By AGENCIES… The Serie A match of the week is a top-four battle between two of Italy’s biggest clubs as first-place Juventus hosts fourth-place AC Milan.
Juve is nearing in on the title and has an 18-point advantage over second-placed Napoli, while Milan is in fourth place and looking to return to the Champions League next season as they aim to return to glory.
Juve is expected to rest the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, who is recovering from a thigh issue he picked up while on international duty with Portugal. Ronaldo may be available for next week’s Champions League clash with Ajax in the quarterfinals, so there is no point in risking him.
Coach Massimilliano Allegri says veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini is out of the Milan game but Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Leonardo Spinazzola are all available. Long-term absentees Juan Cuadrado, Mattia Perin and Martin Caceres are still sidelined.
After a fine run of form, Milan has hit a speed bump. The team lost to rival Inter Milan, lost to Sampdoria and then drew Udinese.
But if they want to qualify for the Champions League, they need to regain their form soon because after this one, there is a massive clash against fifth-place Lazio set for next Saturday at the San Siro.
Coach Genarro Gattusso gave an update on the injuries, saying: “Kessie trained with the group, Romagnoli had a bit of a fever but he’s recovered. Conti will come back next week, as will Gigio. For Paquetá, it’s a different story and he’ll need 20 days more or a less, a month.”
“Juve are a team who have already won the league and they’ve only lost one game which was two weeks ago. They have the mentality, they know who to respond to pressure and how to keep a high tempo,” observes Gatusso.
“They’re really strong, but we have everything required to play a great game.”
“We’ll need a great performance tomorrow to bring home the three points, a great performance in terms of tactics, character and desire. We can do it, a positive result could be a real turning point. We need something to happen to bring us back to life.”
Milan squad that travelled to Turin
Goalkeepers: Donnarumma A., Reina, Soncin
Defenders: Abate, Calabria, Caldara, Laxalt, Musacchio, Rodriguez, Romagnoli, Strinic, Zapata
Midfielders: Bakayoko, Bertolacci, Biglia, Kessie, Mauri
Forwards: Borini, Calhanoglu, Castillejo, Cutrone, Piatek, Suso.
Controversy over racism
Last weekend’s racial abuse controversy at Cagliari saw some blame flying around, especially around what Leonardo Bonucci said about Moise Kean provoking the home supporters.
That talk is still very much alive and is not about to go away.
In this regard, Allegri said: “Racism must always be prosecuted and fought. It can never be justified. Bonucci, in a competitive trance, expressed himself badly after the game but immediately apologised and explained what he meant. The two are distinct.
“I’m happy with how Kean is developing. The important thing is that, for him to become a great player, he acquires great balance and a high mental level.”