Juventus
    Juventus
      20.11.2015 18.00 - in: Serie A S

      Three key #JuveMilan duels

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      As sixth meets fifth in Turin, Juventus.com identifies where Saturday’s 181st Serie A meeting between the Bianconeri and Rossoneri may be won and lost

      Immediately after an international break and with both sides beginning to build momentum on the back of promising runs of form, there could be few better moments for the 161st league meeting between Italy’s two most successful clubs, Juventus and AC Milan.

      After making equally slow starts, a third win in four for either side in Turin this weekend may well signify a stepping stone in the Bianconeri and Rossoneri’s seasons with just five fixtures remaining until the winter break at the end of December.

      Often high scoring, rarely dull and always tightly contested, here is where Saturday evening’s clash is likely to be decided and which players have been making the headlines for their respective teams in recent weeks. 

      Andrea Barzagli vs. Carlos Bacca

      With an excellent assist for Alvaro Morata’s opening goal against Sevilla at the end of September, a titanic showing at the San Siro a few weeks later and an October player of the month award to boot, Andrea Barzagli has undoubtedly been one of Juventus’ most consistent performers this campaign.

      The absence of Stephan Lichtsteiner through injury and Giorgio Chiellini through suspension in that period provided Barzagli the platform from which to demonstrate his defensive and tactical versatility. 

      Operating on the right side of a fluid 3-5-2, the Italy international’s tenacity, winning 71.4 per cent of his tackles and 64 per cent of his duels, and reliable distribution from the back, completing the second highest number of passes (620) behind Leonardo Bonucci (758), has made him a consistently dependable asset in Juve’s backline.

      Should Andrea start on Saturday, he will have to be at his usual watertight best to keep Milan leading scorer Carlos Bacca quiet.

      Arriving from Juventus’ Champions League rivals Sevilla in the summer, the electric Colombian forward has set about maintaining his killer touch in the penalty area that yielded 45 goals in two seasons in Spain, netting six times for Milan this season from just nine shots on target.

      Naturally, Bacca has become the focal point of Sinisa Mijalhovic’s men and the Rossoneri’s passing and shooting figures illustrate the extent of the Colombian’s influence on the way the team play.

      While only completing 78 per cent of their passes (13th overall in Serie A) as they look to shuttle the ball to Bacca as quickly as possible, Milan’s 71 per cent chance conversion rate is the second best in the division.

      Bacca's goal against Lazio was his sixth of the season from his ninth shot on target

      However impressive the ex-Sevilla man has been so far this campaign, in Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus have all the necessary tools to ensure Gianluigi Buffon’s goal remains well protected on Saturday evening. 

      Sami Khedira vs. Giacomo Bonaventura

      Bacca though, is not the only Serie A newcomer to have made a mark on his new team.

      Where a forward’s contribution will always be more immediately noticeable, the quiet, efficient and selfless work of Sami Khedira in Juventus’ middle third this season has been equally crucial in keeping his side in the hunt on the domestic front as well as in propelling them to the brink of the Champions League last 16.

      Khedira's touchmap against Bologna last month. The German showed that he isn't afraid to get forward.

      The German’s quick and accurate distribution, making 212 passes with his 256 touches so far this season, coupled with his habit of arriving in the penalty area at exactly the right moment, as demonstrated against Bologna in October, has brought a welcome balance and composure to the Bianconeri’s midfield.

      What’s more, the champions are yet to lose this term when he plays, winning five and drawing two.

      Often deployed to the right of Claudio Marchisio, Khedira is likely to be tasked with checking the runs of in-form Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura. 

      Drifting between the lines ahead of Riccardo Montolivo and Juraj Kucka and behind Bacca, Bonaventura has been the source of 46 per cent of the Rossoneri’s goals this season (scoring two and assisting five) as well as attempting the most dribbles (36), completing the most crosses (68) and landing the most shots on target (18) for Mijalhovic’s side. 

      As a result, Khedira and midfield colleagues Marchisio and Paul Pogba will need to be wary of committing too far forward and allowing the 26-year old space in the final third, particularly with team-mate Bacca in such good scoring form. 

      Paul Pogba vs. Riccardo Montolivo

      With an exquisite Derby della Mole volley and inch perfect assist for Stephan Lichtsteiner in Germany against Borussia Monchengladbach, Bianconeri talisman Pogba ended last month in style, showing the kind of touches that have made him one of the hottest properties in Europe in the previous 18 months. 

      With his trademark athletic all-action style, Pogba has become an irreplaceable figure in Massimiliano Allegri’s plans, starting all 12 of Juve’s league fixtures this season while taking more shots (22), attempting more dribbles (52) and finding a team-mate in the opposition’s half with more regularity (54) than any other Juventus player.

      Screening the Milan defence and attempting to keep the ball away from the Frenchman will be Rossoneri skipper Riccardo Montolivo, signed by Allegri from Fiorentina in 2012. 

      With the offensive talents of Bonaventura and the tough-tackling of Kucka either side of him, Montolivo’s primary duty in Mijalhovic’s 4-3-3 system is to win back and retain possession while blocking off any through balls between central defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Alex behind him. 

      Pogba and Montolivo have both played the most number of minutes for their respective teams so far this season.

      The skipper executed his role to perfection in his side’s last away victory against Lazio, making a match high 10 interceptions, 11 recoveries and 35 successful passes in home territory.

      As the Rossoneri’s most prolific passer (559, well over 100 more than any other Milan player) and playmaker, Juve will need to be quick to close the Italian international down and cut off the supply lines to the likes of Bacca and Bonaventura at their deep-lying source. 

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