Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
January 13th, 19:45 GMT
This tie marks the start of the second half of the season for both clubs and pushes them closer to achieving their aspirations. 2012 wasn’t the most productive of years but both of these clubs have started the new year on a promising note. Sampdoria pulled of a sensational victory over run away league leaders Juventus last week while Milan, scrappy as they were, picked up three points against Siena.
Sampdoria currently sit in a fairly precarious position in the league table, just four points safe of the relegation zone. From what was expected of them at the start of this season, the newly promoted side has done considerably well. Their opponents for this week continue to reel from the after effects of a difficult summer and are struggling to keep pace with all the other European hopefuls. Milan will be considered favorites for this tie, but the opening day fixture between these two sides will have planted a lot of doubt in the Milan camp and given Sampdoria all the confidence they need.
Team News and Tactics
After having used the increasingly popular 3-5-2 against Juventus last week and achieving great success, Delio Rossi might continue to stick to his new look formation against Milan. Having received marching orders last week, Gaetano Berardi will be suspended for this game. The injury list isn’t too worrying for Rossi, with just three players out. Unfortunately, one of them is former Milan player Maxi Lopez and a face-off with the former club isn’t going to be possible for the Argentine.
Sergio Romero should start between the sticks, with a three man backline of Daniele Gastaldello, Andrea Costa and Jonathan Rossini in front of him. Rossi might want to leave things unchanged from the Juventus victory and keep Angelo Palombo in defense. If he does opt to do so, Rossini will start from the bench. With Milan not being a potent attacking force through the center, this back three shouldn’t be tested a great deal.
The five man midfield that Rossi decides to field is going to be the most important part of his puzzle, with a special emphasis on the wing backs. Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy is undoubtedly their most dangerous player, and Rossi’s choice at right wing back will be a deciding factor. With Berardi suspended, Shkodran Mustafi will start here. The other flank should be manned by the defensively shaky Marcelo Estigarribia but an emphasis on defense could see Costa shift there and Rossini slot into the center of defense.
An injury to their midfield maestro, Enzo Marseca, is going to be a problem but Pedro Mba Obiang’s rich vein of form should make him Sampdoria’s most attack minded midfielder. With Milan fairly weak in midfield, Obiang will look to occupy positions higher up the pitch and wreak havoc against a shoddy Milan back line. Nenad Kristicic will be another attacking outlet for the hosts but Fernando Tissone might get the nod given Milan’s superiority. Andrea Poli will be the dogfighter in midfield and his primary job will be to ensure that the likes of Riccardo Monotlivo aren’t given an inch of space in the middle of the field.
Eder and Mauro Icardi will continue to spearhead the Sampdoria attack. A couple of goals from this duo must not come as a surprise against an incredibly porous Milan defense.
Probable starting XI [3-5-2]: Romero; Gastaldello, Palombo, Rossini; Mustafi, Tissone, Obiang, Poli, Costa; Eder, Icardi
Max Allegri’s injury headache has reduced from last week, but he will still have to do without Mario Yepes, Daniele Bonera and Nigel de Jong. Giampaolo Pazzini’s fourth yellow card of the season against Siena has ruled him out of this fixture.
No changes to the stable 4-3-3 are expected, but there will be a fair bit of tinkering on Allegri’s part with Pazzini not available for this game. Christian Abbiati will have a back four of Mattia De Sciglio, Philippe Mexes, Cristian Zapata and Kevin Constant in front of him. De Sciglio and Constant will look to take full advantage of the advanced positions of Sampdoria’s full backs.
Allegri will continue to field an uninspiring midfield three that should consist of Montolivo, Nocerino and Flamini. Club captain Massimo Ambrosini should be rested for this game after having played in the Coppa Italia in midweek.
The attacking three is where Allegri faces the biggest dilemma this week. With Pazzini out for this game, Allegri doesn’t have an out and out striker to pick. This means that he will choose to play with a false 9 this time and reports suggest that Kevin-Prince Boateng is the favorite to start there. Although Bojan is the ideal choice, Allegri’s confounding faith in Boateng should give the Ghanaian a start.
Stephan El Shaarawy will continue to play down the left flank and is most surely going to be Milan’s best attacking hope. The Italian wonderkid will look to get back on top of the goalscoring charts this weekend and Sampdoria will have to man this wing with utmost care. With Robinho’s move to Brazil failing, he could start on the right side of attack. The other options that Allegri has are Bojan and Emanuelson, but Robinho seems the safest bet for now.
Probable starting XI [4-3-3]: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Mexes, Zapata, Constant; Montolivo, Flamini, Nocerino; Robinho, Boateng, El Shaarawy
Players To Watch Out For
Mauro Icardi [Sampdoria]
The Argentine kid hasn’t been a sensation this season by any stretch of imagination but his performance against Juventus last week was an eye catcher. Against a shaky Milan defense, the lanky 19-year-old could be set to have another field day and begin to cement his spot in the starting eleven. Expect something special from this kid on Sunday.
Stephan El Shaarawy [Milan]
Picking any other players from this Milan side would be blasphemous. The spiky haired genius is Milan’s most dangerous attacker and possibly even one of their better defensive players. With a fair amount of space being created behind Sampdoria’s wing backs, El Shaarawy might have enough freedom to completely rip apart the hosts. At least one goal from him is on the cards.
Sampdoria 1-2 Milan
Sampdoria’s home form hasn’t been too good this season, while Milan’s away form has been fairly decent. With experienced figures like Maresca and Lopez out injured, Sampdoria seem to lack the guile to beat Milan. The visitors will find it very difficult but individual brilliance should save them.