Milan look to com­plete a unique Juve hat-trick

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

ROME: Ju­ven­tus take on AC Milan and Napoli wel­come Fiorentina in a mid­week batch of Ital­ian Cup quar­ter-fi­nals call­ing into ac­tion four in-form and con­fi­dent squads.

Milan lost 2-1 at home to Napoli in the Serie A on Satur­day, but go with self-as­sur­ance into to­mor­row’s game at the Ju­ven­tus Sta­dium.

The Ros­soneri, who lost the 2016 Cup fi­nal to Juve, beat them on penal­ties in the Su­per Cup match last De­cem­ber, af­ter stun­ning them 1-0 in league ac­tion two months ear­lier.

Los­ing to gritty Napoli did not dent the op­ti­mism of coach Vin­cenzo Mon­tella, de­spite slip­ping two points be­hind the Europa League zone.

“I am sat­is­fied with the team’s per­for­mance if we look at who were our op­po­nents,” Mon­tella said. “It was a re­ally tough test, and I would say we passed it. This match has to give us more con­fi­dence for the fu­ture.”

Milan di­rec­tor gen­eral Adri­ano Gal­liani was like­wise pleased de­spite the de­feat, but re­gret­ted hav­ing to play the sin­gle-leg Cup game in Turin.

“I don’t know what will hap­pen Wed­nes­day (to­mor­row) night,” Gal­liani said.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the rules of the Coppa Italia say we have to play away.”

Juve, mean­while, seek re­venge for the De­cem­ber up­set and could pos­si­bly con­firm a new for­ma­tion with Paulo Dy­bala, Gon­zlao Higuain and Mario Mandzu­kic up front af­ter Sun­day’s con­vinc­ing 2-0 de­feat of Lazio.

“The tac­ti­cal switch the coach (Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri) in­tro­duced to­day means we have to work hard but it’s an ex­cel­lent idea,” said Higuain, who was on tar­get af­ter Dy­bala. “Let’s hope this is the right route for­ward for me and all of us. We must push on from this.

“I’m pleased on a per­sonal level and for the squad as a whole. I play for the team and they do like­wise. Let’s keep work­ing hard and turn our at­ten­tions to Wed­nes­day (to­mor­row) night.”

Napoli boss Mau­r­izio Sarri, who last sea­son coached Higuain, was like­wise pleased about the Milan vic­tory, while be­ing keen on team fo­cus and stamina.

“(Satur­day) we spent a lot of phys­i­cal and men­tal en­er­gies and we have to recharge our bat­ter­ies for Tues­day’s clash,” he said.

Fiorentina are just as up­beat af­ter a 3-0 win at Chievo, which fol­lowed a 2-1 de­feat of Juve, and look to a good show­ing in Naples af­ter a 3-3 league home draw in De­cem­ber. In­ter Milan v Lazio and Roma v Ce­sena com­plete the quar­ter-fi­nals next week.

Mean­while, Real Madrid pair Luka Mo­dric and Marcelo are fac­ing spells on the side­lines af­ter they suf­fered mus­cu­lar in­juries, the Span­ish club said yes­ter­day.

Brazil­ian left-back Marcelo and Croa­t­ian mid­fielder Mo­dric un­der­went tests yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing forced off the pitch dur­ing Real’s 2-1 home win over Malaga on Satur­day.

“Fol­low­ing tests car­ried out to­day at the San­i­tas La Mo­raleja Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal, Marcelo has been di­ag­nosed with a grade 2 mus­cle in­jury in his left ham­string,” Real said in a state­ment. “Mo­dric has been di­ag­nosed with a strain in his right ab­duc­tor mus­cle.”

Real did not con­firm the length of the ab­sences but Span­ish me­dia re­ported that the duo could be out of ac­tion for up to a month.

They are likely to miss sev­eral key games, in­clud­ing Real’s Cham­pi­ons League last 16 first leg at home to Napoli on Fe­bru­ary 15. – dpa/Reuters

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