Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Sunday, December 9, 2012; 14:00 Hrs GMT
Pretty similar to Milan, the city of Turin too carries great historical significance in Italian football. However, while both the teams from Milan have continued to be two of the best sides in Europe over the years, it is only Juventus that still remains a strong representation from Turin. The ‘other’ club from the city – Torino FC – has once again earned their position to play in the top flight after having spent three seasons in the second division.
This weekend sees one of the Milan teams travel to Turin to face the lesser fancied opposition from the city as Max Allegri’s men lock horns with Torino in what is expected to be a continuation of their revival after the disastrous start to the season. A minor hiccup came in the form of another home defeat during the midweek as Milan lost to Zenit in the final group game of the Champions League, albeit there were hardly any consequences of this outcome since Milan had already secured their qualification to the next level.
Despite a good run of results of late, Milan is still an article in progress and Allegri will be heavily banking on producing a result against an opposition that isn’t in the best of the shapes. The hosts on the other hand are finding it hard in the top division after starting the campaign brightly. Though their opposition for Saturday have considerably improved over the last few games, they still could not have asked for a weaker Milan side to face.
Team News & Tactical Brief
The hosts are coming into this game on the back of a heartbreaking derby defeat against Juventus. Torino did show some resolve for a good part of the first half before defender Kamil Gilk’s tackle on Giaccherini saw his side lose out on numbers. The numerical disadvantage did the team in and Torino went on to concede three in the second half.
The 4-4-2 formation that easily transforms into a 4-2-4 when they push forward is the one preferred by the coach Giampiero Ventura and he is expected to deploy the same against Milan. Torino have not won any of their last four games and an observation of their gameplay suggests their tendency to stuff numbers in the middle of the park and block the spaces, effectively to reduce the passing options for the oppositions. Against the stronger sides, Torino have always had the inferior possession stat to show for which reflects they won’t be pressing high up the pitch, allowing the opposition midfield to patiently build-up play.
However, there’s a difference here as they gear up to face Milan. The likes of Roma, Inter, Juventus and Fiorentina possess a highly penetrative midfield that keeps those teams pretty mobile. Milan on the other hand rely too much on their front three to find the creative spark and especially in the likely absence of Montolivo, the midfield will look even further static. Torino might fancy their chances to venture forward here from time to time and put pressure on the Milan defence that has never looked at ease all the season.
The central midfield pairing of Gazzi and Basha will maintain an average position a good 20 yards far from their counterparts and it should propel them to show more intent with the greater scope of playing a passing game. Torino will be particularly wary of the movements of the Milan forward line and that should keep the midfield in check at all times. Though Milan do not pose enough threat for the hosts to mark the zone at any stage in the game, the central defence will nevertheless not lose the sight of a certain El Shaarawy.
The defence will be missing Gilk and he shall be replaced by the experienced yet out of favour Valerio Di Cesare. Angelo Ogbonna, who has been on the radar of Milan, would be eager to face his potential suitors and he’s certainly someone who could negate the impact of an impressive looking attacking trident of Milan. The full backs will definitely venture into advanced positions but since their midfield takes a narrow shape while attacking, the defence could be left exposed should the full backs fail to track back in time. The two pronged attack should continue to see the combination of Meggiorini and Bianchi. The latter with four goals to his name is the top scorer for Torino this season.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-4-2]: Gillet; Darmian, Di Cesare, Ogbonna, D’Ambrosio; Cerci, Basha, Gazzi, Santana; Meggiorini, Bianchi
With two back to back wins in the league, the momentum has definitely swung in favour of Milan and they must not lose it as they set to face one of the weaker oppositions in the league. Of their next four games, three are against Torino, Pescara and Siena and that presents Milan with a great opportunity to climb up comfortably, back into the top bracket if all the possible points are won out of these games.
Allegri is unlikely to make any changes with his formation but once again we should see different faces occupying the positions in 4-3-3 as the manager has to deal with injuries and suspensions. Allegri used Boateng at the tip of the attacking three in his previous two games but right after finding his first goal in the season, the Ghanaian earned a suspension that will see him sit out of this game. Riccardo Montolivo – the midfield general for the Rossoneri – is expected to be unavailable for this game after the minor hamstring injury he picked up against Catania.
The return of Ignazio Abate provides Allegri with options for selection but as of now Mattia Di Sciglio has made the Right Back position pretty much his own. Kevin Constant too should continue to complement him from the other flank while the return of Mexes and Yepes means the central defensive positions will see the more experienced names, unlike the last couple of games.
In the absence of Montolivo, Nocerino should start from the right of the midfield three which is his more preferred position. De Jong will operate at the deepest point in midfield while his Dutch compatriot Urby Emanuelson will start from the left. While De Jong will aim at aiding numbers to the the central defence by dropping deep, it is unclear what exactly will be expected out of Nocerino. He has been largely clueless this season as is neither effective advancing forward nor does enough in the ball winning battles near the half line.
Stephan El Shaarawy will continue to lead the Milan attack from the left and much like he has been doing in every game, he will be the focal point of every attacking build-up. Bojan should start from the centre and the attack will be completed by Robinho on the right. The Brazilian should often be seen exchanging positions with the ex-Barcelona man but given his abysmal finishing abilities, it is in the best interest of Milan that Robinho stays as far away from the sight of the goal as possible.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Mexes, Yepes, Constant; Nocerino, De Jong, Emanuelson; Robinho, Bojan, El Shaarawy
- Torino have averaged 11 shots per game this season but only 4 of them have been on target.
- Torino have managed to win only 2 of their home games in the season while Milan have won only 2 on the road.
- After Filippo Inzaghi in 2003, no Italian playing for Milan has managed to score against Torino while travelling.
Players To Watch Out For
Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
The defender has been one of the success stories from the club as he’s received plaudits from every corner in Italy. Cesare Prandelli has continuously considered him for the national squad and that speaks volumes for his talent and application. Milan and a number of other clubs have an eye on him as they are yet to find a like for like replacement for Thiago Silva and that should be an added motivation for the young Italian to deliver a performance in this fixture that matches the reputation he has lately earned.
Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan)
Nobody would even dare to imagine what the season could have been like for Milan, if not for their young talisman. El Shaarawy has been simply sensational and his goal scoring form is only an added incentive. To unsettle the Torino defence, ‘Il Faraone’ will once again need to be on top of his game and much like it has been all through the season, he should be the sole warrior fighting up front for Milan.
Torino 1-2 Milan
Ultimately, Milan should do enough to earn the highest reward but the going won’t be easy by any means. Milan should concede first like they usually have been doing but in a characteristic manner, they should shift gears as the game progresses and grind out another right result.
Blast From The Past