AC MILAN

v

CATANIA

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

November 6, 2011; 14:00 GMT

***

We are two months into the season and as things stand, Italian champions AC Milan seem to have revamped their shaky start to the campaign. The team certainly appears to be the unit that is favourite to defend the hard-earned title. Away trips to the city of Rome are always intimidating, given the wild nature of the supporters of the Capital club but the Rossoneri successfully executed the mission and with a narrow win over Roma, have now registered four consecutive victories in the league games. Despite the good run of form, the last one week has been far from encouraging for the Lombardian club. Star forward Antonio Cassano ai??i?? the bad boy of Italian football ai??i?? is fighting against the unforgiving act of destiny that saw him suffer from a mysterious stroke post the triumph over Roma and has been hospitalised since. The early signs were indicative of Fantantonioai??i??s playing career being jeopardised. However, the latest developments have suggested the crowned jewel of Bari is well on his way to recovery post a successful heart surgery but is expected to be unavailable for the remainder of the season.

Milan Fans Cannot Wait For Him To Recover Fully

.

From Milanai??i??s perspective, the event could not have occurred at a worse point in time since Cassano had finally started showing glimpses of his true potential with his unspectacular but solid start to the new season. Numbers may not do justice to his contribution to Milanai??i??s winning run of late but few can deny his vitality to the progress made in the league table after a dismal start. It is nothing short of test of character for the entire Milanese unit now to deal with the situation and fill into the void left by one of the chief sources of creativity.

Allegri might feel the need to tinker with the formation since Milan do not boast of another player who possesses Cassanoai??i??s vision and attacking instinct inside the final third. Stephen El-Shaarawy might see more playing time for himself upfront but the young lad must earn his place in the final eleven, fighting for a spot against the more established forwards like Alexandre Pato and Robinho.

Amidst the convoluted circumstances, Milan host Vincenzo Montellaai??i??s high-flying Sicilian side Catania who have managed to take the entire country by surprise with their remarkably impressive run in the league that sees them sitting pretty at sixth position on the table. Having already got better of big name clubs such as Inter and Napoli, Catania are already being touted as potential giant killers in Italy and are a force enough for Milan not to take them lightly whatsoever. More importantly, Milan havenai??i??t been able to defeat Catania at San Siro during the corresponding fixtures for last two seasons. Post their drubbing at the hands of Genoa on the fourth matchday, Catania havenai??i??t been beaten and may well extend the good run at San Siro, given their impressive record at the stadium lately.

Team News and Tactical Brief

AC Milan

In the absence of Cassano, Milan will have to look for alternatives in the creativity department. Adding insult to the injury, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Antonio Nocerino ai??i?? two equally important players to Allegriai??i??s team this season ai??i?? will be serving a suspension and hence remain unavailable for this fixture. This effectively means Milan will deploy a midfield that doesnai??i??t speak of a promising average age and hence the fluidity on the pitch may be hampered. Mark van Bommel should be available for selection after returning from injury. Luca Antonini too trained with the rest of the team but is not expected to start.

Formidable pairing of Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva should station at the heart of the defence, flanked on the either side by Ignazio Abate and Gianluca Zambrotta. Alberto Aquilani should start from the right and apart from making advanced runs in the opposition half to link up with the forwards, the promising Italian midfielder may also have to double up providing cover to the defensive line as the aging legs of Mark van Bommel and Massimo Ambrosini might not warrant a shield that is protective enough. Clarence Seedorf should take the Boateng role behind the two strikers and should relish at playing in a position that involves less of defending and ball winning. Seedorf boasts of fierce shooting power and may not refrain from taking a shot or two at the goal from distance.

Abate has made his liking for advancing from the flanks very clear and would definitely overlap Aquilani in the process, while the on-loan Liverpool midfielder should aim at penetrating through the Catania defence from the centre, as Seedorf has been lately observed losing possession cheaply. Aquilaniai??i??s ability to hold on to the ball may release Seedorf in a dangerous area but given the Dutchmanai??i??s lack of pace and agility, this combination doesnai??i??t appear to be a very dangerous one. The front two must drop down deep to involve in the build-up, owing to the lack of creativity that might be on offer from the midfield. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been reclaiming his usual touch; however, Robinho has to considerably improve in the final third with his finishing. His work-rate alone doesnai??i??t justify the role he is fielding into. The wasted chances during the midweek Champions League encounter against Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov must be haunting Allegri big time and it is time the Rossoneri immediately mean business back into the league.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Silva, Zambrotta; Aquilani, van Bommel, Ambrosini; Seedorf; Ibrahimovic, Robinho

.

