“It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,” Charles Dickens famously wrote in A Tale of Two Cities and, while neither Milan nor Turin feature in the French Revolution novel, the author perfectly captures their respective fates last season.
If 2013/14 was the best of times for Juventus, as they lifted a third consecutive league title, it was in stark contrast to events a short distance to the east.
AC Milan endured their worst campaign in recent memory, failing to qualify for Europe for the first time since 1997 and sacking two coaches along the way. While Clarence Seedorf’s spell in the Rossoneri dugout always seemed destined for failure, his predecessor’s exit was much more controversial.
Caught in between the power struggle above him, the strained relationship between joint CEOs Barbara Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani ultimately saw Massimiliano Allegri relieved of his duties.
A 4-3 loss to Sassuolo in January sealed his fate, and it appeared he would not be missed, with a number of his former players openly criticising his approach in the press. As the club prepares to host the Bianconeri on Saturday, it is somewhat fitting that Allegri will be sat in the visitor’s dugout.
The 47-year-old was a surprise appointment following the equally shocking exit of Antonio Conte, but has enjoyed an excellent start with his new club, grinding out wins against Chievo and Udinese in the opening two weeks of the domestic campaign, then adding a victory against Malmo in the Champions League.
Juve boss Allegri has Antonio Conte's successful spell to build on
His results – achieved in the reserved and efficient manner of the Old Lady’s new coach – offer a sharp contrast to those recorded by his previous club. Milan appear reborn this term, and their 3-1 opening-day victory over Lazio was followed by a stunning spectacle against Parma last weekend.
Eventually emerging with three points, the match at the Stadio Tardini had seemingly everything; incredible goals, horrendous mistakes, two red cards and an injured goalkeeper. The final score of 5-4 tells the story of a game that will live long in the memory, and hints and the attacking intent of this new-look side.
Milan-Juventus has always been one of the peninsula’s most intriguing fixtures and now it could become even more notable, as Pippo Inzaghi prepares to face off against Allegri. The friction between the two men is well known in Italy, with the pair having clashed while the latter was still in charge of Milan.
Late in 2012, with Inzaghi then in charge of the youth team, a chance meeting at the training ground ended with them trading angry insults. It is believed the bad blood stems from the striker being omitted from the previous campaign’s Champions League squad, news Inzaghi “didn’t take well” according to Allegri.
With it also widely accepted that the younger man was always destined to take charge, it was somewhat inevitable that their fractious relationship would strain beyond breaking point. While their presence on the touchline will require constant monitoring, it should not overshadow what is set to be an enthralling on-field spectacle, pitting two of only three Serie A sides still on maximum points in direct competition.
Inzaghi now has the difficult top job vacated by Clarence Seedorf
Juve are still likely to be missing Andrea Pirlo and his dicky hip, but otherwise it seems they will be at full strength. Both Andrea Barzagli and Arturo Vidal appear ready to return, which is good news for the champions – the Chilean's impact is vital to the Bianconeri in every aspect of their play.
Carlos Tevez – scorer of three goals in as many matches already this term – and strike partner Fernando Llorente will be looking to exploit the weaknesses in the Milan defence so blatantly exposed by Parma.
The Argentine will be buoyed by the fact he ended a Champions League goal drought which stretched back more than five years with his brace against Malmo on Tuesday, his first goals in the competition since netting for Manchester United in April 2009.
With Brazilian defender Alex expected to miss the clash with an injury and Daniele Bonera suspended, Inzaghi will be forced to reshuffle his defence against a highly potent Juve front-line.
Yet for all their frailties at the back, the home side will look to the strengths of their own attack to overcome the reigning champions. Jérémy Ménez has enjoyed a sensational start to life in Italy, and his jaw-dropping backheel took his tally to three goals in just 168 minutes of action for Milan.
Behind him, Inzaghi’s appointment has also reinvigorated Keisuke Honda and Stephan El Shaarawy, while it remains to be seen if he can have the same effect on Fernando Torres.
Deadline-day arrival Giacomo Bonaventura made a superb debut, netting a goal and an assist against Parma, while the continued excellence of Nigel de Jong remains essential to the flow of Milan’s play.
Touching the ball at least 30 times more than any of his team-mates on Sunday, the Dutch midfielder controlled the game at the heart of midfield and his ability to track Vidal is a clash as eagerly anticipated as the sideline match-up between Allegri and Inzaghi.
The game is one many have claimed carries more significance than the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Milan’s city rivals Inter. With Inzaghi hoping to outshine his former boss and Allegri attempting to prove he belongs in Turin, both teams will be hoping that their good start to the season continues on Saturday.