San Siro, Milan
March 13, 2011
1130 hours GMT
League leaders A.C.Milan would be hoping to overcome the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of English debutants Tottenham Hotspurs, when they play host to Bari in the round 29 clash of Serie A on Sunday evening. With Inter Milan dropping points against Brescia , the Rossoneri have been presented with a golden opportunity to go seven points clear at the top of the pile with a win over Bari.
On the other hand, bottom-placed Bari are staring relegation in the face and have nothing to lose when they step onto the famous pitch of the San Siro. At the moment they stand a good ten points behind Brescia and would need nothing less than a miracle to keep their feet in Serie A for the upcoming season. Essentially speaking, Bari are all but out.
Team news and Tactical brief
On paper, it can be easily termed as arguably the biggest mismatch of the season but Milan cannot afford to take The Cockerels lightly. As has been observed in the last few seasons, it has been Il diavolo’s lackluster performances against their less-fancied opponents which has resulted in their downfall in the league.
The return of cup-tied players to the playing eleven the midfield of Milan will receive a much-needed boost. Allegri is expected to go in with a three-man midfield. January signing Van Bommel along with skipper Gattuso are expected to start with Merkel, who replaces the Ghanian international Boateng after the latter injured his ankle in the clash against Juventus.
After having a disappointing outing at White Hart Lane in midweek, Robinho is set to make way for Antonio Cassano as the attacking midfielder. Inclusion of Antonini as left back will give more teeth to Milan’s attack through the flanks. Yepes who has become a crowd favorite in his very first season in Milan’s colors could play in place of the old war horse Nesta.
Milan are expected to line-up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Cassano sitting behind the formidable pairing of Pato and Ibrahimovic.
The difference between Bari and Milan in the table is huge, 45 points to be precise. With the visitors being 13 points away from safety, a win at the San Siro could act as a much-needed shot in the arm for Mutti’s relegation threatened side.
Mutti stated that mathematically it is still possible for them to cover these 13 points and they will be playing in Milan with all the rage possible.
“Bari is not doomed. We are a team with so much character and it shows.” said Mutti
It will take a lot for his squad to live up to his words on Sunday, though, considering the fact that they have the worst goal difference in the league and their Sunday night opponents not only have the best goal difference but have also conceded the least amount of goals this season.
Milan has run away with all the games in which their opponents have tried to play a free flowing brand of football, so expect Mutti to field his team with a completely defensive mindset. Meanwhile, there is good news for A.S Bari as Okaka is set to return against Milan which would really help the visiting team in attack.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alexandre Pato (Milan)
The Brazilian was in sublime form in the league scoring two scorching goals in two matches before he missed the trip to Turin, last weekend.He played a decent game against Spurs and the 21 year-old looked visibly distraught after their exit from Europe earlier this week. It seems like he has finally formed a successfully partnership with Ibrahimovic upfront and would surely like to carry forward his current form into the match on Sunday.
AC Milan 3- 0 AS Bari
Both the teams met in January in Copa Italia where Milan emerged victorious by a margin of 3-0 and unless Mutti does something drastically different, expect a similar scoreline once again.