Juventus v AC Milan, Serie A, January 10, 2010
With Inter Milan facing bottom team Siena on Sunday, Juventus host AC Milan in what is looking increasingly like a battle to secure second spot in Serie A. The clash between inexperienced coaches Leonardo and Ciro Ferrara also provides an interesting sub-plot to a clash between two sides packed with talent.
Pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, Juventus halted a dismal run of three consecutive defeats with a hard fought win at Parma on Wednesday as they managed to start 2010 on the right foot. Nevertheless, those three points have failed to remove much of the pressure suffocating Juve coach Ciro Ferrara, who remains dogged by constant rumours that he will be replaced by Guus Hiddink any day now. After all, the Scudetto is still a distant dream for the Old Lady this season (Juve are 17/1 to win the league), and the Bianconeri were also unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage.
Juve eked out a win at Parma thanks to an own goal from Paolo Castellini but are counting the cost of the victory at the Stadio Tardini. French striker David Trezeguet will miss the next six weeks of action after picking up an ankle injury.
Ferrara was already without goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, forward Vincenzo Iaquinta and midfielder Mauro Camoranesi through injury, while Mohamed Sissoko is also unavailable as he’s at the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali.
On the more positive side, Italian international defender Giorgio Chiellini has been sensational so far this season, and is the only Juventus defender who can hold his head high. Chiellini was a rock against Parma in midweek and it would be his excellence at the back that could keep the Milan attackers in check.
Further forward all eyes will be on playmaker Diego. The former Werder Bremen schemer has so far failed to live up to his big-name reputation in Serie A, and the Brazilian needs to prove that he can still pull the strings at the highest level. Diego will likely play as a second striker behind Amuari up-top, while Hassan Salihamidzic will be aiming to notch his third goal in as many games from midfield.
The problems in Turin combined with AC Milanâ€™s fine form mean that the Milanistas have a great chance of staying in the title race and building on the momentum built up over the last few months.
The defeat to Palermo before the winter break was their only loss in the last 15 games. And the Rossoneri showed their winning spirit in their performance against Genoa on Wednesday night, where a hugely encouraging 5-2 victory was spearheaded with Marco Borriello scoring twice, with his second a classic acrobatic volley.
The star of the show against the Sicilians was undoubtedly Ronaldinho, and AC Milanâ€™s number 80 could well be the match winner at Juventus as well. David Beckham should also start although if Alexandre Pato or Clarence Seedorf return from injury Goldenballs could be included at right back.
Besides the Ferrara-Leonardo battle, a number of Brazilians on show could decide the outcome. Ronaldinho and Pato for AC Milan against Felipe Melo and Diego for Juventus, but on current form this could well go the way of the Rossoneri.
101predicts: Juventus 1 – AC Milan 2 (12/1)
Full match odds here.