Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
January 9, 2011, 9:30 PM IST

Milan began the second half of the season just as emphatically they finished the first, with a win against Cagliari. New signing Antonio Cassano has shown good form and had also formed a credible partnership with Robinho upfront, which can only mean good news for the men in red-and-black. Milan would obviously like to take maximum points in the month of January as they head into a difficult February with tough opponents coming their way in the league as well as in the Champions League.

Udinese is currently on level points with the last year’s league winner, Internazionale. Their leading marksmen Antonio Di Natale is currently leading the Golden Shoe list with 11 goals, closely followed by Milan’s Ibrahimovic.

Team News and Tactical Brief

AC Milan

The Rossoneri are heavy favourites in this encounter and pressure will be on them to outscore their opponent as quickly as possible. In their last match against Cagliari, they managed to score as late as in the 85th minute, but the most encouraging outcome of that goal was how the entire team celebrated that particular goal as if they had all scored it. Such an atmosphere can be credited to Allegri, who in spite of taking enough flak early on, has managed to stick to his tactics and ideas which has borne fruit finally. Suspended striker Ibrahimovic is back after serving out his ban and this has led to a selection crisis for Allegri as he has to choose among his four front-line men as to which three would begin the game. In all likelihood, Cassano would start from the bench once more and he will come into the game only in the second half. Allegri had this to say about Merkel – “At the moment, Merkel is playing right behind the strikers, but I think in the future his natural role will be in midfield. Seedorf didn’t play poorly in Cagliari, but I’m sure he can give even more.” One can clearly see a fine undertone which suggest that Seedorf is heading for a Milan exit sooner rather than later.

Allegri is most likely to start with a 4-3-1-2 formation as was seen in the last game against Cagliari, where Seedorf dropped from the midfield role to more of a defensive midfield role. That move is more realistic keeping in mind that the Milan defence would have to contain a certain Di Natale, this league’s leading goal scorer so far. Instead of going in with three strikers side by side, Allegri would most likely push Robinho into the attacking midfield role which could see Merkel playing in the midfield. That way Milan can easily switch from their 4-3-1-2 formation to a more attacking 4-2-1-3, with Merkel moved in behind the three strikers. Robinho and Pato can move up and down the flanks more easily and they will be assisted by full backs Abate and Antonini. A 4-2-1-3 formation might see Seedorf and Gattuso playing side by side and they would be the perfect foil for Merkel, should it become too hot to handle for the youngster.

Probable starting Line-up: Amelia(GK), Abate, Bonera, Thiago Silva, Antonini, Merkel, Gattuso, Seedorf, Pato, Ibrahimovic, Robinho

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The Bainconeri too started the new year on a bright note as they won 2-0 against Chievo Verona in mid-week. Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin said “ We started the year in the best possible way. Now we face a big test at AC Milan and I’m confident my players will be eager to show their worth on Sunday.” Udinese can only hope for things to go their way as they have to come up against all of the three big clubs of Italy in January in the form of AC Milan, Juventus and Internazionale. A draw would lift their hopes of ending the season inside the top 8, so as to qualify for the Europa league next season. Udinese is likely to beef up the midfield with as many as five men in a 3-5-2 formation, and play Di Natale and Sanchez upfront. Domizzi, Zapata and Coda would form the back line and they are sure to have a really tough time on their hands with all of the three Milan strikers running around them.

Probable starting Line-up: Handanovic(GK), Domizzi, Zapata, Coda, Armero, Inler, Badu, Asamoah, Isla, Sanchez, Di Natale

Key Facts

1. A brace would make Ibrahimovic the top goal-scorer in Serie A.

2. Udinese have lost their last four games on the road.

3. Milan has lost only twice so far at home this season.


Zlatan would like to score a brace and become the top goal-scorer in the league, wouldn’t he?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic(AC Milan): Back from suspension, but back with a bang? How would Ibrahimovic like to begin his new year? Most likely with goals that he could score against Udinese.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

AC Milan 2 – 0 Udinese

Milan enter this game as clear-cut favourites. Even though there is a very real threat of Di Natale, Milan might not have too much of a contest on their hands should they score an early goal and keep possession.