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Juventus took an important step towards reaching the Coppa Italia final as a returning Martin Caceres scored a brace to ensure a 2-1 semi-final first leg win over Milan at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

Antonio Conte made changes as noted in the pre-match press conference, with Marco Storari, Caceres, Simone Padoin, Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Borriello all starting in the 3-5-2 formation.

Each goal arrived after the interval, as Caceres tapped home the opener after fellow new signings Padoin and Borriello were involved. Stephan El Shaarawy levelled proceedings just past the hour mark, slotting home a loose ball from close range; however the Uruguyan struck again just seven minutes from the end. Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross fell to Caceres on the edge of the penalty area, who had time to pick his spot and curl a stunner into the top corner.

Caceres will take the plaudits for a dazzling return, but it was a fine team effort. The defence was ably led by its usual back three, with Andrea Barzagli near-impeccable. He was at fault for the goal - not tracking El Sharaawy - otherwise the World Cup winners timing and execution gave Milan little. He and Giorgio Chiellini claimed the most recovered balls, with 30 and 27 respectively and Chiellini’s night was summed up by a supreme block on Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Caceres and Marcelo Estigarribia looked to contain the forward forays of Luca Antonini and Daniele Bonera, with the former a typical attacking outlet. Going forward, Juve were too narrow when the South American duo did not move up, meaning Del Piero and Borriello were crowded out by the Milan defence. When Caceres joined the attack early in the second half he was rewarded with the opening goal. As Conte admitted afterwards, he must still learn the defensive side of Juve’s game but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

Andrea Pirlo was typically impressive as he faced his former club at his former home for the first time and completed the highest number of passes (62). Meanwhile, midfield partner Giaccherini was a standout. His energy and drive a feature throughout and he had a hand in both goals. He offers Conte an admirable backup option in central midfield, as does Luca Marrone, who hardly put a foot wrong after coming off the bench.

Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella replaced the strike pairing but had little impact in front of goal. The Montenegrin had a shot saved which Quagliarella almost tapped home, but other than that it was a lean performance. Vucinic again showing industry and creativity, but he is missing the goals and Quagliarella is lacking rhythm without an extended run in the team.

The result puts Juve in good stead to make their first Coppa Italia final since 2004 and for their Serie A meeting with Milan at the end of the month. However before then is an important schedule starting with Bologna on Sunday.

Like Siena last Sunday, Bologna will look to frustrate the Bianconeri. The Rossoblu are on a five match unbeaten streak and as recent draws away to Napoli and Roma indicate, they will not be a pushover. The result last season at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara was 0-0 and historically it has been a tight affair, with Juve winning 26 Serie A encounters to Bologna’s 19, with 21 draws.

A confident Juve may return to their usual 4-3-3 system, with only Simone Pepe in doubt because of injury. Director general Giuseppe Marotta alluded to Juve’s problem of breaking down smaller teams and Bologna (26 goals conceded) represents another similar challenge. It will be crucial to overcome the Felsinei; this type of test just as important as a match against title rivals and one to indicate just how ruthless Juve must be to win the Scudetto.

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