The San Siro on Saturday night welcomes former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri and his table topping Juventus side.
Five consecutive titles and already five points clear at the summit of Serie A this season, the Bianconeri looks an imposing opposition. Add to the mixture the fact Juventus have not tasted defeat in the league against the Rossoneri since the 2012-13 season things look ominous.
But this is a different Milan side under coach Vincenzo Montella, experienced pro’s have made way for youthful exuberance. This approach, which many have been calling for in the last few seasons, is paying dividends as Milan sit joint-second in the table with AS Roma.
Despite the good start, Montella is not getting carried away. After the 3-1 victory over Chievo last weekend, the former Fiorentina tactician praised the squad’s mentality saying “It was a strong start from Chievo and we were not fluid enough, so I was not happy.”
The ex-Sampdoria coach continued, “After the break I feel we did enough to deserve the victory, though we could’ve finished it off earlier.”
Whispers of this game also having implications for a Milan Scudetto challenge were quickly dismissed by the Rossoneri coach, saying “Is it a Scudetto clash? Certain situations are not for us, we are keeping a low profile.”
The focus firmly lays on a return to European football as Montella continued “Milan have been out of Europe for too long.”
Juventus have — by their own admission — not hit top gear, yet despite this sit all by themselves atop both the Serie A and their Champions League group. To boot, they have only conceded five goals in eleven games in all competitions.
A squad that had major investment in the summer has yet to find its fluidity and swagger, but despite this still keep winning as they look to add a sixth consecutive title to their collection. So this really will be a true test of how much progress Milan have made this season.
For Juventus, with so many household names, including €90million Argentinean striker Gonzalo Higuain, you could pick any number of players. But the ever growing influence of Higuain’s compatriot and fellow striker Paulo Dybala makes him fundamental to any success the Bianconeri have.
After a slow start to the season and some positional uncertainty, Dybala has started to find some of the form he showed in the last campaign; three goals in his last two league matches is testament to this. Such is his importance already to the Turin club that in just his second season, talks have begun over an extended and improved contract for the 22-year old.
For the Rossoneri, despite the focus on youth it will be one of the squad’s older guard who will be fundamental to the team if they wish to achieve anything in this game.
Columbian striker Carlos Bacca looks set to start despite the impressive showing of Gianluca Lapadula in the last game. The 30-year old Bacca, who has already scored six times this season, will be instrumental in keeping the back three of Juventus occupied.
With a shot accuracy of 69% and a conversion rate of 42.9% means in games without a plethora of opportunities, Milan always has the chance to score when Bacca is on the pitch.
Years gone by, this game would have title ramifications for Milan, but for now it can be used as a measure of the progress the Rossoneri have made under Montella. Up against more illustrious opponents with proven Scudetto credentials, to gain anything from this game must be considered a victory as the search for a return to European competition continues.