Nov 212015

Juve Milan

After the international break a big match awaits. Somewhat surprisingly Juve are below Milan in the standings of course and it happens that only two points separate the teams, fighting to get into Europa League spots.

For a few days it seemed that Buffon might not make it and remain absent but he has recovered and should start against Milan near the 20 year anniversary of his debut against Milan. His opposite number in the Milan goal will be a very fresh face and Donnarumma hopes to follow in the veteran’s footsteps with a long successful career.

On the injury front Balotelli’s saga may have been resolved, he had hip flexor surgery and will be out a minimum of four weeks. Bertolacci has not recovered yet and de Jong is out as well. Juventus have a few players missing too as Khedira, Caceres, Pereyra and Asamoah are sidelined.

The 4-3-3 is likely to remain the choice for the time being with Bonaventura, Montolivo and Kucka in the middle of the pitch joined by Niang, Bacca and Cerci up front. Alex has recovered from his head knock and should partner Romagnoli  in the center of the defense. Abate and Antonelli will get the call at fullback.

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Nov 072015

Milan Atalanta
Beating – the undefeated at home – Lazio may serve as a morale boost and a turning point. Three wins in a row means little if not followed up so the morale boost and lots more hard work is required. Atalanta visit the San Siro in decent shape with players like Mauricio Pinilla and Daro Gomez in good form, but after a heavy loss away to Bologna.

The week 11 Lazio win was not without its casualties as Alex and Bertolacci came off injured and are not available for week 12. Mexes who came on and soon after scored a goal will partner Romagnoli this time and the midfield needs to be changed yet again. Montolivo, Kucka and Poli look like the trio to make it with de Jong a possibility as well.

For the front three there is a dilemma too. Bonaventura’s yellow at Lazio has him suspended for week 12 and Mihajlovic has to choose between Honda and the returning Niang. Starting the player who has been sidelined since August seems a big a risk but all indications are that it will happen. Therefore the 4-3-3 will persist and the hope is Cerci will continue his relative good form.

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Nov 012015

Lazio Milan

Two wins in a row! By a 16 year old goalkeeper!

The season’s first winning streak has been achieved with Donnarumma in goal. The 16 year old has impressed but it doesn’t diminish the risk that is being taken. Giving him starts may prove to be wrong in the long term but as Berlusconi said this week he can be Milan’s goalie for 20 years …. here’s hoping.

Elsewhere on the pitch, the win against Chievo was a decent enough display, especially the second half. Now Milan meet Lazio away. Lazio have won all (5) their home Serie A matches so far this season. To make it 3 wins in a row Milan will have to be consistent and press the hosts more consistently.

Mihajlovic will stick to the 4-3-3 and will use 10 of the same starters as the Chievo match. The 11th is a forced absence as Abate is nursing a muscle issue he picked up early in the Chievo match. De Sciglio should get the start in his place.

Niang will be on the bench for the first time this season.

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Oct 282015

Milan Chievo

Week 10 comes quickly after the Sassuolo victory. That 2-1 victory was full of gamble and risk by the coach. Mihajlovic gambled on a 16 year old goalie and rolled the dice on a 4-3-3.  That Donnarumma was only partially to blame on Sassuolo’s only goal and Cerci did relatively well doesn’t mean dropping Lopez and using an unsuitable formation was the right thing to do .

All indications are, however, that that 4-3-3 will persist for this match, despite the improved look after Luiz Adriano and Bertolacci were introduced to make it more like a 4-4-2 against Sassuolo.  Further indications that the young goalkeeper will start again only increases the risk of damaging his youthful confidence.

Elsewhere on the pitch Bertolacci will likely start and Kucka or Poli dropped to the bench. There is also the likelihood of de Jong getting a start ahead of Montolivo and Zapata reclaiming his spot from Alex. If the latter two changes do happen they would be more due to fatigue and this being a midweek game.

Chievo feature two former Milan players in Valter Birsa and Alberto Paloschi. The latter has 4 goals to his name so far this season and his team sit one spot below Milan in the standings.

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Oct 252015

Milan Sassuolo
Week 8 after the international break was hoped to be a new start. For reasons that had mainly to do with fatigue Bacca was benched in favour of Luiz Adriano, the latter was not part of his national team set up. Whether or not that was justified is debatable but a switch to 4-3-3 when the players for the wings were the likes of Cerci was unlikely to work. Bacca was brought in in the second and it paid dividends quickly with a goal but not for the first time Milan squandered the lead and 1-1 was the final result. The week also featured questions, for the first time in his Milan career, about Lopez’s form. Needless to say, without the goalkeeper’s star performances the season may be unsalvageable no matter what.

