Rome. Juventus has already beaten AC Milan twice this season, and the Rossoneri are determined to change the outcome in the latest meeting of Italy’s top two clubs today at the San Siro.
“We’ve got to win, this is a battle for the title and we can’t make any more errors,” said Milan center back Thiago Silva, who is widely considered the top defender in the league.
However, Milan center forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss the match while serving a three-game ban for slapping Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica in the face earlier this month. Milan appealed to have the third and final game in the ban erased, but a league judge rejected the request on Thursday.
“With Ibra they’re more predictable, although he himself is unpredictable,” Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli said. “Without Ibra they move more and don’t provide reference points.”
Milan leads Juventus by one point, but the Turin club has a game in hand.
In their first league meeting, in October, Juventus beat Milan 2-0 with two late goals from Claudio Marchisio. Two weeks ago in the first leg of the Italian Cup semifinals, Juventus won again, 2-1, with two goals from Martin Caceres.
After today, their final meeting this season will come on March 21 in the second Cup leg.
Juventus is undefeated and has nearly its entire squad healthy. Milan is also approaching full strength, with midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and striker Alexandre Pato working their ways back from injuries and defenders Alessandro Nesta and Philippe Mexes also returning.
Ibrahimovic is among Serie A’s top scorers this season with 15 goals, although without him Milan shows more balance. In a 3-1 win over Cesena last week, former Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari scored on his Rossoneri debut, Dutch midfielder Urby Emanuelson doubled the lead and Robinho scored the third goal.
Maxi Lopez, the striker Milan signed from Catania last month after a deal for Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez fell through, has also been effective.
Two weeks ago, Milan was trailing Udinese 1-0 midway through the second half before pulling out a 2-1 victory with late goals from Lopez and teenage striker Stephen El Shaarawy. Four days later came an impressive 4-0 rout of Arsenal in the Champions League.
“That was a fundamental victory,” Thiago Silva said of the Udinese match. “In the final 25 minutes, we changed our playing style and rediscovered that will to win, and then in the following matches with Arsenal and Cesena we did great. Now we’ve got to continue this way.”
Juventus will likely rely on Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri in attack, although Fabio Quagliarella is also an option after scoring in a 3-1 win over Catania last weekend.
Also this weekend, struggling Inter visits Napoli in a matchup of two clubs heading in opposite directions. Napoli won 3-0 at Fiorentina last week then beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, while Inter’s 1-0 loss to Marseille in the elite European competition on Wednesday marked its sixth loss in its last seven matches.
Making matters worse for Inter is that right back Maicon appeared to pick up a serious right knee injury against Marseille, which scored in added time.
Lazio hosts Fiorentina on Sunday, while Udinese visits Bologna on Sunday.