Juventus vs. AC Milan Preview: Round 26 — The Devil Wears Rossonero

Marco Luzzani

Juventus vs. Milan at the San Siro tomorrow night could be described as a team that's the best of the best in all of Italy against one that might have suddenly found themselves under a new manager.

This is what is pretty much a given: We know what Juventus is all about. This Milan side under Clarence Seedorf? Not so much. There's a sample of what Milan under Seedorf is all about, but said sample is a small one. So, in simpler terms, it's basically the completely known against the kinda-sorta-maybe known.

Ah, what fun there could be in front of what's expected to be a rather lively crowd.

Juve and Milan renew their rivalry once again. Is it a title-decider like in so many years before? Npe, not even close. Juventus are well on their way to their third straight Serie A title, entering the weekend with a quite comfortable nine-point lead atop the league table. While on the other side of things, Milan have a new manager in Seedorf and are trying to salvage anything they can after such an awful start to the season under Max Allegri.

Two teams, two very different scenarios.

Tenth place isn't exactly where you expect a club of Milan's history and prestige to be sitting come the first weekend of March. Nowhere close to that, actually. Yet that's where they find themselves. This new Milan is, well, different. And nobody knows what hiring somebody as inexperienced as it gets on the managerial level like Seedorf will bring.

Still, it's Juventus going to the San Siro to play Milan. And who doesn't like a final scoreline where Juve have more goals than Milan on their turf? I rest my case.

GOOD NEWS

Juventus unbeaten run update: 17 games, 44 goals scored, 9 goals allowed.

This has been a Juventus unbeaten run update.

Another piece of good news for Juventus: While Milan are expected to not be missing as many players as they were in their 2-0 win over Sampdoria last weekend, it seems as though Mario Balotelli's status still remains to be up in the air. Based on the fact Balotelli is the only Milan player in double digits when it comes to goals scored, I'd say Super Mario being out of action Sunday is a pretty good thing. For Juve, that is.

BAD NEWS

The biggest piece of bad news is that Arturo Vidal, his 17 goals in all competitions and all of his remaining awesomeness will be suspended for tomorrow's game after picking up a yellow card in the Turin derby last weekend.

There's also the usual injuries. Giorgio Chiellini probably won't start. Same goes for Kwadwo Asamoah. There's also Mirko Vucinic and Simone Pepe, but you already knew about those guys.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. If Milan are actually a better team under Clarence Seedorf.

The form guide, which reads four wins in six games since the former Milan midfielder took control after Allegri was unfortunately fired in January, will tell you they are. But what the schedule will tell is that those four wins came against opposition that Milan should beat no matter who the manager currently is. Milan's four wins in their last six league games could be the classic case of a team playing better when the new manager arrives, or it could be something else entirely. But other than their Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, tomorrow night's game against Juve will be Milan's biggest test under Seedorf. And that, ladies and gents, is a certainty.

2. How Juventus recover from all the traveling they've done the past 72 hours.

If Juventus were in the business of racking up frequent flyer miles, they'd certainly have a bit of them right about now. They headed off to Turkey and returned just 24 hours ago on Friday morning. They've been busy. Really, really busy. That's what the Europa League has done to the schedule, folks. Milan have been able to hang at Milanello all week and train, while Juve have been making their way through airports the last couple of days. Throw in 90-plus minutes on Thursday and there's no doubting which team is more rested than the other one.

The one benefit Juve have in all this travel nonsense is that a good portion of the players who didn't play much — or at all — in the second leg against Trabzonspor will feature against Milan. It's not the worst thing in the world to have a rested Stephan Lichtsteiner bombing up and down the right flank, right?

3. Does Giorgio Chiellini get the start? And if not, who plays in his place?

It seems as though Chiellini is just on the cusp of coming back to the starting lineup. When, exactly, it is isn't something we know as of right now. For the time being, Chiello seems like he's on a quest to pick up one million followers on Twitter, so take that as you want. But due to the fact that we don't know if Chiellini is a go or not, we're left to wonder about who will be starting on the left side of Juventus' three-man defense. You can go ahead and flip the coin to decide who it will be if you want. Heads is Martin Caceres, tails is Angelo Ogbonna. Seems fair.

4. Does Kwadwo Asamoah get the start?

When Juventus announced their 20-man traveling squad for the match against Trabzonspor, Juve's starting left wingback wasn't on the list. "The Ghanaian will now rest for two days as his conditions continue to be monitored," the club's website said. Well, it's been a couple days and common logic says that the conditions are continuing to be monitored. While there's been no official word on Asamoah's condition, most folks seem to think that the monitored situation will come up saying he needs a few more days to fully recover. Does that mean we get to watch Federico Peluso not try to screw things up in a major fashion? Seems like it.

5. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente vs. Milan's back four.

In a way, this could be seen as extremely unfair, something that is clearly sitting in Juventus' favor. Tevez and Llorente have been very good this season. The Milan defense? Not even close to being very good this season. Here's a picture:

Screen_shot_2014-02-28_at_12

Basically every defensive characteristic WhoScored measures on their site is a weakness for Milan. It's nothing like your parents' Milan these days, and the defensive numbers suggest that. But here's something of a surprise: Milan has actually recorded shutouts in back-to-back games. Hard to believe, right? Sure, playing a couple of teams in the bottom half of the table, Sampdoria and Bologna, had something to do with it. But a club like Milan, which has allowed nearly twice as many goals as Juventus has this season, now has the task of trying to keep one of Serie A's best attacks quiet. Yeah, good luck with that.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Peluso; Llorente, Tevez

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST

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