Milan will require near-perfect display in Turin

Posted by Sumeet Paul

With six games gone in the season, the Serie A table doesn't quite reflect the preseason expectations for Milan. Perhaps the most in-form side in Italy in the second half of the last campaign, talk of a Scudetto followed this summer, but that ambition has been somewhat tempered following another indifferent start.

Nevertheless, the Rossoneri have a chance this weekend to kick-start their season much like they did last year. While this time it involves a trip to Turin -- as opposed to welcoming the defending champions to San Siro -- three points on Sunday against Juventus could well be the confidence boost required by Massimiliano Allegri and the players.

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A string of disappointing performances perhaps suggests that optimism is hollow, but at this point the international break can't come quickly enough as the injury list continues to ease, while the suspended Mario Balotelli will return to face Udinese.

However, as has been the case for the past fortnight, the results matter much more than the performances, and with grumblings within the Juventus camp after a disappointing week in Europe, there is the potential for an upset.

Having reiterated the point that games thus far have not been decisive, Robinho broke the mould this week by emphasising the importance of obtaining a result this weekend.

Meanwhile, Riccardo Montolivo shared his belief that the Rossoneri are capable of "hurting Juve" in Tuttosport on Friday, but there are various aspects that must be almost perfect to secure a positive result.

As has been the case on certain occasions against the top sides, the Bianconeri are capable of starting games at a blistering pace, which often leads to sides crumbling under the pressure, particularly in Turin.

So far this season, Milan have made bright starts to many games, but their level of concentration and consistency falters thereafter and leave them open to periods of intense pressure.

The much-maligned defensive unit must therefore produce Sunday to provide a solid foundation for the attacking threats to have the chance to clinch a surprise win.

But perhaps more importantly, the midfield trio will have to control the tempo of the game and ensure that it is played at a pace Milan are comfortable with and can build upon while also restricting their opponents.

This is an area in particular where Nigel De Jong has flourished thus far this season, and the Dutchman, along with perhaps Montolivo and Andrea Poli, will have a tough assignment against one of the most talented midfield units in Europe.

Further afield, Robinho is likely to continue in the starting lineup given the absentee list, and there is an almost immediate return to Turin for Alessandro Matri.

The former Juve striker has struggled over the past fortnight, with his confidence inevitably affected after missing a whole host of goal-scoring chances. However, while he publicly admits that he has no "revenge" mission this weekend, he will hope to get on the score sheet sooner rather than later.

The odds are predictably stacked against Allegri and Milan this weekend, and while it may require a near-perfect performance to conquer Turin, they must prepare with the belief and desire that it is possible.

What is your prediction for Sunday night's game? What will be the key battles?

For all the latest news on Milan and Serie A, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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