March 19, 2011, 19:45 GMT
With the toughest part of the season finally behind Milan, they can look forward to continue their domination in the Italian league starting this weekend against Palermo. The last week, they had a glorious chance to run away with the title, but instead could only manage a draw against relegation-threatened Bari, that too at the San Siro. That draw even came at the cost of a red for Milan’s top marksman, Ibrahimovic.
Palermo on the other hand, are in a totally different world altogether. Being unsuccessful is one thing, but being hopelessly thrashed is another. In their last home game against Udinese, the visitors literally toyed with them and the final score line was a jaw-dropping 7-0.
Team news and tactical brief
With only the League title and Coppa Italia to focus on, Milan would be raring to have a go at all the remaining matches this season. A draw here and there won’t hurt too much as long as they have a healthy cushion of points at the top. After this match against Palermo, Milan go into a mini-hibernation period for a fortnight after which they host last year’s winner Internazionale at the Giuseppe Meazza. However, the odds are stacked against Milan in the form that they have not won at Renzo Barbera since February 26, 2006. Both of the goal-scorers from that match, Shevchenko and Inzaghi are not on the team list now. A five-year drought is a long time and Milan would look to rectify that gap when they travel to Sicily.
With a three-match ban slapped on Ibrahimovic, it remains to be seen how Cassano and Pato would get together. Allegri was quietly optimistic about facing Palermo. Speaking to reporters, he said “Tomorrow’s match will be difficult because Palermo have a lot of quality in attack and in midfield. I feel it is an important game for the championship and to go into the break in a relaxed manner. We talked a lot after the Bari game and now we have to look at only the positive things.” He even went to the extent of pointing out specific threats from the opposition which included the likes of Miccoli, Pastore, Ilicic, Pinilla and Hernandez. With the center-back duo of Nesta and Silva back in business, it would be huge boost for the men in red-and-black at the back. That duo has been the most successful in the League thus far conceding the least number of goals. With Abate at right and Antonini on left, Milan would go for a tried and tested 4-3-1-2 formation, with Seedorf playing the trequistera. That move might look to backfire with Seedorf being considerably slow in movement in recent games. Fortunately, Milan can look up to Boateng to replace him in the second half. Van Bommel, Gattuso and Flamini would form the heart of the midfield. Pato would play as the center forward and Cassano would be back in usual role as the second striker. The word “cup-tied” is no longer meaningful for Milan, so Emanuelson can look at an extended run in the second half.
Possible Starting line-up: Abbiati (GK), Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini, Gattuso, Van Bommel, Flamini, Seedorf, Pato, Cassano
Things are looking pretty bleak for the Rosaneros since their victory over Lecce on February 6th. Since then, they have not scored even once and have conceded 11 in the process. Newly appointed coach Serse Cosmi sounded upbeat about taking Milan head on when he said “Facing Milan is even more motivation for the players. We want to get back to winning ways and give our fans something to cheer about. In the longer term we have two objectives: to get into a league position where this team deserves to be and look at all ways to get a great result in the Tim Cup. I am absolutely convinced that if our team plays to its full potential we can beat any opponent in our league.” With only 9 games to go, there is very little margin of error for Cosmi and his players.
A 3-4-1-2 formation looks likely with Pastore playing in the hole behind the two strikers, Pinilla and Miccoli. Muñoz, Goian and Migliaccio would form the Palermo back-line which would look to contain the likes of Cassano and Pato. The midfield for this game would comprise of Darmian, Bacinovic, Nocerino and Balzaretti.
Possible Starting line-up: Sirigu (GK), Muñoz, Goian, Migliaccio, Darmian, Bacinovic, Nocerino, Balzaretti, Pastore, Pinilla, Miccoli
1. Milan’s highest away victory margin was 3-0 against Bologna.
2. Palermo has a goal-difference of minus 2, whereas Milan enjoy the league highest of 30.
3. Ibrahimovic is the leading goal-scorer for Milan with 14 strikes even though he has failed to find the back of the net all March.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Antonio Cassano (Milan)
He has performed outstandingly ever since his making a move to Milan earlier this season and presently has two goals to his name along with a handful of wonderful assists. He’s a joy to watch and would surely grab the highlight when he gets on the field this Saturday.
Palermo 0-2 AC Milan
A victory looks on the cards for Milan. Already five points clear at the top with 9 games to go, a comfortable victory against Palermo would heap more pressure on the rest of the league to catch up.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
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