Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Wednesday; September 26, 2012;
18:45 Hrs GMT
After a 2-1 defeat in Friuli at the hands of Udinese, Milan have now confirmed the worst of the fears of the fans having collected only three points in the first four games of the season. With three defeats, Milan have exposed enough leaks in the defence and their performance in the opposition half has clearly shown they are a far inferior team in the absence of a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. According to Adriano Galliani, Allegri has certainly not run short of the management’s confidence but another disappointing result may well change that statement.
The new signings are clearly not of the required merit to represent a club of the stature of Milan and players like Nocerino and Boateng who were extremely impressive during the last season, are finding the going pretty difficult in an Ibra-less world.
The new turf that was installed at San Siro earlier this summer has been anything but auspicious for either of the hosts as both Milan and Inter have managed to lose both the home games played so far. The semi-artificial pitch that replaced the much maligned surface of the last season is making life difficult for the tenants at San Siro. Amidst these turbulent times, Milan host Cagliari for the fifth round of games hoping to register their first victory of the season.
Cagliari on the other hand are not any better placed in comparison to Milan. The latest controversy surrounding the health of their stadium and the criticized behaviour of their president Massimo Cellino has not helped the matters at all. The cancellation of the scheduled game compelled the FIGC to award Roma a priceless 0-3 away victory and added salt to Cagliari’s wounded start to the season. The Sardinian side is currently placed 17th on the league table having accumulated only 2 points so far.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Max Allegri was heavily criticized for his insistence on his favoured tactical formation and lacking flexibility in his ideas. However, against Udinese he deployed a different shape but the lack of depth in quality is becoming a major bottleneck for Allegri at the moment. Milan desperately need defensive assurance for their midfielders to offer more on the creative front. Presently, Allegri is not at the luxury to deploy midfielders of an attacking nature.
Riccardo Montolivo was perhaps the only bright spark in the game against Udinese and he should continue to be the midfield lynchpin for the hosts on Wednesday. Starting in the Right Centre Midfielder’s role, Montolivo should be accompanied by Nigel De Jong at the deepest point in the center midfield. De Jong is pretty rough in his defensive approach but has so far failed to provide the central defence with any real protective shield. The third spot in the central midfield on the left will be occupied by Nocerino who will concentrate much more on linking up with more advanced players in the final third.
The front three should comprise of Emanuelson, Pazzini and El Shaarawy with Pazzini being the focal point in the attack. Stephan El Shaarawy scored from an absolutely thunderous strike against Udinese and is expected to be the creative spark in the opposition half for Milan. He has to link up with the midfield and create space and take the markers away from the central attacking line. The formation however is likely to change into a 4-3-1-2 as the game progresses with Emanuelson dropping a little deep to play behind the forwards and the attack being operated by Pazzini and El Shaarawy.
Robinho is expected to start this game from bench and his along with the inclusion of Bojan later on in the game may add the required potency to the attack. Milan need to convert chances at all costs in this game. The absence of Boateng shouldn’t matter much since the Ghanaian has so far had a far from impressive season.
The back four has failed to generate any confidence so far and Allegri is once again likely to make some changes here. Abate had a fairly average game against Udinese and considering his abysmal crossing abilities, Mattia De Sciglio might be given a nod ahead of him with Antonini manning the opposite flank. Cristian Zapata was offered a start on the weekend but the suspension that he earned shall keep him out of this contest – not that he would otherwise have certainly earned his place. Phillipe Mexes and Daniele Bonera should be starting at the heart of the defence.
Allegri has been denied to take charge of the bench in this game after having been suspended for one game for his misconduct against the referee during the game against Udinese. Mauro Tassoti should handle the proceedings.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Abbiati; De Sciglio, Mexes, Bonera, Antonini; Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino; Emanuelson, Pazzini, El Shaarawy
Much like their hosts, Cagliari too have had the trickiest of starts to their Serie A campaign and the latest controversy has only added to their troubles. There are no certainties over the crowd’s response in their upcoming home games and in midweek they are travelling to a place that has at least historically been pretty unkind to the teams that paid visit.
Cagliari are yet to register a win this season but the recent triumphs at San Siro by the pedestrian teams might give them a ray of hope to at least salvage a point. Milan are in the worst possible shape and Cagliari could not have asked for a better time to visit the San Siro.
Massimo Ficcadenti should line up his troops in a 4-3-3 despite the unavailability of the ace forward Andrea Cossu. Columbian striker Victor Ibarbo should replace him in the starting lineup accompanied in the attack by Mauricio Pinilla and Thiago Ribeiro. The midfield should comprise the trio of Conti, Ekdal and Nainggolan. The midfield in particular will be extremely important to create opportunities against a defence that is leaking goals aplenty these days. Should Cagliari be able to put Milan on back-foot, it will be very difficult for the hosts to stage a comeback.
Cagliari’s defence needs to be extremely alert against the movements of El Shaarawy. Pazzini will not be of much trouble unless he is offered space. Milan academy product Davide Astori will once again be at the centre of Cagliari’s defence and has a good chance to impress the Milan management who may well engineer a move for the defender in the winter. Astori will be accompanied by Rossettini in the centre and the pair will be flanked by Perico and Pisano on each end.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Agazzi; Perico, Rossettini, Astori, Pisano; Ekdal, Conti, Nainggolan; Ribeiro, Pinilla, Ibarbo
Player To Watch Out For
Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan)
The young Italian forward is the man Milan are gathering their hopes upon to turn things around in their favour. The first home win is extremely critical for the season and it can no longer be delayed. For Milan to accomplish this, El Shaarawy has to be on top of his game and create a moment of genius like he did the other day in Udine.
Milan 1-0 Cagliari
Enough should be enough and it is time Milan delivered at home. Though any side would relish at playing San Siro at the moment given the conditions Milan find themselves in, Cagliari, if anything, are only in a worse state of affairs. This game should act as a morale booster for the Rossoneri and give them the required impetus to get the season back on track. Though Milan should be far from convincing, a Pazzini chip should at least seal three points at home.