AC MILAN

v

CESENA

Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
23/01/2011 19:45 GMT

Back to back draws are never good for a team aiming for the Scudetto which was last won in the 2003-04 season. Milan drew against Udinese in a high octane 4-4 encounter at home, while last week they were held to a one-all draw when they visited Lecce. These two matches saw Inter claw their way back into contention and now they are placed as high as the 4th position in the league.

Cesena, on the other hand displayed a spirited performance against reigning champions, Internazionale in their last match. In spite of being 2-0 down inside the opening 15 minutes, they managed to steel themselves and leveled the proceedings with two wonderfully taken strikes. But in spite of that, they eventually lost 3-2. Presently, Cesena are level on points with Lecce and is almost in the drop-zone.

Team news and tactical brief

AC Milan

When these two teams last met, Cesena shocked the Rossoneri into a humiliating 2-0 defeat. Revenge is on the mind of Massimiliano Allegri, who stated that Milan will have to be careful and play at a high pace and start that wonderful habit of winning all over again. Nesta and Flamini returned to training and they were immediately pushed into the thick of things by Allegri. The combination of Silva and Nesta at the heart of Milan defense has been the cornerstone of Milan’s success in the first half of the season and Allegri is leaving no stones unturned to re-establish that successful partnership as soon as possible. Ibrahimovic is enjoying the form of his life so far and his audacious goal last week will only re-affirm his claim of being one of the most exciting goal scorers in this league.

Cassano will once again start from the bench as was seen in the last two matches, but he is a welcome addition to any team and Milan would really look up to him to add that extra impetus to their strike force should the trio of Ibrahimovic-Pato-Robinho fail to yield any goals. The idea to play Robinho behind the two strikers is a good one, but it can fail horribly if Robinho decides to move to the wings. That move would leave the position of the central attacking midfielder void, and it can lead to drying up of those final passes to either of Ibrahimovic or Pato. As Allegri has shown this past game week, his starting formation is likely to be 4-1-2-1-2, which eventually leads to a 2-3-2-3. with 3 strikers and the attacking midfielder all playing together. The center back duo of Nesta and Silva stays put at their position, while the fullbacks move up and down to support the strikers and also move back to defend. The midfield formation is one of interlocking with the defense with Ambrosini falling in behind sometimes to act as a pseudo sweeper. However, Milan can face major problems upfront if they fail to hold on to the ball in the final third of the pitch and it is there, the combination of Pato and Ibrahimovic is going to be really tested. A more spread out formation in the upper part of the field would only help Milan but it remains to be seen exactly what Allegri’s instructions would be.

Probable starting Line-up: Amelia(GK), Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Antonini, Ambrosini, Gattuso, Flamini, Pato, Ibrahimovic, Robinho

Cesena

Cesena would look for inspiration to their 2-0 victory over the Rossoneri in the first half of the season. They have been able to win only 4 times after that and now they find themselves possibly playing in Serie B next season. Though in the last match against Internazionale they showed a fighting spirit found rarely this season, they will have their job cut out once they face the men in black and red. This week, Cesena will have to do without Jimenez, Lauro and Fatic due to fever. Cesena is likely to field a 4-3-3 formation with Budan, Malonga and Bogdani forming the three-pronged attack. As was seen in their last match, the forward line rarely changes in structure and that could mean trouble for Milan as Nesta and co. would have their hands full containing them. Cesena tends to clog the midfield and are extremely good in winning back possession from their opponents. But one drawback from their game play that Milan should exploit is that they tend to play only in the center of the field, rarely venturing out in the wings. With Milan bereft of good wingers presently, they most probably would not utilize this weak point. However unlike the attacking formation of Milan which changes to almost a 1-2-1 midway through a game, the strike force and the supporting men of Cesena maintain their structure with 2 players supporting the three strikers upfront.

Probable starting Line-up: Antonioli(GK), Ceccarelli, Benalouane, von Bergen, Pellegrino, Parolo, Colucci, Sammarco, Budan, Malonga, Bogdani

Key Facts:

1. Cesena has won only 1 game on the road so far this season.

2. Milan’s lead at the top has been cut down to just 4 points presently.

3. Ibrahimovic has 70 shots on goal so far, with only 11 of them finding the back of the net.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Zlatan Ibrahimovic(AC Milan)

When the stars shine down upon you, can you really play badly? With that superbly executed lob last week against Lecce, Ibrahimovic is once again our man to watch out for. His persistence to score the most outrageous of goals leaves fans bewildered and opposition players dismayed.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

AC Milan 3 – 0 Cesena

Milan should not aim for a stalemate third time in a row, even though they have a cushion at the top. An emphatic victory will not only re-establish and rejuvenate them but also send across a strong message to all the other title contenders.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST