Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, January 6, 2013; 14:00 Hrs GMT
Although Serie A football was off action for the last couple of weeks due to the winter break, Milan made sure they stayed in the news for reasons both pertaining to football and otherwise. Kevin Prince Boateng’s bold gesture walking off the field reacting to the racial chants from the Pro Patria fans in a friendly played earlier this week has earned plaudits from every corner possible. FIFA is pretty focused about eradicating racism from the game and is taking pretty strict measures and a collective anguish demonstrated by one of the biggest clubs in the world has certainly brought the ugly side of the issue in front of everyone associated with the game. This might serve as a path to follow for the other players who are often at the receiving end of such disgraceful behaviour from the fans.
Apart from the big story of the week, Pato’s transfer that finally materialized after a whole lot of uncertainties around the move too gave the fans enough talking points when the team was away from action. The Brazilian who could never realize his true potential in Italy owing to the ever recurring injuries hopes to revive his career in his homeland. Corinthians have paid a sum of €15 M and whether the money is invested straight back into buying a replacement is only as certain as whether Pato remains fit for one full month in Brazil.
Milan seemed to have finally found the required momentum in Serie A when they registered four back to back victories – including the one over Juventus. But the humiliating defeat against Roma should have destabilized things a bit. With the transfer policies still unclear, Allegri is not sure what resources he will have at his disposal for the remainder of the season. Amidst these uncertainties, Milan host Siena and in what should be a reasonably comfortable game for Milan, Allegri must be aiming for a big win to boost the squad’s confidence.
Siena on the other hand are undergoing what has been a terrible season thus far. Having won only four of their games so far, they sit at the rock bottom of the table. The six points that had been docked after their alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal are proving too costly already as adding those to their current tally, Siena would have been – only just – but certainly out of the relegation zone. The sacking of Serse Cosmi seemed pretty imminent and he was booted after the 4-1 thrashing of the team at the hands of Fiorentina.
Under the newly appointed Giuseppe Iachini, they have certainly showed signs of more resolve but are yet to grind out a positive result. Against Lazio in the Coppa Italia knockout round, they were unfortunate to concede an injury time equalizer that allowed the capital side to take the game to the penalties where Siena failed to hold on to their nerves. Two late goals also saw Siena lose out to Napoli in the consequent game in Serie A. Playing at San Siro will be a tough test for them and realistically, their goal must be to minimize the potential damage and at most, secure a point.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Massimiliano Allegri has hardly been at ease during the season facing multiple selection dilemmas considering the fitness levels and the general lack of application and depth in his squad. However, he has preferred to stick to his 4-3-3 design once it began to click. Philippe Mexes is unavailable for selection after accumulating enough number of yellow cards to deny him a chance to participate. This might force Mattia De Sciglio to start from the centre alongside Acerbi who is the only other defender available.
Defence was often left greatly exposed in the game against Roma primarily because of the slow movement from the defenders in the central positions. To add to the side’s woes, they will be without Mario Yepes, Daniele Bonera and Cristian Zapata. With neither of the two being exceptionally good with his skills on the ball and Ambrosini slotting in at the deepest point in the three man midfield, Milan shall once again find it difficult to find any creative spark. This will compel Montolivo to drop deeper and initiate an attacking move with some incisive passing which shall again limit his contribution in the attacking half. This structure allows Milan to remain defensively solid unless put under an acid test like Roma did but the chosen players offer little on the offensive side of the game.
The midfield maintains a compact shape and that allows the fullbacks to make overlapping runs – something that is critical in this setup as Milan rely on both De Sciglio and Constant to add dimensions to the attack and link with the wide forwards. Both shall advance and find the right cross for the attackers in central positions. El Shaarawy will as usual be the main focal point of any attacking build-up and the Italian wonderkid should not fail to once again take his side home. El Shaarawy should drift inwards dragging along a defender or two with him to create more space on the left flank for Constant and Nocerino.
Though Robinho’s move away from home is only a matter of time, the negotiations have apparently halted for now. The Brazilian is still available to Allegri for this game but it looks unlikely for Allegri to start with a player who might not be with the club next weekend. Boateng and Pazzini should start in the two other positions in the three man attacking line.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Amelia; Abate, De Sciglio, Acerbi, Constant; Montolivo, Ambrosini, Nocerino; Boateng, Pazzini, El Shaarawy
The last time Siena played a game at San Siro, they came out on top beating Inter in what arguably is the upset of the season so far. The Tuscany based club will certainly want to replicate those heroics but a wise man’s bet will be on a result farthest possible from a Siena win.
In their latest loss to Napoli, vice-captain Emanuele Calaio earned a yellow that keeps him out of this contest and to cover up for him in the two man attack, young Argentine forward Marcelo Larrondo is expected to be lined up alongside the experienced Alessandro Rosina who has only scored a solitary goal in the season. The absence of Calaio shall be even more telling considering the fact that Milan are not fielding their strongest defence here. A number of teams have been seen taking advantage of the leaky defence of Milan and should Siena remain patient and persistent with their movement, they will definitely see themselves with a decent scoring opportunity or two in due time.
Iachini will continue with the 3-5-2 shape that will often fold back to 5-3-2 while Siena are off the ball. Midfield will be stuffed mainly with the intention to close the spaces where the likes of Montolivo and Nocerino can be dangerous. Siena did not particularly sit deep against Napoli but an away game of this proportion is a different ball game altogether and the players should have their orders clear about catching the languid looking Milan defence on the counter.
Siena’s three man defence made up of Neto, Paci and Felipe has spent a decent amount of time in the middle together and therefore understanding among them should not be a problem. With the wing-backs dropping deep and D’Agostino playing right in front of the defence, Siena ideally should look secure enough on the pitch but organization and discipline are the keys and it looks unlikely for them being able to keep El Shaarawy silent for too long. Siena will need to find holes in the Milan midfield and should Del Grosso and Angelo show intentions of advancing, it might keep Montolivo in good check. Bolzoni and Vergasolla will have the most critical job at hand as they will not only be expected to win the ball back but also to find the right pass and hold on to the ball enough to create space for players advancing through the flanks.
Probable Starting Lineup [3-5-2]: Pegolo; Neto, Paci, Felipe; Angelo, Bolzoni, D’Agostino, Vergasolla, Del Grosso; Rosina, Larrondo
- Milan are currently 8 points off the third place that is occupied by Fiorentina.
- Siena have won only once away from home this season and the win came over Inter at San Siro.
- Siena manager Giuseppe Iachini, in his managerial career has won promotion for Chievo, Brescia and Sampdoria.
Player To Watch Out For
It is almost impossible to look beyond Il Faraone when one talks about the chances of Milan winning a game. Milan cannot afford to drop any points in this game and a customary El Shaarawy goal will rather be a necessity rather than a luxury in order to secure the all important three points. Topping the goal-scoring charts in the Serie A at the midseason, El Shaarawy has already exceeded the expectations of the club but he cannot afford to stop here. The very first game after the break is always of great importance for any team and El Shaarawy will once again need to deliver to ensure his team starts on the right footing in the second half of the season.
Milan 3-1 Siena
Due to their defensive lapses, it is hard for Milan to maintain a clean sheet but for all the quality in their ranks, this should be one of the easier home wins in the season for the Rossoneri. The result should only add to Siena’s woes but sadly nothing else seems to be on the cards here.