I have a confession to make. And that is? I ― I absolutely love the Juventus Women.
Now before anyone starts with me, in my defense, they are absolutely likable. While many of the Milanisti may have problems with the Juventus men (and justifiably so), the women on the other hand, are a different proposition.
And why do I in fact, like them so much? Well, the answer to this query, is quite elementary. Like most fans of Italian football, I absolutely fell in love with these women at the recent Women’s World Cup.
Watching these women play as they made a remarkable journey towards the final eight of the tournament, brought back calibrated memories of Italy from the days of yore, as kaleidoscopic fragments of the past combined with the Italy of the present, in order to create a vision that was truly stunning and wonderful.
The Italy squad that took the field in France this past summer played with heart and determination. They also adhered to the classically Italian traits of being brilliant defensively, both as individuals and a group, while also managing to be tactically sound and making up for whatever deficits in talent they had by outsmarting their opponents (and all the while managing to be incredibly stylish too). But most importantly, they did the one thing that we all love the most about Italian football. And that is? Take all of us by surprise.
After all, they beat an Australia side who were heavily fancied over them, then followed that up by scoring five goals against Jamaica and on the strength of that goal difference, topped a very tough group that featured both the Aussies, and former World Cup finalists Brazil.
The Azzurre reconfirmed everything that fans of the country love about the peninsula and its football, while also managing to be distinct in their own right by creating something entirely new: this was after all, the first time that many people had seen these traits exhibited by the women of the country, and more importantly, that they were put on display during the most prestigious and visible international tournament in the world. The fact of which, helped them gain many new devoted converts, thanks in large part to their inspiring play.
(And we all still feel a lot of gratitude to them for their efforts, even after their journey sadly came to a premature end, after they put up what was a rather valiant effort against The Netherlands.)
The Juventus women were a core part of that Italy side, much in the same way their male counterparts are for the Azzurri. However, what makes this situation different (aside from their gender), is how hard these women have had to struggle to get to where they are today.
And when you hear their stories about the many sacrifices they’ve made to get this far and all of the terrible things they’ve had to endure along the way, ranging from Laura Giuliani having to get up at 4:00 am every morning to work at a bakery in order to support herself while she pursued her dream of playing football, to Martina Rosucci exposing the FIGC and the country in general over the way they’ve routinely mistreated the Italian women (not to mention the sexism she and all of the other women face on a regular basis); to Sara Gama being a downright inspirational and brilliant leader, and one who is actively trying to change the cultural and mental landscape of Italy for the better, all the while being a brave and valiant knight who is battling the twin, detrimental forces of both racism and misogyny in the process, then you can understand why it is incredibly hard to hate any of them.
Negli occhi di Laura Giuliani il valore storico di questa Italia.— Lia Capizzi (@LiaCapizzi) June 25, 2019
Decisiva tra i pali, fatica a trattenere le lacrime quando le viene ricordato il passato in Germania: alle 4 del mattino a fare il pane per mantenersi e giocare.
I loro sacrifici, la nostra stima.#RagazzeMondiali pic.twitter.com/rG6k4lSNll
Adding to their appeal is the fact that they’ve got affable and gregarious personalities as well. Aurora Galli is bubbly, adorable and just plain funny. And Cristiana Girelli (another one of their mainstays), is a cut up too.
I mean, they pick up scared little kids while singing their national anthem and offer the nervous, little ones comfort, while thousands of people are watching them under a scrutinizing gaze. They are tough, but also willing to demonstrate a tenderness that is all too often, missing from football (particularly when men are involved).
With that being said, all of this leads me to one conclusion, and one conclusion only: Seriously, how can I not like any of them?!
The only thing that prevents me from being a Juventina and a devoted fan of theirs, is the fact that I am a Milanista at heart, and I will always stay true to my first love, no matter what. (And also, how can I resist the allure of throwing all of my love and support behind our very own Nora Heroum, Francesca Vitale, and of course, Capitano Valentina on a weekly basis?)
