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Coppa Italia: Milan vs. Juventus Preview

 This time it’s personal. Truly personal. My Juventino husband and I have a bit of a wager on this one: Loser makes dinner. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. And frankly, my husband makes a killer Pasta Carbonara which would taste wonderful while wearing my favorite Pippo jersey and gloating the entire evening. Of course, nothing would taste better than a sweet victory over our fiercest rivals right now. Especially considering that in the three times that we have matched up at this level in the Coppa Italia, they have won every time. Whoever said victory never tasted so sweet certainly had an occasion like this in mind. And I intend to savor it, should we pull it off. Mmmm…. Carbonara.

Ibra: "Please accept this loss as my parting gift to you and your career at Juve."

They say never go to the grocery store when you are hungry. The same could be said of our transfer market. With so many injuries, we were only thinking short term, and even then not so rationally, as we won’t even see Sulley Muntari until our crisis has improved decidedly. Merkel came in to our anemic midfield only to sustain an injury almost immediately and will miss 2 months. The only plus for most of us was the arrival of Mesbah, and apparently one bad game of crossing and he is benched in favor of sometimes mediocre Antonini or the tired and true champion, Zambrotta.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we recently added two more injuries: Abbiati and Nesta, neither of whom will play on Wednesday. This is in addition to the following injuries we already had: Cassano, Gattuso, Flamini, Pato, Aquilani, Boateng, Yepes, Merkel, Strasser, and apparently Pippo, who is most likely suffering from “Allegri hates me disease.” Obviously, we will be without Muntari, and to top it off, Nocerino is suspended from this match. Sorry, at this point it would really be easier to list who is available.

We play for those who can't.

So the starting lineup will almost literally be everyone who is not on the injury/suspension list. And the bench will be our Primavera team. In fact, we may need a Primavera player to start in midfield even. There, easiest lineup ever.

Juventus, on the other hand are without Pepe and might be without new acquisition Caceres. That must be rough.

Okay, so if Caceres plays, he might give us problems. Caceres is a right back who can actually play left back. Otherwise, that spot is hit or miss for them. De Ceglie has been back and playing pretty well, but Conte may not trust him. The Chiellini at left back era seems to be dead, meaning he will probably pair up with Barzagli at center back, which has been a bit inconsistent for them. Where we should place all fear is at right back. Lichtsteiner was some sort of depraved monster at Lazio to be hated, but at Juventus he has become a complete terror. He is fierce, strong, runs possibly even longer than 90 minutes, and sometimes has as many shots as a forward. (Lucky for us he will be up against a very weak left side of whomever Allegri decided to play at left back and a Nocerino-less midfield... God help us.) Buffon, of course, is the reason why a number of excellent keepers will never get the accolades they deserve. Or if he plays Storari, I'm sure he'll want to show us what we're missing.

Pretty in Pink

If the midfield is our weak spot, it is Juventus’ strength, thanks largely to our old friend Pirlo. To Milan fans who say “Pirlo isn’t very good anymore,” I say to you that you clearly have not even watched 5 minutes of a Juventus game this season. If he has a bad day, he’ll still prove you wrong. I cannot tell you how painful this is to write, but if he has a good day, he can singlehandedly prevent us from winning. Plus he’s been linking up with that terror Lichtsteiner lately, like when the two hottest girls in school become friends and terrorize all of the boys for sport.

The rest of the midfield is enviable to say the least. They’ve got Marchisio, who has really come into his own this year, then Vidal on the right and this tenacious little guy called Estigarribia on the left. Or, depending on Conte’s whims, he could use Giaccherini, who has materialized out of thin air lately to go on a attacking/scoring spree, or this guy called Marrone: What can ‘Brown’ do for you?

Destined to be teammates, a class act to be feared

Their strikers may have it in for us before they arrive: Their new addition Borriello would love nothing more than to score against the team that kicked him to the curb. Matri, being a Milan product, might think twice about doing his infernal duck quacking celebration, but will not think twice about finding the back of the net. Vucinic grew up a Milan fan, so it would likely be some sort of crazy honor for him to score against the red and black. And Del Piero will score, because that’s what he does best. Don’t forget Quagliarella, who is anxious to get his spot back in the starting lineup and also secure a spot in the Azzurri this summer after being injured. And yet, the forwards are their weak point, not having been able to put away games and missing so many chances this season. I don’t even know what it’s like to have five healthy forwards at one time.

Then there is Conte. I am not sure if he is human. He may have had some ties with the underworld or something, he creeps me out. Not the Mafia, the actual underworld. But he knows how to win, and winning is what he does best. And he loves the players and they love him. And he knows how to adapt both lineups and formations when necessary. And he knows how to sub. Plus, he has royal Juve lineage and also won when he played for them, too. In essence, he lives by the creed: Juve=Win.

So we need to break him of that mentality. Just because this is not a league game doesn’t mean we can’t end their unbeaten streak. And just because our coach isn’t vociferous and possessed looking doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember exactly how the Scudetto or the Supercoppa trophy feel in his hands, and doesn’t mean he doesn’t lie awake at night dreaming of other trophies, too. Like trophies that come in threes.

We could easily fit 3 more trophies there this year.

They may have a completely healthy lineup with options, but we have a team composed almost entirely of actual champions. And whether it is the pursuit of The Precious or any other match, winning is what we do best, injuries or no. Plus, it will be awesome to say that we defeated the Old Lady as a bunch of crippled, limping misfits, condemned by the media and fans. Someone needs to give Juve’s confidence a giant punch in the stomach, and if anyone can do it, we can. We must win this one with a healthy goal differential, because the second leg will be in their house, which may only seat about half as many, but is built to be twice as loud. Yes, a healthy victory is necessary to see us through to the finals.

Plus, this one is personal. I make dinner all the time. I think I deserve to sit down to a nice home-cooked meal with some fine dinner conversation such as “How does it feel to lose to a bunch of cripples and misfits?” or “Can I have some bread with that whine, please?” or the sensitive approach, “Sucks to be you.” (Feel free to make more conversational suggestions for me in the comments section.) I know I certainly don’t want to be on the other side of that conversation, so I officially declare Milan’s winning season open, even if it will take more than one miracle to pull off. Forza Milan!


Coppa Italia Semifinals First Leg
Milan vs. Juve
Wednesday, February 8th • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match will be shown only on ESPN3 in the U.S.
(Look for a list of streams posted on matchday)


This post inspired by the music of The Chemical Brothers