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 By Mina Rzouki

Vidal and Tevez are Juventus' key men vs. declining Milan

It's a clash that pits two great rivals against one another but, while one remains at the top of the Italian game, the other is in a state of decline. Juventus host Milan on Saturday in a match that once decided championships but now should see a routine win for The Old Lady.

Juventus enter the game in good health. The Bianconeri not only are at the top of the Serie A table but also have reached the semifinals of the Coppa Italia and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.

AC MilanAC Milan
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By contrast, the Rossoneri have only the league to play for as they deal with a bloated squad of 31 players -- Juve have 27 - and are paying half of Alessandro Matri's wages after the Milan forward joined Juventus on loan last week. The player will not take part on Saturday.  

Yet despite the disarray, Milan are still a proud club with talented individuals capable of hurting their opponent. As such, Massimiliano Allegri, a former Milan coach of course, must be careful not to get carried away by his club's current superiority, especially as the Rossoneri have impressed against quality opponents this season including Napoli, Roma, Fiorentina and Sampdoria.

Filippo Inzaghi's men have impressed when allowed to play a reactive game, one that sees them defend before taking their opportunities either though a vertical play or a long ball forward. When asked to actually create attacking of passages of play from the back and move forward in unison, Milan have faltered due to the lack of talent in midfield and their inability to cope under pressure.

In truth, this is a game made for two Juventus men -- Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez -- to shine and attack Milan's obvious weaknesses.

A side that cedes possession with ease when faced with an opponent who can press intelligently and apply pressure on their ball carriers, Milan will struggle to create if Vidal is on hand to hassle. Invaluable when it comes to winning back possession high up the pitch, the Chilean will facilitate the route to goal especially as he's likely to be deployed in the trequartista role.

Arturo Vidal returns to the Juventus squad having recovered from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Tevez will most likely have plenty of time and space to roam between the lines to find his right position to strike. The Argentine is likely to be flanked by Alvaro Morata instead of Fernando Llorente, which means Juventus will be more mobile in the final third.

A third potential weapon would have been Martin Caceres but the Uruguayan is unlikely to be available due to a groin injury. His stamina and strength always add value to the team but it is his ability from set-pieces that Allegri will miss the most, especially against a side that by January had conceded 35 percent of their goals from dead-ball situations despite the arrival last summer of set piece coach Gianni Vio from Fiorentina.

While earlier reports suggested Juve would opt for a 3-5-2 formation, the shape that could only muster a draw against Udinese last week, it seems Allegri has since changed his mind and will look to deploy a 4-3-1-2 formation with Patrice Evra and Simone Padoin in the full-back roles.

In truth, the formation will have little bearing over the side if the right attitude is not adopted. Intensity, hunger and sacrifice are the only way to get past a side led by the most passionate of all men in football and one Allegri would like to defeat.

While the current Juventus coach maintained a generous tone when quizzed about Inzaghi's abilities, their past squabbles can never truly be forgotten. Most infamously, the two clashed during Allegri's time at Milan when Inzaghi was a youth team coach.

What better way to have the last laugh than by producing a vicious Juventus side that fight for the win.

Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.


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