Cup final vs Juventus is AC Milan's only route to Europe
ROME: For AC Milan, it's the only route to Europe.For Juventus, it's about crowning another title-laden season.
When Serie A's two most storied clubs meet in the Italian Cup final on Saturday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, it will be a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions.
Juventus is fresh off its fifth consecutive Serie A title and is aiming to become the first club to win the league and Cup double in consecutive seasons.
"We started the season by winning the Super Cup in Shanghai (2-0 against Lazio) and it would be great to finish it by winning the Italian Cup," said forward Paulo Dybala, who has scored 23 goals in all competitions during his first season with Juventus. "It would be the appropriate coronation for everything we accomplished this season."
Milan, meanwhile, is in danger of failing to qualify for Europe for a third consecutive season following a disappointing seventh-place finish in Serie A.
A victory in the final, however, would give Milan direct entry to the Europa League and earn the Rossoneri their first trophy in nearly five years since the 2011 Italian Super Cup.
Moreover, a trophy could give Milan president Silvio Berlusconi a celebratory send-off as he negotiates the possible sale of the club to a group of Chinese investors.
"Winning this trophy would give some sense to the season," Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura said.
Here are a few things to know about the final:
BROCCHI AND BALOTELLI: The final represents a last chance for Milan's interim coach Cristian Brocchi and on-loan Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli.
Brocchi was promoted from youth manager to replace the fired Sinisa Mihajlovic last month but produced only two wins in six matches concluding Serie A with a 3-1 loss at home to Roma last weekend.
Milan has already stated Brocchi will return to the youth squad if he isn't kept with the first team.
Balotelli's future, meanwhile, remains a mystery after a season in which he scored one goal in 20 league games.
Milan has shown no interest in keeping him, while Liverpool doesn't want him back.
Balotelli is expected to start the final on the bench, with Carlos Bacca lining up at center forward.
NETO FOR BUFFON: Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is likely to start reserve goalkeeper Neto in place of captain Gianluigi Buffon.
Neto, a Brazilian, has played in all of the Cup matches this season.
Otherwise, Allegri is planning on using his full-strength team, led by forwards Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic.
Juventus center back Leonardo Bonucci is suspended and midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira are out injured.
EUROPA LEAGUE: While fourth-place Inter Milan is already guaranteed a spot in the Europa League's group phase, the final will determine the status of fifth-place Fiorentina, sixth-place Sassuolo and seventh-place Milan.
If Juventus wins, Fiorentina will qualify directly for the Europa League group phase, Sassuolo will go into the playoffs and Milan will be out.
If Milan wins it will qualify directly for the group phase, Fiorentina will go into the playoffs and Sassuolo will be out.