Stadio San Paolo
September 18, 2011; 18:45 GMT
Milan travel to Stadio San Paolo this weekend with an eye on coming back with all three points. The season has not started too well for the red side of Milan as they have only achieved two back-to-back draws by the same margin(2-2). While the first one came as a surprise against Lazio, the second drawn match was against none other than the current European Champions, FC Barcelona. With their injury list growing, Milan has shrewdly made some clever purchases in the form of Nocerino and Aquilani. The strength of their bench would once again come into play in this match which sees Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Gattuso sidelined with injures.
On the other hand, Napoli started their campaign with nothing less than a bang. They were one of the few teams that came out of Matchday 1 with all three points. Their second encounter took them to Etihad stadium, where they faced off against Manchester City, a team on the rise this year and even seen as potential title contenders. Even though the match ended 1-1, Napoli came back with a sense of confidence. With the extra impetus that goes with facing the League champions, Napoli will go all out to give their fans what they deserve – a win at home.
Team News and Tactical Brief
“The fans and I dream a dream with them” – Edinson Cavani was quoted as saying few days back. With the chance to brush shoulders with the best in the business, Napoli can look forward to a season of Champions League football. Talking about AC Milan, Cavani was a bit guarded, as he said that despite the fact that Milan are a great champion side having good players, Napoli would look to compete with everyone out there.
During their last league match against Cesena, they played in a more spread-out formation as compared to the narrower appearance during the match against Manchester City. This narrow formation while providing them more time and space on the ball in midfield, at the same time robs them of utilizing the full width of the pitch. Summer signings Inler and Pandev have settled in pretty well and Napoli will look to utilize this duo to their full potential.
Napoli is likely to go with a 3-4-2-1 formation with De Sanctis between the posts. The backline is pretty narrow with Campagnaro, Cannavaro and Aronica forming the back three. Inler and Gargano would provide a cover just in front of the central defenders, and they will be flanked by Maggio on the right and Dossena on the left. The focus will be on these two players to not only provide support to Hamsik and Pandev who will play just in front of them, but also to fall back and assist during a fast break. With Milan playing in a narrow formation, Napoli might utilize that and look to attack on the flanks. Edinson Cavani will be the lone striker upfront.
Probable starting line-up: De Sanctis(GK); Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Inler, Gargano, Dossena; Hamsik, Pandev; Cavani
The match at Camp Nou proved beyond doubt a that when Milan defends, the opposition gets few chances to score. The only momentary lapse in concentration from Silva allowed Pedro to score the first goal while the second came due to two factors – a bit of playacting from Busquets and a brilliant free kick from David Villa. Nonetheless, it showed what Milan can do even when faced with an opposition who hogged over 70% possession. Depriving the Barcelona attack of the final ball, Milan showed what an organized defense can do when faced with the best in business.
But one aspect that came out from that match was the performance of a certain player – Nocerino. In his very first appearance for the Rossoneri, he not only kept Iniesta tucked in his pocket throughout the match, but also formed a solid pairing with Van Bommel. His pace down the wing was a constant threat and the way he won the final corner, showed how much he was ready to fight for his place in the team. Another player who has eased his way into the team is Aquilani. He had a hand in each of the two goals that Milan scored in their last league game against Lazio.
Aquilani is a player who thrives in the left midfield position and also as a center attacking midfielder. With Boateng out with an unfortunate injury, Aquilani will fit in like a glove. But moving away from the midfield, an interesting development can be found down the flanks. With Abate as the right full-back and Antonini/Taiwo as the left, Milan now have two pacy players who can charge up and down the flanks. Combine them with a midfield who can assist them in 1-2 passes, these full-backs have the ability to bombard the opposition defense.
Van Bommel will be providing the defensive cover in front of the defensive duo of Nesta and Silva. Whereas the left midfield has a combination of Seedorf (slow) and Antonini/Taiwo (fast), the right midfield sees Nocerino and Abate – both fast players. However, Nocerino might need to curb his attacking instincts in order to provide a more balanced role in the midfield. The attacking duo of Pato and Cassano will be ably supported by Aquilani in a 4-3-1-2 formation, which has been almost a constant presence in Allegri’s tactics. Cassano can move to either flanks and drag a defender with him, which would leave Pato with a chance to make a fast break-through.
Probable starting line-up: Abbiati(GK); Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Antonini; Nocerino, Van Bommel, Seedorf; Aquilani; Pato, Cassano
- Napoli have scored in each of their last 11 Serie A fixtures .
- AC Milan are unbeaten in the last six Serie A meetings with Napoli.
- Napoli has beaten Milan only once in their last 16 encounters.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Nocerino and Aquilani (Milan): In the previous match against Barcelona, Nocerino proved to the lynchpin who tied down the great Iniesta. Such was his influence that Iniesta was reduced to shots from distance only. A solid performer, Nocerino would look to find his spot in the starting 11 and slowly make the transition from a substitute to a regular player. Another player to watch out for would be Alberto Aquilani. In the brief period that he has donned the Milan stripes, he has proved to more than a handful for the opposition. Apart from his two assists against Lazio, he looked good during his brief 15-minute spell against Barcelona.
Napoli 1-2 AC Milan
Although Milan started their League with a draw against Lazio, the subsequent match against the best team in the world, Barcelona reinforced their beliefs that they can beat any team on any day. Even though Napoli are not on the same level as Barcelona, Milan cannot hope to get complacent in this match. A Milan victory is on the cards as we move towards Sunday.