Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, November 30, 2013; 15:00 Hrs GMT
It’d be extremely unfair to suggest things have gone downward at Milan this season than during the previous ones but at the same time, there have been no apparent improvements either. The reason cited for the appointment of Filippo Inzaghi replacing his once teammate Clarence Seedorf was the supposed injection of fresh air from the former. That hasn’t quite been the case and the mediocrity in Milan’s play has almost started to feel familiar. This shouldn’t go down too well with Silvio Berlusconi and unless the tides turn rather quickly, Inzaghi could face some serious repercussions of the ongoing predicament.
However, Inzaghi can take some positives ahead of the weekend clash against Udinese from the fact the Friuli based side isn’t quite enjoying a dream spell either. The appointment of former Inter first team coach Andrea Stramaccioni hasn’t produced the desired results and the team needs a serious push to get back into the contention for the much coveted European spot. Both Milan and Udinese are presently tied at 18 points and are far from securing a Champions League berth. Both haven’t won a game of football for a while either.
Team News & Tactical Brief
The buzz in the Italian media is, Inzaghi is likely to revert back to a standard 4-3-3 after the 4-2-3-1 experiment didn’t prove to be rewarding. Fernando Torres is expected to be benched whereas the return of Daniele Bonera from suspension means he’d be available for the right back position; not that it’s a very encouraging sign but it’s not nearly as dreadful as watching Bonera take a central defensive position either. Mattia De Sciglio is uncertain to start having picked up a knock and in his place on the left, Pablo Armero might get a rare game against his own employers. Adil Rami and Cristian Zapata should complete the defence.
Nigel De Jong still remains unavailable for selection and so does club skipper Riccardo Montolivo. For some inexplicable reason, Inzaghi prefers Michael Essien to Andrea Poli and that doesn’t seem likely to change on Sunday. Teaming up with Essien in the midfield should be Giacomo Bonaventura whereas Chelsea’s prodigious youngster Marcos van Ginkel might get a nod ahead of Sulley Muntari. Inzaghi does need to inject a creative spark in the midfield and the latter two are the best Milan have at the moment to meet those ends. That however leaves only Essien to add defensive strength which doesn’t make for very promising prospects.
Relegating Torres to bench leaves Inzaghi with two options – retain the formation by starting Pazzini upfront or spread the attacking line wide introducing to advanced forwards on each of the flanks. He’s expected to do the latter with Keisuke Honda and Stephan El Shaarawy taking on the wings whereas Jeremy Menez should complete the attack starting in a more central role. The three should often be seen exchanging positions and thus attempting to lose their markers. Agility becomes an issue for Milan as the game progresses and should the three fail to link up in quick moves, their gameplay could get depressingly listless.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-3]: Lopez; Bonera, Rami, Zapata, Armero; Essien, Van Ginkel, Bonaventura; Honda, Menez, El Shaarawy
Andrea Stramaccioni started his coaching career with the youth setup at Inter and was so impressive he was promoted to handle the operations of the senior side sooner than many would have imagined. He rose to instantaneous fame with a series of dazzling performances – including the one that broke Juventus’ unbeaten run that nearly reached 50 league games. But things were just not to be in the blue half of Milan and Stramaccioni failed to live up to the hype. After a brief isolation from management, he’s been appointed in charge of Udinese into the new season and he’s making his first return to San Siro on Sunday against Inter’s fiercest rivals.
The prospect should excite Stramaccioni and should his side be successful in delivering a result at the ground he once called home, things could get pretty ecstatic. Udinese have long been a thorn in Milan’s flesh and have done reasonably well at San Siro in their last few games here. Milan’s problems in midfield and defence are pretty well documented ones and Stramaccioni will be keen on exploiting these weak areas in the opposition’s play. Wingbacks Ivan Piris and Maurizio Domizzi should be crucial to the manager’s plans in dominating the flanks, particularly against Milan’s makeshift fullbacks. This should allow the central midfield some more space in the middle and the likes of Emmanuel Badu and Guilherme should relish the extra few second on the ball to find the right man with a defence splitting pass.
The three man attack that resembles Carlo Ancelotti’s Christmas-tree formation in its look should comprise of Panagiotis Kone, Cyril Thereau and Toto Di Natale at the tip of the attack. The three men are pretty much capable of playing in any of the attacking positions but given Di Natale’s prolific goal-scoring form and his consistency, it’s understandable the others prefer playing off him and feed him the best of the balls.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-3-2-1]: Karnezis; Piris, Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Badu, Allan, Guilherme; Kone, Thereau; Di Natale
Player To Watch Out For
Frankly, there aren’t too many players taking field in this contest you’d pay to watch. However, if there’s one man who continues to restore your belief in Italian football despite the ever so apparent dipping standards, it’s the Udinese captain. His prolificacy in front of goal is second to none in modern football and despite the aging legs, he’s a force to be reckoned with against any defence in the world. Undoubtedly, he’s the player Inzaghi fears the most ahead of the Sunday clash, much more so because he’s pretty much a player in the Inzaghi mould himself, and more.
Milan 1-1 Udinese
Neither of the sides has done much to create any buzz around this fixture and it’s expected to be another of those dull affairs involving AC Milan. Any other result should come as a pleasant surprise to either set of fans.