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Hard Knocks: Milan lose 2-0 to Juventus

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Milan just couldn't put Juventus away this past weekend.

Claudio Villa

This was a tough loss to swallow.

Milan had an excellent first half yesterday at San Siro, taking it to Juventus for 45 minutes.

Christian Abbiati made a giant save to keep the team in it and the attackers were out in full force -- they were just unable to finish.

The best opportunity of the game saw Kaka take two shots on Gianluigi Buffon -- one that was saved and one that was cleared out from Leonardo Bonucci.

The Brazilian was causing problems for the Bianconeri yesterday and so was Abdel Taarabt, who is becoming one of the best players for Milan as of late. His ferociousness and dribbling skills are fun to watch, however he needs to look up and see who's available more often than not. He gets a little too overcommitted to his own game and that squanders chances, which leaves his teammates frustrated.

These two forwards were the best players on the pitch for Milan, alongside a scary-looking Giampaolo Pazzini who was playing as the lone striker.

This worked well for Milan last week and with Mario Balotelli absent yesterday, Pazzini had the chance to shine by making big things happen. He did scare Juve's defense a couple of times, however it was troubling that he couldn't get a clear chance on goal. All of his shots were either taken with the former Inter hitman off balance or without a clear opportunity to take a decent shot.

He simply couldn't capitalize, apart from being a workhorse throughout the match.

Andrea Poli was superb yesterday, and it's really unfortunate that he clashed with Martin Caceres because he was making a case to be considered as a starter in the next few games. Let's hope his injury isn't a big one, because he had been playing well for Milan as of late.

Clarence Seedorf opted to keep Kesuke Honda on the bench and that was a little odd. Honda is ineligible to play in the Champions League and we could have really used him yesterday to open up the game. Who knows what the motives were to keep him as a late substitute -- apparently, there are outside issues that Honda is dealing with.

If they are personal issues, that's understandable. However, if those issues are because Honda isn't adapting quick enough to life in Italy on the field and outside of the field, he should have started. We all know how quickly the media likes to make assumptions when a player isn't doing so well and maybe he was being protected.

Still, we could have opted to start him in a rivalry game, where he can get accustomed to these sorts of things.

After Carlos Tevez's screamer in the second half, Milan looked hopeless. The wind was taken right out of them and they looked uninspired to fight back. It really summed up the season and after a defeat like yesterday, the coach can speak about positives and how happy he was with the team, yet it was another crushing blow Milan has to deal with moving forward.

The defense wasn't any better yesterday, with Adil Rami playing his worst game in a Milan shirt since his arrival and at the center of attention for Llorente's opening goal. Ignazio Abate is improving, however he still gets beat easily and outmuscled every time he squares off against a tougher player. Urby Emanuelson was actually the strongest defender yesterday and Daniele Bonera was average, at best.

We already know of the problems at the backline.

Riccardo Montolivo was better, however the decision to keep the captain's armband on him is ridiculous when he shares the same field as Kaka. The former Real Madrid man has proven that he is the true leader of this squad and "Monto" can lead the club once he becomes a complete player.

With all those notes considered, there were plenty of missed opportunities and the chance to capitalize over the best team in Italy was more than possible.

Arturo Vidal wasn't playing, Andrea Poli was neutralizing Andrea Pirlo, and Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio weren't doing so well.

Hell, even Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez weren't deadly on the ball, apart from both strikers finding the back of the net later on in the game.

It was a case of bad luck and missed chances. Beating Juventus could have given the team a spark, as well as given Seedorf his first massive win. Juve was not the better team in the first half and Milan should have made them pay for their stubbornness.

Games like these are the ones that can change more than you would think in the dressing room and in the near future. A win over Juve, have been roughly 30 points ahead of Milan in the standings for what seems to be a while now, could have ignited the fire in some hearts and encourage the players to push a bit harder. It's nice to beat teams like Sampdoria, but a victory on Sunday would have been a big deal.

Milan only have two victories out of their last six games and it remains a struggle to qualify for Europe next year.

If they fail to make the Europa League, it's going to be tough to see a club with such rich history down in the dumps.