Emanuele Giaccherini of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Tim Cup match between Juventus FC and AS Roma Turin, Italy. Juventus play Milan in the Coppa Italia on February 8, 2012. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
AC Milan and Juventus play the first leg of a marquee Coppa Italia semifinal tie on Wednesday. Siena and Napoli kick off the other tie on Thursday.
While the Coppa Italia has been a great opportunity in the past for AC Milan to get starts for their youngsters and key substitutes while still remaining competitive, they will be more or less forced into playing a first team in the first leg of their semifinal tie against Juventus. Milan and the Old Lady play the bigger of the two ties, while the winner will face off against the Napoli - Siena winner in the final.
Juventus are lucky to not have the same kinds of injury problems currently plaguing their opponents, and can field a very strong team without playing any of their first choice starters. The likes of Emanuele Giaccherini, Luca Marrone, Marco Borriello and Fabio Quagliarella are likely to see some playing time on Wednesday. Marco Storari will almost certainly play instead of Gigi Buffon in net, while new signing Simone Padoin could get a look as well. Martin Caceres is still not fully fit.
Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up a three-match ban in the league for slapping Napoli's Salvatore Aronica, but unlike other countries, league suspensions do not apply to cup matches in Italy. This means that Ibrahimovic is a virtual lock to start up top, where he will be partnered by either Stephan El Shaarawy or Maxi Lopez, as Robinho is likely to be rested. They'll be supported by Clarence Seedorf in the absence of Kevin-Prince Boateng.
In Thursday's match, Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri might be tempted to rest his stars, but it would probably be unwise. Based on the team's shaky league form, the Coppa Italia could be the team's best route to Europe. The league Europa League spots are still up for grabs, but the Azzurri are too far out of third place to mount a serious challenge to return to the Champions League. The likes of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Christian Maggio should all start.
Siena is in a relegation dogfight, and may or may not put their best foot forward in the cup. The silverware would be a big deal for a team of their current stature, but staying in Serie A is more important. In previous cup matches, they have played a half-and-half first and second team. Emanuele Calaiò, Mattia Destro and Gaetano D'Agostino, the team's three most productive attacking players, all sat out their last Coppa match.
Schedule - Both games on ESPN3 USA and ESPN UK
AC Milan vs. Juventus - Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local
Siena vs. Napoli - Thursday, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local