Milan vs Juventus Five Key Battles: Adli vs Locatelli In Midfield Scrap

This evening, Milan and Juventus will lock horns in one of the most anticipated showdowns in Italian football. Prior to Inter’s 3-0 win over Torino on Saturday, the Rossoneri were sitting on top of the table after the first eight rounds of the Serie A campaign. Aside from the demolition suffered in the Derby della Madonnina, Stefano Pioli’s men have thus far won all their league fixtures.

On the other hand, the Bianconeri had their highs and lows, but they collected enough points in the process to lock themselves a spot on the podium. Despite some early-season signs suggesting a more progressive brand of football at display in Turin, Massimiliano Allegri remains one of the most pragmatic managers in the game, an old-school tactician if you will.

Therefore, we can expect a tactical battle between the two Italian coaches, one that will be determined by the smallest of details and the player duels that will ensue all over the pitch.

So let’s take a closer look at five key battles that could eventually decide the outcome of tonight’s mega clash between Milan and Juventus.

Malick Thiaw vs Moise Kean

We start with a battle that will occur in Milan’s final third. Most sources, expect Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic to be only fit enough for a spot in the dugout. We might see them both take part in the action by the second half, but Allegri’s starting attacking duo will likely be Arkadiusz Milik and Moise Kean.

While the Pole will have a daunting task ahead of him in the shape of Fikayo Tomori, perhaps Allegri will be betting on Kean’s pace on the counter attacks, as he’ll try to exploit any spaces that Malick Thiaw could leave at the back and use his superior velocity to leave the German in the dust.

This will be an interesting one to watch.

Alessandro Florenzi vs Timothy Weah

A few weeks ago, no one had expected a clash between the Italian veteran and the up-and-coming USMNT star. Yet, Theo Hernandez managed to collect five yellow cards in record time, forcing him to forfeit his regular spot at left-back in favor of Alessandro Florenzi.

On the other hand, the host of absentees in Juve’s midfield prompted Allegri to switch Weston McKennie back to the center, opening room for his compatriot Timothy Weah on the right wing.

The former Roma captain could be in for a long night as he tries to cope with the pace of his younger foe while operating in a less-familiar position on the left flank. Florenzi might be able to hold his own in the first hour or so, but he tends to run out of steam towards the final half hour.

Therefore, Tijjani Reijnders will have to offer some assistance for his experienced teammate, especially when the fullback begins to wane.

Yacine Adli vs Manuel Locatelli

In the absence of Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic, Pioli decided to thrust Yacine Adli (originally an attacking midfielder) as a Regista. To his credit, the French-Algerian is making the most of the opportunity, proving to be a real hidden gem.

The 23-year-old will be pulling the strings for the Diavolo in the middle of the park, while his opposite number will be a man who made his first steps in Serie A donning the famous Black-and-Red stripes.

After two years in Turin, Manuel Locatelli has now cemented himself as the man who holds the key in the Black-and-White midfield.

So which deep-lying playmaker will prevail in this intriguing duel?

Now despite what the narrative may suggest, the midfield clash won’t be a one-on-one showdown between two men. Instead, this will be a major melee between six energetic and physical midfielders.

Milan will rely on the services of Reijnders and Yunus Musah who will join Adli in the middle of the park, while Locatelli will be supported by his usual partner-in-crime Adrien Rabiot (who will be sporting the captain’s armband in Danilo’s absence) and McKennie.

Christian Pulisic vs Daniele Rugani

Kudos to Christian Pulisic who immediately cemented himself as a pillar in Pioli’s attacking trident following his summer switch from Chelsea. The American winger has been a protagonist in terms of goal-scoring, already bagging four strikes and providing an assist.

With Juventus captain Danilo out with an untimely injury, Allegri has no other choice but resorting to the services of benchwarmer Daniele Rugani to ward off the Milan summer signing.

The Italian defender rarely embarrasses himself when given the nod, but the lack of playing time in his legs could hinder his playing levels, especially when has to step up in such a tough encounter against the league leaders and their formidable attacking unit

This one will be a battle between dynamism and experience, and its outcome will certainly have major implications for the final result.

Rafael Leao vs Federico Gatti

This duel will take place on the opposite flank but is equally fascinating. Over the last month or so, Federico Gatti has been in the headlines on a couple of occasions but for contrasting reasons.

The former Frosinone man endured a horrific evening at the Mapei Stadium culminating in the most bizarre of own goals. Nevertheless, the defender found redemption in the Derby della Mole when he scored the opener against his family’s favorite club Torino.

So while he prepares to battle against Milan star Rafael Leao, one might feel that the Juventus man is set to grab the limelight yet again, but whether he’ll wind up being the hero or the villain remains to be seen.

For his part, the Portuguese is simply unplayable on his best day, but one has to wonder how much he’ll miss Theo Hernandez who usually accompanies him in his ventures on the left wing.

In the end, this one might well be the most crucial duel in Sunday’s tilt.

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