Can AC Milan disrupt Juventus’ Serie A smooth sail?
Background photo: Dan Heap, CC BY 2.0
Juventus conceded a goal for the first time in the Champions League this season in what turned out to be their first loss of the season. Massimiliano Allegri's charges fell 2-1 to Jose Mourinho's Manchester United, a surprise result to most, including United supporters. The Italian giants went further than ranking among Europe's best teams this season, they dominated opposition and are tipped for their third European crown in the early doors. Especially considering United scored both their goals in the dying minutes after being on the back foot all match, recalling their 1999 Champions League final against Bayern, Juve backers are taking the setback as a blip on the radar.
The addition of five-time Ballon d'Or award winner Cristiano Ronaldo makes the Old Lady even stronger. While the Portuguese took a while to settle into a rhythm, his presence explains why Massimiliano Allegri's side is well on the way to their eighth consecutive Serie A title.
After dropping points on only one occasion, talk is already circulating that the Scudetto's in the bag. It's only 11 games into the campaign.
Meanwhile, Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan are still trying to find their feet. Mixed results at San Siro provoked speculation concerning the manager's future.
But the Rossoneri are on the rise. After being criticised for failing to keep a clean sheet all season, that was achieved with a dramatic 1-0 victory against Udinese in their last league game, their third win on the bounce.
Despite picking up just a point in their Europa League meeting with Real Betis, the seven-time Champions League winners are unbeaten in four games in all competitions. Their momentum makes this a good time to welcome their old rivals from Turin.
On the other hand, Juventus intend to respond to their loss against Man United. That can only be bad news for Milan. The Rossoneri lost on both occasions the two sides met in the league last term. Ronaldo tips the scales heavily in the reigning champions’ favour again. The Portuguese captain has vastly improved the side. With seven goals and six assists in 11 Serie A matches, the attack goes through him, whereas it ended with him at Real Madrid.
Juve's Serie A dominance often with AC Milan’s struggles. Despite spending well over €233 million in the last two seasons, there is still not enough quality in the Rossoneri squad to compete for the title. Stealing Leonardo Bonucci away from the champions last term was expected to flip the balance of power. Instead, it was more like the highly-regarded defender took the campaign off. Now, he's back in Turin, thriving. Gattuso's side remains uncertain of even a top-four finish.
Except for a 2-1 victory against Roma, the Rossoneri have failed to pick up maximum points when faced with other top-four rivals. They lost against Napoli early in the season after being two goals up. Another loss in the Derby Della Madonnina against Inter showed where the power lies in Milan at the moment.
The table certainly does not lie. Juve lead the way with 31 points from a possible 33. Inter and Napoli follow with Milan occupying the fourth spot by virtue of superior goal difference to Lazio. The Rome-based side will be Milan's next opponents after the Juve clash. It may be a fight between the two and Roma for the coveted final Champions League spot. But there are still many games to be played. Gattuso must be concerned about getting a result against the favourites.