Stadio San Elia
Sunday, January 26, 14:00 Hrs GMT
Cagliari hasn’t exactly set Serie A on fire but have certainly held their own in their matches against the top teams in Serie A with draws against Fiorentina, Internazionale, Roma and Napoli. Their lack of consistency is the reason why they find themselves so low in the table, and faced against a struggling Milan side, they will surely look to extract as many points as possible at home.
AC Milan will be hoping that a change at the helm will hit the reset button on their season, although now it might be too late to hope for a Champions League spot. With their recent expulsion from Coppa Italia, Milan can now focus all their energy in Serie A, away from the distractions of Europe.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Cagliari will be missing the services of Nene for this match due to injury and Ibarbo due to suspension. They have won only once in their past six outings, although that is nothing to worry about given the fortunes of Milan. Also, they are hardly four points away from being in the relegation zone. The only good thing going in their favor is that they have dropped very few points at home this season with losses against Bologna and Juventus being the only blips.
Cagliari are very strong in shooting from direct free kicks and also in coming back from losing positions, even though their position in the Serie A table suggests otherwise. They are strong in attacking set pieces as well as protecting their lead. One aspect where they surely will test Milan is their better aerial duel winning capability. However, they have committed a lot of individual errors this season and they also lack the ability to finish off chances. They are prone to attacking down the wings and also through balls – something Milan will surely exploit in this match. If somehow Cagliari score early in this match, it might prove to be quite difficult for Milan to eke out a victory here.
Cagliari will deploy a 4-3-2-1 formation with Avramov under the bars. The defense line sees Rossettini and Astori forming the central defensive pair with Pisano on the right and Murru on the left. The midfield sees the likes of Dessena on the right, Ekdal on the left with Conti playing the central role. The forward line sees Cossu and Pinilla supporting Sau, who will be the lone striker for this match.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1): Avramov(GK); Pisano, Rossettini, Astori, Murru; Dessena, Conti, Ekdal; Cossu, Pinilla; Sau
Milan will be missing the services of El Shaarawy, Zapata, Silvestre, Petagna and Gabriel for this match due to injury. Hampered all season due to injury, the situation has not changed much under new boss Seedorf. While El Shaarawy is the only player out with a long-term injury, Zapata and Silvestre picked up knocks in the previous match.
According to recent events, Milan have acquired the signature of Essien, who will be moving to Milan subject to a medical. The addition of the Ghanian international will surely be greeted with much fanfare, since he has already won both the domestic as well as the Champions League in his career. The fact that Essien comes without any transfer free will surely sweeten the deal for Milan, who recently has slipped down the ‘rich club’ list, which was released by Deloitte. However, despite the addition of new players, it is time for Seedorf to cut off those who is deemed surplus to the requirement of Milan – like Nocerino. The former Juventus player is close to moving to West Ham, where he will seek more playing time. With Seedorf playing with all the four strikers in the team, Milan can, in time, once more be a force to reckon with both domestically and in Europe.
Seedorf will field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Abbiati under the bars. From 4-3-1-2 under Allegri to this new formation, Milan players have surely felt like lab rats scurrying from one formation to another. Seedorf brings with himself not only a renewed sense of purpose, but also his unshakeable desire to win and create a united group which might someday go on to reclaim their lost glory. The back-line is formed by Abate on the right, De Sciglio on the left with Bonera and Mexes playing through the center. The defensive midfielders for this match will be De Jong and Montolivo, although their pairing will see the former drop deep while the latter will surely move forward when such chances arrive.
The forward line is formed by the trio of Kaka, Honda and Robinho playing behind Balotelli, who will be the lone striker for this match. With the only other known striker, Pazzini just returning from injury, Balotelli is likely to play the entire match since it is unlikely that Seedorf will risk him.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Abbiati(GK); Abate, Bonera, Mexes, De Sciglio; De Jong, Montolivo; Kaka, Honda, Robinho; Balotelli
Player to Watch Out For
A star last year, not so much this time around. After being the most important player in the second half of the season, Balotelli’s performance on the field for Milan has declined this season. Injuries too have played their part in his abysmal season so far. However, in the previous two matches, Balotelli has found the back of the net and it can only augur well for the Italian national. With the World Cup just months away, what could be a more enticing prospect than resurrecting Milan’s season and thereby reclaiming top form going into the premier competition! With the new all-attack theme at Milan designed to provide more balls to Balotelli, he will not need to drop down to claim balls anymore. Milan fans will be waiting and hoping for an explosion soon from this temperamental star.
Cagliari 1 – 2 Milan
Although there is not much of a difference between Cagliari and Milan if one goes purely by the standing of the two teams in Serie A, Milan will clinch this match and come away with three crucial points. If Milan are to be in Europe next season, their revival needs to start and start soon. If Seedorf has his way, an all-out attacking Milan could very well usher in the new age.
Blast From The Past