AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso conceded his side will have to lick their wounds and come out fighting after losing the Italian Super Cup trophy to an all-conquering Juventus who turn their focus back to their next target — an eighth consecutive Serie A title — after the three-week winter break in Italy.
Unbeaten Juventus host bottom club Chievo in Turin on Monday, a team they opened their season against with a 3-2 win in Verona, looking to stretch their lead to 12 points after 20 games.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side currently have a nine-point advantage on second-placed Napoli who face a tricky test against Lazio on Sunday.
“We’ve started 2019 on the right foot. Forward to the next target,” warned Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored the only goal in Jeddah against Milan in midweek to bring his tally to 16 in all competitions.
It was Allegri’s tenth trophy as Juventus boss and, after losing two of the last three Super Cup trophies, a boost in his side’s assault on all fronts including the Champions League.
AC Milan — in fifth, one point behind Lazio — are looking for a morale-boosting return to the Champions League places against a Genoa side who have just one win in their last 12 league games.
“We lick our wounds,” said Gattuso, who will watch the match from the stands after receiving a one-match touchline ban for angrily protesting a refereeing decision in Jeddah.
It was a punishing game in the heat for AC Milan who will also be without suspended trio Franck Kessie, Alessio Romagnoli and Davide Calabria in Genoa.
Kessie was shown a straight red card while Calabria was booked for a foul and captain Romagnoli also given a yellow card for dissent.
Spanish midfielder Suso however returns from suspension after missing the Super Cup.
“We have to remain calm,” said Gattuso. “The important thing is recouping our energy.”
– No fans, no problem for Inter –
Inter Milan host Sassuolo behind closed doors in their San Siro stadium as punishment for racist chanting by their fans towards Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly before the winter break.
The club — comfortably in third place seven points ahead of fourth-placed Lazio — have been allowed to invite local schoolchildren to the match against Sassuolo.
But Luciano Spalletti’s side proved that an empty stadium was no obstacle as they cruised into the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with a 6-2 win over second-tier Benevento last week.
Koulibaly, meanwhile, remains suspended for Napoli’s game against Lazio at the San Paolo Stadium.
The Senegalese defender will serve the second of a two-match ban for his sending off against Inter, for sarcastically applauding the referee.
Resurgent Roma, in sixth, continue their push for Champions League football at home against Torino.
“Despite some difficulties we are still there,” said Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini.
“It would be absurd for Roma not to get into the top four of the Italian championship.”