Milan follow Liverpool lesson with trip to old rivals Juve

Saturday, September 18th, 2021 00:00 |
AC Milan’s France’s forward Olivier Giroud reacts to a missed chance during the UEFA Champions League first round Group B match against Liverpool at Anfield in Liverpool, England on September 15, 2021. Photo/AFP

AC Milan bounce straight from one massive game to another on Sunday when they travel to fierce rivals Juventus still reeling from defeat in their first Champions League match since 2014.

The seven-time European champions came away from Anfield with some lessons to learn after spending the vast majority of their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool on the back foot.

In the opening 20 minutes Stefano Pioli’s side looked overawed by the occasion and a full, pulsating stadium after playing their domestic matches in grounds kept at 50 percent capacity as according to Italy’s Covid-19 regulations.

And once 2-1 ahead against the run of play at half-time through goals by Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz they then crumbled in the face of Liverpool pressure after the break and could have lost by more.

“The fact that we were in the game until the end is a sign of the level we have reached,” Pioli said after the match.

“We’re talking about a really high standard and we’re not quite there but we’ll use this match to grow and gain more experience.”

They have an immediate test at the Allianz Stadium in probably the biggest match of the Serie A season so far, as Juve try to build on their 3-0 win at Malmo and crack Milan’s perfect start to the league campaign.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side were considered the pre-season favourites for the Scudetto but the sudden departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and only one draw to show from three matches has left them in disarray, eight points behind Milan, Napoli and league leaders Roma.

They will likely benefit from the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who said on Thursday he wasn’t sure he would recover from an Achilles tendon injury in time for the trip west. The Swedish star picked up the knock after scoring in an impressive 2-0 win over Lazio last weekend, his first match in over four months, and missed the trip to England.

“I don’t want to risk consequences further down the line, I want to maintain my fitness for the whole season so that I can always be available,” Ibrahimovic said at a promotional event.

Champions Inter meanwhile will need to recover from being sucker punched by Real Madrid when they host Bologna on Saturday evening.

Elsewhere promoted Venezia will play their first home Serie A match for nearly two decades in the atmospheric Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, an intriguing ground set on the south-eastern tip of Venice’s main archipelago.

Reachable by boat, the Penzo will host around 6,000 fans as Venezia attempt to build on last weekend’s 2-1 win at Empoli with the visit of Spezia, who have had a rough start to their second season in the top flight and sit in the drop zone with just one point.

Down the road Igor Tudor faces daunting opposition for his first match in charge of Verona who are yet to pick up a single point following the sacking of Eusebio Di Francesco, as Jose Mourinho’s Roma come to town.

Cagliari, who also sacked their coach Leonardo Semplici just three matches into the season, travel to Lazio for Walter Mazzarri’s first game in the dugout.

Italy midfielder Locatelli has become a lynchpin of the Juve midfield after being introduced to the team slowly following his summer signing from Sassuolo. -AFP

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