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The Bianconeri are less than the sum of their parts and the defending champions will fancy their chances at home.
Back AC Milan to beat Juventus on Saturday (-110)
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When AC Milan won the Serie A title last term, there was a feeling that it was both ahead of schedule and a massive opportunity.
The Rossoneri did not begin the campaign as the favorites to finish on top of the pile. Despite the presence in the squad of some high-profile 30-somethings, theirs was largely a young side.
Milan had finished as runners-up in 2020/21, but in terms of points, they were closer to sixth place than first.
Yet at the same time, last season provided Milan with a window of opportunity. Inter, the defending champions, had just lost Antonio Conte, one of the best coaches in Europe.
Juventus also had a change in the dugout, as former Milan boss Max Allegri replaced Andrea Pirlo. Roma, Napoli, and Lazio were under new management too. In that light Milan’s setup, with Stefano Pioli embarking on his second campaign at the helm, looked stable and continuous.
Milan were pushed all the way by Inter, whom they ultimately finished a point clear of. Unusually, the defending champions began this season as only the third-favorites for the scudetto, behind their upcoming opponents and Inter.
Yet Milan have got off to a steady, if unspectacular, start. They trail Napoli and Atalanta, the early pace-setters, by three points, having won five and drawn two of their first seven fixtures.
Rafael Leao, voted as Serie A’s most valuable player last season, looks to have taken his game to another level this time around.
He already has four goals and four assists to his name, and will no doubt cause problems for the Juve backline on Saturday. The Portuguese’s form gives hope to Milan fans that another league title is a real possibility.
The mood in the Juventus camp is considerably less cheery at present. Champions League qualification was secured last season with a fourth-place finish, and the hope was that the Bianconeri would kick on this term and be in a position to challenge for domestic honors once more. It is still early days of course, but Juventus have made a disappointing start: they sit seventh, having failed to win a majority of their eight matches to date.
The club’s motto reads: “winning is not important, it is the only thing that counts”. Compared to other major European outfits, Juventus have never been overly concerned with the style of play. They reappointed Max Allegri because they thought he could make the club champions again; there was little concern for how he might do it.
But discussions of Allegri’s cautious approach are not simply about aesthetics. There is a growing belief that his methods actually make it harder to achieve success in the game in 2022, where virtually every elite coach (with the possible exception of Diego Simeone) encourages attack-minded, progressive soccer.
Allegri is out of step with the vanguard of modern management.
The Italian may yet have the last laugh, and his superiors at the Allianz Stadium insist they will not sack a man who won five Serie A titles during his first spell in charge of Juventus. But defeat on Saturday would pile more pressure on Allegri, who must persuade a growing group of doubters that he is not yesterday’s man.
Each of Juventus’ three wins in Serie A this season have come in front of their own supporters, with Sassuolo, Spezia and Bologna all leaving the Allianz empty-handed.
Their away games have yielded just two points from draws with Sampdoria and Fiorentina, which preceded an ignominious 1-0 defeat by Monzo last month.
The worrying thing for Juventus, who are already seven points off the top spot, is that they have not had a particularly tough start to the season in terms of fixtures.
Roma are the only opponents they have faced with top-six aspirations, with meetings with the likes of Inter, Napoli, Lazio, and Atalanta still to come.
Perhaps Juventus will rise to the occasion this weekend, but we reckon AC Milan will prove too strong for the visitors. The Rossoneri have the third-highest expected goals difference in the division so far (a measure of the quality of chances a team creates and concedes). And although they lost at home to Napoli, Milan have already beaten Udinese, Bologna, and Inter at the San Siro – plus Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League.
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|Teams||AC Milan vs Juventus|
|Location||San Siro, Milan, Italy|
|Time||Saturday, 8 October 2022, 12.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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