NOVARA

v

AC MILAN

Stadio Silvio Piola, Novara

Sunday, January 22, 2010; 14:00 Hrs GMT

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A week after their forgetful derby loss against city rivals Internazionale, AC Milan travel to Novara to meet the Serie A newbies for the second time during the week. It took an extra-time goal from Alexandre Pato at San Siro earlier this week for Milan to go past Novara in the Coppa Italia knockout round fixture. With the win, Milan are now through to the quarter-finals where they host Lazio.

The loss to Inter last week put an end to Max Allegriai??i??s teamai??i??s unbeaten run for 12 league games and they now see themselves trailing to Juventus by one point for the race to the top spot. With the injury crisis once again having hit the dressing room, this away trip might turn out to be a tricky one for the champions and the pressure to maintain a winning momentum will not deepen whatsoever since Inter too are now within touching distance to overturn any points deficit.

Novaraai??i??s last victory in the league competition was against Parma almost two months back and Milan are the last opposition they can think of to put an end to this abysmal run. Their latest 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Cesena must have harmed their confidence to sustain in the league.

Sitting at the rock bottom of the table, another defeat will only further their problems and hence one shouldnai??i??t be surprised to see manager Attilio Tesser applying defensive tactics straightaway. Their showing against Milan in the midweek Cup game was far from disappointing and they may draw the required amount of confidence to hold on to the champions again who are in anything but the best shape.

Team News & Tactical Brief

Novara

The hosts are certainly not finding it easy to deal in the top-tier of Italian football and a lack of culture to play in the top-flight is much on show in their game. Having got a chance to feature in Serie A after more than five decades, Novara took the world by storm by defeating Inter 3-1 which successively forced an untimely sack of manager Gian Piero Gasperini and did not let the Nerazzurri find their feet in the league for a considerably long period.

However, things have not been romantic at all since then for the Piedmont based club. With a consistent dip in form and standards of performance falling, they have collected only two points off their last six games but are fortunate to face Milan at a time when the champions are dealing with a series of injury problems of their own.

Defenders Massimo Paci and Paolo Dellafiore will be serving a suspension and hence are missing out on this important game. Napoliai??i??s on-loan defender Leandro Rinaudo should start in the centre defence pairing with Matteo Centurioni. Palermoai??i??s Argentine defender Santiago Garcia who is serving a loan time will be stationed as the third centre back to ensure a solid defence. The inexperienced central defence will be flanked on the right by Michel Morganella while on the left will be Germanyai??i??s Giuseppe Gemiti. Vice-captain Carlalberto Ludi, midfielder Alex Pinardi and Andrea Lisuzzo are all doubts ahead of this game. In their absence, the Novara midfield will be should be made up of Daniel Jensen, Ivan Radovanovic and Marco Rigoni who will also double up as Central Attacking Midfielder while with possession in the opposition half.

The strike force of Andrea Caracciolo and Giuseppe Mascara will not have it easy against Milanai??i??s world class defenders and may even need to drop deep and assist the defence while Milan run the show in Novaraai??i??s half.

Probable Starting Lineup (5-3-2): Ujkani(GK); Morganella, Rinaudo, Centurioni, Garcia, Gemiti; Jensen, Radovanovic, Rigoni; Caracciolo, Mascara

AC Milan

The injury demons have once again come back haunting the Rossoneri pretty much like the last year just ahead of the most important period in a season with the knockout fixture of Champions League too inching closer. Adding to the already big list of absentees are now Alexandre Pato, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Alberto Aquilani who are believed to be missing out on a monthai??i??s football which may include the all important home leg against Arsenal in the Champions League.

After the dust around his transfer to PSG settled and fans expected him to finally live up to his true billing, Pato has once again troubled his thigh and it is certain to test the patience of fans and management now. The absence of Boateng and Aquilani at a time when there is no certainty over a possible return of Flamini and Gattuso reduces the numbers of midfielders to choose from for Allegri and it will take a brave man at this stage to rule out even a provincial teamai??i??s chances of upsetting Milan. Moreover, Cristian Abbiati too is supposed to be missing out on this trip which means Marco Amelia will start between the posts.

Adding insult to the ai???injuryai??i?? (pun strictly co-incidental), the leader of defence Alessandro Nesta will be serving a suspension and can take no part in this crucial game. However, on the positive note, Philippe Mexes will finally find himself some playing time alongside Thiago Silva ai??i?? a combination that is expected to be pivotal to Milanai??i??s defensive setup next season onwards. Ignazio Abateai??i??s mistake last week cost Milan an all important derby game and the Italian must make up for it with an outstanding performance from the flanks when his side lacks the attacking options. Luca Antonini is the much obvious choice to start from the left after the departure of Taiwo but the new signing Djamel Mesbah may start from the bench and even find himself some time on the field during the second half.

On-loan midfielders Alexander Merkel and Rodney Strasser have been recalled from Genoa and Lecce respectively and though they may not start, it will not be long before their involvement in the first team will become a necessity. However, there is a good chance Allegri will start Merkel from the Right Centre Midfield ai??i?? the position Aquilani normally operates from. Mark van Bommel and Antonio Nocerino should complete the three-man midfield whereas Clarence Seedorf might start from his favoured place in Attacking Midfield. The two-man attack will be made up of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho while Stephen El Shaarawy is certain to be seen playing in the second half.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-1-2): Amelia(GK); Abate, Mexes, Silva, Antonini; Merkel, van Bommel, Nocerino; Seedorf; Ibrahimovic, Robinho

Key Facts

  1. Novara are playing in the top most league in Italy after a gap of 55 years.
  2. Milan are presently the side with the best goal difference (20) in the league, while Novara are the ones with the worst (-17).

TheHardTackleai??i??s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Robinho (AC Milan)

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It's Time To Deliver

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The Brazilian forward has to find his long-lost scoring boots during this game as Milan are short of scoring options and to ensure Zlatan Ibrahimovicai??i??s burden to find the net is equally shouldered, Robinho must play on the top of his game. His contribution to the movement in Milanai??i??s game and his effective final touch inside the box will be crucial to Milanai??i??s hopes to find three points from this trip.

TheHardTackleai??i??s PREDICTION

Novara 0-2 AC Milan

Though ravaged by injuries and a lost momentum of late, Milan might do just about enough to clinch three points from the game. The tempo and pace of the game is expected to be uninteresting and languid but Milan wonai??i??t mind that as long as the ultimate aim of maintaining pressure on Juventus at the top is being taken care of.

TheHardTackleai??i??s BLAST FROM THE PAST

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