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Milan's interesting role in Scudetto battle

Juventus vs Napoli: Two former Rossoneri go head to head, but neither will be for the Scudetto

April 7, 2021 By Michelle Bonsu
Former Rossoneri midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso will square off as Juventus take on Napoli, but neither tactician will be battling for the Scudetto at this point.

On Wednesday evening, Juventus and Napoli will finally get to play their long-awaited match that had been called off, then rescheduled due to COVID-19.

Not too long ago, this game would have been a potential Scudetto decider. Both teams, after all, are tied on 56 points each. But instead of being in first and second, they currently sit in fourth and fifth respectively. The league leaders, Inter, presently have 68, and could be on 71 if they manage to avoid seeing their nine-match winning streak snapped by bogey side Sassuolo in today's other make-up match.

That means that the Bianconeri and the Partenopei will be instead battling it out for fourth place, or rather, Serie A's last Champions League spot.

Of the two teams, it's Napoli who presently are in the better form at the moment. Gennaro Gattuso's men are unbeaten in their last five, with four straight wins ahead of their arrival in Turin, and they certainly will be relishing their opportunity to inflict more pain on a Juventus side who have really lost their way this season.

Juventus, meanwhile, are still reeling following their catastrophic performance during last weekend's Derby della Mole that saw them drop two vital points against their relegation-threatened city rivals. It's been widely reported that already under-fire coach Andrea Pirlo had just two games, or 180 minutes to save his managerial career at Allianz Stadium. But with reports indicating that Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli and former coach Max Allegri had a meeting last weekend, Pirlo's future may already be decided, regardless of whatever transpires in the upcoming showdown with Napoli and his former teammate Gattuso in Turin on Wednesday evening.

It's perhaps ironic indeed that another team - AC Milan - will play a unique role in this encounter. Both Pirlo and Gattuso spent well over a decade together at the Stadio San Siro as well as with the Azzurri, where they won two Champions Leagues as well as the World Cup. Their talismanic partnership was key to the Diavolo's success in Italy as well as in Europe, where Gattuso's aggressive style was the perfect foil for Pirlo's elegant approach in the middle of the park.

Back in the day: Gattuso and Pirlo (with Maldini in the middle) during Milan's heydays in the noughties

To make this drama even more interesting, Allegri even coached both players at Milan, during the 2010/2011 season. That happened to be Pirlo's final year in Milan, which wasn't a great one as he only made 17 league appearances under Allegri's tenure before moving on to Juventus on a free transfer at the end of that term.

Gattuso and Pirlo's former team currently sit in second spot, but at one point, were in pole contention for the Scudetto before suffering a mid-season collapse and now are eight points behind the Nerazzurri. Still, both Juventus and Napoli would certainly do anything to trade places with the Diavolo, who are at least pretty much guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season - something that's not yet the case for both the Partenopei and La Vecchia Signora.

In just a few hours, Juventus and Napoli, led by two former Rossoneri and Azzurri colleagues, will take to the pitch. It will indeed be very interesting to see which, if either, of these two sides departs the field with all three points in hand, as neither unfortunately, will be battling for the Scudetto, but to try to salvage what has been nothing short of a very disappointing season on all fronts.

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