Buffon to meet his 'successor'

2015-11-20 15:03
Gianluigi Buffon (AFP)

Milan - Champions Juventus host AC Milan in a potentially high-risk fixture on Saturday that could pit Gianluigi Buffon against the teenage sensation widely expected to succeed him as goalkeeper of Italy.

Juventus appear to have put their disastrous start to the campaign behind them but a stubborn nine-point deficit to leaders Fiorentina means they have plenty of ground to make up in the race for the 'scudetto'.

Yet in a match that will see security tightened significantly in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, all eyes could be on the goalkeepers who, between them, represent the past, present and future of the game in Italy.

Buffon, 37, was feted by his peers on Thursday when he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his Serie A debut with Parma.

It came on November 19, 1995 and on that occasion the 17-year-old produced a performance worthy of 'keepers twice his age to defy Roberto Baggio, Marco Simone and George Weah as Parma held AC Milan to a scoreless draw.

Whether by design or accident, 20 years later, almost to the day, Buffon will again face Milan. Only this time, when he shakes hands with Gianluigi Donnarumma, fans could be witnessing a virtual passing of the torch.

Donnarumma, 16, made his league debut in a 2-1 win over Sassuolo last month and kept Spanish veteran Diego Lopez on the bench ever since.

Milan have claimed 10 points from their past four outings to move to within seven points behind La Viola and much of it is down to teenage sensation Donnarumma.

Juventus have doubts over Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic after he hobbled off with an injured ankle against Russia, and strike partner Paulo Dybala was scheduled to return only Thursday from international duty with Argentina.

But Juve's Spanish striker Alvaro Morata told Juventus's in-house television channel Jtv: "We're still hungry for wins and we want to be back at the top of the table where we belong."

Although still missing striker Mario Balotelli through injury, Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic can count on Carlos Bacca and M'Baye Niang, and also welcomes Giacomo Bonaventura back from suspension to bolster his midfield.

Milan defender Alessio Romagnoli, who has recently been described as the 'new Andrea Nesta', refuses to rule Juve out of the title race but said the Rossoneri have to continue their recent purple patch.

"Juve are strong and will give 100% on Saturday. They're still one of the favourites for the title," he said.

"If we're going to reach our objective of a top three finish, we have to win as many games as possible, and that means continuing our good run of results by looking for a win on Saturday."

Due to midweek Champions League commitments, Roma, one point off the pace in third, are also in action on Saturday with an away trip to Bologna that looks anything but straightforward.

Since former Parma handler Roberto Donadoni took over, Bologna have won their past two league games -- a fact that hasn't escaped Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi.

"Donadoni hasn't changed much but he seems to have touched all the right buttons because they've taken six points from their last two games," said Florenzi.

"We'll be up against a side that feels galvanised. It will be hard, but we have to win at all costs."

Roma's task has been compounded by the absence of Ivorian striker Gervinho, who on Thursday joined Mohamed Salah in the casualty room after being sidelined for three weeks with a thigh injury.

Elsewhere, title chasers Napoli, two points off the pace in fourth, travel to Verona without injured forwards Manolo Gabbiadini and Dries Mertens, both of whom suffered injury while on international duty with Belgium and Italy respectively.

Fiorentina will be expected to tighten their grip on top spot when they host Empoli while Inter Milan could welcome Stevan Jovetic back to the front line for Sunday's visit of Frosinone.

Read more on:    ac milan  |  juventus  |  serie a  |  gianluigi buffon  |  soccer

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