Citta Del Tricolore
Monday, January 13, 19:45 Hrs GMT
A lot was expected of Sassuolo when they were promoted last season to the topmost tier of Italian football – Serie A. However, their promise slowly faded away and at one point of time, they even lost 0-7 to Internazionale, that too at home. Recently rocked by doping allegations to one of their key players, all is not well for Sassuolo, and to make things worse, their Serie A journey might come to an end this season.
AC Milan will be looking to climb up the table when they visit Sassuolo this weekend. Although they were lying in the bottom half of the table, a victory in their previous match has seen them climb to the 11th spot. Last season, they had made a comeback in the second half of the season to finally clinch the third spot from right under the nose of Fiorentina. Although such high expectations should not be there for the current season, Milan might just prove their detractors wrong once the season is done and dusted.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Sassuolo will be missing the likes of Terranova, Alexe, Acerbi and Masucci for this match through injury and Bianco due to suspension. Recent allegations of doping against Acerbi has rocked Sassuolo, but the player has maintained his innocence throughout and only recently has been cleared. A high amount of a banned substance was found in his blood, which was later proved to be medicine for his recurring tumor. Cleared of these charges, Acerbi can now focus on keeping Sassuolo alive in Serie A this season.
Sassuolo has lost in their last four matches in Serie A, having failed to score in any of them. Their fight for survival sees them up against their former manager, Allegri who is currently in his last season with Milan. Although Sassuolo are strong in counter-attacks and aerial duels, they are horrible in keeping possession of the ball and also they are prone to weakness of players down the wings. On the other hand, Milan have the highest possession percentage in all of Serie A so far this season, even though that has not helped their present league standing.
Sassuolo will deploy a 3-4-3 formation with Pegolo playing under the bars. The three-man back-line will be formed by Antei on the right, Ariaudo in the middle and Marzorati on the left. The midfield will see the likes of Gazzola on the right, Longhi on the left with Magnanelli and Marrone playing through the center. The forward line is formed by Berardi on the right, Ziegler on the left with Zaza playing through the middle.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-4-3): Pegolo(GK); Antei, Ariaudo, Marzorati; Gazzola, Magnanelli, Marrone, Longhi; Berardi, Zaza, Ziegler
Milan will be missing the likes of El Shaarawy, Birsa, Constant and Abate for this match though injury and Muntari due to suspension. The re-injury to El Shaarawy is surely a blow – not only to Milan, but also to Italy. With the World Cup almost knocking at the door, an injury at this time will surely rule out the youngster for Brazil. The injured list has grown much shorter recently – a fact which will come as a welcome surprise to Allegri and surely, to Milan.
Milan have added two players to their roster in the January transfer window and will be hoping that these key additions will strengthen their squad so that they can at least play in Europe next season. While Adil Rami joined from Valencia, Honda was brought for free after the expiry of his contract. Rami is likely to play a key role in the defensive set-up and Allegri might even be tempted to start with him, given the fact that Rami and Mexes have a good understanding of each other, having played in the national squad together. Another addition, Honda, might see some action in this match with the overall idea being to play him alongside Kaka, thereby creating a strong attacking midfield. With Montolivo too in the side, it will be interesting to see when Allegri fields the trio of Montolivo, Kaka and Honda. If these three players can co-exist, then this might prove to be the turning point for Milan’s miserable season.
Allegri will field a 4-3-2-1 formation for match with Abbiati under the bars. The move from 4-3-1-2 to 4-3-2-1 is surely an indication of the desire to play a lone striker up front, and also test the team so that they can play with two attacking midfielders for the second half of the season. The back-line will be formed by De Sciglio on the right, Emanuelson on the left with Bonera and Zapata forming the central defensive pair. Allegri might be tempted to play Rami and Mexes from the start, but that is something which is likely to be decided in the 11th hour. The midfield sees the likes of De Jong playing as a defensive screen, with Cristante on the right and Poli on the left. Cristante, who scored in the previous match, is being tested so that he can play in the Champions League, where Milan will be sorely needing midfielders due to suspensions to key players.
Kaka and Robinho will play as attacking midfielders for this match, while the lone forward for this match will be Balotelli. Having scored freely in the past, Balotelli needs to find his scoring boots, and fast. With the World Cup just round the corner, finding his form will be key for both club and country.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1): Abbiati(GK); De Sciglio, Bonera, Zapata, Emanuelson; Cristante, De Jong, Poli; Kaka, Robinho; Balotelli
Player to Watch Out For
Although everyone dreamed of a fairytale return of their prodigal son, there were enough signs to suggest that this transfer might prove to be a huge blunder on their part. But Kaka has proved them wrong, and how! Not only has he been instrumental in getting the team to play in the right mentality, but also he has scored goals – two in the last match against Atalanta, in the process completing his 100th and 101st goal in Milan colors. In the beginning, even Galliani was skeptical about his return, but Kaka once more proved his undying love for Milan when he refused to take his salary during the time he was injured. Although a World Cup spot might be beyond him at this point of time, he will surely be a guiding light for Milan in these tough times.
Sassuolo 1 – 2 Milan
Sassuolo are unlikely to mount any serious challenge on Milan, but the onus lies on Milan to score away from home and come away with three crucial points. Sassuolo have only won twice at home this season and lie presently in the relegation zone. However, given Milan’s weakness of conceding late goals, Sassuolo might even think of coming away with a point from this fixture.
Blast From The Past