Up­start AC Milan ready for big test against the cham­pi­ons, Ju­ven­tus

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

With five wins in eight games to start the cam­paign, AC Milan sit in third place in Serie A and just five points adrift of lead­ers Ju­ven­tus ahead of their show­down at the San Siro tonight.

It's been a pos­i­tive start to the Vin­cenzo Mon­tella era on the whole, with Milan mak­ing their best start to a cam­paign af­ter eight games since 2010.

All this with a start­ing line-up with the youngest av­er­age age in Italy's top flight last week­end at 24 years and 231 days, there are sev­eral pos­i­tives to con­sider.

How­ever, both the Ital­ian tac­ti­cian and his play­ers will now have big ques­tions to an­swer this week­end as they host the Serie A cham­pi­ons.

The Ros­soneri have had some tough as­sign­ments al­ready this sea­son, but ul­ti­mately this will be the most dif­fi­cult yet.

Juve have won their last six con­sec­u­tive games, and have beaten Milan in their last nine meet­ings, a run which in­cludes the dis­ap­point­ing de­feat in last sea­son's Coppa Italia fi­nal.

It's fair to say that the Bian­coneri are the favourites for this one, but Mon­tella should rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to go up against Ju­ven­tus and to see how far his young team have come in the short space of time he has worked with them.

The 42-year-old was keen to down­play Scud­etto talk ear­lier this week, in­sist­ing that his pri­mary fo­cus is on res­toring con­fi­dence within the squad and en­sur­ing that Milan re­turn to Europe sooner rather than later.

In truth, it's the smartest ap­proach at this stage and he's right to take it game-by-game as Milan are es­sen­tially still build­ing and can't get car­ried away with their early progress.

That's what makes this Ju­ven­tus game so fas­ci­nat­ing though, as it's an op­por­tu­nity to see whether or not re­cent re­sults are sub­se­quently trans­lat­ing into a more con­fi­dent group of play­ers who are ca­pa­ble of ex­press­ing them­selves against the best in the busi­ness.

Mon­tella has placed his faith in a young nu­cleus, all of whom will have im­por­tant roles to play this week­end.

Gian­luigi Don­narumma, Alessio Ro­mag­noli, Mat­tia De Sciglio, Manuel Lo­catelli and M'Baye Niang will all likely start against Juve, and it will serve as a cru­cial part of their learn­ing process.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of merely play­ing in the big games is a sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit for them, but they must prove, along with the rest of the team, that they're more than com­fort­able fea­tur­ing in such an im­por­tant fix­ture against a side that will test them right across the pitch.

Many of them will be in­volved in de­ci­sive bat­tles, and while we're start­ing to see some of Mon­tella's tac­ti­cal flex­i­bil­ity now, the team as a whole will have to stay com­pact and use their strengths to upset the odds.

Much has changed since that heart­break­ing loss in the Coppa Italia fi­nal in Rome in May, with Cris­tian Broc­chi re­placed af­ter a short stint in charge and a reshuf­fle within the squad lead­ing to im­proved re­sults.

In con­trast, Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri's side have con­tin­ued on a fa­mil­iar path as they look to dom­i­nate do­mes­ti­cally yet again this sea­son while also con­quer­ing the Cham­pi­ons League.

Nev­er­the­less, there is a gen­uine ar­gu­ment to sug­gest that al­though the Bian­coneri re­main on a level above the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion, Milan are ca­pa­ble of short­en­ing the gap this sea­son if they con­tinue to ma­ture and im­prove.

The beauty of this cur­rent group is that al­though they're im­press­ing many with how much they've come on in the early stages of the sea­son, there is still so much room for im­prove­ment.

To­day Sam­p­do­ria-Genoa .................................. AC Milan-Ju­ven­tus ................................. To­mor­row Udi­nese-Pescara .................................... Ata­lanta-In­ter Milan ............................... Cagliari-Fiorentina ................................. Cro­tone-Napoli ...................................... Em­poli-ChievoVerona ............................ Torino-Lazio ........................................... Bologna-Sas­suolo ................................... Roma-Pa­lermo .......................................

Serie B

Yes­ter­day Cit­tadella-As­coli ................................ 0-1 Spezia-Bres­cia ................................... 2-0 To­day Bari-Tra­pani ........................................... Be­nen­vento-Peru­gia .............................. Hel­lasVerona-Pro Ver­celli ....................... Latina-Pisa .............................................. No­vara-Avel­lino ..................................... Saler­ni­tana-V. En­tella ............................. SPAL-Carpi .............................................. Ter­nana-Ce­sena .....................................

Lega Pro A

To­mor­row Luc­ch­ese-Prato ...................................... Lupa Roma-Giana Er­minio ..................... Ol­bia-Alessan­dria ................................... Pro Pi­a­cenza-Viterbese .......................... Re­nate-Pont­ed­era .................................. Pis­toiese-Como ...................................... Rac­ing Roma-Car­rarese .......................... Siena-Pi­a­cenza ....................................... Tut­tocuoio-Cre­monese .......................... Mon­day Livorno-Arezzo .......................................

Lega Pro B

To­day Lumez­zane-Forli ..................................... Sudtirol-Por­de­none ................................ Ter­amo-Al­bi­noL­effe ............................... An­cona-Gub­bio ...................................... Reg­giana-Mac­er­atese ............................ Santar­can­gelo-Padova ........................... Bas­sano V.-Sam­benedettese .................. Fer­alpiSalo-Fano .................................... Mo­dena-Venezia .................................... Parma-Man­tova .....................................

Lega Pro C

To­mor­row Akra­gas-Taranto ..................................... Cata­nia-Lecce ......................................... Catan­zaro-Melfi ..................................... V. Fran­cav­illa-Vi­bonese .......................... Fondi-Sira­cusa ........................................ Messina-Caser­tana ................................ Pa­ganese-Juve Stabia ............................. F. An­dria-Cosenza ................................... Fog­gia-Mo­nop­oli .................................... Reg­gina-Mat­era .....................................

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