Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania
Sunday, December 1, 2013; 11:30 Hrs GMT
The rarity of a win has been so frustrating this season, any positive result seems like an occasion of celebration for Milan. The midweek Champions League triumph in Scotland was one such rare moments from the season. The team delivered a performance that exceeded expectations and although it will take some more effort at San Siro to book a berth to the next stage of the tournament, Milan have at least dropped some hints of shifting gears.
However, the bigger developments – the off-field ones – have for the time being, reserved more media space for them as Adriano Galliani, the CEO, the vice-president and most importantly the most recognizable face of the club for last 27 years has announced his parting following the Ajax game. This confirms the strength in Barbara Berlusconi’s proposed plans of an overhaul – if Galliani cannot survive, one may doubt nobody else will. The management is expected to see a change of magnanimous proportions and rumours very strongly suggest, Paolo Maldini’s return to the club is a matter of time now. By the time you read this, the city’s greatest son might very well have been inducted into the board.
But as far as Max Allegri is concerned, it will be vital on his part to ensure his players do not lose focus on the job at hand – that is to maintain the momentum from Glasgow on their trip to Sicily and translate that into a result that helps Milan scale up the table a bit. Catania, Milan’s hosts for the weekend are rather surprisingly caught in a quagmire that makes it harder and harder for them to step out of the dreaded R-zone and they would surely not want to be the team Milan started their turnaround against.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Finishing at a respectable 8th position last season, only a few points outside the Europa League qualifying bracket, what Catania are going through today is unimaginable to most who closely follow Italian football. The club therefore finds itself in a fairly unfamiliar territory as survival in the top flight has hardly been threatened in the last few seasons. In fact, after the breakthrough season that the last one was, where the team managed to amass the highest number of points in one full season in the club’s history, things should have ideally taken off in a completely different direction.
But such has been their fate that Rolando Maran, the architect of their success last season has already seen the worst and a string of abysmal performances has duly cost him his job. Maran had in fact gelled an admirable unit out of a few above average players and was taking the project that Montella had laid the foundation for to another level. However, his fate would soon take a nosedive and the results are quite apparent. Maran’s replacement Luigi De Canio is not at ease with his new employers either and is yet to show any promise with this bunch of players who are clearly short of ideas and direction.
De Canio has carried forward with the 4-3-3 formation during his brief time in charge of the club and it doesn’t look like changing against Milan. The manager may have done his homework from the Champions League game Milan played and it will not be very hard to determine that the hosts for Sunday have limited resources to create something out of the midfield. The attackers usually need to drop deep and engage into the build-up to the goal. De Canio’s primary goal will be to mark the movements of Kaka and keep a tight watch on Birsa. Catania’s three man midfield constituting Plasil, Tachtsidis and Guarente would hence be stationed deep into their own half and be ordered not to try to be overly adventurous. Milan’s Achilles’ heel has been defending set-pieces and Catania might want to derive some inspiration out of their last season’s performance at San Siro, which although ended in a defeat, took Milan some real effort to get anything out of.
Maxi Lopez, former Sampdoria and Milan forward, will be at the forefront of the attacking trident and will fancy his chances against a defence that doesn’t inspire any confidence whatsoever.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Andujar; Alvarez, Legrottaglie, Gyomber, Capuano; Plasil, Tachtsidis, Guarente; Castro, Lopez, Barrientos
With the confirmed departure of Adriano Galliani later this season, Max Allegri may not be feeling all that safe anymore. And in order to ensure he holds on to the job for as long as possible, he has no time to lose. The results have to be delivered straightaway and some sort of consistency in performances has to be found. It’s been more than a month and five games to be exact since Milan last registered a league win and these details are rather staggering.
Things only get worse with the news that Allegri will be forced to field an entirely makeshift defensive line for the fixture with the absence of three first choice defenders – Mexes and Abate being unavailable for selection on fitness grounds whereas Zapata will be serving his one game suspension. The experienced Daniele Bonera will therefore lead the central defence accompanied by the newly acquired Matias Silvestre. Midfielder Andrea Poli is likely to be slotted in as Right Back in the absence of Abate and De Sciglio, while Emanuelson should continue to start from the left.
The change in position for Poli means Nocerino will receive a nod to start alongside Montolivo and De Jong in the midfield. Montolivo’s form in particular has been a great cause for concern as he is one of the few players in the current roster capable of injecting life to an otherwise lacklustre setup. De Jong has been doing his job just about fine but a little more show of intent while on the ball won’t hurt.
Kaka’s resurgence has easily been the story of the season for the away side and once again a lot will depend on his individual exploits. Valter Birsa, after scoring a couple of splendid goals early into the season has dried up a bit but his role is still an important one. Balotelli is the main focal point in the attack and must rise to the challenge by putting the disappointments of last few weeks behind him.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-2-1]: Abbiati; Poli, Bonera, Silvestre, Emanuelson; Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino; Birsa, Kaka; Balotelli
Player To Watch Out For
Call it the hunger to prove to the world he’s still got it or call it the desire to make it to Scolari’s final list, Kaka has surely been the biggest influence on Milan’s season and watching him makes you feel he deserves better from his team. Once again, his performance will determine what Milan take out of their trip to Sicily. Going by his form, the hosts will be in for a tough afternoon dealing with his trickery and shooting.
Catania 1-1 Milan
Signs of improvement had been on show in Glasgow but surely an Italian side, no matter what their state, will show more tactical alertness than Celtic did the other night. Milan’s profligacy in front of goal needs no further remarks and a defensive pairing that is teaming up for the first time in the season will allow Catania to create chances from time to time. This has a scoring draw written all over it.