Match Time：1/7/2021 03:45 Thursday (GMT+8)
Fittingly, old rivals AC Milan and Scudetto-holders Juventus meet on the Epiphany this Wednesday, traditionally a day of revelation and celebration that carries great significance in Italy.
On one of the most important nights in the cultural calendar, the defending champions visit San Siro desperately in need of a win to haul back their Milanese counterparts, who still top the Serie A standings.
After another win on Sunday, league leaders Milan remain top of the pile - just ahead of relentless city rivals Inter Milan - with an impressive 37 points already accrued. In midweek, their prestigious visitors arrive in the unfamiliar position of fifth, some ten points behind - but with a game in hand. It was a strong-willed performance by the Rossoneri to take all three points against promoted Benevento at the weekend, as midfielder Sandro Tonali was sent off in the first half, with Milan already a goal to the good through Franck Kessie's penalty. A 2-0 win, sealed by Rafael Leao - still deputising for the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic - proved not only the mental mettle of Stefano Pioli's side but also their ability to absorb pressure against the odds. They are unlikely to face 25 shots on Gianluigi Donnarumma's goal again this time out, even against far superior opposition, but are equally unlikely to take a totally gung-ho approach to their encounter with the Old Lady of Turin. Although their scintillating attacking stats draw most attention, Milan also have the third-best defensive record in Serie A this term. Even since the absence of 'King Zlatan', the Rossoneri have also maintained their remarkable run of scoring at least two goals in their past 35 league games, while avoiding defeat in the league since last March. Losing that precious record against Juventus is almost unthinkable for their success-starved tifosi, who would love nothing more than holding off Inter and denying the Bianconeri a tenth successive title in May.
Now clearly ahead in the Capocannoniere charts on 14 goals, Juventus talisman Cristiano Ronaldo netted another pair of goals in Sunday's comfortable 4-1 victory over Udinese - a win which they will hope to use as a warm-up for their biggest test of the season so far. Their over-reliance on one man to carry the attack though - as Juve have only the sixth-best goalscoring record in Serie A this season and Ronaldo has scored nearly half of them - has undermined any sustained attempt at catching up with the leaders. Therefore, the chief reason for the Bianconeri's current double-digit points deficit to Milan is clearly apparent. Juventus have recorded six draws in Serie A this season after 14 games played, with many of those failures to seal maximum points coming in the absence of their Portuguese superstar. In fact, the last time that Juve drew so many of their games at this point was back in 2001-02, when they did actually go on to lift the title under the guidance of club legend Marcelo Lippi. It will take a comeback of seismic proportions to achieve a similar feat this time around though, as both Milan clubs look to go from strength to strength. If the impossible dream is going to occur in Andrea Pirlo's first season in charge, Juventus must not only resist Milan's super-efficient attack on Wednesday, but also break a notable current run of failure against the league's bigger boys such as Roma, Lazio and Atalanta.
In short, all three points at San Siro are essential - even at this relatively early stage of the season - so underperforming stars such as Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey will have to help take the fight to a fresh-faced and motivated Milan outfit.
AC Milan Serie A form: WDDWWW
AC Milan form (all competitions): WDDWWW
Juventus Serie A form: WWDWLD
Juventus form (all competitions): WWDWLD
Both clubs will be without integral players for Wednesday's clash but Milan coach Pioli will be worst-hit, as Ibrahimovic, Ismael Bennacer, Matteo Gabbia and Alexis Saelemaekers trained separately from the main squad on Monday and are not expected to be ready. After his dismissal against Benevento, Bennacer's stand-in Tonali will serve a one-match ban, so Rade Krunic may be required to join Kessie in the Rossoneri engine room. Meanwhile, Juventus have second-top scorer Alvaro Morata (muscle injury) and Alex Sandro (COVID-19) out of action, so Danilo will cover the Brazilian full-back's absence and Dybala continues up front. Fortunately for Pirlo though, Juan Cuadrado and Adrien Rabiot return from suspension and could both start against Milan, with right-back Cuadrado slotting into a four-man defence and Rabiot in contention with Rodrigo Bentancur for a slot in midfield.
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Krunic, Kessie; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Leao; Rebic
Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, de Ligt, Cuadrado; McKennie, Bentancur, Ramsey, Chiesa; Dybala, Ronaldo
Prediction: AC Milan 1-1 Juventus