Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, January 19, 2013; 18:45 Hrs GMT
What was seemingly inevitable has finally happened and the eternal scapegoat Max Allegri is out AC Milan board taking a decision that many feel was long overdue. While the initial murmur around the Italian media was heir apparent Mauro Tassotti should assume the duties and see through the rest of the season, it seems Berlusconi wasn’t ready to wait for long. Clarence Seedorf – Berlusconi’s favourite of the Senatores; Not so much of the Curva Sud – has made the much anticipated return and is taking charge of the first team as soon as Sunday with Milan playing host to the season’s surprise package Verona.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Seedorf may not been live witness to the shambolic defeat against Sassuolo but one of the first few things he might have presumably done since taking charge, is to find a detailed video analysis of the game. It would not have been very hard for him to conclude the lack of positional sense demonstrated by the central defence and the lack of discipline showed by the midfield while off the ball were the two major factors undoing all the good work from the attack in the first few minutes of the game. Of course, it’s unreasonable to expect him to find an instant remedy to these technical frailties but instilling discipline should be among the first of his agendas. And should he succeed at that, it won’t be too long before Milan start producing results.
Something Seedorf needs to do very distinctly different from Allegri is to find a very clear designation for his midfielders. The chaos and lack of co-ordination of the Allegri setup must be done away with quickly. Reportedly, Seedorf is likely to continue with the 4-3-2-1 formation and Riccardo Montolivo is expected to be relegated to bench after playing a midweek cup game. Bryan Cristante should continue to start alongside Andrea Poli. The two are good passers of the ball but need to work on the defensive side of their game. Nigel De Jong will be the only defensive dimension in midfield.
Despite the defeat, the midfield did show some intent and penetration against Sassuolo which was heartening to see. More channels of attack need to be explored though since Milan are becoming more and more predictable with their movements through the flanks. De Sciglio needs to make himself available much more on the right flank and though he has showed promise, he needs to improve considerably with his crossing and ball holding ability. Kaka and Robinho are linking well and often interchange positions to keep the markers guessing. They also allow the advancing midfielders to overlap by drawing the defenders wide. Verona haven’t been strongest defensively and despite a very impressive league standing, they have conceded as many goals as Milan have during this campaign. The Rossoneri attacking trident must not allow the visitors’ defence to settle and a quick goal or two early on won’t hurt at all.
Something Allegri faced stark criticism for was the lack of decisiveness in introducing substitutions. One’s got to wait and see what Seedorf’s got in store here. At some point in the game, both Montolivo and Honda are bound to play a role. The newly appointed coach will be without the services of El Shaarawy, Abate, Constant and Pazzini out with injuries while Muntari will be serving a suspension.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-2-1]: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Bonera, Zapata, Emanuelson; Cristante, De Jong, Poli; Kaka, Robinho; Balotelli
The season had started on the best possible note for Verona with an opening day defeat of Milan courtesy two goals from the veteran Luca Toni. The world cup winning Italian forward has been a crucial summer acquisition for the promoted outfit as he has played a key role in what has been a remarkable first half of the season for the side.
For a provincial club in Italy, Verona have showed some tremendous stability and strength with manager Andrea Mandorlini in his fourth straight season in charge now. The first team is in a very steady state and the results produced are evident of the generally conducive environment. The latest defeat Napoli at home might have been shaken the team’s morale a bit and they might adapt a rather cautious approach at San Siro. A point off Milan should not be the worst result for the Gialloblu here.
Mandorlini has continued to deploy a 4-3-3 tactical setup throughout the season. His midfield is a rather static one which focuses more on ball winning in their own half. Verona aren’t the most adept side at ball retention but their strength lies in inventing a chance against the run of play. That Milan aren’t the strongest in aerial situations must also be playing on their minds as they prepare the tactics to conquer San Siro.
Jorginho has arguably been the biggest influence on the course of their season so far but his move to Napoli is imminent. In his absence, Verona’s attacking options are considerably reduced and to make up for the lack of creativity, at least one of their three midfielders – Romulo, Cirigliano and Hallfredsson – will need to push a few yards upward and link with the forward line. Latest reports suggest, Luca Toni is likely to miss the trip to Milan having picked up a viral flu. This reduces the options up top as Toni was earlier expected to lead the three man attack flanked by Iturbe and Gomez. His replacement could be former Lecce striker Daniele Cacia. Neither of the wide players in attack has the technique to play the inverted winger’s role. In fact, they’d much rather draw the defenders out wide and create more space for striker operating from the centre as target man. Verona’s likeliest chance of finding a goal is surely from a dead ball situation.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Rafael; Cacciatore, Moras, Maietta, Agostini; Romulo, Cirigliano, Hallfredsson; Iturbe, Cacia, Gomez
Player To Watch Out For
This is the moment for the youngster to rise. A few weeks ago, his loan move seemed inevitable but the situation has turned upside down in a matter of three games. He has really captured the imagination of Milan faithful and the pundits in Italy with his performances and confidence. There are areas in his game where he needs to improve but his potential is there for everyone to see. Should Seedorf be keen on blooding in more and more youth in the first team, Cristante will surely be one of the first beneficiaries of that vision.
AC Milan 2-1 Verona
The tenacity, grit and commitment that Verona have put on show this season is undeniable. But the change in guard and a very massive one at that has swung the momentum in Milan’s favour despite the season they’ve had till this point. It’s certainly going to be close contest but in the end Milan should do just about enough. Don’t rule out a goal and an assist from Cristante already.