Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Saturday, November 2, 2013; 19:45 Hrs GMT
With every game they play, Milan leave you with more questions than answers – and that is regardless of the results. The defeat to Parma last week after what was a pulsating second half was followed by another uninspiring performance against Lazio. Kaka’s delightful strike was cancelled out by the visitors courtesy just another routine failure in maintaining a defensive shape. For the fourth straight time under Max Allegri’s charge, Milan have gotten off to a disastrous start to their season and while fans are still optimistic about the coach resurrecting things in due course of time, the question that matters is, will that be just enough.
Fiorentina on the other hand, haven’t gotten off to an exactly dream start either. Their most recent loss to Napoli at home has now pushed them to the sixth spot on the table – a point below Inter and Verona. Vincenzo Montella’s revolution in Florence has been quite highly regarded by the experts the world over but his side is still adjusting this season with the life beyond Jovetic and Ljajic. Mario Gomez, one of the bigger acquisitions across the league, has been sidelined for a while and it doesn’t look like he’ll have any part to play on Saturday.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Kaka’s return to the side was met with some inevitable scepticism from several corners but his performances so far have been inspiring. His goal last weekend was a result of genuine, consistent efforts at sparking some life into what was a rather toothless performance. What’s noticeable is Allegri hasn’t succumbed to the President’s demands at bringing in tactical changes to accommodate Kaka in the setup. Instead, Kaka has been asked to adjust to what is the most suitable formation currently, given the technical limitations of the squad. Kaka has so far responded admirably to the challenge as his movement, passing and intelligence have all been dropping hints of a possible comeback that might see Milan attain a respectable position as the season progresses.
However, the problem these days is there are ten more who too are on the field. Mario Balotelli, the protagonist of Milan’s last season’s phenomenal turnaround, has been indifferent and far from the special talent that he is. His antics and theatrics inside the penalty box have duly been criticized even within the Milan circles. The unavailability of El Shaarawy only furthers the problems since the quality options are limited anyway. Birsa has been impressive in patches but keeping the Barcelona fixture in mind, Allegri is likely to give a nod to Robinho to start ahead of the Slovenian.
Pretty much like every other department on the field, the midfield too has failed to make its mark. Skipper Riccardo Montolivo has seen a slight dip in form on the creative front. Nigel De Jong has performed consistently in his role but the third slot is still anyone’s for the taking. Muntari might be preferred one more time ahead of Andrea Poli but that will only be another of Allegri’s decisions that one fail to come to terms with. The three will be up against one of the most fluid and cohesive midfield units in Serie A and it is almost a no-brainer who holds an upper hand.
Coming to the defence, in the list of Milan Lab’s seasonal exploits, Mattia De Sciglio has once again been deemed unfit to play any role in this game. That surely implies Kevin Constant shall start on the left which in turn implies a lot of things Milan fans do not want to know. Mexes continues to serve his suspension which ensures the central defence is in no better shape than any other area on the pitch. In his absence, Zaccardo will take the guard teaming up with Zapata while Abate continues to start from the right and not cross.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Gabriel; Abate, Zaccardo, Zapata, Constant; Montolivo, De Jong, Muntari; Robinho, Balotelli, Kaka
Montella is one of most the tactically profound managers in the game today. Not only have the signings made under him been shrewd and effective, his tactical adjustments too have been top notch. Easily one of the most aesthetic sides in Europe last season, Fiorentina must realize, that alone won’t be enough for the second time running. The results will have to be produced even if they compromise slightly on the alluring brand of football.
Cuadrado has been the heartbeat of this Fiorentina side under Montella and his absence will play a huge role against Milan. Montella is thus, likely to be forced to switch to a narrower formation. In Gomez’s absence, Giuseppe Rossi will lead the one man attack while Valero and Joaquin will both be slotted in behind him in what would perhaps replicate the Christmas Tree of Carlo Ancelotti.
Former Milan skipper Massimo Ambrosini has been enjoying an extended run of playing time and he will continue to start on the left of midfield in the company of Pizarro and Aquilani. Barring Ambrosini, every other Fiorentina midfielder boasts of an eye for a pass and should find no real problems in adjusting to this minor tactical change. The visitors will still continue to rely on their strength on the flank, as Pasqual will not wait too long before overlapping Ambrosini from the left.
The Viola defence has not been the strongest by any account and should Milan find any momentum going their way, it will be difficult to contain them. Savic and Rodriguez will be at the heart of the defence with Tomovic flanking them on the right.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-2-1-]: Neto; Tomovic, Rodriguez, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Ambrosini; Valero, Joaquin; Rossi
Players To Watch Out For
Although it will be premature to say he has turned the clocks back, Kaka certainly looks determined to prove a point. Keeping in mind the fact he does desire to feature in perhaps one last World Cup, his hunger doesn’t look like drying up any time soon and should that be the case, Milan are going to be greatly benefited by it. At this stage, a win is of paramount importance and a good showing from Kaka is almost inevitable for that to happen.
Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina)
He is back and how! Arguably the best Italian prodigy of his generation, Rossi was unfortunate to have lost so much of critical playing time during the last two years. His return to the Serie A this season however has been nothing short of sensational and you should be least surprised if in very near future, his move to Florence is placed in the league of the biggest transfer coups of all time. He is one man in this lineup Milan need to be extremely watchful of.
Milan 1-3 Fiorentina
Milan have failed to show any signs to inspire any sort of confidence whatsoever. The team looks jaded on the field, lacks the cohesion and very simply put, doesn’t match this Fiorentina side on the talent front either. This result could trigger some rather decisive measures in the next few hours.