In addition to having incredibly likable personalities, the women of Juventus are also great athletes as well. Laura Giuliani (the number one for both Juventus and Italy), is a statistician’s dream, as she recorded the most saves in front of goal during the recent Women’s World Cup. Martina Rosucci is also a very technically gifted midfielder, and one with an exceptional work rate. She never gives up, and is a frenetic force of energy who covers every area of the pitch, as she is the epitome of grinta in its purest form. Sara Gama is not only a great leader, but she’s also one of the best players in the world, and the only player from Italy who has been consistently nominated for the FIFPRO XI.
Aurora Galli is also a veritable utility woman, as she is a very versatile player who can cover nearly every position she’s assigned to (not to mention that she can score some absolute belters as well). Cristiana Girelli also happens to be the leading scorer for both Juve and La Nazionale, and is currently, one of the country’s best forwards (aside from our very own Valentina Giacinti of course).
And I haven’t even touched on their some of their other really good players as well, including Andrea Stašková, Maria Alves, Arianna Caruso, Valentina Cernoia and most notably, Lisa Boattin, a promising and talented fullback who played two absolute blinders against FC Barcelona in the Women’s Champions League (and who was arguably, the best player on both sides). When you mix this incredible concoction of talent together, then it makes Juventus one formidable side to be reckoned with.
However, having more talent on paper doesn’t always guarantee you a victory. After all, one must recall that at the beginning of the season, Milan took on a strong Roma side who on paper, had a better line-up than they did. Milan, however, managed to walk away from that game unscathed, and with all three points in hand.
In the end, it’s the tactics that matter, in addition to how you utilize all of the talent you have at your disposal. Maurizio Ganz has done his best to prepare the women of Milan for this encounter, and he is well aware of Juve’s strengths and weaknesses. Whether or not he succeeds will be known on Sunday.
Milan and Juve first met in December of 2018. Milan won that first and historic meeting 3-0, thanks to goals by Valentina Giacinti, Daniela Sabatino and Thaisa Moreno (the latter two are sadly, no longer with the team now). Juve won the second encounter between the two teams (2-0), thanks in large part to their swift, snake hipped talisman, Barbara Bonansea (who is most famous for firing off the two shots heard round the world, and for setting off a revolution in Italy).
This will be the first meeting between the two sides during the current Serie A season.
Milan and Juve are both undefeated in Serie A. However, Milan currently sits in second place, due to dropping points against what was a surprisingly resilient and incredibly incorrigible Fiorentina side (who at the time, were quite angry too, and for a good reason).
The only good thing about that encounter is that Milan didn’t lose as badly as they did the first time they met Fiorentina, which is a sign of the team’s continual progress.
Another encouraging statistic for Milan is their goal conversion rate. As it stands, Milan currently has the second highest amount of shots on goal and have converted 12 of their overall chances, which means that out of all the Serie A teams, they are the most clinical team in front of goal.
Add to this the fact that they’ve conceded the least amount of goals (three), and that truly makes them a formidable team indeed.
(It should be noted Juve has conceded the same amount of goals, thanks in large part to their strong defense, which is marshaled by the previously mentioned Sara Gama,)
Juve, in the meanwhile, have won all five of their previous matches, though it is worth mentioning that they got an ‘easier’ start to the season than the other Serie A teams did. While teams like Fiorentina and Milan have had to hit the ground running and run a veritable gauntlet at the beginning of the season, Juve’s games were mostly against teams that were at the lower half of the table, with their only real tests coming from their UWCL opponents, FC Barcelona, and surprisingly enough, a newly promoted Empoli side, who gave them much trouble during their seasonal debut.
Empoli, conversely, had a different result against the Bianconere. While they started off their match against them rather brightly (due to having the fortune of playing a tired Juve after the previously mentioned UWCL match), and managed to win a penalty within the first 27 minutes of the game, they ended up losing the match 2-1. However, the final score doesn’t tell the whole story, as for long stretches of the game, it looked like the Tuscan side was actually going to get a point from that encounter, and maybe even win the game as well (that was until Arianna Caruso showed her quality, and came to the rescue at the 77th minute of the match).
