Stadio Via del Mare, Lecce

Oct 23, 2011; 10:30 GMT


After an indifferent beginning to the new season, Max Allegria��s AC Milan finally appear to have found the correct rhythm and the results, more importantly the manner in which they were produced during the last week both at the domestic as well as at the European front pretty much testify this. The unforgiving nature of initial fixtures is ceasing as the next few games will provide Milan a breather given the lesser levels of competency from the opponents compared to the ones already faced. Unlike last couple of seasons, Milan are doing exceedingly well in the Champions League group stages and a positive result at home against the current champions FC Barcelona may earn them the top spot which would subsequently avoid a clash with many of the top teams in Europe during the first knock-out round.

However, the very next in line is an away fixture against Lecce who are into their second season in Italya��s top most league but the early signs have been far from encouraging. The Giallorossi have only been able to accumulate four points from the first six rounds and have failed to find the back of the net for more than three games now. During the last weekend full of goalless draws, Lecce managed to hold on against Genoa. The result is far from pleasing but definitely controlled the furthering of damage. The newly appointed manager Eusebio Di Francesco is one of the younger managers in Italy and his lack of experience in the top flight has so far been on show during the season. In order to ease the pressure on the manager and players alike, Lecce must jump out of the R-zone at the earliest and this doesna��t happen to be the best time to face Milan for the team from Apulia.

Milan have just begun to find the momentum and a demolition here of a depleted Lecce side could well be just what the doctor ordered for the current holders of the title. The only motivating factor for Lecce at this point is the memories of the corresponding fixture last season when they successfully held Milan on for a 1-1 draw after a thunderous strike from Ibrahimovic that put Milan in front.

Team News and Tactical Brief


An inspiring away victory over Bologna during the third round should have set the tone for Leccea��s league campaign but unfortunately the ship has only sailed backwards then on. Defeats against Atalanta and Cagliari at home and against Siena on road have pushed Lecce in the bottom most zone on the league table and though it is still early days in the season, the Giallorossi appear to be paving their way back into the second division. Last seasona��s resolve that saw them holding on against teams like Milan and Inter and even go on to defeat Juventus has definitely gone for a hiatus during this campaign.

Two of the Milan players a�� Massimo Oddo and Rodney Strasser a�� who are serving their loan period at Lecce are certain to start against their employers and Strasser in particular would be keen on capitalising at the opportunity to impress coach Massimiliano Allegri and club CEO Adriano Galliani as the two would soon contemplate the strategies for acquisitions during the winter transfer mercato.

The Salentini would miss the services of David Di Michele as the veteran marksman is nursing an injury and hence the manager should opt for a 4-3-1-2 shape which may keep switching to 4-4-1-1 with Juventus academy product Cristian Pasquato leading the attacking pack alongside Daniele Corvia with Uruguayan midfielder Carlos Grossmuller playing just off them connecting the attack and midfield.

Apart from Strasser, the three-man midfield should comprise of Udinesea��s on-loan Nigerian Christian Obodo and club captain Guillermo Giacomazzi. Massimo Oddo, with all his experience playing against Milan will bring in a lot to the table in his usual Right Back position while the other flank will be guarded by Algerian midfielder-turned-Left Back Djamel Mesbah. The centre of defence will continue to be occupied by Serbian Nenad Tomovic and Andrea Esposito. Both are serving a loan period from Genoa. Italian shot-stopper Massimiliano Benassi would guard the goal for the home side.

Probable Starting Line-up: Benassi; Oddo, Tomovic, Esposito, Mesbah; Obodo, Strasser, Giacomazzi; Grossmuller; Corvia, Pasquato

Starting Line-ups For Both Teams


AC Milan

The a�?Fitness Godsa�� finally seem to have showered some blessings on Allegri as he is now having a nearly full squad to choose from. Positive results during the last two fixtures have definitely charged up the Milanese circles with optimism and the winning streak must continue over the Serie A minnows over this weekend to initiate the gap-narrowing process to the current leaders Juventus who themselves are having a series of tough matches lined up in coming few weeks.

It is a tough choice to make to form the front-line for the visitorsa�� manager as apart from Alexandre Pato, all the strikers are available but given the load Antonio Cassano has single-handedly shared during all these matches, Allegri may offer him the much required rest. In that case, Robinho will start as a regular forward rather than a withdrawn one, to the left of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Prince-Boateng should station as feeder to them.

The unavailability of all the experienced legs of Seedorf, Gattuso and Ambrosini means that both the summer signings Aquilani and Nocerino should continue to ensure their starting positions in the setup. Nocerino has particularly marked his presence felt with his absolutely relentless and hard-working displays ever since moving from Palermo. Mark van Bommel will continue providing shield to the back-line taking his regular job of play-breaker who disrupts and dismantles the oppositions.

Philippe Mexes might start his first game in Milanese colours as Allegri might not want to risk an already injured Thiago Silva considering the importance of upcoming matches and Milana��s position in the league table. Taye Taiwo had a decent outing against BATE Borisov during the midweek and may once again be given the nod to start from the left.

Probable Starting Line-up: Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Mexes, Taiwo; Nocerino, van Bommel, Aquilani; Boateng; Robinho, Ibrahimovic

Key Facts

  1. Lecce have failed to score in their last three league games.
  2. Last season, after six games Milan had managed to score eight goals, which is exactly the same number this season. However, the points gathered are three fewer than those at this stage in last season.
  3. Lecce are the joint holders with Bologna in terms of worst Goal Difference (-6) in the league so far.

I Am Back & Back In Some Style!


TheHardTacklea��s Player To Watch Out For

Robinho (AC Milan)

The Brazilian already announced his return to the league in some style last week against Palermo fining the net for the first time during the on-going season. With prospects to start as one of the two forwards, Robinho would relish at the opportunity to find the back of the net tearing the defence apart. It has been largely acknowledged that he is one of Milana��s most hard-working and industrious players and it is about time he gave another demonstration of his capabilities after remaining away from the action for a long time.

TheHardTacklea��s Prediction

Lecce 0-3 AC Milan

Though Milan havena��t been a great team away from home during this season, a game against an already troubled Lecce side is the perfect platform to instill the confidence by winning away with a huge margin. While Lecce may display some hard resolve, the quality of Milan attack should be too much for them to handle over 90 minutes.

TheHardTacklea��s Blast From The Past

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