Two more points dropped and Milan firmly in the bottom half of the table increased the pressure on the team and the coach.

Next up is Sassuolo featuring Milan killer Domenico Berardi. All indications are that the flawed 4-3-3 will persist but that Bacca is fit to start despite training alone for much of the week. 4-3-3, as usual, requires a mobile and creative attacking transition which has been lacking for years. Getting three points and moving up the table will require no mistakes at the back and a piece of skill or a good free kick or two.

Alex will likely start along side Romagnoli again, at Zapata’s (and Ely’s) expense, and the weak midfield could feature Poli from the start in the absence of the unfit Bertolacci.

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Oct 222015

by Stelios Karakasis

Oh, yeah. We lost to Inter. In a friendly match, while the whole world was getting ready for Champions League night. But that’s OK. What’s not OK is the fact that this is supposed to be a very critical season for A.C. Milan. The last couple of years, with two CL trophies not that far behind, the team found itself in a nervous mode of suspended animation. The players were not good enough, the squad was old, problems adapting to new tactical evolvements and ideas (I don’t mean trends) were obvious, and Berlusconi seemed like owing money to everyone who speaks Italian. Well, it was good doing business with you, Genoa, but now the money appears to be here. After quite a time, spirits were high during preseason and you could sense an air of collective optimism. Finally, a new start. Moreover, it couldn’t possibly get worse than those last seasons, right?

The club did spend big this year. Ninety one million euros brought Bacca, Luiz Adriano, Bertolacci, Kucka, and the bright prospect of Romagnoli. You even get Mad Mario Balotelli for free. But the midfield is a terrible mess. And the results are simply not here. While it’s still early in the project, one struggles to find many heartwarming signs. When the “senatori” left, the team faced an expected crisis. That’s natural. These players were the backbone of continuous successful seasons. If you think that can’t affect a club, take a look at Juventus this year. It’s understood that after these players are gone, you need some time to adjust the team’s identity and build for the future.

Milan lack leadership on and off the pitch

Milan lack leadership on and off the pitch

What proves to be the case though, there was not any real devising for that future. Instead, it was spasmodic reactions, absurd transfer decisions and a dreadful business plan, all wrapped up in a veil of permanent greatness, the Ghost of Glory Past. It’s a recipe for mediocrity, a road straight to obscurity. When you declare you are aiming for the top, you simply do not sell your two best players to PSG. You don’t give up on guys like Sokratis after a single bad game, so Bonera can keep on playing one horrific game after the other. It’s insanity.

But what worries the most, is that this uneven roster is not the biggest problem. Let’s visit the mentality department. You’re simply devoid of personalities like Maldini, Gattuso, Inzaghi or even Ambrosini. That sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Your captain is Montolivo. A slightly overrated player, with good passing skills that he rarely puts to use, and can’t seem to inspire the others to even exit a burning building. This Milan lacks class. They lack resilience, faith in themselves, the right mindset, and the necessary attitude to return to winning days. In a few words, it’s not the team that has the audacity to play Jaap Stam as a full-back anymore.

Right now, expectations are high but motivation is low. It’s never going to work that way. Milan needs sensibility and pragmatism. They surely need to worry but it’s important to calmly address every major issue properly and not to scoff and moan and blame it on the boogie. Is Mihajlovic the man to bring that character back? It’s early to say. Do the board and the fans have patience and belief in him? Well, keep on despondently lingering just above the relegation zone and we will find out sooner rather than later.

Milan has had admirable success spanning decades as well as an important contribution in the tactical evolution of the game. They own a rich history few teams have the right to claim and eighteen international titles to prove it. We’re talking football powerhouse status. In all probability, they will come back. Until then, let’s pray for good weather, that the whole organization will start learning from its mistakes, and hope that Bertolacci will someday play as a midfielder that actually costs twenty million.

Oct 172015

Torino Milan

The international break was a welcome (or not?) time off for Milan after the comprehensive loss against Napoli. The growing pressure on the team was highlighted against a team in a far more advanced state and one that outplayed Milan with relative ease. The loss made it two in a row and four of seven to start the season, in the meanwhile the 48% take over or sale to Mr.Bee remains in limbo putting into question not only the quality of the summer spending but also the sustainability of the 90 million or so spent.

Inevitably the question marks also fall on the coach. Several half hearted rumours claim Mihajlovic’s job may be in jeopardy, big names such Ancelotti are mentioned but are almost certainly wishful thinking. The greater urgency other than getting back to winning ways is fixing the management of the team and if anybody needs to be fired it should start with Galliani.

