Milan (AFP) – AC Milan jump from one massive game to the next on Sunday as they travel to fierce rivals Juventus, still reeling from defeat in their Champions League opener since 2014.
The seven-time European champions left Anfield with lessons to learn after spending the vast majority of their 3-2 loss to Liverpool on the back foot.
In the first 20 minutes Stefano Pioli’s side looked impressed with the opportunity and a full and thrilling stadium after playing their domestic matches on pitches maintained at 50% capacity, in line with Italian Covid-19 regulations .
And once leading 2-1 against the run of play at half-time thanks to goals from Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz, they then collapsed under pressure from Liverpool after the break and could have lost more.
“The fact that we were in the game until the end is a sign of the level we have reached,” Pioli said after the game.
“We’re talking about a really high level and we’re not quite there, but we’ll use this game to grow and gain more experience.”
They have an immediate test at the Allianz Stadium in arguably the biggest Serie A game of the season yet, as Juve try to build on their 3-0 win at Malmö and land Milan’s perfect start for the championship campaign.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side were considered the pre-season favorites for the Scudetto, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s sudden departure and only one draw in three matches left them in disarray, eight points behind Milan, Napoli and leaders of the Roma league.
They will likely benefit from the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who said Thursday he was not sure whether he would recover from an Achilles tendon injury in time for the move west.
The Swedish star took the hit after scoring in an impressive 2-0 win over Lazio last weekend, his first game in more than four months, and missed the trip to England.
“I don’t want to risk consequences later, I want to maintain my fitness throughout the season so that I am always available,” Ibrahimovic said at a promotional event.
The champions Inter will have to recover from a punch from Real Madrid when they host Bologna on Saturday night.
Elsewhere promoted, Venezia will play its first Serie A home game in nearly two decades in the atmospheric Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, an intriguing pitch located at the southeastern tip of the main archipelago of Venice.
Accessible by boat, the Penzo will host around 6,000 fans as Venezia looks to build on last weekend’s 2-1 win at Empoli with the visit of Spezia, who has had a rocky start to his second season in the elite and sit in the drop zone with a single point.
Along the way, Igor Tudor faces formidable opposition for his first game in charge of Verona – who have yet to collect a single point – following the dismissal of Eusebio Di Francesco, while Roma’s Jose Mourinho arrives in town.
Cagliari, who also sacked coach Leonardo Semplici just three matches in the season, heads to Lazio for Walter Mazzarri’s first game in a dugout.
Player to watch: Manuel Locatelli (Juventus)
Italian midfielder Locatelli has become a mainstay of Juve’s midfielder after being slowly introduced to the squad following his summer signing from Sassuolo.
Excellent for his country against Switzerland, Locatelli was a dominant presence in Sweden midweek and his battle with a rejuvenated Sandro Tonali in the Milan midfielder will be an interesting side story to an intriguing encounter.
1 – Juventus have only managed to draw one of their league games, losing the last two
3 – Roma, Napoli and Milan all had a perfect start to the season
Calendar (every hour GMT)
Sassuolo against Turin (1845)
Genoa against Fiorentina (1300), Inter Milan against Bologna (1600), Salernitana against Atalanta (1845)
Empoli against Sampdoria (1030), Venezia against Spezia (1300), Verona against Rome, Lazio against Cagliari (both in 1600), Juventus against AC Milan (1845)
Udinese against Naples (1845)