of strikers who it is hoped will add more firepower to the Old Lady's attack this season.

Conte now has Tevez, Llorente, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco to choose from up front, a greatly improved attacking line that was the weak point in the Juventus setup last season. 

The back-to-back Serie A champions looked sluggish on the night—a fact that Conte puts down to a hard preseason training regime. 

Speaking to the press after the game (here in English, via football-italia.net), he said: 

We didn’t concede, but we weren’t able to show much of what we’re capable of producing. It’s understandable, the lads have worked hard and had tired legs. In fact, I’d like to congratulate them for their commitment on pre-season. The important thing is that we’ve finished the pre-season training camp and now this evening’s encounters without picking up any injuries.

It was much the same for the Rossoneri, who should start the new campaign with a familiar line-up. In his press conference (from football-italia.net), Allegri touched on the fact that he was working on improving his current squad tactically, though he didn't rule out one or two well-considered signings. 

The lads played pretty well, though we need to improve in physical and tactical terms. The transfer market is still long, Adriano Galliani knows what can be done, but the important thing will be for me to focus on the players at my disposal.

The TIM Trophy will have been a chance to have a quick look at his team's progression for Allegri. The Rossoneri are operating on a tight budget these days, but they also have a squad full of young, talented individuals. It's a case of evolution rather than revolution on the red side of the San Siro, and how well that's going won't be apparent until we're several rounds deep into the 2013-14 season. 

Keisuke Honda is being heavily linked to the Rossoneri, but while the Japanese star would certainly be a welcome addition, Allegri isn't short on attacking options, particularly if Robinho decides he'll actually make an effort this season.

The Brazilian looked in good shape against Juventus, and alongside the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini, he forms part of an enviable strike force. 

Consistency on the bench is a rare thing in top-level football, and it should play to Milan's favour this term. Allegri's job is now secure, and there'll be no squad upheaval. Two factors that should not be ignored. 

Last year saw a host of big-name departures, and the disastrous early-season form suggested that the Rossoneri struggled to come to terms with the losses at first. They've since got over it and replaced an ageing group of superstars with a young batch of exciting prospects. 

Talents like Mattia De Sciglio are older and wiser, and star man Balotelli should be well-and-truly settled. If he keeps everyone fit, Allegri's got a squad the equal of all but the very best in Europe.

It's hard to judge from watching a triangular tournament played mid-summer, but on paper at least, Milan are looking like genuine title contenders already, so there's little tinkering needed. Sometimes, less is more. 

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