Back to the game at hand, a formation change seems to be in the cards. Several sources claim Milan will switch to a 4-3-3 and use Cerci in the right wing position. It is disappointing to see or hear a coach thinking Cerci offers a path to winning, not to mention thinking a 4-3-3 is right for a team that features a weak midfield. There has also been talk of Milan lacking character and the same voices offering Mexes as an example of restoring that. The same player that has accumulated a good history of mistakes and cards at Milan would be an incredible choice for a positive character player. It is unlikely that Mexes gets a start but his place is not even on the bench and he should have been sold in the summer when teams like Fiorentina came calling.

Elsewhere, Zapata looks to be benched in favour of Alex and Abate is ready to return. Kucka, Montolivo and Bertolacci provide the middle three and need to be very good two way players to help cover and provide for the front three that is likely to be Bonaventura, Bacca or Luiz Adriano and Cerci. Balotelli misses out again with a muscular problem.

For Torino, one of their early season stars Daniele Baselli was a doubt for this match but has recovered. Sitting six places above Milan in 5th position is a testament to the good work of the former Atalanta player and others like Fabio Quagliarella. They are likely to line up in a 3-5-2 formation and pressure Milan in midfield often.

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Oct 042015

Milan Napoli

After disappointment of losing the week 6 encounter with Genoa which included yet another sending off, this time Romagnoli, the season risks becoming a lost one if results don’t improve soon. Being six points behind co-leaders Fiorentina and Inter may not seem like much in October but with games against Napoli the gap can grow quickly.

Balotelli is not amongst the 22 called up players for this game and misses through what seems to be a muscular problem. Honda has been sick with fever most of the week but makes the squad, however he is unlikely to start. Honda’s attacking midfield position is probably going to Bonaventura playing behind a reunited Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca. The midfield tweaking and tinkering is likely to continue with Kucka and Bertolacci playing either side of Montolivo. It remains to be seen if a midfield consisting of these three players can provide enough cover for the back four facing the likes of Insigne and Callejon

The defense will be changed again too with the return of Antonelli pushing De Sciglio to the right at the expense of Calabria. Abate is close to returning but is not yet available. Ely should get the nod in place of the aforementioned suspended Romagnoli.

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Sep 272015

Genoa Milan

The trio of Bertolacci, Antonelli and Kucka are back in the line up after relative short times on the injured list. Bertolacci may be the only one of the three to start as the rest of the lineup – in midfield and defense – is likely to remain unchanged. De Sciglio, Romagnoli, Zapata and Calabria will start in front of Lopez and be joined with the aforementioned Italy international, Montolivo and de Jong in the center of the pitch. Bonaventura, scorer of two goals so far including a perfect free kick at Udinese, will sit behind the front two and try to keep his good form going.

Some reports expect the front two to be changed again. It seems that Balotelli will start with Luiz Adriano this time and Bacca rested. This may not be the best decision however. Fatigue prevention in a season outside of Europe is less important, especially in September and at a time when the team seems to be taking shape and winning points.

Perhaps the bigger issue that came out of the 3-2 win at Udinese is keeping up the intensity and not conceding goals. The decision to substitute Alex for Calabria very early in the second half was surprising and added chaos to the falling intensity after an excellent first half. It simply didn’t work and the rationale or reasoning given – adding height – seems a misread by Mihajlovic.

On the Genoa side Goran Pandev and Issa Cissokho are suspended after picking up red cards in their 2-0 away to Lazio. The Liguria team have won just one out of five games so far and are not in good form.

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Sep 222015

Udinese Milan

After the week 4 win versus Palermo the team is looking better and some credit has gone to coach Mihajlovic. The 3-2 win wasn’t always the best looking but Bacca’s brace and overall shape of the team with Montolivo in the center of the midfield provided hope. Calabria’s early introduction for the injured Abate also provided another glimpse of the 18 year old’s talent.

Other than injuries and knocks – notably Kucka – the fact that this match day is midweek means changes to the starting lineup. In Abate’s place Calabria is expected to be given a starting place. Nigel de Jong should take Kucka’s place in midfield. Honda looks to be retaining his spot behind the two forwards, despite some calls for him to be on the bench.

The other change is likely to be that Mario Balotelli will get a start and Luiz Adriano will start on the bench. Balo’s two substitute appearances so far have been positive and it is hoped he can keep going and keep a cool head as well.

Udinese started the season with an upset win away at Juventus but have lost their three games since.

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