The curtain will come down on the Italian season on Saturday when the country’s two most successful clubs face off in the final of the Coppa Italia at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Between them they have won 50 Serie A titles, nine European Cups and 15 Coppa Italia crowns, yet, at this current time, that success is where the similarities end between the two rivals.
For Juventus, Saturday’s final represents a chance to win back-to-back doubles, having continued their recent domestic dominance by landing a fifth successive Serie A crown last month. And this latest triumph was arguably the most impressive of all.
Last summer, Juventus bid farewell to three pillars of the team, in Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez. After winning just two of their first eight league games, it appeared this would be a season of transition, in which young players brought in, like Argentine forward Paulo Dybala, would take time to find their feet. Instead Juventus embarked on a remarkable run, taking 79 points from an available 84 to romp to the title, inspired by 19 goals from Dybala.
Having come within a Champions League final defeat to Barcelona of winning the treble last season, it was another triumph for coach Massimiliano Allegri. And the 48-year-old could be forgiven for feeling further vindication of his abilities when taking a glance toward the plight of Juventus’ opponents on Saturday.
It is now two-and-a-half years since Milan decided that they could do better than Allegri in the coaching department, after finishing first, second and then third in Serie A in his three full seasons in charge. While Allegri has garnered a reputation as one of the best coaches in Europe at Juventus, Milan have embarked on one of the worst spells of their modern history.
After eighth and 10th place Serie A finishes, Milan came in seventh this season, and ended the campaign under the charge of a fourth coach since Allegri’s dismissal. Now under the guidance of former player Cristian Brocchi, following Sinisa Mihajlovic’s sacking last month, Milan need to win the Coppa Italia in order to avoid missing out on European qualification for a third straight season for the first time in more than 30 years.
As well as losing both matches to Juventus in the league this season, Milan also finished the Serie A season with a 3-1 home defeat by Roma. Yet Allegri insists he won’t be taking his former club lightly.
“We know that it is going to be dangerous as anything can happen in a one-off game,” he said in his pre-match press conference, according to Gazzetta World. “Milan will be desperate to win as it is their last chance to play in Europe next season and we mustn’t assume anything. After what happened in their last Serie A game, I think we’ll see a big reaction from them and I’m sure it will be an evenly-matched affair.”
Allegri has confirmed that backup goalkeeper Neto will continue as his Coppa Italia starter, in place of Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus will also be missing the suspended Leonardo Bonucci, while Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira and Martin Caceres are injured. Milan have no new injury concerns.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Gol TV
Live stream: FuboTV