With the Coppa Italia reaching its pointy end, this week’s two semi-final ties are evenly poised. Despite being maligned by clubs, fans and media alike, interest in the Cup does rise at this stage and with sell-out crowds in Turin and Naples, the second leg contests will be intriguing.
The showpiece match takes place at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night with Juventus holding a 2-1 advantage over Milan. This clash could be important in terms of gaining a psychological boost in the Scudetto race, especially for Juve, who are the hunters. They hold the season advantage over the Rossoneri, with two wins plus that controversy-laden draw.
As for Antonio Conte – who believes this is Juve’s most important game to date – his aim at the start of the season was to take the Old Lady back to what it once was – a fearless winning machine. Practice makes perfect as they say and for Juventus to return to old ways they must learn how to become winners again. The Coppa Italia final would provide an opportunity to do so. Conte may return to the 3-5-2 formation which was utilised in the first leg. Marco Storari and Alessandro Del Piero will start, with Martin Caceres and Marco Borriello also in line for a position from the opening whistle.
Their adversary will consider this trophy third on the priority list and amid a Champions League tie with Barcelona on the horizon, one could forgive the Rossoneri for having an eye towards next week. Yet Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Massimiliano Allegri have stated their intent on reaching the final and Milan will look to take that hunger to Turin. The tactician’s hand may be forced in terms of his starting XI due to the spate of injuries, but Allegri does recover Philippe Mexes and still has a strong side at his disposal.
On Wednesday, Napoli will also seek to overturn a 2-1 first leg result as they host Siena at the Stadio San Paolo. Crucially for the Partenopei, a late Emanuele Pesoli own-goal gives them greater hope heading into the return contest.
When they first met Napoli were stuck in a rut and Siena took full advantage to seize the aggregate advantage, yet since that fixture Napoli’s only defeat has come at Chelsea in the Champions League. For Napoli the Coppa Italia represents their most realistic trophy opportunity and would cap a wonderful few years, whilst perhaps acting as the catalyst for more trophies to come. The chance to win their first Coppa since 1986/87 and first trophy since the 1990/91 Italian Super Cup is up for grabs.
Napoli will likely stick to the same core XI which has taken them through the season. Walter Mazzarri has been unwilling in past Coppa encounters to make sweeping changes and with a spot in the final on the line, that philosophy is expected to remain.
Siena would incredibly make the Europa League should they be able to hold on in Naples. With Juve or Milan waiting in the final and since the duo are likely Champions League qualifiers, the tiny Tuscan outfit would at least start 2012/13 in the Europa League qualifying round.
However, to get there they must do so without injured trio Emanuele Calaio, Gaetano D’Agostino and Mattia Destro. Calaio and Destro are responsible for 16 of Siena’s 32 Serie A goals, whilst D’Agostino scored in the first leg and has a big influence in the centre of midfield. Siena have one of Serie A’s worst away records this season – having won just once – but have already triumphed three times on their travels in the Coppa.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico is just 90 minutes away and four clubs are eager to be part of the reckoning. Each has differing ambitions but not one will want the opportunity to pass them by.