Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, May 12th, 2013; 18:45 Hrs GMT
With a win in the penultimate round, Milan should secure their Champions League playoff qualification with one more game to go and the coveted spot shall be out of Fiorentina’s reach even mathematically. But the biggest possible hurdle in the form of Roma stands in their way and Allegri’s men should leave no stone unturned to produce the required goods at San Siro this Sunday and mark the best possible end to an absolutely emphatic season that this one has been.
Leaving things too late and making it a must win situation against Siena on the final match-day might not be too tempting for Milan. They should aim to capitalize both on their own solid home record in the second half of the season as well as on Roma’s apparent defensive inconsistencies. However, Roma play a very attractive brand of high intensity football and Milan were quite brutally handed over a spanking by them in the corresponding fixture just before the winter break last year.
After a dramatic last gasp win over Fiorentina, Roma succumbed to a shock defeat at home at the hands of Chievo – yet another sign of their sinusoidal progress in the season. The loss now places Roma seventh on the table sharing points with arch rivals Lazio. Roma are still in with a chance to make it to Europa League next season but that might not exactly be their bone of contention as of now. With a squad that is second best only to Juventus on paper, they have terribly underachieved and there is a great amount of thinking to do with the overall approach of the club. But as of now, their focus should remain on putting in yet another delightful performance against Milan and if they can register a second victory in the season at San Siro, it will certainly be one of the more positive takeaways from the season.
Team News & Tactical Brief
There are no signs of Montolivo regaining the fitness yet and hence Milan will have to do with an all-destroyer midfield. However, Mathieu Flamini has done quite well putting on his scoring boots of late. The former Arsenal man has been effective going forward as he’s been decisive with his runs inside the box and gets into good positions to be at the receiving end of those chances created from the flanks. Alongside Flamini, Muntari and Nocerino shall complete the midfield. Nocerino’s future with the club is still unclear and should he harbour the hopes of extending his stay with the Rossoneri, these are his opportunities to emulate his form of the last season. He has never been known for his positional sense and solidity in the middle of the park but he is still a handy backup option for Milan considering his attacking prowess. Muntari will be the only out and out defensive dimension in the three man midfield for this game.
There is absolutely no doubt about the very apparent superiority that Roma possess in their own midfield ranks. They are wonderful passers of the ball but often over-commit themselves in the attack and are found wanting on the counter. This is where the ball lies in Milan’s court but given the fact there is no other decent passing outlet in the absence of Montolivo, Milan might struggle to invent the goal-scoring chances. This might also force Boateng to drop deep from his regular attacking position on the right and engage much more in the ball winning duels and redirect the play towards the more advancing players through the flanks. Should Abate and De Sciglio press the Roma wing enough, the visitors might start to run out of ideas as that will considerably deny them the possession they’d wish for.
With Mexes returning to the side, Milan will once again be able to field their first choice defence in the center. The former Roma man is often error prone and his momentary lapse in concentration might prove to be pretty costly for Milan. The fullbacks will play a very crucial role both in defence as well as in attack. De Sciglio in particular will need to frequent the opposition half from time to time and overlap El Shaarawy taking the markers away from the little pharaoh. Since the derby in the month of February, El Shaarawy has not scored a league goal and the lack of confidence clearly has started to show in his game. He’s still a very important player for Milan but should he fail to put in an impressive performance, Allegri is likely to once again resort to the introduction of Giampaolo Pazzini in the second half.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Abbiati(GK); Abate, Mexes, Zapata, De Sciglio; Flamini, Muntari, Nocerino; Boateng, Balotelli, El Shaarawy
Stand-in manager Aurelio Andreazzoli is perhaps serving for the last few minutes in his role at the Roma bench and he is expected to go back to his previous second-in-command position at the club once a permanent recruitment is made in the summer. Post the horrid times earlier in the year that saw the sacking of Zdenek Zeman, Andreazzoli’s task was pretty much cut out. He needed to bring back organization in this side and while there may be debates over how exactly has he fared better than Zeman, his side certainly looks more disciplined.
However, watertight defence is not created overnight and it will certainly take Roma time to instill that solidity. Unfortunately, there is very little they could do to revamp the season and they’re almost fighting a lost cause since a Europa League spot can hardly be a satisfactory ending to a season that started with title ambitions. They may very well play the party-poppers though for their hosts on Sunday. A win for Roma and should Fiorentina too secure the required result will mean Milan will have a must win game on their cards on their trip to Siena on the final game-week of the season.
Pretty similar to their opponents for the night, Roma too will line up in a 4-3-3 formation but with their midfield being significantly more assertive in attack when compared to Milan. De Rossi, Bradley and Florenzi are all wonderful on the ball but save De Rossi, the other two are slightly suspect off it. Roma have some of the most exciting flair players in their roster and two of those form the attacking crux. Erik Lamela, arguably the best young player in Serie A, has slowed down a bit in the latter half of the season but is a deadly weapon going forward and taking his position on the other flank is the ever green Francesco Totti. In fact, Totti often drifts more toward the center forcing the opposition defence lose its shape and then feeds those delicious balls to the forwards. Osvaldo has been in a good goal-scoring touch lately and he will lead the line from center.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Lobont(GK); Torosidis, Marquinhos, Castan, Balzaretti; Bradley, De Rossi, Florenzi; Lamela, Osvaldo, Totti
- Roma have scored the second most number of goals (69) in this campaign.
- While on road, Roma are with a negative goal difference (-1).
- Milan have not lost at home since the 12th round in the league.
Players To Watch Out For
Undoubtedly, he is the key reason for the turnaround in fortune that Milan have seen since the turn of the year. As Milan sit on the verge of Champions League entry, Balotelli will once again be the man of prime focus and he must deliver to ensure a safe passage to Europe. He averages a goal per game in his Milan career so far and he’d certainly love to maintain and even better the ratio.
Francesco Totti (Roma)
Zdenek Zeman’s system was primarily the reason Totti could reclaim himself this season and despite the Czech’s sacking, the Roma skipper has continued his rich vein of form. He has scored some of the most crucial goals this season and an odd one here may spoil the party for Milan. The San Siro faithful must not have forgotten the second half winner that Totti had scored on Maldini’s farewell game at the stadium four years ago.
Milan 2 – 2 Roma
It should definitely be a high intensity battle and goals should come thick and fast. Milan should do everything in their power to settle the Champions League race by this week but they might need to do their bit in Tuscany in the following round against Siena.
Blast From The Past