Over the last handful of years, the Juventus-AC Milan matchup has lacked the same kind of spice that it most definitely had in decades past. As Juventus has gone on to rattle off Scudetto-winning season after Scudetto-winning season, Milan’s rebuild attempts started and then stopped on more than one occasion, with plenty of down years in between.
The summer of 2020 was a turning point, though.
And now, it’s not just the spice that’s back in the Juve-Milan rivalry. It’s the simple matter of this game playing a large role in the Scudetto race again is something we haven’t been able to say much of over the last few years, or even the better part of the past decade for that matter.
The roles are reversed now, too. When Juventus and Milan take the field at the San Siro on Wednesday night, it will be the former that is doing the chasing rather than being the team with the target on its back for so many years. Juventus, so used to being the team that is atop the standings at this point in time where we’re close to “crowning” a winter champion, is far from the top of the table. While they have a game in hand, Juve enters this showdown at the San Siro a whopping 10 points behind their opponents on Wednesday night. The possibility of falling 13 points behind by only the second game of January is very much a real thing because of how well Milan have played through this 2020-21 season.
Neither side will be full strength. Milan has injuries they’ve been dealing with for weeks now. Juventus has one of its most in-form players (Alvaro Morata) out injured and a sudden COVID-19 issue that could very well get worse as the week goes on.
But, when you look at these two teams, one simple thing jumps off the page: Milan, which not so long ago (even though it seems like a long time again because 2020 happened), was changing managers once again, has found the kind of consistency that Juventus can only dream of having these days. They’ve been without Zlatan ... and still won. They’ve been without others ... and still won. As Juventus has started and stopped again and again, Milan has just seemed to roll right along and has yet to lose a game this season.
They’ve got a city rival in Inter that has won eight straight and is right on their heels, but the chance to put a MAJOR dent in Juventus’ title hopes and Scudetto streak is right there for the taking. And, as Milan has shown this season, no matter who’s playing and who is on the field, they’ve got an attitude about them that they haven’t had in years past.
The Milan that Juventus will be playing Wednesday is not the one they’ve seen in 2019, 2018 and years prior when there’s a clear gulf in talent between the two clubs.
As much as Andrea Pirlo wants to play down a little bit of the importance of this game, there’s no denying that dropping points against Milan will be a huge blow to Juve’s chances of seriously getting back into the Scudetto race. No matter if it remains a 10-point deficit or Milan’s lead gets extended to 13 points, there’s only one thing that Juventus has to be thinking about — and it’s winning. They need points desperately knowing that they’ve got a showdown with Inter in just a matter of days as well as the big hole to try and dig out of regardless of who’s next on the schedule.
We’ve said it a lot the last few days, but I’ll repeat it again: As weird as it may be to say that almost every Serie A game — if not every damn one of them — from here on out is a must-win kind of situation for Juventus. They can’t afford to fall further behind Milan, and that means coming through in a big way when it’s a head-to-head-matchup.
Juventus was able to pass a big test on the European stage when Pirlo and Co. went to Spain and beat Barcelona 3-0 at the Camp Nou. This is essentially the domestic version of that even though the stakes are a little different. It’s a big game and Juve needs a big effort to win it.
It just so happens that they’re going to try and do that against the most consistent team Serie A current has. No matter who plays, that’s no easy task.
- Juventus will be without Alex Sandro due to COVID-19.
- Juventus will be without Juan Cuadrado due to COVID-19.
- Because of the sudden COVID-19 situation at the club and the sudden need to do another round of testing after Sandro and Cuadrado testing positive, Juventus didn’t leave for Milan until Wednesday morning.
- Juventus will be without Alvaro Morata due to a muscle injury he suffered in training this past weekend. This is the same muscle injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game against Udinese.
- Although he played 10 minutes at the end of the Udinese game, Giorgio Chiellini is not expected to start against Milan. If Pirlo is to use a third natural central defender as a result of the sudden lack of fullbacks, Merih Demiral is the pick by many to step into the starting lineup and try to fill the void.
- After (finally) serving his one-game suspension with Napoli’s appeal being successful last month, Adrien Rabiot is back in the squad. Although, in a cruel twist of fate, Rabiot is one yellow card away from another suspension. Sometimes this game just confuses you.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Honestly, we know the drill by now. Whenever a big game arrives, you can always select the guy who is the highest-paid player in the league because he is the kind of dude who thrives in these types of situations. It’s the easy thing to do.
Just as easy: You can pick the guy who has struggled for much of the season, has seen his playing time suffer due to (in some part) and now has the chance to play in a big game because the guy who would partner alongside Cristiano Ronaldo if he wasn’t injured.
Come on down, Paulito.
Sure, the bar may be relatively low, but I feel safe in saying what we saw from Dybala was one of his better games that we’ve seen from him this season. Again, that’s not saying much because it most certainly has been a struggle, but it was a step in the right direction.
Since that game we’ve heard that Dybala has dealing with some kind of fever, although nothing has been officially announced from Juventus’ end so who really knows.
What we do know for sure is that Good Dybala (or maybe something like what we saw on Sunday night against Udinese) is needed to beat Milan since Juve’s other Mr. Big Game, Alvaro Morata, is not available due to injury.
As much as it sucks, that’s no guarantee. Dybala’s form has been more hit and miss than the club overall. He’s had a few games here and there where he’s looked like he might be snapping out of this slump he’s been in ever since the new season started, but then there’s a few more clunkers thrown in there and it seems like we’re back to square one.
So, with all that said, here we are with the game after the game where Dybala played well and got a goal to show for it. (With his right foot, too!) Maybe scoring a goal will unlock the Dybala we’re used to seeing. OK, so we thought that last time around, but here’s to hoping we don’t strike out on that notion again.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021
Where: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, RAI Italia North America, TLN (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 251 (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+, WatchESPN (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); Sky Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.