Two of Italian football’s giants play a match of great importance this Sunday. AC Milan play host to Juventus. Milan are in the midst of ongoing struggles with both form and health, whereas Juventus are putting their early-season struggles behind them. This match will surely have massive implications for both the Scudetto race and the finish for the top four.
AC Milan versus Juventus Preview
Milan are fresh off a loss to Spezia. Although Milan had won their previous four matches, it remains a major disappointment. That loss represents the club’s first loss to Spezia in a century. It’s a match clouded with controversy. Milan looked to be judged unfairly to the point where Italy’s referee association (AIA) issued an apology. With that being said, the result stays in place. It counts as a loss.
Before that, at least, Milan were on a three-game win streak in the league and fresh off a victory versus Genoa in the Coppa Italia Round of 16.
Juventus has won their last two matches, a 4-1 thumping of Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia and a 2-0 victory in Serie A over Udinese. Before that, they did fall short versus Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana. The match before that came versus Roma. Juventus were down 3-1 and miraculously won 4-3. This team is clearly putting their early-season struggles behind them.
Milan sits at second in the Serie A table. Juventus sits at fifth. Only seven points separate the duo, so a win for either side represents a major shift. Milan will player Inter after this match, which will also have implications for the Scudetto race.
Expected Line-Up for AC Milan
Milan’s defense has seen major shifts over the past few matches due to injury. Coming into this match, two starters are certain. They are goalkeeper Mike Maignan and left-back Theo Hernandez.
Both right-backs, Davide Calabria and Alessandro Florenzi, are now healthy. It’s likely Florenzi gets the start as Calabria just recently recovered from COVID-19.
The centre-back position gets interesting. Alessio Romagnoli is back from his bout of COVID-19, but perhaps not in top fitness. The other options, due to injuries to Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori, are Pierre Kalulu and Matteo Gabbia. Both put out forgettable performances versus Spezia. Manager Stefano Pioli will have major decisions here.
Sandro Tonali is back, and he will surely start in the midfield. Pioli has faith in Tiémoué Bakayoko, so he’s expected to start too. Algeria were recently eliminated from the African Cup of Nations (by Franck Kessie’s Ivory Coast), so Ismael Bennacer may possibly be available.
The two wings will likely be manned by Alexis Saelemaekers on the right and Rafael Leao on the left. The central attacking midfield position usually belongs to Brahim Diaz, but his poor form has been noticeable. Rade Krunic continues to play well and may get the spot.
Lastly, there’s the striker question. All signs point to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s still a fantastic goalscorer and Milan need his experience in this match. Ante Rebic is back from injury though and has a reputation of being a “big match” player. Ibrahimovic remains the favourite.