The Coppa Italia semi finals begin in Italy this week, with the first legs set to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The latter of the ties sees two giants of Italian football go head-to-head as Juventus take on Inter Milan in a colossal match. The Old Lady are back in the hunt to retain their Serie A title after a 12-game domestic winning run, and will prove a tough nut to crack for 4th placed Inter Milan whose form has tailed off over the last few weeks.
The other match is the stuff that romantic cup dreams are made of as 3rd tier Alessandria take on the mighty AC Milan in a fantasy game for the minnows. They’ve enjoyed a historic ride en route to this semi final, beating Serie A sides Palermo and Genoa on their way to the last four, and whatever happens it will be a night to remember for their players and fans alike. These semi finals are over two legs, so they’ll also have the second leg at the San Siro to look forward to in around a month’s time. It would be a giant-killing of epic proportions if they could pull it off, but after the work they’ve done so far they have every right to dream.
Juventus v Inter Milan
Last year’s Champions League finalists only entered this competition at the last 16 stage, where they were pitted against City rivals Torino in a tasty clash. They ran out 4-0 winners on that occasion with Zaza scoring a brace, but the early second-half sending off of Molinaro certainly helped their cause. Another tricky tie beckoned in the quarter finals with an away trip to Lazio, but the Old Lady overcame that opponent with Stephan Lichtsteiner’s single second-half goal securing a 1-0 win.
Drawn at home for the first leg, Juventus will want to make sure they take a strong advantage with them for the return, particularly as it comes in the first week of March when they will be embroiled in Champions League football. Their recent form has been nothing short of their ruthless best, with the only reverse in the last three months a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla in a Champions League ‘dead rubber’. Domestically, the run has seen them beat Roma, Fiorentina and AC Milan, and they’ve been scoring plenty of goals too. They’ve won the last 8 matches on home ground and can take advantage of Inter’s indifferent form.
The vistors have only won twice in the last seven games, and after leading Serie A for such a long time they’e now 4th in the table. Their route to this stage has included a 3-0 win over Cagliari and a superb 2-0 away victory over current Serie A leaders Napoli. However, the late goal they conceded at home to Carpi to draw 1-1 at the weekend is a sign of their inconsistency, and that was after the visitors had been reduced to ten men. Juve have a good opportunity to put this tie to bed in the first leg, and they’ll be keen to defend the trophy they won last year.
Alessandria v AC Milan
AC Milan won’t be the choice of the romantic, but they really should prove to be too good for Alessandria and are worth backing at -161 with Skybet
The third division side have had a remarkable run to the semi finals, and even looked to be dead and buried in the quarters against Spezia trailing by a goal to nil in the 83rd minute, but forward man Bocalon popped up with two late goals to send the away fans wild. It was no less than they deserved after despatching Palermo and Genoa on their way to the last eight, and now they find themselves just 180 minutes away from an historic final.
It’s a wonderful story for the club who contested the second ever Coppa Italia final back in 1936, and it’s the first time in 33 years a third tier side has made it this far in the competition. They’re currently second in Lega Pro A, and in the hunt for promotion to Serie B, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly by Milan. It’s a shame that they are unable to play at their home stadium which holds just under 6,000 fans, but this game has been relocated to Torino’s Stadio Olimpico. If they’d have been able to welcome AC Milan’s all stars to the small intimidating ground they might have had a better chance, but by playing at Torino’s ground it effectively becomes an away game for both sides.
On paper of course, Milan have by far the better quality, but they have to go and prove that on the night. Ignazio Abate has insisted that the Rossoneri will not leave anything to chance and will play “like Milan”. After beating Carpi in the last round of this competition and Roma in the league, confidence was high around the black and red half of Milan, but a 2-2 draw with Empoli at the weekend was described by Abate as a frustration after they held the lead twice in the game. However, they’ve still won four of the last seven, with two draws and just the one defeat.
Alessandria will be the neutral’s choice, and if they’d been on their own ground we might have given them a chance, but as things stand it would be a huge shock if Milan don’t win and the odds are more than good enough to get involved.
Juventus to beat Inter Milan
Wednesday 27th January 19:45 GMT
AC Milan to beat Alessandria
Tuesday 26th January 20:00 GMT
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