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Hurting giants clash

Title chasing AC Milan host Juventus on Sunday evening in a blockbuster clash as they look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Spezia last time out. Juve will be looking to keep up with the top four to keep up their hunt for a Champions League spot next season.

 

 

The Rossoneri were beaten 2-1 at home on Monday with Emmanuel Gyasi scoring a 96th minute winner for 15th placed Spezia. The defeat left Milan two points behind rivals Inter at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more.

Juventus meanwhile won back to back matches in Serie A and Coppa Italia after the disheartening defeat to Inter in the Super Coppa final last week. They beat Udinese 2-0 in the league last weekend before dispatching Sampdoria 4-1 in the cup in midweek.

 

 

Milan and Juve could leapfrog Inter and Atalanta respectively with a win if results go their way. Three points are a must for the two sides to keep their season on track.

 

TEAM NEWS

Stefano Pioli will continue to be without key man Frank Kessie in midfield who is on duty at the African Cup of Nations along with Fode Ballo-Toure. Fikayo Tomori is also unavailable after undergoing a surgery on his Meniscus while Simon Kjaer and Pietro Pellegri are also long-term absentees.

 

 

A potential boost comes for Milan in the form of Ismael Bennacer’s return after Algeria were knocked out of the AFCON on Thursday.

AC Milan Predicted Lineup:ย Maignan; Florenzi, Gabbia, Kalulu, Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Messias, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic

Massimiliano Allegri has a near full strength squad to choose from but still has two key absentees in Federico Chiesa and Leonardo Bonucci. Chiesa suffered a ligament tear and is unlikely to return this season while Bonucci is expected back next month from a muscle problem.

 

 

Juventus Predicted Lineup:ย Szczesny; Cuadrado, deย Liga, Rugani, Sandro; Bentancur, Locatelli, McKennie; Bernardeschi, Morata, Dybala

 

GAME CHANGERS

AC Milan have a squad with a lot of young exciting attacking options backed by some experienced forwards but their key man at the moment is Rafael Leao. The Portuguese winger has two goals and two assists in his last three matches and he will be looking to keep up his good form on the biggest stage.

 

Rafael Leao in full flight (Courtesy: AC Milan/Twitter)

 

Leao’s pace and movement make him a threat at all times and this season he has shown signs of maturing and adding output to his game. The current campaign is already his best season for direct goal involvements in all competitions and he will be the man Milan look to for breaking down Juve on Sunday.

For Juventus, Weston McKennie often goes unnoticed. The American midfielder adds a unique skill-set to a technique heavy midfield for Allegri with his running and energy. He has shown great linkup signs with the attacking players and is increasingly becoming indispensable.

 

 

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McKennie’s runs in the channel and late arrivals in the box are very dangerous although he has not been able to become a prolific goalscorer from midfield yet. Nevertheless he remains a player to keep an eye out for.

 

PREDICTIONS

There are few games bigger than this one at Italy and there is a lot at stake for both sides. Milan and Juve though have played with some abandon in recent weeks and viewers could be in for a treat if the same continues. The Old Lady has a habit of turning up in the big moments but for this match, Milan are the slight favourites. FootTheBallย predicts an entertaining stalemate that will end AC Milan 2-2 Juventus.

Ritwik Khanna
Economics student supporting FC Goa and Manchester United, in true masochistic way. Can be found reading Jonathan Wilson and Sid Lowe or planning a quirky trip in his free time.

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