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Five things to watch during Serie A Matchday 9 as Milan take on Juventus at San Siro exclusively live on BT Sport
Massimiliano Allegri takes his side to face the reigning champions off the back of morale-boosting wins over Bologna and Maccabi Haifa, but this will be an altogether different challenge.
Massimiliano Allegri managed Milan between 2010 and 2014 before taking charge at Juventus
Milan vs Juventus is one of football's classic match-ups.
The only Champions League final meeting between two Italian sides came in 2003 when the Rossoneri and the Bianconeri clashed at Old Trafford, and despite the match not living long in the memory, it was a tense and tight affair as Carlo Ancelotti's men prevailed on penalties after a goalless draw.
This weekend's meeting pits the reigning Serie A champions against the one-time perennial winners of the competition, and while both sides are some way from peak form at the moment, there is not much to choose between the two teams in a league where the top six are separated by just four points.
Read on for a preview of Saturday's encounter - live on BT Sport 1 and Ultimate from 5.15pm - as well as four other major talking points ahead of another weekend set to be packed with drama.
Juve and Vlahovic rediscovering form
The international break could not have come quickly enough for Allegri and Juve.
They failed to win any of their five matches in September, culminating in a humiliating defeat to newly promoted Monza, who had never previously tasted victory in Serie A.
However, October has shown that there is renewed vigour in the Old Lady, with victories over Bologna and Maccabi Haifa boosting morale.
Despite being out of sorts, Milan are a different kettle of fish entirely and while Juventus currently sit eighth in Italy's top flight and third in their Champions League group, Allegri will be pleased that Dusan Vlahovic and Arkadiusz Milik looked back on song against Bologna, with the pair both scoring and also playing key roles in Filip Kostic's opener in a 3-0 win.
Vlahovic then went on to score the second against Maccabi Haifa and he also has another goal in his sights - he hasn't scored in three successive games in the Black and White since joining in January (surprising given his free-scoring form for previous club Fiorentina, which included two goals and an assist in a 4-3 win over the Rossoneri last November).
Wednesday night's win over the Israelis also saw the often-criticised Adrien Rabiot score twice, having not previously netted since May 2021.
Milan ended their 11-year league title drought in May, but their defence of their crown has so far been slightly patchy, and they currently sit fifth amid an injury crisis.
Seven players are currently on the treatment table, with Simon Kjaer, Davide Calabria and Alexis Saelemaekers joining Mike Maignan, Theo Hernandez, Alessandro Florenzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the sidelines after a crazy 3-1 win at Empoli that saw the visitors score in the 94th and 97th minutes following the hosts' 92nd-minute equaliser.
Calabria, Ibrahimovic and Florenzi aren't set to return until early 2023, with the need to rejig the defence due to the lengthy casualty list perhaps explaining why Milan's defence does not look as strong as it did last year.
Stefano Pioli's men saw their 22-match unbeaten league run ended by leaders Napoli in their last match at San Siro, and Wednesday's night 3-0 defeat at Chelsea saw them register just one shot on target as they sit third in Champions League Group E.
The good news for Pioli is that Ante Rebic seems to have overcome back trouble and enjoyed cameos against Empoli and Chelsea.
However, the head-to-head record doesn't make for especially positive reading for Milan. They have failed to win any of their past five home matches against Juventus, although they are three unbeaten against Saturday's opponents and won 3-0 in Turin two seasons ago thanks to goals from Brahim Diaz, Rebic and Fikayo Tomori, all of whom are still at the club and are fit. Time for a repeat to kickstart their title challenge?
Unlikely title contenders to do battle
Gian Piero Gasperini has been Serie A's best manager/head coach since 2016, taking an Atalanta side accustomed to bottom-half finishes in the top flight and launching them into Europe.
Their improvement has been so astonishing - they came third in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 - that last season's eighth-placed finish, despite being a notable improvement on Atalanta's performances pre-Gasperini, felt like a pretty big let-down.
This season though, without the potential distraction of Europe, La Dea are arguably better than they've ever been and are level on points with leaders Napoli heading into this weekend.
Permanent summer signing from Juventus Merih Demiral has done a great job marshalling the steeliest backline in the division - just three conceded so far this term - while central midfielder Ederson has slotted in seamlessly, as has Ademola Lookman, who has two goals and three assists from eight games, including last weekend's winner against Fiorentina.
Teun Koopmeiners tops the scoring charts for the team in 2022/23 with four goals, and while that isn't incredible, Gasperini's men have the ability to share the strikes around, with seven different goalscorers this campaign.
Another inspired purchase has been that of Brandon Soppy, the 20-year-old right-back who joined from Saturday's opponents Udinese.
