Stadio Dino Manuzzi, Cesena
Sunday, September 28, 2014; 13:00 Hrs GMT
Two back to back wins for AC Milan at the start of the season is all it took for the optimists to start throwing hints at a new dawn under the club legend Filippo Inzaghi. But at the very first encounter with an opposition of strength, the false hopes were to be shelved. It’d be unfair to suggest AC Milan haven’t showed any signs of improvement from last season; the team certainly looks more promising on the attacking front but the defence continues to be as lacklustre as ever while the midfield fails to penetrate enough. It’s still early days for the newly appointed coach on his first major assignment but if Inzaghi has taken any lessons from his good friend Clarence Seedorf’s tenure last season, he’d know he’s expected to deliver sooner than what he’d deem reasonable.
Cesena, Milan’s hosts for Sunday haven’t been off to an exactly inspiring start but for a promoted side, they haven’t done too badly either. Post their opening day victory over Parma, the Seahorses have only managed a solitary point off three fixtures and they’d surely hope for a point at least as they prepare to host the mischievously dangerous Milanese unit.
Team News & Tactical Brief
The Romagna based club suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Juventus during the midweek game but that wasn’t quite an unexpected result. Ideally, facing Milan immediately after Juventus would not make for a very kind fixture list but Milan no longer generate a sense of fear among the opponents. Cesena have reasons to believe, they can put the much celebrated Lombardian club on the backfoot by exploiting their ever so shaky looking defence. Scoring against Milan hasn’t been a concern for teams so far this season; it’s resisting against being outscored is what looks like a difficult task to pull off.
Coach Pierpaolo Bisoli has preferred fielding a three man central defence and that shouldn’t change considering Milan’s attack has been in a rhythm for a while. Daniele Capelli, Stefano Lucchini and Luka Kranjc form the defence while Juventus’ prodigious custodian Nicola Leali who’s serving a loan spell at Cesena stands strong in the goal. The wingbacks invariably fall a few yards block while off the ball adding strength and numbers to the flanks. Milan’s Ignazio Abate has been making menacing runs upfront with ease and that should make Francesco Renzetti in very good check while guarding the left flank. Italian fullback Gabriele Perico should take his position on the right to complete the five man defence.
Milan’s midfield doesn’t boast of too many natural passers and hence the creativity quotient is understandably on the lower side. Should Cesena manage to see the better of the ball for the first half an hour or so, they could force the Rossoneri to lose their shape and as a result expose their defence. A quick and clever exchange of passes could bring the Cesena attackers into play and put Milan in some serious trouble, as has been showed by their defence time and again. Luigi Giorgi, Emmanuel Cascione and Antonio Mazzotta should form the central midfield. French forward Gregoire Defrel should pair upfront with Guido Marilungo who is on a season long loan from Atalanta.
Probable Starting Lineup [3-5-2]: Leali; Capelli, Lucchini, Kranjc; Perico, Giorgi, Cascione, Mazzotta, Renzetti; Defrel, Marilungo
The season has just been underway and Milan are already experiencing their customary injury crisis. Diego Lopez made a memorable debut in goal against Lazio which was followed by a horrendous error in judgement which led to a goal for Parma in the next game. However, the Spanish keeper has been unavailable since and Christian Abbiati should therefore continue being the natural replacement.
The central defence hasn’t settled ever since the departure of Thiago Silva and the makeshift adjustments have never allowed Milan to find any stability whatsoever. New acquisition Alex remains doubtful to start which might force Inzaghi to pair Adil Rami alongside Christian Zapata at the heart of defence. Daniele Bonera has already had to forgettable outings in the season and it only makes sense to deny him a starting role.
Inzaghi should be fairly content with the performance of his attacking unit so far as the goals have come in thick and fast and the players have showed signs of gelling in pretty well. A slight change in the tactical shape might be seen over the weekend with Fernando Torres being allowed more space up front and a three man attacking midfield being stationed a few yards behind him. Jeremy Menez who has been a revelation for the Rossoneri should start in the centre while Keisuke Honda and Giacomo Bonaventura should flank the French forward. Marco van Ginkel suffered a major blow during the midweek fixture and is expected to remain unavailable for another couple of weeks.
Pretty similar to Bonera, midfielder Sulley Muntari too has had a horrendous start to the season and he isn’t likely to be offered a game on Sunday. With Milan adding more numbers to the attacking third, Inzaghi might go with a double pivot in the midfield where Nigel De Jong pairs with Andrea Poli. Between the two, the Italian will be expected to focus on providing a consistent flow of service to the players in more advanced positions while De Jong as usual will be the destroyer in chief providing a very solid cover to the defence.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-2-3-1]: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Rami, De Sciglio; De Jong, Poli; Honda, Menez, Bonaventura; Torres
Player To Watch Out For
Fernando Torres (Milan)
The Spaniard has dropped a few early hints of having found his feet after a prolonged unsuccessful spell in West London. Torres needs a quick revamp in his career and is probably at an ideal club where despite his limitations, he still is the best of the available lot and that additional burden of responsibility might help him rediscover himself. His sublime header in the midweek brought Milan back in to the game against Empoli. His work-rate and overall contribution to the build-up too have caught everyone’s eye. He’s undoubtedly the player Milan need to be at the top of his game should the club aim to grab all three points available off this fixture.
Cesena 2-3 Milan
Given their defensive shenanigans, Milan are bound to put themselves under some pressure but their attacking prowess seems to be potent enough to bail them out here. A closely fought game is likely on the cards with the visitors coming out on top, only just.