As Juventus and Milan meet at the Allianz Stadium tonight, Miguel Agyei takes a look at the five key battles of the big match in Turin.
After a long midweek travelling to other countries for their bright light European games, Juventus host undefeated Milan at the Allianz Stadium. The Bianconeri have only collected one point from their first three games of the season, while the Rossoneri want to maintain their perfect start in Turin after three wins in three games.
As both teams travelled abroad to play their opening Champions League matches this season, Juventus triumphed over Malmo with a 3-0, while Milan struggled to control their game against Liverpool and lost 3-2.
The tie between the two sides in Turin will be a huge matchup with vital points on the table for both sides, so here are some key clashes that we look ahead to for Sunday’s big game.
Manuel Locatelli vs. Sandro Tonali
Both Italian starlets are expected to start in Turin tonight. Locatelli, an ex Milan player, came through the rankings of the Primavera and made a name for himself at Sassuolo, where he thrived in midfield. He was a great help to the Azzurri’s EURO 2020 run last summer before his move to Juventus. He will be tasked with helping facilitate attacks with his key passing in midfield.
Sandro Tonali, on the other hand, has had a quieter reputation ever since his move from Brescia to Milan but has been making some noise with the start of this season, scoring a thrilling free-kick against Cagliari and shining with the Azzurri U21 as their new captain. Tonali was so keen to return to Milan that he took a pay cut over the summer and now it seems he has finally adapted to life in Milanello. He will be brimming with confidence heading into this game.
Paulo Dybala vs. Franck Kessie
Dybala is known for giving Milan problems. He scored seven goals and assisted four in the 13 appearances he’s made against the Rossoneri. After scoring in the Champions League and holding the captain’s armband in a difficult start to the season for Juventus, he will be hungry to poach for more goals.
Franck Kessie will be tasked with shutting down attacking outputs in midfield. The Ivorians massive strength and ball retention accuracy is the key to Milan’s solidity. Kessié’s attempts to create attacking runs throughout the middle of the pitch should not allow Dybala any space to create.
Federico Chiesa (or Juan Cuadrado) vs. Theo Hernandez
The Colombian is expected to start at right-winger as Federico Chiesa is still not 100 per cent fit. The Italian has been growing immensely ever since his move to Juventus from Fiorentina and since he has stepped up in some big moments for Juventus and the Azzuri. Chiesa’s blistering speed down the wing can cause many problems for defenders and he is very clinical in the box. He is not fully fit and missed the last two games against Napoli and Malmo. Don’t expect him to play the whole game, but he will indeed create trouble for as much time as he’ll be around, just like Cuadrado.
When Theo Hernandez was tasked with man-marking Chiesa at San Siro this past January, it didn’t go so well as the Italian scored a brace. The French full-back had a tough time against Momo Salah on Wednesday and he will be hoping not to face a similar experience at the Allianz Stadium. However, the former Real Madrid man has grown defensively over the last couple and seasons and will be tactically aware of staying with Chiesa and not being too risky going forward to help out in the attack.
Danilo vs. Rafael Leao
Danilo has been one of Juventus’ best players last season and it seems to have picked up from where he left off. The versatile defender is expected to start at right-back, with Juan Cuadrado deployed as a right-winger. The Colombian’s role will be crucial in helping Danilo defensively, but most of times, the former Manchester City man will be tasked with handling Leao’s runs down the flank. His experience can help him against the young Portuguese winger, but that won’t be enough to stop the Milan starlet.
Rafael Leao is no stranger when it comes to one on one situations and counter-attacking runs. He played a key role in Milan’s Champions League fixture against Liverpool with some key passes that led to the Rossoneri’s two goals at Anfield, managing to get an assist to teammate Ante Rebic. Leao must find a way to beat Danilo with his pace to get past Juventus’s backline to penetrate attacking play from inside Juventus’s box. Many fans and pundits say he needs consistency to become a top player, he now has the chance to make an impact against another top team.
Giorgio Chiellini vs Ante Rebic
Giorgio Chiellini is a world-class defender who has received praise time and time again. Although he is nearing retirement, he still has and shows signs of a quality defender. His man-marking and defensive positioning on the pitch will be a nuisance to Milan. The Azzurri captain was rested against Malmo midweek and is expected to partner Matthijs de Ligt or former Rossoneri captain Leonardo Bonucci.
With Giroud out of action with back pain and Zlatan taking precautions on his Achilles, Ante Rebic will be tasked as the man up top for Milan. Although not a traditional striker, Rebic can do well to find himself in the right positions to either create space or take aim at goal. The Croat must get his positioning correct to help out his team and keep an eye on his teammates running into open spaces.