Friday, October 4, 2013

Juventus-Milan Preview: Into Mordor


It is one thing to bleed red and black and always hope for the win. It is another to take a step back into reality and look at the current situation. Looking ahead to Sunday’s league match at Juventus stadium with the teams in their current form, a Milan win is certainly not impossible, but is very improbable. In fact, to use a quote from Gandalf, “There never was much hope, just a fool’s hope.” Of course, in the Lord of the Rings, that fool’s hope succeeded in the end. So maybe we can dream of a result as we go marching straight into Mordor.

No one really knows what dark evils lurk there, but Milan must rise and fight or all is lost

The past two seasons saw Juventus lift the Scudetto, and I’m sure they are aiming to do it again this year. During those seasons, Milan have lost 2, drawn 1 and won 1 vs. the Turin giants. Milan’s singular win was last season at “the turn of the tide” in late November at the San Siro. Whether or not we are ready to change our fates this year is compounded by playing at the fortress that is Juventus Stadium. And also, the almost certain controversial reffing. Rocchi has been assigned to this match, so I’m sure Juventus are already preparing their complaints, as Rocchi has been favorable to Milan in the past.

However, Juventus are not dominating this season as they have in the past. Despite their league record of 5 wins and a draw vs. Inter in the league, they have also pulled two draws in a row in the Champions League, vs. FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. Their defense has been prone to errors, and despite investing in Tevez and Llorente (and offloading Matri to us,) finding the back of the net is still problematic for them. Add to that some poor performances by players who have typically been consistent, and they are just looking to be beaten.

The orc may not be fit, but the tiny one is always ready to fight

The Torino Derby last weekend was fraught with controversy, and the acrimony previously reserved for us. The single goal Juventus scored to take the three points was scored while a blatant offside was overlooked. Then they hosted Galatasaray midweek for the Champions League and played relatively poorly, lucky to pull off the 2-2 draw. They also Lost Vucinic to injury and possibly Lichtsteiner and Barzagli (as of this writing.) That is in addition to the long term injuries to Caceres, Pepe, and Rubinho.

The Champions League match saw Conte line up  Buffon; Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci; Pogba, Pirlo, Asamoah, Vidal, Lichtsteiner; Vucinic, and Tevez. I would guess that Conte would start Quagliarella or possibly Llorente in Vucinic’ place, and if Lichtsteiner doesn’t make it, then Isla. Also, if Barzagli’s niggling tendon issue is not resolved, look for Ogbonna to start in his place.

The influence of the White Hand of Conte is far-reaching, but his troops are showing signs of weakness

Normally, these lackluster performances and injuries would be great news for Milan, but will Milan be able to take advantage of them? Not if Allegri considers Juventus a “superior” team and has them play “defensively,” not unlike the battle of Helm’s Deep. Because Juventus take a LOT of shots. Their success is based on the law of averages, if you keep taking shots, eventually one will go in. Which means Abbiati and our defense will be tested too much. And our law of averages says that if we allow enough shots, we will concede. Not good.

In addition to injuries, obviously the suspension of Mario Balotelli hurts Milan a lot in this one. On the one hand, it gives Juve’s Drughi one more chance to redeem themselves by not chanting against Balotelli when he’s not there before they actually have to try to control themselves when he is. But on the other hand, it puts our goalscoring opportunities largely in the hands of Juventus defector and Allegri’s favorite bromance, Matri, who celebrated against us when he scored for Juve, and has already said he will celebrate against Juve should he score against them. Someone explain to that guy what Milan class is, please. But really, we shouldn’t be concerned, because the law of averages says he is more likely to get injured than to score.

The deal that Sauron himself oversaw

Speaking of injuries, Allegri will still be without Kak√°, De Sciglio, Birsa, Silvestre, Bonera, Pazzini, and El Shaarawy for this match. What formation he chooses and who he lines up are completely up for grabs, because after his press conference on Tuesday, it is clear his mind has been poisoned by Grima Wormtongue and nothing he does will make any sense whatsoever.

But I can’t give up hope. Like trusting a couple of Hobbits to wander into Mordor and destroy the One Ring, I have a fool’s hope that Milan can wander into Juventus Stadium and get a result. After all, there may come a time when the hearts of Milanisti fail, but it is not this day! I want Milan to go into that stadium, do the opposite of what Allegri tells them to, and fight together, no matter how wacky the formation or the tactics.

Wormtongue's spell over Allegri became clear midweek when he called for Milan to fall back at Helm's Deep

Above all else, I would love a match free of controversy. Secondly, no new injuries. And then I would be grateful for a result. If Frodo could destroy the ring with only his good friend Sam to help him, then this Milan squad with its average players and underperforming talents can go into Juventus Stadium and pull off a result. Even if it’s only a fool’s hope. Rise up, men of Milan! Into Mordor!


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


Juventus vs. Milan
Sunday, October 6 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This match will be shown LIVE on RAI in the U.S.
(If you have BeIn Sport, you may be able to watch it LIVE on beinsportplay.tv)
Check the comments for stream links at kickoff