AC Milan have two important games on the cards and they will start with Juventus tomorrow evening, looking to bounce back from the recent defeat with a win. Indeed, it would be a great boost ahead of the derby.
Stefano Pioli’s men lost their game against Spezia but it’s safe to say that it was a strange one. Junior Messias had seemingly found the winner but the goal whistled had gone just before, and then Spezia scored the 2-1 goal.
During his press conference earlier today, the manager spoke about the mishap and also shared an update on the players that have recently returned to action. Indeed, he will have a decent squad to rely on tomorrow.
Game date: Sunday, 23 January
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Di Bello (VAR: Di Paolo)
There’s no doubt that Milan are still struggling with a lot of injuries and absences. Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori are out of action and Franck Kessie is still at AFCONs as Ivory Coast finished first in their group. Fode Ballo-Toure is also at AFCONs.
But as alluded to in the introduction, Pioli will be able to rely on a strong squad as the likes of Alessio Romagnoli, Davide Calabria and Ismael Bennacer are back at full speed. Sandro Tonali has also served his one-game suspension.
With a longer list of players to pick from, There have been several different XI reports throughout the day. At first, it was believed that Alessandro Florenzi and Ismael Bennacer would start, but then they were replaced by Davide Calabria and Rade Krunic in the following update.
Bennacer’s condition is fine but the decision to bench him is probably more tactical, seeing as he has only made one training session with the group this week. Krunic, on the other hand, has been present during every session and as we know, Pioli really likes his versatility.
Another ‘late change’ in the predicted XI is the right-wing, with Junior Messias expected to start instead of Alexis Saelemaekers. The Brazilian was tested during today’s training session and that suggests Pioli has opted for him.
In total, therefore, there will be four changes to the XÍ compared to the last outing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will keep his spot up front and he will be looking to break his goal drought at San Siro.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Romagnoli, Theo; Tonali, Krunic; Messias, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic
Juventus have struggled this season and are currently seven points behind Milan, which says a lot about their performances. The struggles, however, started already last season and if anything, it has looked slightly better now.
At least in the last few games, which is what Max Allegri alluded to in his pre-match conference earlier today. No one can argue that the start of the former Milan boss’ second tenure with the Bianconeri was impressive, but things are starting to turn.
They haven’t lost in their last eight league games (W7, D1) and the signs are there, although the performances haven’t always been too good. But if there’s anything we know about Allegri, it’s that he can get the results without spectacular showings.
They still have some way to go before being able to challenge Inter or Milan in the Scudetto race, but downplaying their quality would be a foolish move. Especially if you consider some of the results they have achieved lately.
Furthermore, Allegri will be able to field a rather strong XI tomorrow. Leonardo Bonucci and Aaron Ramsey will miss out on the clash but, other than that, the manager will be able to pick between the players.
Probable Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; De Sciglio, De Ligt, Chiellini, Pellegrini; Locatelli, Rabiot; Cuadrado, Dybala, McKennie; Morata.
Head to head
During their nine-year period of great success, Juventus obviously had the upper hand on Milan and more often than not found themselves as the winners. The trend has changed a little lately, though, with the Rossoneri winning two of the last four games (D1, L1).
The reverse fixture ended 1-1 as Ante Rebic scored the equaliser in the second half. Milan then had a golden opportunity to steal the three points but Pierre Kalalu’s effort was somehow saved. Avoiding defeat in any of the legs would be a first in many years for Milan, as the stats below state.
➤ AC Milan are the side that Juventus have lost (51) and drawn (55) the most Serie A matches against – in the 173 total meetings between these two sides in the competition, the Bianconeri have recorded 67 wins.
➤ AC Milan have gone unbeaten in three of their last four Serie A meetings with Juventus (W2 D1), as many as in the previous 17 such games in the competition (W2 D1 L14).
➤ After the 1-1 draw last September, AC Milan and Juventus could draw both meetings in a single Serie A campaign for the first time since the 1991/92 campaign. The last time AC Milan avoided defeat in both league meetings with Juve in a single season was back in 2009/10.
➤ AC Milan and Juventus haven’t drawn any of their last nine Serie A meetings at the Meazza: six wins for the Bianconeri and three for the Rossoneri – the last such draw was back in February 2021 (1-1 with goals from Nocerino and Matri), with Allegri on the AC Milan bench and Conte with Juventus.
➤After the 1-2 defeat against Spezia, AC Milan could lose consecutive Serie A home matches for the first time since September 2019, in what were Marco Giampaolo’s last two league games at the Meazza as AC Milan manager.
➤ Juventus are unbeaten in their last eight league matches, thanks to six wins and two draws; their longest run in the competition since December 2020 (12).
➤ Massimiliano Allegri has won 11 times and drawn his other four meetings with Stefano Pioli as a manager in Serie A: he is the coach with the most Serie A matches against another manager without losing in the three points for a win era (15).
➤ AC Milan’s Ante Rebic has scored in his last three Serie A meetings against Juventus: in the three points for a win era (since 94/95), only Mauro Icardi has found the net in more successive league matches against Juventus (five in a row between 2013 and 2015).
➤ Zlatan Ibrahimovic (23 goals in 70 Serie A appearances for Juventus between 2004 and 2006) has scored two league goals against the Bianconeri, both at the Meazza (July 2020 and October 2010). The Swede could become the oldest player to find the net against Juventus in the Italian top-flight (40 years and 112 days on Sunday), overtaking Silvio Piola (39 years and 174 days in 1953).
➤ Paulo Dybala has been directly involved in 12 Serie A goals against AC Milan (seven goals, five assists), only against Udinese does he have more combined goals and assists (17) – however, the Argentinian has never scored at the Meazza against the Rossoneri in four previous league games for Juventus.
Ones to watch
It’s a very important game and this means that the leaders will have to step up for Milan, such as Romagnoli, Tonali and Ibrahimovic. The midfielder will be of additional importance as he most likely will find himself trying to stop Dybala often.
Furthermore, Milan will rely on him to be the link between defence and attack in the build-up. The second player that will be highlighted here has already been mentioned, namely Ibrahimovic. He hasn’t scored at San Siro since September and he will be looking to end the drought with a goal.
Then, of course, it will be up to captain Romagnoli to take charge of things at the back as he will partner up with Kalulu. The latter made two mistakes against Spezia and will have to step up his game tomorrow.
As for Juventus, Dybala is the clear danger man not just because of his record against Milan, but also because he has stepped up lately. He has found the net in the last two games and will be looking to make it three games tomorrow.
Taking a look at the player ratings, as per WhoScored, Dybala is the best ranked but the man just below him is Cuadrado. The Colombian will use his pace and crossing ability to pick out Morata in the box, that’s for sure.
Milan enjoyed a fine start to 2022 up until the game against Spezia and although it should have been a win, the Rossoneri could have done a lot better. That’s why it will be very interesting to see their reaction tomorrow.
At the same time, Juventus are in a good moment and that should make it a very close affair. A draw seems likely, but we can expect to see two sides pushing for the three points tomorrow.
Prediction: AC Milan 2-2 Juventus
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