Juventus claimed their first win of the post Cristiano Ronaldo era on Tuesday with a comfortable 3-0 victory in the Champions League against Malmo.
It finally provided Max Allegri something to smile about after their doom and gloom start to the season, in which they’ve taken just one point from their opening three games.
Allegri though will know there’s work still to be done to stop the rot and a victory over Serie A rivals AC Milan on Sunday will go some way to kick their season into life.
Ahead of the big clash at the Allianz Stadium, Sportsmail’s Kieran Lynch looks at the challenge awaiting the Bianconeri as they look to light a fire on their title challenge.
Juventus have endured a miserable start to the season and sit 16th place in the standings
AC Milan are heading in the opposite direction and hold a 100 per cent record so far
ERRORS NEED CUTTING OUT
Losing a player of the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo would have a huge detriment on almost every team in the world.
The Portuguese superstar scored 36 goals in 44 games last season and the likes of Alvaro Morata, Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa and Kaio Jorge will have to somehow make the most out of a bad situation and collectively replace his goals.
Without a Ronaldo to get the goals even on the toughest of days, Juventus will need to be better at keeping out goals at the other end and base their game more on defensive solidity.
Wojciech Szczesny has made a number of howlers in their games against Udinese and Napoli
In the three games so far this season there have been several defensive issues with the most relevant concern coming in the form of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Of the five goals they’ve conceded, four have come from goalkeeping errors. In the 2-2 draw with Udinese he gave away a penalty before giving the ball away to allow them to score a second.
Then against Napoli at the weekend, twice he spilled shots which were tucked home on the rebound as they fell to their second consecutive defeat following a shock 1-0 home loss to Empoli.
Even with the brilliant pair of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, there will always be that sense of fear when a dangerous attack comes that the goalkeeper could make another howler.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence will be missed by the Bianconeri in terms of his goals
The likes of Federico Chiesa and Alvaro Morata will have to make up for Ronaldo’s goals
Szczesny is the same man that has kept Alisson Becker and Gianluigi Buffon out of teams in the past and with Allegri admitting there will be no change in that position, they will need the Polish shot-stopper to up his game if they are to seriously mount a challenge in the league this season.
Matthijs De Ligt is another conundrum for Allegri with the Dutchman still struggling to impress after being considered one of the best defenders in the world at Ajax.
The 23-year-old started the first two games of the season ahead of Chiellini but was dropped for the games against Napoli and Malmo.
His displays as well as the worrying lack of form for other players such as Adrien Rabiot and Federico Bernardeschi gives Allegri a lot to think about in terms of team selection going forward.
Other players including Matthijs De Ligt have been worryingly off form for the Bianconeri
AC MILAN FULL OF CONFIDENCE
While Juventus look to be on a downward spiral after losing Ronaldo, AC Milan are heading in the opposite direction.
They arrive into the game full of confidence after taking three wins out of three to start the season and sit 14 places higher than their opponents on Sunday.
Even in defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League, they more than held their own in their first match back in the competition in seven years and were only beaten thanks to a brilliant goal by Jordan Henderson.
AC Milan have had a good start to the campaign and held their own against Liverpool
AC Milan haven’t been better placed to mount a title challenge since Massimo Ambrosini hoisted the trophy a decade ago and a big part of their success so far has been the dominant midfield of Franck Kessie and Sandro Tonali.
Kessie has become their key figure in midfield scoring 13 league goals last season and whether it is breaking the lines, acting as a defensive presence or surging forward, he is vital to the way they play.
Tonali, scored his first goal for the club with a beautiful free-kick at Cagliari and the 21-year-old who has been dubbed the ‘next Andrea Pirlo’ looks like a star of the future.
The impressive Franck Kessie has formed a formidable partnership with Sandro Tonali
They also possess impressive fire power up front with Olivier Giroud’s signing having the potential to be one of the shrewdest of the summer transfer windows.
The Frenchman scored two goals in a 4-1 victory over Cagliari while Rafael Leao has also netted twice this season and impressed against Liverpool.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a doubt for the game after he missed the match against Liverpool, but his goal in a 2-0 victory over Lazio last week on his return from injury showed at 40 he can still have a big season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on his return but could miss the game against Juventus
JUVENTUS NEED TO WIN THE MIDFIELD BATTLE
Although Stefano Pioli’s side are flying, there are a number of positives that Juventus can take into the clash on Sunday.
Juventus are coming off the back of a very comfortable 3-0 win against Malmo, while AC Milan have to recover from a physically gruelling encounter against Liverpool with one less day to prepare.
The key for Allegri’s side could be to stop Kessie and Tonali running the game in midfield. They have been very formidable so far this season while the level of the Binaconeri’s midfield has not been near the same quality in the opening games.
Max Allegri’s (L) side could fall 11 points short of Stefano Pioli’s (R) AC Milan with a defeat
Manuel Locatelli looks like he could be a very good signing but Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentacur’s form throughout 2021 has been worrying while Weston McKennie struggled against Napoli and was sent home from the US National Team after breaking Covid-19 protocols.
One potential boost is that Chiesa has returned to full training after recovering from injury. For AC Milan, Giroud could be back in the starting line-up after recovering from Covid though Ibrahimovic could be set to miss out.
Juventus have quality up front to punish AC Milan but if they lose the midfield battle or make more errors at the back then they could be in trouble.
Even at this early stage of the season, a third defeat in four would give Allegri and Juventus a big uphill task as they would sit 11 points behind AC Milan.
But a victory over a team full of confidence might just steady the ship and put them back on the right track after a tough start to the season.
Manuel Locatelli could play an important part for Juventus in the midfield battle on Sunday
Stopping Franck Kessie and Sandro Tonali from running the game will boost Juventus’ chances