Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Friday, March 8, 2013; 19:45 Hrs GMT
Ahead of their visit to Genoa, AC Milan, despite having enjoyed an enviable 2013 so far, find themselves with certain avoidable problems off the field. Club President Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced for a year over his company’s alleged involvement in publishing the transcript of a leaked wiretap in reference to a banking scandal from 2006. However, Berlusconi is expected to successfully delay the sentencing by appealing against the decision in the higher courts and perhaps may even see things through before a statute of limitations is applied against the verdict.
But the news shouldn’t unsettle fans much since the club is riding high on the back of an impressive run of results. Their latest demolition of Lazio has now placed Milan third on the table and considering their recent form, they should hold on to the final Champions League spot for a while. Milan are facing their toughest test next week against Barcelona and a win over Genoa should help the team start the big game at Camp Nou on the right footing.
Genoa have spent some time this season battling to stay out of the relegation zone but as of now they are placed five points clear of the 18th placed Siena. Their priority this season is undoubtedly securing a place in the top division and will leave no stone unturned in churning out maximum points possible at least in their home games.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Considered an ally of Milan with the number of players exchanged between the two clubs over the last few seasons, Genoa have even helped Milan with their performances on the field of late. Their wins over Lazio and Udinese have significantly worked in Milan’s favour as they have now temporarily cemented the third spot. However, Genoa have remained winless in their last two games and even suffered a defeat at the hands of Roma in their latest outing to the capital city.
After the disastrous managerial tenure of Luigi Delneri, Genoa have considerably stabilized but are still far from feeling safe. Davide Ballardini has chosen to play a three-man backline and he is expected to continue with the same against Milan. Andreas Granqvist makes a comeback to the starting lineup and he will be joined in defence by Portanova and Moretti. The defensive line will have a tough time dealing with the in-form Milanese attack and their wing-backs will have to drop to negate Milan’s threat from the flank, giving the formation a 5-3-1-1 look from time to time.
The midfield will play an extremely crucial role, should Genoa aim to earn at least a point out of this game. The hosts must score first and put Milan under the pressure to chase the game. The urge to grind out a result might even force Milan to commit more men forward and given their lack of defensive discipline, that might allow Genoa more penetration on the counters. The Rossoblu must press Riccardo Montolivo to ensure the Italian doesn’t enjoy the time and space behind the ball. The flanks will be marshalled by Pisano and Antonelli and the latter in particular will have to deal with the dual pressure of El Shaarawy and De Sciglio. In the absence of Juraj Kucka, Hungarian midfielder Daniel Tozser will have a crucial role to play.
Roma youth product Andrea Bertolacci will start in the attack alongside Marco Borriello. The two will be looking at exploiting the lack of solidity in the Milan defence, particularly their lack of organization while defending from set pieces.
Probable Starting Lineup: Frey; Granqvist, Portanova, Moretti; Pisano, Rossi, Tozser, Vargas, Antonelli; Bertolacci; Borriello
Keeping the Barcelona fixture in mind, Allegri might have chosen to rest a few key players in this game but the injury to Balotelli may not allow him the luxury to rotate. The attacking line shall therefore comprise of Boateng, Pazzini and El Shaarawy – the one that is expected to be fielded at Camp Nou too three days later. Pazzini had grabbed the headlines after his brace against Lazio and Milan will depend on his goal-scoring form to earn a positive result out of this game.
El Shaarawy shall look to exploit the space left behind on the flanks by the wingbacks, and with his pace and energy, he will create all sort of troubles for the hosts’ defence. Boateng is likely to complete the attack ahead of the more vibrant Niang. The Ghanaian has sort of reclaimed his own version of the 2010-11 season and with his rediscovered vigour, he might even find his goal-scoring touch back – something that has gone severely missing this season.
Much has been said about El Shaarawy single-handedly carrying Milan on his shoulders so far and while that is not too far from the truth, one must acknowledge the fact Riccardo Montolivo has been running the midfield engine for the side. The new general of Milan midfield is now a very crucial element to the setup and the team heavily relies on him for the incisive and penetrating passes that he makes sitting deep in the centre. He will be ably accompanied on the left midfield by Muntari who not only aides him defensively but also allows De Sciglio to overlap and join El Shaarawy in the attack. Mathieu Flamini who completes the midfield is far from an inspiring presence but will have his task cut out to be more of a play-breaker rather than a playmaker.
Abate and De Sciglio form an exciting fullback pairing as both tend to advance up front from time to time. Their pace will be an asset to the Milan attack as Montolivo will tend to aim his passes at their well-timed advanced runs on the flanks.
Probable Starting Lineup: Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Yepes, De Sciglio; Flamini, Montolivo, Muntari; Boateng, Pazzini, El Shaarawy
- Milan have not won an away game in Serie A since defeating Atalanta in the month of January.
- Milan have won only 4 games away from home while Genoa have won the exactly same number of home games this season.
- Marco Borriello – Genoa’s top goal scorer this season was the one with highest goals for Milan in his last season in the Rossoneri colours.
Players To Watch Out For
Considering a draw will be the most desirable result for the home side here, their most reliable defender will be the player they will be looking at to pull it off. One of the more experienced ones in the roster, Granqvist will have a primary responsibility of tracking the potential interlinked play among the Milan forwards and should he be able to deliver a rock solid performance, Milan will find it extremely difficult to go past the goal guarded by Sebastien Frey.
Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan)
The young dynamite in the Milan ranks has been a complete revelation this season and has invited appreciation from every corner. El Shaarawy has not been scoring goals aplenty lately but still remains a crucial cog in the attacking wheel for Milan. His involvement in the build-up and also in creating opportunities for his colleagues in the attack will be extremely important for Milan to penetrate through the Genoa defence.
Genoa 1-2 Milan
Rossoneri haven’t been the best travellers this season but should do enough this game to grind out a result that allows them to maintain their current position on the table. Their lack of defensive organization will allow the home side to find themselves on the score-sheet but in the end, the attacking potency should ensure Milan get the desired result.