Juventus need to win this Sunday. After losing to one top four team, Atalanta, a couple of weeks ago, they need to assert themselves by taking all three points from Milan for a second time this season. But this time, they need to do it in their own house at the Allianz Stadium.
Despite Juve’s loss to Atalanta, they did beat Napoli in another recent showdown between Champions League hopefuls. The Bianconeri desperately need to make it to the competition next season for both pride and financial reasons. If they want to make upgrades to their lackluster midfield, then they need to get the financial boost of the Champions League.
Milan are not the same team they were earlier this season when Juve beat them 3-1 at the San Siro. They are doing worse and are also out of the title race. They are fourth in the table, one spot behind Juve due to the head-to-head encounter and goal differential.
But despite their recent slide down the table, the Rossoneri are still a great team that is capable of beating Juventus. They boast a significantly better midfield with Hakan Calhanoglu as the playmaker in front of Franck Kessie and the wonderful Ismael Bennacer. And their defense received a winter upgrade in the form of young center back Fikayo Tomori.
Paulo Dybala could be the X-Factor for Juventus vs. Milan
Both teams have capable defenses, so the real key for Juventus will be getting the most out of their forwards, especially Paulo Dybala. Realistically, Juve aren’t going to be the better team in the middle of the park this Sunday night, so they need to attack from wide areas with Juan Cuadrado and Federico Chiesa and find Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala in areas close to goal.
Dybala is the key because he has the creativity to combine with Cuadrado on that right-hand side and then score off his left foot with the slightest bit of space. In the first fixture between these two sides, Dybala and Chiesa actually dominated together, and I wonder if a healthy Chiesa could be the deciding factor, especially given how the Bianconeri have struggled without him recently.
The Ronaldo factor is another potential decider for Juventus, as it was the deciding factor last weekend in Udine. Milan don’t quite have the same difference-makers, though I would keep an eye on Real Madrid loanee Brahim Diaz, who looks set to start up top with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He is a quick, two-footed player, and Juve’s back line cannot make any mistakes in possession against a player as active as Brahim.
In the end, I think Juve will take this one 2-1 after a late goal from Cristiano Ronaldo. Expect Cuadrado and Chiesa to run the show out wide, working hard in defense and attack to win the ball and quickly create chances for a Juve side that must play fast against the Rossoneri.