They may have both won on Wednesday, but the vibes surrounding Juventus and AC Milan couldn't be any different.
As Milan look to continue the form that saw them thrash Genoa 5-2, Juventus will look to get something going despite recording a ugly 2-1 win over Parma a few hours before.
Two wins. Two very different situations.
Even though there is a considerable gap between the two teams and leaders Inter Milan, Sunday's clash of the titans will be a direct battle for second place with Milan just one point in from of Juve in the Serie A table.
Not only will Juventus be looking defeat one of its biggest rivals and hop over them in the standings, but the Bianconeri can also use a victory to propel and revitalize the season that seems to be grumbling right in front of our very eyes.
1. Which Juventus team will show up at the Olimpico?
As the season has gone on, Juventus' quality of play has gone down. You name it and Juventus have struggled to execute it as the season has gone on.
The off-and-on Bianconeri from October and November turned into an utter train wreck in the final month of 2009. The offense had no consistency whatsoever and the defense, already having difficulties, totally fell apart.
So now, much like the Inter Milan match a month ago, we don't know we team will show up. We don't know if the team will be able to ditch its poor form and put in a solid team effort against Milan.
It's not only left us wondering if they will be play a complete 90 minutes; we don't know if they'll show up at all.
This match could be a good, classic Juve effort like the one against Inter, or it could be the complete disaster like what happened against Bayern Munich.
2. Can the Juventus defense handle Milan's firepower?
So a shaky Juve defense will be going up against a Milan offense that just put in five against Genoa on Wednesday? That doesn't sound very good.
Indeed, the matchup will be an interesting one and made even more complicated with Milan totally dominating the usually solid Genoa defense.
Juventus' defense entered the season as a huge question mark and has continued to be one as the season has gone on. While loanee Martin Caceres—who will miss the game on Sunday due to suspension—has impressed this season, the other two defensive signings from this past summer, Fabio Grosso and Fabio Cannavaro, have been far from that.
If the Old Lady wants to get three points against Milan, that's going to have to change.
Grosso, Cannavaro, and Caceres' fill in, Zdenek Grygera, will have to put in quality effort to stop the likes of Marco Borriello, Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham, and Pato if he's healthy.
He's damn good, but Giorgio Chiellini can't do it all himself.
3. Which Fabio Cannavaro will we see—the good or the bad?
OK, the defense was just discussed, but seeing how Cannavaro was so poor going into the winter break, some more attention needs to be focused on him.
Cannavaro's form gone on the same downward spiral the whole team's form—very good to begin the season and then progressively worse as the season has gone on.
Not only has Cannavaro been picked apart by quality teams, but he has also been exposed by teams that are in the bottom part of the table. Teams have taken advantage of his lack of speed and just his overall diminishing diminishing skill set.
He's looking every bit of a 36-year-old defender who's a shadow of his former self.
After an extended holiday due to a suspension on Wednesday, Sunday's match will be Cannavaro's first of 2010. Who knows if the rest will have done any good?
One thing is for certain, though—Cannavaro needs to step things up.
4. Will Juventus' Brazilian trio have a positive impact?
Big money brings big expectations.
The past two summers, Juve Sporting Director Alessio Secco has dropped close to €75 million on Brazilians Amauri, Felipe Melo, and Diego.
And now the Brazilian trio are starring in their own version of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" as their struggles continue as 2010 begins. Diego's performances have been mixed, Melo's have been bad, and Amauri's 2009 was a whole lot of awful.
There's no doubting that these three will be key components to Juve's success. Amauri will get the start up top with David Trezeguet injuring his ankle and Vincenzo Iaquinta still out injured. And with Juve manager Ciro Ferrara going with a 4-4-1-1 formation, it will be an all-Brazilian front with Diego playing just behind Amauri.
Then there is Melo. When Juve were clicking back in the first few weeks of the season, Melo was a dominant force in the middle of the park. Then as the team started to struggle, so did Melo. Both his offensive and defensive contributions went in the tank and so did the team.
Now as 2010 begins, the pressure is even greater for them to produce and resurrect the season. Big money players are supposed to do that. And, as of now, they haven't.
To get a win, there's definitely going to have to be a little Samba from the players in black and white.
5. Can Claudio Marchisio repeat his performance against Milan at the Olimpico from a season ago?
When Juventus and Milan met in Turin last season, it was Marchisio who stole the show. He was the driving force of the Juve midfield, doing it all as the Bianconeri beat their archrivals 4-2 just over a year ago.
With Ferrara expected to again utilize the 4-4-1-1 system he used against Parma, Marchisio won't be in the middle like he was a year ago, instead out on the left wing with Melo and Christian Poulsen playing in the middle.
He may not be a natural winger, but the kid is one heck of a talent and has the versatility to play wherever Ferrara puts him.
Marchisio has a knack for coming up big in big games. He may 23, but he has the manner and demeanor of a seasoned vet in his prime. He is an all-around midfielder like Juventus legends Antonio Conte and Marco Tardelli, who also wore No. 8.
And there's no doubting that Juve will need somebody to come up big if they are to get three points Sunday night. That person could very well be Marchisio.
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