It’s second meets third on Week 16 in Serie A, as Juventus prepare to host Milan at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino. With only goal difference separating the sides 15 games into the campaign, this may well prove to be one of the most eagerly anticipated and even matches these two great rivals have played out. And as it stands, it would seem that if anyone is going to dethrone Inter, it will be one of these two giants.
Last weekend The Old Lady relied on a late winner from summer signing Amauri to see of Lecce while Milan scraped past Catania thanks to a second half Kaka header. It meant both sides stayed six points behind leaders Inter in their fight to keep within touching distance of Jose Mourinho’s men.
The Bianconeri will have home advantage and with Milan struggling on their travels this season, Le Zebre will definitely fancy their chances. After seven wins in their last nine outings, Juventus are bang in form and will go into the match as slight favourites. Much of that is down to the in-form strike pairing of Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri. Both big names and big pedigrees are starting to score on a regular basis as expected following Amauri’s big money move from Palermo in the summer. It was clear that along with Del Piero, a potentially devastating strike force could be formed and it’s beginning to prove fruitful in recent weeks. Amauri acts as the main target man, holding up the ball and making runs for Del Piero to play off him and supply him with the ammunition as well as getting his fair share in goals. With Del Piero being one of Serie A’s all-time leading marksmen and Amauri having a fine scoring record during his time on the continent – it would be difficult to see them not succeed together.
The same could be said for Milan’s strike force. Two former World Players of the Year and a teenage sensation make for a terrifying attacking trio that strikes fear into any opposing defence. The Rossoneri have adapted to a 4-3-2-1 system this term, mainly to accommodate the three Brazilians of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Alexandre Pato forwards, but it also complements their ageing and narrow midfield. With the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Mathieu Flamini to call upon, it would be difficult to play any other formation as none are comfortable on the wings. Also none of them are particularly quick or fleet-footed, but crucially they all have the big-game experience needed, a great eye for a pass and are all superb at keeping possession. Opposing teams have struggled to control games when playing against il Diavolo because of this and although they may lack a little creativity; they all add that much needed bite and energy that unnerves the opposition, breaking their rhythm. Besides, with Ronnie and Kaka on your side, creativity and flair isn’t going to be in short supply.
However Juventus’ midfield isn’t too dissimilar. It also boasts an array of energetic, driven midfielders more intent on disrupting than playing. With Pavel Nedved, Christian Poulsen, Tiago and Mauro Camoranesi the favoured quartet, it offers more width than their rivals. With the two holding midfielders of Poulsen and Tiago it leaves the Bianconeri very hard to break down in that central area, but at the same time, Coach Claudio Ranieri prefers the formal 4-4-2 formation, and the experienced duo of Nedved and Camoranesi gives him the width to play that option. Both players are blessed with immense technical ability as well as an excellent delivery from the wide areas – perfect for Amauri. But they are also very workmanlike offering the side bounds of energy up and down the flank. But with injuries disrupting the Juve camp at present, the Tinkerman’s first choice midfield has been unsettled, as Camoranesi, Tiago and Poulsen remain on the sidelines. It has left Claudio Marchisio, Momo Sissoko and Marco Marchionni with chances to come in and hopefully give Ranieri a selection headache. They do a similar job to their injured compatriots so it doesn’t change the shape too much.
In a battle that may well decide the outcome of Sunday evening’s game, the midfield area may prove to be fairly scrappy and combative but both sides will be desperate to gain control to supply their forwards with opportunities to really hurt the opposition.
The Coaches line up against each other in contrasting positions. Claudio Ranieri has been subject to many disapproving Juventus fans since his arrival, but few would argue with the fine job he has done to get La Vecchia Signora back on its feet after recent troubles, and with the recent good run of form after a mini-crisis back in October and it seems the fans are starting to come round to his style of coaching. He is infamously referred to as the Tinkerman due to his regular altering of his starting line-ups, made famous during his time at Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti’s time at Milan has been hugely successful (both as a player and Coach) and despite last campaign’s poor return the experienced tactician is still revered by the Rossoneri supporters. He is renowned for his cautious approach and tactical prowess and although lacking in the charisma and general likeability of his counterpart, he is fondly thought of in his native Milan and highly regarded across Europe as one of the finest coaches around.
No doubt all eyes will be on Turin this weekend as these great rivals meet once again. Both are chasing Scudetto glory after living in Inter’s shadow for too long and come Sunday night, one could emerge a step closer to their target while leaving the other team’s hopes in ruins.