The game between Juventus and Empoli should serve as a template for Milan, in regards to how we can trouble the current Serie A leaders. Because, after all, if a scrappy Tuscan side can cause Juve so many problems, than a Milan side with much better players should in theory, be able to do the same thing.
Adding to this is the fact that it remains yet to be seen if their previously mentioned captain, Sara Gama, will suit up for them on Sunday. There are question marks surrounding her health, just as there were over our captain Valentina, not too long ago.
However, it appears that Valentina is just fine, and just withdrew from the Italy camp as a precautionary measure.
Sara, on the other hand, is still a doubt, thanks to picking up a knock during Italy’s Euro 2021 qualification match with Georgia last Tuesday. (And her replacement for both of Italy’s qualifying matches, was none other than Milan’s very own Laura Fusetti, who played well across both encounters).
By her own admission, Sara admits that she’s not fully fit, and is currently working her way towards recovery. She is a doubt for this match, along with Juve’s other starting centre-back, Linda Sembrant (however, she has been summoned to the team along with the previously mentioned Linda, and both players have been listed by Rita Guarino as being available for this match). However, if the two of them don’t start this match, then that will certainly be an advantage to the Rossonere.
It is also not that much of a stretch to assume that Juve will also do their best to be defensively sound and to keep a clean sheet during this match, even with the potential absence of both of their starting centre-backs. They’ll mainly want to do so in order to avoid making their goalkeeper mad, mainly because well, an angry Laura Giuliani is an absolutely terrifying prospect indeed.
So the Juve defense will want to do everything in their power not to piss her off, mainly because the last thing that you’d ever want, is to be in a locker room with an angry Laura Giuliani.
Milan, on the other hand, will most likely have a full, and healthy squad at their disposal, which will only be enhanced by the return of Giacinti. Whether or not it will work to the Rossonere’s advantage remains yet to be seen, but here’s to hoping it actually will.
Is it a dream, or is it déjà vu?
This current battle between Milan and Juve for first place will bring back the familiar echoes of the past, and all I know about this is that I swear we’ve been here before ...
The race for this season’s scudetto will no doubt, bring back memories of the last time these two teams battled it out for first place, which was during the 2011/2012 season.
Back then, I was a happy Milanista (as were most Milan fans), as Milan won their games on a near weekly basis. The race for the scudetto went down to the wire during that season and unfortunately, it was Juventus who emerged victorious in the end.
The current battle between the women of Milan and Juventus will no doubt bring back revitalized memories of that fateful year, and the race for first place might also play out in a similar fashion. After all, the Juventus women only won Serie A by four points last season, as they barely held off Fiorentina in order to claim that season’s prize. The previously mentioned title race between the men of Juventus and Milan was also decided by the same, razor thin margin of just four points. Don’t be surprised if whoever wins this season’s scudetto will also win it by the same, fine margins.
However, let’s hope that the women of Milan will have a different outcome than their male counterparts did. The ladies will have a chance to write their own history, and they can write the first chapter of it, by successfully staving off Juventus’ resilient charge.
The After Party
In conclusion, the hope is that, however impossible it may be, is that Milan walk away from this encounter with all three points.
But hey, if all else fails, we can always have Massimiliano Allegri at the stadium to wave his phone around while yelling about a ‘ghost goal’ too. (And we should invite him to the stadium for that reason, and that reason alone.)
This aside, let’s hope the game will in fact, be a lively one and that most importantly, Milan will emerge from this game as the victors after a hard fought battle (and maybe even get the scalp of the Big Kahuna as well).
Possible formation and line-up
Milan (4-3-3): Korenčiová, Vitale, Fusetti, Hovland, Tucceri, Čonč, Jane, Heroum, Bergamaschi, Giacinti, Salvatori Rinaldi (Or Lady Andrade)
When: Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019
Where: Stadio Brianteo in Monza, Italy
Official kickoff time: 15:00 CET (9:00 am EST / 6:00 am PST)
How to watch
Television: Sky Sport Italia
Online/mobile: TIMVision, Juventus TV, and most likely on the official AC Milan app as well. If not then replay of the match will be shown on it later, and maybe even on Milan’s official Youtube channel as well.