Juventus v AC Milan: Gattuso's men can cause Juve problems in Supercoppa
We're used to Juventus having things their own way domestically but don't write off Milan as Italy's Supercoppa arrives in Jeddah, writes Andy Brassell...
"Much focus will be on Gonzalo Higuaín, who is squarely in the headlines right now as a move to Chelsea seems to be on the cards. Always committed, he will be desperate to do well against Juve."
Juventus v AC Milan
Wednesday, 17:30 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1
Sometimes, it's just a question of timing. There has been a lot of noise of late over the decision to hold this season's Supercoppa Italiana in Jeddah, the first of three editions of the trophy that will be held in Saudi Arabia as per the terms of a lucrative deal signed between the country and Lega Serie A last summer.
The relocation fits the history of the trophy in the last two decades; since the 2002 edition was played in Tripoli on the back of then-Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's shareholding in Juventus, the showpiece has been arranged to be outside Italy more often than not. The controversy over women being prohibited from sitting in certain parts of the stadium for Wednesday's game, hot on the heels of debate in Italy over whether the Supercoppa should be moved after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has meant its venue has been imbued with added significance this time around.
Juve already imperious
On the field, the timing is important too. Juventus are clear favourites at 1/2, with Milan out at 11/2, with the champions having dropped only four league points after 19 games and Gennaro Gattuso's team locked in a scrap for a top four place, with the leading three of Juve, Napoli and Inter having already created a gap.
At this stage of a season, Massimiliano Allegri is often searching for the best tactical blend. The need to integrate Cristiano Ronaldo means that Juve appear to have found an agreed formula already, and they are ahead of where they normally are at this point in a season.
Higuaín keen to impress
Much focus will be on Gonzalo Higuaín, who is squarely in the headlines right now as a move to Chelsea seems to be on the cards. Always committed, he will be desperate to do well against Juve. Clearly pumped up to prove a point against the club that turfed him out (too much so, in fact), he missed a penalty in the November meeting between the clubs at San Siro and struggled to composed himself afterwards, before eventually being sent off as the red mist descended with a vengeance.
A better impression will be Higuaín's aim this time, whether he is packing his bags or not. The good thing for Milan is that they are not totally reliant on him for goals, with young Patrick Cutrone off the bench to score the brace which won the Coppa match at Sampdoria this weekend.
Juve's Supercoppa difficulties
Milan rode their luck in Genoa, with Pepe Reina - still yet to appear in Serie A matches this season - their outstanding performer. Holding on and hitting the decisive blows let on might recall their Supercoppa win over Juve in 2016, held in Doha two days before Christmas.
Vincenzo Montella's side was appreciably weaker - at least on paper - to the one which will take the field on Wednesday, but after Giacomo Bonaventura's equaliser took the game to extra-time, the Rossoneri eventually edged it on penalties (a draw at 90 minutes is priced at 29/10).
Juve have actually lost three of the last four editions of the Supercoppa, to Milan, Napoli and Lazio, with that defeat to Simone Inzaghi's team in the Stadio Olimpico last season part of an uncharacteristically shaky start to the last campaign.
That this edition of the Supercoppa is so much deeper into the season certainly favours Juventus, who have been peerless so far in 18-19, but Milan couldn't be catching them at a much better time, with Allegri exasperated by a growing injury list and players including Alex Sandro talking about the team not being quite up to speed after their short winter break. Milan's window is small, but it remains ajar.