Juventus out to bring Milan back down to earth
Juventus out to bring Milan back down to earth
Seven-time winners Milan beat Serie A champions Juventus into the last 16 of Europe’s premier club competition with victory over Anderlecht on Wednesday.
But the Rossoneri’s feat in Brussels will do little to hide the fact their domestic form, compared to the Turin giants, leaves a lot to be desired.
After 13 games, Milan sit in the bottom half of the table with a 17-point deficit on Juventus (32), who have a four-point lead on Inter Milan with Napoli and Fiorentina a point further adrift in third and fourth.
Indeed, if not for the goalscoring talents of forward Stephan El Shaarawy, who has a league-leading tally of 10 goals — half of Milan’s total — the red and black would be in even worse shape.
“Is El Shaarawy the Milan team? He’s the one making the difference for them so, yes, I’d say he is,” Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco told juventus.com.
Juve, on the other hand, could not be more comfortable.
Since suffering their first defeat in 50 games nearly three weeks ago, they have accounted for Pescara (6-1), dominated Lazio in a scoreless draw and left Chelsea’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread after a 3-0 rout on Wednesday.
In the corresponding fixture with Milan last year Juventus prevailed 2-1 at the San Siro, with Milan holding the Old Lady to a 1-1 draw in Turin in February.
Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio said: “Sunday’s match against Juventus will be tough, especially with what happened last year. They’re one of the best teams in Italy.” Since their 3-1 reverse at home against Inter Milan, Juventus have been virtually unbeatable.
But what is billed as one of the biggest derbies in Italian football will be hard to predict. In their 77 previous Serie A matches at the San Siro Milan have won 26 times with Juve winning 18 and 33 matches ending in draws.
Coach Antonio Conte, whose lengthy touchline ban ends next month, is taking nothing for granted.
A Juventus win tomorrow meanwhile, would extend their lead over Inter to seven points ahead of the Nerazzurri’s trip to Parma on Monday, when Cagliari host Napoli.
Parma, who sit in ninth, will be hoping for at least a share of the points although Inter have at least two reasons to think otherwise.
Inter are still fuming after being held to a 2-2 draw at home to Cagliari last week when they they were denied a valid penalty claim late in the match. Inter also suffered a 1-0 Europa League defeat Thursday to Rubin Kazan.
Coach Andrea Stramaccioni will sit out a one-match suspension, handed down after he insulted the referee following the Cagliari game while striker Antonio Cassano begins the first of his two-game ban, handed down for the same reason.
Fixtures (all GMT)
Saturday: Palermo v Catania (1845)
Sunday: Chievo v Siena, Pescara v Roma, Sampdoria v Bologna, Torino v Fiorentina, Atalanta v Genoa (all 1300), AC Milan v Juventus (1845)
Monday: Cagliari v Napoli, Parma v Inter Milan.
Tuesday: Lazio v Udinese
‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt
- Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
- Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious
ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup.
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target.
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal.
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction.
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.