Can resurgent AC Milan trip up the Old Lady?
AC Milan fans are just starting to believe again after last season’s nightmare, but the visit of defending champions Juventus will be a true test of their Scudetto credentials. Milan will look to take advantage of hosting the Bianconeri before they truly hit their stride, but they have made an ominous start to the campaign.
Juventus won the title at a canter last season, their third in a row, but they were helped by their rivals suffering unexpectedly wretched spells, so the Turin side should expect much stiffer tests this time around. Milan proved emphatically that they can find the net with their 5-4 win over Parma, the question is whether they can rattle Juventus’s as yet unbeaten, unflappable back line.
The odds show Juventus as clear favourites but the draw is generously priced given that this is a very different Milan side to last season and they have so far been deadly in front of goal.
AC Milan to win – 21/10
Juventus to win – 6/5
Draw – 9/4
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Milan’s nine-goal thriller with Parma had everything – two red cards, an injured goalkeeper (Milan’s Diego Lopez who is out for 20 days) and a magnificent back heel winner from Jeremy Menez. Having beaten Lazio 3-1 in their opener, things are looking up for a side who suffered the rare indignity of missing out on European qualification last season. It’s the first time since 1963 that Milan have hit eight goals in their opening two games of a campaign, and they even struck five without new boy Fernando Torres, who is fighting off an ankle injury, and injury-prone marksman Stephan El Shaarawy. Both men should be ready to feature against Juventus.
In many ways Milan are still rebuilding after the Massimiliano Allegri era, so this game will have even more pride at stake than usual because Allegri will be sitting on the Juventus bench. Clarence Seedorf’s impact was minimal after he replaced Allegri and it is only now that Pippo Inzaghi is putting a new stamp on the team. However, despite the air of optimism, Inzaghi has insisted that a win over Juventus would be ‘pulling off a miracle’. The former poacher is still in his managerial infancy and knows that a win would undoubtedly be his greatest coaching achievement to date.
The worry for Inzaghi is that his gung-ho Rossoneri are doing things the hard way. There have been over 2.5 goals in Milan’s last four Serie A games, going back into the end of last season. The defence looked jittery against Parma and may struggle to deal with the Juventus partnership of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente that proved deadly last season. Juventus, by contrast, are yet to turn on the fireworks but also yet to concede. Their opening day 1-0 win at Chievo could easily have been 3-0 and they were on the whole comfortable in beating a competitive Udinese 2-0 at home. The Old Lady have been built on solidity rather than flamboyance and the old adage states that titles are won by defence not attack. There have been less than 2.5 goals scored in 13 of Juventus’s last 16 Serie A games and they have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last nine.
A largely unpopular choice to replace the conquering Antonio Conte, Allegri still has a lot to prove, but Juventus’ back bone remains from last year when they beat Milan 2-0 at San Siro and triumphed 3-2 at home. The managerial transition has so far been smooth and Juventus will be full of confidence. Big-money summer signing Alvaro Morata is finally nearing full fitness after picking up a knee injury in his first training session with Juve. The Spaniard could be introduced in the second half to worry the Milan defence and may be a good bet for last goalscorer.
The pattern of the game will be decided by whether Milan can draw first blood. If they can shock Juventus and take the lead, the game will open up and could be a thriller. It would still be a massive test of Milan to hold on to a lead and Inzaghi’s side have shown little evidence of being able to close out a game ever since pre-season when they shipped goals regularly. Much more likely both sides will be scared to make a mistake and it will be a very tight, cagey affair that could come down to a single goal.
Betting Instinct tip – Back the draw in the Milan v Juventus match this weekend at +225 with AllYouBet.ag, and if you fancy a score cast try 1-1 @ +550.
PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) has written about Serie A for Football Italia and wrote the book Up Pohnpei. He is also one part of of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct blogger John Foster. Follow Paul on Twitter.