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Milan-Juve Preview: Smacktalk Week™?

For those who don’t know, I am guilty of sleeping with the enemy. I am married to a Juventus fan. And the best part about this sordid arrangement is that twice a year, I indulge in “Smacktalk Week™.” Given that the children have also chosen Milan as their team, we enjoy the numerical advantage. Given that we are Diavoli, we also enjoy a certain cunning advantage, too. So regardless of the outcome of the game, Smacktalk Week™ is always enjoyable here. Until now. The first place team paying a visit to the twelfth place team? Only a fool would engage in smacktalk as a fan of the twelfth place team. I am not a fool. Thanks, Budget Milan™. You’ve even ruined Smacktalk Week™ for me.

If Juve start Benndtner, we have half a chance


Smacktalk Week™ was born of a longstanding healthy rivalry between our two clubs. I confess I went easy on him from about 2006-2010, and he’s been quite kind to me this year, too. But traditionally, both teams are battling for the Scudetto, and we both share a common hatred of our foul cugini of the black and blue variety. This year, though, we are playing for mercy, trying to claw our way back into the top ten. And Juve are perched at the top of the table after a ridiculous 49 game unbeaten streak, their primary struggle being in the Champions League and managing fitness while playing a game every three days again.

However Juventus seem to have figured out the Champions League part on Tuesday with a decisive 3-0 win over reigning champions Chelsea. And with the depth of their squad, I can hardly believe the fitness part will plague them anything like our injuries did last year. They are in good form, and with the motivation of Conte’s return to the bench following his matchfixing ban just around the corner, my only solace is that we get to face them before his animated, screaming bundle of charisma and crazy returns.

Juve had some problems finishing last season, so they
brought someone in who was closer to the ground

After their first loss in 50 matches to Stramaccioni’s Inter, Juventus took it out on Pescara with a 6-1 beating, but were only able to hold Lazio to a 0-0 draw the next match. So they aren’t actually invincible. But they are a well-oiled winning machine, so Milan will have our work cut out for us. Add to that their luck in apparently having a full squad to choose from and I would be stocking up on the hard liquor now.

As Conte is still suspended, Alessio, his assistant, will still be on the sidelines for the Bianconeri on Sunday. For Lazio, they lined up Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, Barzagli; Marchisio, Vidal, Pogba, Asamoah, Isla; Giovinco, Quagliarella. However Pirlo was suspended that match, and Vucinic was out injured, so it is realistic to expect that they would both start against us. And we can expect a barrage of shots from them, too. They have taken 46 shots total in their last 2 matches. But only 18 of those were even on goal, and only 3 goals were scored in all. In essence, they are their own worst enemies. But still, their record says it all: they are to be feared.

Montolivo begs for mercy... or maybe it's a transfer, I forget.

Milan have suffered from a lack of consistency that has nothing to do with the lineups and formations changing every week. Yeah, right. Allegri, I hate you. Yes, you are managing Budget Milan™, not at all the envy of any other manager or club. But you were consistent with a group of players who had played together forever. Now you get this “young” squad who are still new to each other, and you play lineup roulette? This is not how I want to face the best team in the league. Or any team, for that matter.

So what you should know about Allegri’s lineups is this: he will play a 4-3-3. Or a 4-2-3-1. Or a 4-3-2-1. Or a 4-3-1-2. Or a 3-5-2. Or a 3-4-3. Well, Berlusconi told him never to play the 3-man backline, and Galliani called him out for his 5-man midfield, so probably not the last two. So if you put all of the names of the players in a hat and pull them out, plug them into the formation you guessed, and that could be his lineup. Except for injuries, of course. Both Pato and Mexes picked up knocks during our Champions League match on Wednesday, but last I heard, both should be fine, although there is still some doubt. Abate may or may not be ready for Sunday. Ambrosini is out. Bonera, Antonini, Mesbah, Didac Vila, Strasser, and Muntari are all out. The last one is going to be particularly disappointing to Juventini, as they owe him a goal from last season and will not be able to give it to him. It’s okay, I’m sure Boateng will play, and he will make their strikers feel better about themselves and also be able to help them with their Sky Jousting™.

Juve want El Shaarawy to start so he can show their strikers how to finish

Smacktalk Week™ did take a turn for the better for me, though, as Milan qualified for the Round of 16 with one game left. Juve have yet to qualify. And even if our qualification had more to do with Zenit choking than us being brilliant, I’ll take it. That and our 7 Champions League trophies, as Jset was kind enough to point out. Even in our darkest times, Milan find a way to make me proud to be a Milanista. Personally, I hope we go all Mexes on their butts on Sunday and pull off the upset. Because then Smacktalk Week™ extends until we meet them again in April. Well, at least it does for me, despite our relative positions on the table. Also, it’s not fair that Inter and Napoli have been the only ones to have the satisfaction of beating them, so I want a piece of that. But realistically, I just hope they have mercy on us and shoot as terribly as usual. Maybe we could be lucky enough to get a draw? We do have the top scorer in the league right now, maybe he can crack one of the best defenses in the league…

I may be getting ahead of myself here. Smacktalk Week™ will do that to me. But it’s never wrong to dream, and from where we sit in the league, I can almost see the bottoms of Juve’s shoes, so dreaming it will have to be. I also dream that Allegri will field a 4-2-3-1 instead of a 4-3-3, and start Urby over Boateng, or maybe even Robinho instead. But it is probably more plausible that we will actually beat Juve than either of those things happening. Thanks, Budget Milan™. You’ve even ruined Smacktalk Week™ for me. Now get out there on Sunday and make amends… if you can.


This post inspired by the music of U2’s “War” album


Milan vs. Juve
Sunday, November 25 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm ET)
This post will be broadcast LIVE on BeIn Sport and RAI in the U.S.
Check comments for stream links before the match