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The Bianconeri's streak this season has reached 23 games, but if the Rossoneri are to have high hopes of a Coppa Italia final appearance they will need to put an end to it tonight

ANALYSIS
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

On Wednesday night the two most successful clubs in calcio history go head to head at San Siro, with both AC Milan and Juventus still harbouring hopes of a domestic double. But the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final is just the first of three clashes between the pair over the next six weeks, with an intriguing series of games likely to have a big say in the Scudetto race as well as deciding who goes to Rome on May 20.

With Juventus currently leading the way in Serie A and having a victory over Milan already under their belts this term, they will be in buoyant mood heading to Lombardy, with their 23-game unbeaten streak in all competitions this term on the line.

So what must Milan do to become the first team this season to trump the Bianconeri and make up for their cup exit at this stage last year? We look at five keys to their hopes of gaining a winning lead ahead of the second leg in late March.

DEFEND DEEP
So often this season Juventus have created chance upon chance when being presented with huge gaps into which they can break, whereas most of the sides that have managed to take a point from the Bianconeri have successfully defended with depth.

While this is in stark contrast to Milan’s winning approach, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a profitable one for the league champions. With a great deal less energy to boast in their squad, the Rossoneri must play accordingly. Burning themselves out by chasing the ball high up the pitch can only result in the home side lacking legs later in the game.

ATTACK AT SPEED

Among Milan's plus points is their threat in the attacking third. Yes, they have shown a lack of that clinical edge at times this season, with only Zlatan Ibrahimovic supplying a consistent stream of goals, but when attacking from deep against defences willing to play high, Milan have looked dangerous.

Playing against Juventus, the Rossoneri may well get the space to attack with the verve they showed when occasionally picking apart Barcelona earlier this term. To add to the thrust of Ibrahimovic and Stephan El Shaarawy, it will be worth playing Djamel Mesbah in his more natural slot on the left of midfield to add youthful energy further up the field and pin back Stephan Lichtsteiner.

START WITH SEEDORF

Another string to their bow is the guile of Clarence Seedorf. Approaching his 36th birthday, the Dutchman is increasingly taking on the look of a weathered veteran, but there remains a good reason as to why Massimiliano Allegri has often opted to use the Dutchman in his bigger games as Milan coach.

The four-time Champions League winner has the kind of vision and ability the Rossoneri last had in opposite number Andrea Pirlo, and with the No.21 likely to be a vital part of the visitors’ side once again tonight, Seedorf could prove similarly important to the Diavolo if starting in the trequartista spot.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO HIT IBRA

There is often a negativity pinned to the tactic of playing long balls into channels for a big forward in modern football, but in Ibrahimovic, Milan have one of the best. The ball regularly sticks to Ibra in a way other target men just can’t manage, making him the perfect option when pressure needs to be released.

Against Juventus, this will be no different, with Antonio Conte’s philosophy of a high pressing game having resulted in a huge territorial advantage at times this term. So if Juve exercise a similar stranglehold on the game at San Siro, it will be important for Milan to use their greatest tool to release the pressure and set a high base to bring their livelier forwards into the game.

BEWARE OF THE OLD GUARD

For all of their youth, for all of their energy and dynamism, Juventus’ key men are Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Del Piero.

Pirlo’s effect has been widely hailed all season, while Del Piero’s impact has been evident on a couple of occasions recently. From his magnificent goal against Roma in the Coppa Italia quarter-final to the lack of threat in his absence against Siena on Sunday, there have been enough examples to show that he still holds an important position in the Juve ranks.

Milan are lucky that they have one of the world’s best centre-backs in Thiago Silva, and will also need Mark van Bommel at the top of his game to ensure that Pirlo is not afforded the space from which he could weave his magic.

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