Coppa Italia Final: Will Juventus’ Experience Prove Too Much for AC Milan?
It’s Coppa Italia final time in Italy on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET), with current champions Juventus aiming to secure the trophy for the fourth year running in a repeat of the 2015/16 final with AC Milan.
It took the Serie A champions extra time to come out on top two years ago, with Alvaro Morata netting a 110th-minute winner, but both teams will be hoping that this one doesn’t go the distance.
Taking Care of Business
Just a matter of weeks ago, Juventus seemed likely to view this match as something of an unwelcome distraction.
With Juventus coming to the end of an almighty race for the league title with Napoli that looked set to go right to the wire after a 1-0 defeat to their closest rivals last month, all of a sudden the race for the Serie A crown is all but over.
While most neutrals were rooting for Napoli, Milan fans in particular were hopeful that Maurizio Sarri’s side could keep up the pace with Juve. As it stands, however, after taking just one point from their last two matches, the Partenopei appear to have blown it. Napoli are now six points adrift at the top with a vastly inferior goal difference, so Max Allegri’s side will once again be celebrating come the end of the season.
Juve will be hoping to be toasting victory in the Cup before raising the league title, though, and it’s their opponents that will now have one eye on the league standings instead.
Indeed, while AC Milan reclaimed sixth spot in the league at the weekend, they have a huge match at Atalanta to concern themselves with next time out. Their hosts on Sunday are just one point and one place behind in the battle for that final Europa League spot, although Gennaro Gattuso’s side would book their place in the tournament if they can lift the Coppa on Wednesday — a result that would see the seventh-place team in the league also qualify.
The Experience Factor
There’s no question that both sides will name strong lineups because of their respective circumstances in the league, but it’s Juventus that should approach the game not only in higher spirits but with a clearer mind-set, too.
As such it’s the reigning champions that are considerable favorites, but to my mind, a price of 1.91 (-110) still represents good value on a side that, domestically at least, have been a dominant force.
Juve’s squad, after all, is significantly more experienced than that of their challengers, and while the absence of stalwart centerback Giorgio Chiellini through suspension is a potentially significant blow, their strength in depth remains far greater than that of their big-spending rivals. Milan may well line up with as many as five players aged 23 or under if teenager Manuel Locatelli is required to step in for Lucas Biglia in midfield, with the latter struggling through injury. Juventus, meanwhile, are unlikely to start with any.
Will There Be Goals?
Gattuso will be hoping that the young legs at his disposal can outlast the league leaders this time, and as such may look to keep things tight. The odds on under 2.5 goals, however, are low and unappealing, particularly considering the attacking talent Allegri can choose from.
Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado are likely to play in the fullback positions for the Old Lady, but both will look to pin their opponents back and provide width and pace in abundance. Moreover, Douglas Costa is tipped to start in place of Mario Mandzukic given the Croatian’s fitness problems of late and as such he and compatriot Sandro will look to give AC Milan’s young right back, Davide Calabria, a torrid time.
All in all, while Milan have some promising youngsters, the matchups across the pitch are one-sided. With that in mind, and with the Rossoneri now the team with one eye on their weekend fixture, a buoyant Juventus should have too much for the underdogs this week.
They’ve won the last four meetings between these sides, scoring at least twice in each, and a repeat looks very likely to me. A price of 2.10 (+110) on Juve to score two or more goals would be my top tip for this one then, while you could also offset Juventus’ odds as favorites by combining the outside option of over 2.5 goals in the match for odds of 3.30 (+230).
A season that had threatened to end in disaster for The Old Lady a matter of weeks ago should yet culminate in a remarkable fourth successive league and cup double.
Odds current as of Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Courtesy of Juventus