AC Milan v Palermo – Preview: Struggle To The Top Begins

AC MILAN

v

PALERMO

San Siro, Milan

October 15, 2011; 18:45 GMT

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Milan hasn’t exactly set the league on fire with their inconsistent performances so far this season. The explosive start to the season, which saw Milan claim the SuperCoppa Italiana, has faded into memory and the club now languishes in the bottom half of the table. Even though only five matches have been played so far and it is not at all a time to hit the panic button, Milan fans would nonetheless love to see the club back on their winning ways as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Palermo has gone from strength to strength. From the opening day 4-3 thriller against Internazionale to their recent victory over Siena, the club from the South has already staked their claims to be a title contender this season. That is, if Zamparini does not go off in another of his lunatic sacking sprees. In a commanding position now, Palermo can either go on to win accolades or can fade away pretty soon.

Team News and Tactical Brief

AC Milan

The best news to have come Milan’s way is the availability of Robinho. Out through injury sustained on international duties, his return will provide Milan with the necessary boost in the much depleted attacking front. His dynamism coupled with his work ethic should come in handy in the present time when Milan is struggling to gain a foothold on the national front. Alongwith Robinho, players such as Nesta, Ibrahmovic, Boateng and Zambrotta trained recently, which is not only a good sign for the entire team but will also help Allegri give some much-needed rest to the over-used players such as Nocerino and Seedorf. But the question remains whether Allegri will straightaway feature them in the match or wait for the second half to give them some play time.

In what has been a topsy-turvy season so far, Silva and Nesta need to find their groove fast so as to provide a solid defensive line. Even with Van Bommel guarding them, Abbiati has managed to leak in goals that will make an amateur squirm in their sleep. It can be said that Abbiati’s season has not taken off so far and the legions of Rossoneri are waiting for the same to happen in this match. Mexes, since his acquisition, has not featured in a Milan shirt, and his time on the sideline looks to be ending as he too returned from injury. His participation in this match is a matter of speculation, though. Milan will be missing the services of Pippo Inzaghi, who is down with influenza. Pippo has played a vital part in this fixture for the last few years, notably in 2005, 2008 and 2009 season, where he scored the winning goal.

Milan is likely to go for a tried and tested 4-3-1-2 formation with Abbiati manning the posts. The center-back duo of Nesta and Silva will provide him cover and also will look to keep out every attack Miccoli and Co generates. Flanked by Zambrotta on the left and Bonera on the right for this match, Milan does not possess two fast fullbacks, but what they possess are two experienced campaigners capable of shining on their own day. Van Bommel has been a fixture from the defensive midfielder position and will look to continue the same in this match. Nocerino and Seedorf will complete the rest of the midfield. Robinho will play in the trequartista position with Ibrahimovic and Cassano on top. The top three players are very fluid in their positioning, as Cassano can come down at any time, with Robinho playing in his position.

Probable starting line-up: Abbiati(GK); Bonera, Silva, Nesta, Zambrotta; Nocerino, Van Bommel, Seedorf; Robinho; Ibrahimovic, Cassano

Palermo

Palermo is presently occupying the 4th place in the league standing, courtesy of their good run of late. They have won all three of their home games and lost only once on the road. The silver lining for Palermo this season has been the form of their top two strikers – Hernandez and Miccoli. They have scored as many as five goals between them so far. One interesting aspect of their scoring has been that they tend to score late into the game, which Milan should look out for. In addition to scoring late, Palermo has also been guilty of conceding late goals.

For Palermo, Balzaretti is out of this fixture as a result of a red card that he gained earlier. One player from Palermo to look out for is goalkeeper Tzorvas. In the five games that he played in, the goalie has managed to accumulate as many as 13 saves – no mean feat considering the attacking nature of this league. With Hernandez and Miccoli in the form of their lives, the onus of providing the forwards with the ball falls on the likes of Ilicic and Della Rocca. Should any of these players fail to deliver, the ‘MVP’ from Palermo, Miccoli will take up the mantle of providing the final ball as he has shown so far this season with as many as three assists.

Palermo is likely to field a flat 4-4-2 formation with the dependent Tzorvas under the bar. The back line of Mantovani, Silvestre, Migliaccio and Pisano not only offers a solid look but also will help Palermo while attacking. Migliaccio has been playing almost throughout this season and it looks like he will be substituted in the second half. The midfield for Palermo will consist of the likes of Barreto and Della Rocca playing through the center, with Bertolo and Ilicic flanking the two. Hernandez and Miccoli will form the forward line for this match.

Probable starting line-up: Tzorvas(GK); Pisano, Silvestre, Migliaccio, Mantovani; Bertolo, Barreto, Della Rocca, Ilicic; Hernandez, Miccoli

Key facts

  1. Palermo has never lost a match at home this season so far .
  2. AC Milan have a tendency to come out from the October international break with a goal fest in the next match as was seen in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 season where they scored at least 2 goals.
  3. Robinho scored his first ever Milan goal exactly a year ago just after the international break against Chievo.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Robinho (Milan)

Too long has Milan suffered from the loss of this Samba player. Sidelined due to injury suffered in international matches, Rossoneri all over the world have prayed and hoped for his speedy recovery. And now, Robinho is fit and raring to go. Even if he does not score in this match, he is bound to create all sorts of troubles for the Palermo backline.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

AC Milan 2-1 Palermo

This is Milan’s match to win. Up against a spirited opponent, this match can provide Milan with the impetus to eventually go on and lift the Scudetto for the second year running. It will be a hard-fought battle no doubt, but the scale is likely to tilt in favor of the red side of Milan.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST