San Siro, Milan
3rd February 2013, 20:45 GMT
Does anyone remember how the last few games have been for Milan? Has Allegri been getting things right with his attacking choices? What is their best center back pairing at the moment? It seems like all of this is irrelevant after the recent arrival of Mario Balotelli to the San Siro. Fans have been going gaga over the acquisition of the eccentric Italian and almost seem to have forgotten about the Udinese game this weekend.
The visitors have been in decent form in 2013, earning 12 out of a possible 15 points so far. Other than the thrashing at the hands of Juventus a fortnight ago, Francesco Guidolin’s side has looked very dangerous and especially so against strong opposition. The over reliance on Antonio Di Natale seems to be reducing with the emergence of Luis Muriel and a highly promising midfield trio of Andrea Lazzari, Giampiero Pinzi and Allan.
Milan will have their hands full against a tactically brilliant Udinese. Balotelli magic will be the call of the day but the emphasis will still essentially be on Stephan El Shaarway. Guidolin’s side should go into this game with an upper hand and a shadow of all the attention that Milan have been getting over the last few days.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Max Allegri isn’t greatly troubled by injuries and suspensions for this game, Mattia De Sciglio and Philippe Mexes being the only two players ruled out. Christian Abbiati is rumored to be doubtful for this game as well but a decision will probably be made only at a later hour.
Abbiati’s injury should see Marco Amelia start in goal with Yepes’ inclusion in place of Mexes being the only change from last week. De Sciglio’s injury has allowed Abate some much needed time at right back and the Italian international must take this opportunity to the fullest if he hopes to get back his starting position.
Allegri’s choices in midfield will be crucial to this game, mainly because of Udinese’s heavily packed central area. Riccardo Montolivo should start in the deep central position. He will most probably be flanked by Mathieu Flamini on the left and Kevin Prince Boateng on the right but the inclusion of Massimo Ambrosini or Sulley Muntari mustn’t come as a surprise.
The attacking three should be El Shaarawy on the right, Balotelli in the middle and Niang on the right. With Udinese playing a 3-5-2, the two wing forwards will look to take advantage of the space behind the wing backs and run at the defense as often as possible. The key to Milan’s success will be to ensure that their midfield does not get run over by Udinese. Patience will be an important virtue and the few chances that fall to the attacking trio must be taken with aplomb.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Amelia; Abate, Zapata, Yepes, Constant; Flamini, Montolivo, Boateng; Niang, Balotelli, El Shaarawy
The Bianconeri also have goalkeeping problems of their own with Zeljko Brkic out injured. This should see 27-year-old Daniele Padelli between the sticks. Their three man central defense will be unchanged from the game against Siena last week.
In midfield Guidolin is expected to go with Dusan Basta and Giovanni Pasquale as his wing backs. These two players will have their hands full given the form that Niang and El Shaarawy are in but will also look to take advantage of Milan’s shaky defending. The central trio should be Allan, Lazzari and Pinzi. Lazzari will be the creative outlet for Udinese and should look to take advantage of Milan’s sloppy and sluggish midfield.
The attacking duo of Di Natale and Muriel should remain intact for this game. Although neither of them is an aerial threat, something Milan have struggled against, their speed and guile will be a difficult test for the Milan back four.
Expected Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Padelli; Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Allan, Pinzi, Lazzari, Pasquale; Muriel, Di Natale
Player To Watch Out For
Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan)
All the attention might be on Mario Balotelli come Sunday night but the former Inter starlet will take a while to settle down. The goods will most surely have to come from Il Faraone once again if Milan are to take any points at all from this game. Pasquale’s tendency to push forward a lot will give El Shaarawy a comfortable amount of space and this could be enough for the youngster to seal the game.
Luis Muriel (Udinese)
Although Muriel isn’t half the sensation that El Shaarawy is, he surely does boast of a phenomenal skill set. The speedy Colombian will be a handful for the Milan defense and with most of their attention on Di Natale, Muriel could prove to be the thorn in Milan’s plans.
Milan 2-2 Udinese
Both sides haven’t scored as freely as they would have liked this season but Udinese’s goalscoring form in 2013 has been great. The arrival of Balotelli will be a massive advantage to Milan’s attack and should help them in picking up a point in what should prove to be an entertaining attacking affair.
Blast From The Past