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The Rossoneri started the Italian league campaign with a performance reminiscent of some of their poorer displays in an underwhelming 2012-13, losing 2-1 at newly promoted Verona

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes

They may be just 90 minutes into their respective Serie A campaigns, but already the distance between Juventus and AC Milan has been impressed upon the watching world once more.

The Rossoneri’s season-opening 2-1 defeat to Verona on Saturday was born out of an inability to fix holes that have been widely apparent for a year or more, while Juve quickly followed up with a 1-0 victory at Sampdoria which exemplified their knack of being able to find a way past the most stubborn and structured of opponents.

SERIE A RESULTS & 2012-13 TABLE
Verona
Sampdoria
Inter
Cagliari
Lazio
Livorno
Napoli
Parma
Torino
Fiorentina
2-1
0-1
Sun
Sun
Sun
Sun
Sun
Sun
Sun
Mon
Milan
Juventus
Genoa
Atalanta
Udinese
Roma
Bologna
Chievo
Sassuolo
Catania
Team
1. Juventus
........................
2. Napoli
3. Milan
........................
4. Fiorentina
5. Udinese

Played

38
...........
38
38
...........
38
38


Points

87
...........
78
72
...........
70
66

GD
+47
.......
+37
+28
.......
+28
+14

Milan’s difficulties in defence have been obvious for some time, but with no notable additions to their squad in that department this summer, the reliance on a consistently cohesive relationship between Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata appears unrealistic in the least. If last season they showed a significant lack of the kind of defensive telepathy often needed by top clubs, they only added to the worry further on Saturday in allowing 36-year-old Luca Toni to bully them into submission.

While Toni is undoubtedly a striker of great repute, Milan’s defenders should be wise to his various abilities. Yet the former Palermo, Bayern Munich and Fiorentina front man had a field day in the air, finding it all too easy to drop off his markers to find space where none should have been afforded to him.

Beyond the back line, there was further evidence of weakness for Massimiliano Allegri’s side. The lack of any real physique in the midfield allowed Massimo Donati and Romulo to run over the top of Antonio Nocerino, Riccardo Montolivo and goalscorer Andrea Poli. Nigel de Jong’s importance to the side is made infinitely more evident with each game in which the Rossoneri fail to field him.

Up front, too, there were issues. Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy showed flashes of the beginnings of an understanding against PSV on Tuesday night, but against Hellas they did nothing of the sort. Back to the same two players who looked like strangers in their movement last term, they are on course to giving Allegri a serious headache in finding the goals necessary to make their defensive issues less concerning.

As if a defeat to a newly-promoted outfit wasn’t enough, the reigning champions’ dominantly efficient performance against Sampdoria a couple of hours later only served to remind Milan of just how short of the mark they really are. Where the Diavolo look lacklustre and short of ideas on how to repel supposedly inferior opposition, Juventus pressured Sampdoria until the Blucerchiati finally caved.

Carlos Tevez’s debut strike came after great interplay between Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal. It was a goal that always looked likely, such is the air of inevitability when watching Juve these days. The imperious Scudetto holders are on another plane to the Milans of this world right now, and it will take either a concerted late effort on the transfer market or a serious piece of magic from Allegri to patch up the reeling Rossoneri into a Champions League outfit once again.

Wednesday’s return leg against PSV and the €20 million bonus which comes with progression to the group stage may hold the key to Milan having realistic top-three hopes again this season.

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