Juventus and Buffon to Keep Coppa Italia Score Down
The second legs of the elongated Coppa Italia semi finals are set to be played in midweek, and Juventus and AC Milan both already have one foot in the final. A quirk of the congested fixture list means that the first legs were played over a month ago at the back-end of January, but the teams involved have had to wait until the first week of March to complete their long-awaited ties.
Arguably the story of the Coppa Italia so far has been third tier Alessandria’s incredible journey to the last four, which saw them beat Serie A sides Genoa and Palermo en route to a dream semi final against the mighty AC Milan. Due to the small size of their own ground, the decision was made to play the first leg of the tie at Torino’s Olympic stadium, which probably worked in Milan’s favour and they duly ran out 1-0 winners. The tie is far from over with such a slender lead, but back at the San Siro one would expect AC Milan to make no mistakes and confirm their place in the Final of Italy’s major cup competition.
The other tie looked to be a much more competitive affair as Inter were drawn against Juventus, but the reigning champions established a commanding 3-0 lead in that first leg, and have since followed up with a 2-0 league win over Inter. The Old Lady will almost certainly have one eye on the return leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but that game doesn’t come until the 16th of March, some two weeks from now. Gianluigi Buffon has set a personal clean sheet record of 746 minutes of football in the league, and it’s eight games since he’s been beaten. Technically cup football doesn’t count towards that record, but both he and Juve will be happy to keep the scoreline down as they already hold a seemingly unassailable advantage.
Inter Milan v Juventus
Under 2.5 goals has to be the call in a match where one of the best defensive teams in Europe only needs to secure a clean sheet to guarantee passage to the final. It’s priced at -143 with 888Sport and Unibet and looks like the bet of the night on Wednesday night.
Inter Milan had looked like genuine title contenders in the first half of the season but a run of just two wins in the last nine league games has seen them fall dramatically away from the top of the table. They’re now in 5th place but a whopping 13 points behind Juventus, who have resumed normal service at the summit of Serie A. The cup may have represented their best opportunity of earning some silverware, but the manner of the 3-0 defeat in the first leg suggests that too will be beyond them this season.
Morata scored a first half penalty to give Juve the lead and the sending off of Inter’s Murillo for a second yellow card offence in the 70th minute had a huge effect on the game. Juventus slowly turned the screw and Dybala added two late goals to give the scoreline a gloss and to put the tie almost out of Inter’s reach. The two sides met again in the league on Sunday, and yet again Juventus were the better side with a Bonucci goal and another Morata penalty giving the host a 2-0 win and extending Buffon’s unbeaten record.
The legendary goalkeeper has long been considered one of the best in the game, and his run of clean sheets has coincided with a winning run for the team which has helped them back to the top of Serie A. They’ve won 14 of the last 16 games in all competitions, with the only blips the 0-0 league draw with Bologna and the 2-2 Champions League draw with Bayern Munich. They can be expected to keep things as tight as possible here and don’t need to go chasing the game at all. When they sit back they are one of the hardest teams around to break down, and even if Inter throw the kitchen sink at them, it’s hard to see where or why they will crack.
AC Milan v Alessandria
The other tie was also a winning tip for us in the first legs, when AC Milan were offered at too generous a price to get the win over Alessandria. They can be backed again here, but this time to overcome a one goal handicap at -120 with Ladbrokes.
Most neutrals would have been hoping for a dramatic upset and a huge story, but once the tie was moved to Torino’s ground it never looked like happening. Had the game been played in Alessandria’s tiny stadium it may have proven to be something of a leveller and given them a better chance of success, but we’ll never know. One thing is for sure, that their players and fans will relish every moment of an appearance at the San Siro, and they really have nothing to lose.
They certainly gave it a good shot in that first leg but Milan’s class told, even though it was a Mario Balotelli penalty at the end of the first half which sealed it. Milan will have been happy enough to come away without egg on their collective faces after the world was watching and hoping for the upset, and now they’re back on home ground they can make their ability, fitness and experience tell with an emphatic win.
The Rossoneri have won four of the last five games at home, while Alessandria have lost three of the last five on their travels. This is a tough place to go for even the top teams, and the third tier side could be brought crashing back down to earth on Tuesday night. Milan should be more than good enough value for a two-goal win, particularly if the lower league side attempt to push forward to try and get back into the game and leave gaps at the back.
Inter Milan v Juventus Under 2.5 goals
Wednesday 2nd March, 19:45 GMT
AC Milan -1 to beat Alessandria
Tuesday 1st March, 20:00 GMT