After nearly five years of languishing in mid-table mediocrity, AC Milan look to be back on the right track. With five wins in eight league outings this season, the Rossoneri currently sit third, just five points off league leaders Juventus, who they will welcome to the San Siro on Saturday for this weekend’s marquee Serie A clash.
New manager Vincenzo Montella appears to have restored the feel-good factor around the club’s Milanello training center. The former Fiorentina and Sampdoria boss seems to be finding success fielding a young squad devoid of any of the sorts of big name stars we’ve traditionally associated with Milan.
While it’s true that apart from a draw with Fiorentina and a 2-0 over Lazio, Montella’s team haven’t really done one over on any of Serie A’s “big boys” yet (they lost 4-2 to Napoli), they did come from behind to beat their bogey team Sassuolo. They also looked utterly in command in last weekend’s 3-1 win away at Chievo Verona.
That Montella has got this team firing as well as it’s been is all the more impressive consider the club made no significant moves on the transfer market, save staving off interest for striker Carlos Bacca from West Ham United.
The last time Milan were this well placed at this point in the season was in 2011, the last time they won the Scudetto.
But Montella, who was nicknamed the “Little Airplane” during his playing days and his high-flying young team – the average age of his starting lineup is 24 years and 11 months – will face their sternest test yet when they welcome champions Juventus on Saturday.
Juventus – currently in their fifth consecutive year as defending Serie A champions – have won their last six games and come out winners the last nine times these two teams have met. So despite Milan’s advantage of playing at home, Juve are seen as heavy favorites ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Although they were also seen as favorites the last time they visited San Siro, to face Internazionale last month, and they wound up losing 2-1 to Inter. Despite Juve’s good record in the league, there’s a sense that this is not quite the same team we’ve seen dominate Italy for the past few seasons.
Perhaps it’s not that Juve have gotten any worse as much as it seems like the rest of Serie A’s usual contenders have gotten better. With 21 points, the Bianconeri are predictably top of the table, five points clear of Milan and Roma who are both on 16. A win for Milan, although admittedly an upset, is not out of the question, in which case we could see Juve’s lead cut to two.
Not that Milan are looking anything like title contenders at this point. If anyone successfully wrests the title from Juve this season it’s more likely to be Roma or Napoli. But after three years without featuring in Europe’s elite club competition, Milan are currently on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
And with the takeover of the club by a somewhat mysterious Chinese consortium set to conclude next month, the club will go into the winter transfer window with somewhere in the neighborhood of 100M euros to spend on players.
If Montella can keep his group of youthful talent banded together and working for one another, and possibly add a splash of top-tier talent when the market opens in January, it will indeed be interesting to see just what this Milan team can accomplish this season.
But first there is the small matter of Juventus this Saturday at the San Siro.
Tune in to watch AC Milan vs. Juventus on Saturday October 22 at 2:40 p.m. EST on BeINSports.