Milan-Juventus Preview: The One to Watch

Milan vs. Juventus is always a fiery match, and there is a fierce rivalry between the two clubs. Ten years ago, the infamous "gol di Muntari" not only inspired Goal Line Technology (GLT,) but also a very unhealthy acrimony between these two clubs that has continued to take the spotlight away from the players and on to the referee, may God rest his poor soul. Milan come into this match seven points ahead of Juve on the table, but it should have been 10, were it not for... you guessed it... the referee vs. Spezia on Monday. Milan have had some spectacularly tragic luck with referees this season, so no one really cares what Milan or Juventus are doing, the referee will be the one to watch.

Just keep those cards in your pocket, and no one gets suspended

When we faced Juve in September in week four, Juventus only had one point in three matches in Serie A. We gave them one more with our 1-1 draw, but they have clawed their way back up the table since then and sit in fifth place with 41 points. In between ghosting girlfriends who are as young as his daughter, Allegri has finally managed all of the club drama into eeking out wins, sometimes scoring more than one goal in some matches. 

Like last week, for example, when they beat Udinese 2-0 in the league, then beat Sampdoria 4-1 on Tuesday in the Coppa Italia. Of course, that was less than a week after handing the Super Coppa trophy to those Nerazzurri snakes, but that was a lose-lose situation. As in both teams are losers. Ironically, it was Inter who created the "Juve own the referees" conspiracy in the first place, so it's sad that so many have bought into it. Yet we have had so many of our own controversies with Juve and the refs, so it is also difficult to dispel it. I prefer to remember our epic 3-0 win last May that was blissfully without any ref controversy. 

His hair is gone, but his winning is back

Back to this match, Allegri returns to the San Siro as the last coach to win a Scudetto with Milan, which tells you a lot about how painful these past ten years have been for us. For their Coppa Italia match on Tuesday, he lined up: Perin; former Milan player De Sciglio, Danilo, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, former Milan player Locatelli, Arthur, Rabiot; Kulusevski; and Morata. Of course, Allegri ironically only has two players injured as of this writing, even if they are both massive losses: Chiesa for his talent, and Bonucci for his lack of class. Expensive talent and lack of class are hallmarks of Juventus, which is another reason Allegri is perfect for them.

Algeria's loss is Milan's gain

Pioli has missed an average of 7.8 players out per match, never fewer than six, for the last 20 matches. That is 156 absences from Milan players in 20 matches. Yet Milan still sit second on the table with 48 points, in spite of last week's robbery. After missing nine players on Monday, he has three of those players that should be back for this match. Tonali returns from suspension, Romagnoli is back after his COVID-19 quarantine, and Bennacer's Algeria were shockingly knocked out of AFCON on Thursday by Kessie's Cote d'Ivoire, which means the Algerian midfielder should be available on Sunday. Merci, Kessié.

That still leaves six players absent, however. Pioli will be missing Plizzari, Kjaer, Tomori, and Pellegri to injuries, and Kessié and Ballo-Touré are both still at AFCON, with their respective teams heading into the Round of 16. Only missing three starters will be something new for Pioli, although having two of the three of those be our two starting center backs is still worrisome.

A Romagnoli return will be a welcome sight after our bare bones defense of late

Milan's biggest concern is Marco Di Bello, the poor referee who has been charged with ruining this match without getting suspended. That is a big responsibility. Oh, and also poor Aleandro Di Paolo, the head VAR ref. The referee originally appointed was Daniele Orsato, but the papers had already started pointing out that he had made some big mistakes in big games. He will be unavailable to ref this match for unnamed reasons, so Di Bello was given the match instead.

Di Bello and Di Paolo could easily end up like Serra, who although not officially suspended for his shambolic performance on Monday, will be a VAR ref in Serie B this week. Perhaps it was his humility and reports of tears and apologies that saw him miss an actual suspension, but Milan are still missing those three points. Another week of errors like that would massively impact the careers of Di Bello/De Paolo, who are both more experienced refs than Serra. But a good referee performance would go a long way toward changing the narrative around referees.

Pioli will need to be calm to guide us through this one

Only 5,000 fans will be allowed at San Siro for the second of two rounds impacted by the ridiculous attempt to curb COVID-19 numbers, with no traveling fans allowed. So that at least will be something worth watching for. I would love to imagine a great game, one like we saw last May, when we played so well and had such an impressive win away at J Stadium. Even just taking three points would be amazing at this point. But as long as the result is fair, I will be satisfied. I want the spotlight to be on the match itself, the players and their performances, rather than Orsato. Hopefully, Milan will be the one to watch.

This post inspired by the music of Muse's "Sing for Absolution"

Serie A Week 23
Milan vs. Juventus
Sunday, January 23 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Milan-Juventus Preview: The One to Watch Milan-Juventus Preview: The One to Watch Reviewed by Elaine on 12:01 AM Rating: 5
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