Catania

The Rossazzurri have been the surprise package in the season so far and their form is one of the crucial factors for the leagueai??i??s further enhanced competency index this time around. Fans and pundits alike were initially sceptical over the appointment of a young, inexperienced and unproven manager at the beginning of the season but Vincenzo Montella has certainly won over the fans with his instinctive approach to the game that makes Catania look a completely different side from the one during the last season.

Montella has dropped ace forward Maxi Lopez from his starting eleven and the ex-Barcelona striker doesnai??i??t seem to be starting at San Siro either. Lopezai??i??s Argentine compatriots Alejandro Gomez and Gonzalo Bergessio should reserve their place in the Catania frontline. The three-man midfield should see Sergio Almiron, Francesco Lodi and Adrian Ricchiuti occupying the three slots. Lodi will be making advanced runs up the pitch linking with the marksmen. Montellaai??i??s inclination towards a more secure 5-3-2 makes Catania look extremely static at times but ensures they are never outnumbered inside their own half. Moreover, the two men guarding the flanks engage with the midfield while they hit on the counter ai??i?? something that will precisely be Montellaai??i??s strategy to break the Milanese defence.

Alessandro Potenza and Giovanni Marchese should occupy the flanks whereas the three Centre-Backs marking the Milan forwards out of the game will be Giuseppe Bellusci, Nicolas Spolli and the former Juventus and Milan veteran Nicola Legrottaglie. The injury list for the visitors includes Cristian Llama, David Suazo, Marco Biagianti, Pablo Ledesma, Pablo Alvarez and Mariano Izco. Catania have already faced Inter, Juventus, Napoli and Lazio in the league and none of the four has been able to claim three points against them. Should they manage to take a point out of San Siro, it will only add to the incredible season that they are having.

Probable Starting Line-up (5-3-2):Ai??Andujar; Potenza, Bellusci, Spolli, Legrottaglie, Marchese; Almiron, Lodi, Ricchiuti; Bergessio, Gomez

Key Facts

1. Despite maintaining an impressive record on road, Milan havenai??i??t been able to beat the Sicilian opponents at San Siro for two years.

2. Milan have scored maximum goals in the league so far but at the same time have third from the worst defensive record to show for.

3. Catania are yet to win an away game this season.

TheHardTackleai??i??s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Alberto Aquilani (AC Milan)

The on-loan Liverpool midfielder boasts of enough attributes to become a world-class player in his position but somehow has failed to meet the standards that he set for himself in his days at Roma. Italian game is best suited to his technical finesse and it is high time he raised his game to the next level ai??i?? especially in the absence of two of Milanai??i??s most prominent players of the season. Should Aquilani manage to play to his potential, he can more than make up for the list of absentees for Milan.

TheHardTackleai??i??s PREDICTION

AC Milan 2-1 Catania

Catania will look to tighten their defensive fold and may succeed in doing so but ultimately the experience and sheer quality of Milan forwards should get better of them. However, Milan have been extremely vulnerable in defence so far, capitalising on which Montellaai??i??s men may hit them on counter and find themselves on the scoresheet.

TheHardTackleai??i??s BLAST FROM THE PAST

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3 Responses to “AC Milan v Catania – Preview: Rossoneri Welcome High-Flying Sicilians As Cassano Recovers”

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  1. Suren says:

    I love your previews and break down of matches….
    Keep up the good work..
    You should make 1-2 favorite picks every day..
    I will come to your site daily from now on, you are the smartest guy that I have found on the internet in 6 months.
    Thank you and keep doing what you’re doing…

  2. Suren says:

    Great site, I absolutely LOVE IT!!!!

  3. Parth Pandya says:

    Thank you for the kind words. We cover Italian and other leagues in Europe extensively. Do read through different sections. I am sure you will find informative articles aplenty. Hoping to keep you entertained!