Rivalry rekindled as Old Lady visits Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty ImagesSulley Muntari's header that marked last season's controversial Milan-Juventus fixture at the San Siro.

"I carry the photos of Muntari's goal on my phone. I keep it there so I won't forget. Baresi could see offside better than linesmen could." Those are the infamous words of Milan vice-President Adriano Galliani, as a quick glance through the images on his phone will reveal that goal.

As the title race neared the final stretch last season, the Rossoneri were denied a legitimate and potentially decisive goal after Sulley Muntari's header was deemed to have not crossed the line despite having clearly done so. With Juventus returning to San Siro on Sunday night, all concerned will hope for a less controversial clash, one remembered for what did happen, rather than what didn't. These are two of the most decorated clubs in Italy, something which should be respected and appreciated each time they share a pitch.

The gap between the two clubs has grown since, but meetings between the pair are always highly anticipated. The admirable 49-game unbeaten run may have ended, but Juventus arguably remain the strongest side in Italy, and demonstrated that strength in Europe in mid-week. Meanwhile the Rossoneri have suffered since, with Christian Abbiati, Philippe Mexes and Antonio Nocerino potentially the only survivors from that clash in February likely to start this weekend.

However, trying to avoid reverting to the usual excuses, Milan will have reason to be confident ahead of the Bianconeri's visit having secured their place in the last-16 of the Champions League on Wednesday night. Nocerino's attitude after the Anderlecht game was exemplary, admitting his thoughts had already switched to Sunday while declaring, "we have to be humble and continue to live like this was our last chance".

With the media picking up on the expected presence of Marco Van Basten, the Milan legend will merely be in attendance hoping to see his former club secure all three points having dismissed speculation he could return to the club as a coach. The Dutchman returns to San Siro twenty years to the day from that magical night which saw him score four against Gothenburg.

Like many others in the stadium on Sunday night, Van Basten will be eager to see the development of Stephan El Shaarawy. The 20-year-old is surprising even his most ardent enthusiasts, taking his goal tally to unexpected levels so early in the season. Deemed a mark of 'greatness', it will be interesting to see whether the youngster can cope with not only the added pressure of being Milan's main threat, but his reaction to the quality of the opposition he will likely face. The Rossoneri were criticised for being 'Ibra-dependent' last season; have they replaced the big Swede with the young Italian?

It will undoubtedly be a battle on the pitch on Sunday night, with the midfield perhaps the key to success. Juventus boast three midfielders matched by few in the 'MVP' trio of Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and of course, Andrea Pirlo. Should Allegri similarly opt to deploy a three-man midfield, Nocerino, Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel de Jong must produce their best performances of the season thus far and lead Milan to victory.

Where will the game against Juventus be won and lost? Can Milan secure a win against the Old Lady?

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

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