Despite Atalanta's heroics, Udinese are the story of Serie A in 2022/23. They have finished in the bottom half for the last eight seasons, but under new boss Andrea Sottil - who had never previously taken charge of a top-flight club - the Little Zebras have galloped up to third.
Sottil's men are the in-form side in the division with six straight wins, including a memorable 3-1 win at home to Inter, a 4-0 triumph over Roma and comeback victories against Monza, Sassuolo and Hellas Verona. It's a club run that hasn't been bettered since the eight consecutive wins at the end of 2012/13.
Only Napoli have scored more than the Friulians' 17 goals in eight games, with Beto scoring five of those and former Watford attackers Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra providing 10 assists between them.
It's unlikely Napoli will slip up at newly promoted strugglers Cremonese (live on BT Sport 2 from 5pm on Sunday), but if they do, one of these sides could be top by the end of the weekend. Watch the action live on BT Sport 2 from 2pm on Sunday.
Inzaghi on thin ice despite Barca win
Reports earlier this week suggested that Simone Inzaghi would get the boot as Inter head coach if they suffered a heavy defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League.
Thankfully for Inzaghi, the Nerazzurri won 1-0 courtesy of Hakan Calhanoglu's strike to go second in Group C, but the team now badly need to produce in the league, currently sitting ninth.
They have lost four of their last six Serie A games - including their last three matches on the road - and travel to a buoyant eighth-placed Sassuolo on Saturday after the Neroverdi thrashed Salernitana 5-0.
Romelu Lukaku has barely featured due to injury since his loan return from Chelsea, while at the other end, the defence has leaked 13 goals, the worst figure in the top 10.
Most worryingly for Inzaghi is the fact that each of his side's last three defeats have come after his side had taken the lead.
If Inter taste defeat and other results go against them, they could find themselves in the bottom half at the end of Monday, when 11th-placed Fiorentina host Lazio. It's hard to see Inzaghi surviving for much longer if that scenario materialises.
Napoli looking to avenge title heartache
Table-topping Napoli looked destined to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1990 last season, winning their first eight games and playing some exhilarating stuff before a disastrous run in April put paid to their hopes.
That collapse is a cautionary tale for those hoping that this will be the Partenopei's year, but the reasons for optimism don't just extend to domestic matters, as the stunning 6-1 victory at Ajax to keep them top of their Champions League group showed.
Luciano Spalletti's squad refresh saw stalwarts David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens all leave, and in have come the likes of centre-backs Kim Min-jae and Leo Ostigard, Georgian wing wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and on-loan forward Giacomo Raspadori, while Mathias Olivera and Giovanni Simeone have also made a big impact, along with existing players like Mario Rui, Piotr Zielinski, Matteo Politano and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, the Cameroon international signing permanently from Fulham in the summer after spending 2021/22 on loan at the club.
It's important never to underestimate any team, but even the most pessimistic of Neapolitans could struggle to see anything other than an away win at Cremonese to keep their stranglehold on first place.
From Inter team-mates to dugout duels
Thiago Motta's start to life in charge of Bologna - following the sacking of Sinisa Mihajlovic last month - has been tough.
The 17th-placed Rossoblu lost 1-0 at home to potential relegation rivals Empoli before being outclassed by Juventus, recording just four shots on target across the two games.
Bologna's big problem is their reliance on Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian is incredibly the league's top scorer this season with six goals, but the rest of the team has only netted once.
An ideal time to start to reverse this unwelcome trend would be on Saturday at home to rock-bottom Sampdoria, who have the worst defence in the league and have scored the fewest goals and have just appointed former Inter and Serbia midfielder Dejan Stankovic, who guided Red Star Belgrade to three top-flight titles in his homeland and was a former team-mate of Motta's as they won Serie A together with Inter in 2010.
With Samp on two points and facing the prospect of relegation for the first time since 2011, the 44-year-old will need all the tools at his disposal to orchestrate a turnaround in fortunes. Watch the action live on BT Sport 1 from 7.30pm on Saturday.
Matchday 9 Serie A fixtures
Saturday 8 October
Sassuolo vs Inter - 2pm kick-off
AC Milan vs Juventus - 5pm kick-off (coverage starting at 5.15pm, live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate)
Bologna vs Sampdoria - 7.45pm kick-off (coverage starting at 7.30pm, live on BT Sport 1)
Sunday 9 October
Torino vs Empoli - 11.30pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 2)
Monza vs Spezia - 2pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 6)
Salernitana vs Hellas Verona - 2pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 4)
Udinese vs Atalanta -2pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 2)
Cremonese vs Napoli - 5pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 2)
Roma vs Lecce - 7.45pm kick-off (live on BT Sport 2)
Monday 10 October
Fiorentina vs Lazio - 7.45pm kick-off (coverage starting at 7.30pm, live on BT Sport 1)