Stadio Marc`Antonio Bentegodi
Saturday, August 24, 16:00 Hrs GMT
Hellas Verona returns to Serie A after a gap of 11 years after finishing on second place in Serie B last season. Having some of the most hostile and racist fans in the peninsula, Verona will look to shake things up in Serie A – atleast off the field. Last year, their fans insulted the death of Piermario Morosini – a Livorno player who died on the pitch. With Milan having the likes of Balotelli and Boateng in the team, sparks are bound to fly.
Milan will be looking to earn all three points on offer in their first Serie A match of the new season. While last season was decided on the very last match-day with hardly 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Milan will look to make early inroads in the title race and minimize damages against small teams.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Verona will be missing the likes of Agostini and Ragatzu for this match due to injury. They did have an impressive transfer window so far, having bolstered almost every portion in their team. In came Nikolay Mihaylov from FC Twente, Jacopo Sala from Hamburg SV, Bosko Jankovic from Genoa, Ezequiel Cirigliano from River Plate, Alejandro González from Penarol. However, their biggest scoop has to be that of Luca Toni. The former Fiorentina man moved to the new team after his contract expired.
In spite of the numerous transfers, director Sean Sogliano knows very well how tough it will be for them to survive this season in Italy’s top-most tier. One player who will is likely to make a difference for Verona will be Sala. A former Atalanta youth product, Sala was snapped up by Chelsea in 2007. Subsequently he moved to Hamburg and is presently a part of the Italian Under-21 team. Verona is still quite active on the transfer market with their reported interest in Reto Ziegler from Juventus. With the window about to close in a few days time, expect Verona to wrap up some cost-effective deals which will help them stay afloat this season.
Verona will deploy a 4-3-3 formation with Rafael under the bars. Their back-line is formed by Cacciatore on the right, Albertazzi on the left with Maietta and Moras playing through the center. The midfield will see the likes of Jorginho on the right, Donati through the middle and Hallfredsson the left. The forward line will be formed by Gomez on the right, Martinho on the left with Toni leading the charge through the center.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Rafael(GK); Cacciatore, Maietta, Moras, Albertazzi; Jorginho, Donati, Hallfredsson; Gomez, Toni, Martinho
Milan will be missing the likes of Pazzini, Bonera, Vergara, Saponara, Antonini, Gabriel, Traore, de Sciglio, Robinho and de Jong through injury and Muntari through suspension for this match. Even before the season has kicked off, the Milan injured bench resembles a star-studded appearance. Although most of these players have shrugged off their respective injury concerns and are presently training to be a part of the first team, Allegri will make good use of the rest of the squad and tinker with some options in midfield and attack. With only one year left on his contract, Allegri will look to win this match without any fuss.
On the European front, Milan faces off against PSV for a spot in the coveted Champions League and all the riches that comes with it. Should Milan fail to win, their transfer strategies will also be hampered to a great extent. Apparently, the deal with Honda and many rumored players like Eriksen and Donovan are waiting for Milan’s qualification in Europe’s premier competition and Milan will like to take the field in that match with all the confidence in the world. And to do that, they first need to dispose off Verona this weekend. The match against Verona will also be a symbolic one for Milan – this will be their 4000th competitive match.
Allegri will field a 4-3-3 formation for this match with Abbiati manning the posts. The Milan back-line will be formed by Abate and Constant as right and left backs respectively. Abate had a good outing against PSV and will be looking to replicate more of the same form in the upcoming match. In the absence of de Sciglio, the contest for the left-back position will fall upon Constant and Emanuelson. The central defensive positions will be taken up by Mexes and Zapata. The new-look Milan midfield will feature the likes of Poli on the right, Montolivo through the center and Nocerino to the left of midfield. Montolivo will be the main creative force from the middle of the field and also look to break up attacks.
The forward line will be formed by the combination of Niang on the right, El Shaarawy on left and Balotelli through the center. Niang might get a rare start in this match in the absence of other forwards and he needs to make this time count since once Pazzini is back, he is likely to spend most of the time on the bench. Balotelli received several yellows during the second half of last season and that is one thing Allegri will be concerned about.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Abbiati(GK); Abate, Zapata, Mexes, Constant; Poli, Montolivo, Nocerino; Niang, Balotelli, El Shaarawy
Player to Watch Out For
Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan)
The young Pharaoh was outstanding in the first half of the season last time. The arrival of Balotelli coincided with his dip in form with some even claiming that these two players cannot co-exist together. Whether these reports holds any water will be proved once and for all in this season. With the new season, El Shaarawy starts off a clean slate, and after his goal against PSV, he will be eager to make his mark more and more – both in the presence and absence of Balotelli. With all the focus going to the Sports Illustrated man, El Shaarawy will look to make his mark quietly starting with this game against Verona.
Verona 0 – 2 Milan
Milan will look to start their campaign on a good note by claiming all three points on offer. Verona are back in Serie A after a 11-year hiatus and they will find it difficult to play against Milan. A good start will only give Milan confidence to face PSV for the Champions League spot.