Leonardo Bonucci won't be involved when Juventus play Milan at San Siro, but as James Horncastle explains his shadow looms large over Saturday's big match...
Who misses Bonucci more?
When the fixture list came out this was the match everybody was looking for in Italy. Leonardo Bonucci's switch from Juventus to Milan sent shockwaves through the Italian game and his shadow looms large over Saturday's game at San Siro. Juventus are struggling to keep clean sheets without him and there is a vulnerability about them at the back that we haven't seen since 2011 BC [Before Conte].
Milan meanwhile are disappointed the biggest signing of the summer in Serie A hasn't lived up to expectation. Bonucci has arguably made more mistakes in nine games for the Rossoneri than in six years as a big name at Juventus. His red card last weekend rules him out of Saturday's reunion, which some Milan fans consider a blessing in disguise. Milan, maybe not coincidentally, returned to winning ways in midweek with an impressive 4-1 win at Chievo.
It was mirrored by Juventus' victory against SPAL, although Max Allegri did not share Vincenzo Montella's joy with his team's performance. "Playing like that won't be enough against Milan," he huffed. Allegri continues to be disappointed by the Old Lady's tendency to switch off and make uncharacteristic mistakes. Juventus' hallowed defence hasn't kept a clean sheet in five games and, without the manager's approval, is taking the approach of scoring one more than their opponent than conceding a goal fewer.
"You don't win titles this way," captain Gigi Buffon said. "It's like roulette," Allegri added. To recap, the team with the best defence has won the league every year for the last 13 years in Italy. Champions of Italy for the last six seasons, Juventus have only had the best attack twice. It's unusual to see them out-scoring Napoli and Roma. This is Juventus' most prolific season in 66 years and it comes at the expense of the defence.
Opponents sense vulnerability and Suso in particular will fancy his chances this weekend. He's 7/2 as an Anytime Goalscorer on the Sportsbook. Milan beat Juventus at San Siro a year ago and got the better of them in the Super Cup in December. Find them @ 4.40 to win on the Exchange.
The Bielsa derby
Things have not got much better for Lille since we last checked in with the relegation battlers. On Wednesday, they came very close to being dumped out of the Coupe de la Ligue by second division Valenciennes, needing a penalty shoot-out to book their place in the next round.
Marcelo Bielsa was at a complete loss to explain his side's troubles. "There isn't an argument I can offer that I am convinced by," he said.
On Sunday night, Lille take on Marseille, the team Bielsa walked out on three days before the 2015-16 season. It did not make him a popular man with the club hierarchy, one of whom shouted "Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!" at him on the [mis]understanding he was leaving for a higher paid role as a national team manager.
There are new owners at Marseille, just as there are at Lille. How long Bielsa can last as results continue to elude him though remains to be seen. Bielsa hasn't made Lille into a contender in the same way he did Marseille for two-thirds of his first year in France. This is their worst start in a quarter of a century and you can put it down to a couple of things. The high volume turnover in the last nine months and youth of the team. Lille have an average age of just 22 and look as raw as you might expect.
Marseille remain a Jekyll and Hyde team. Sunday's 2-2 draw in Le Classique was a better than hoped for performance and result particularly after last season's 5-0 defeat. This fixture sees Rudi Garcia return to the club with whom he experienced his finest hour, winning the double in 2011. Take Marseille to win on the road @ 2.30.
Watch out for Goretzka
Even if his contract wasn't up at the end of the season, Europe's big clubs would all be queuing up to sign Leon Goretzka. The 22-year-old was a star at the Confederations Cup in the summer and picked up exactly where he left off when this season started. His goal against Azerbaijan recently, an audacious back-heel, was illustrative of a player full of confidence and imagination.
Goretzka is on fire at the moment, elevating Schalke to where they aspire to be in the Bundesliga. Back-to-back wins have the Miners in contention for a Champions League place and maybe more. They're currently just four points behind league leaders and bitter local rivals Borussia Dortmund. Goretzka has scored three goals in his last three games and won't be fazed by a struggling Wolfsburg team that has failed to win in the league since the end of August.