February 6, 2011, 14:00 GMT
This week, Milan travel to Genoa, with the sole ambition for getting all three points from this match. The Rossoneri enjoy a five point lead at the top after midweek’s fixtures, second placed Napoli lost 0-2 to Cheivo. With the Champions League fixture coming up next week, Milan would be trying their best to send across a firm and convincing message that they cannot be thought of as pushovers.
Genoa, on the other hand are coming off a midweek loss to Fiorentina. In that match, although they had the majority of chances, they failed to convert even one of them. They are not exactly on a red-hot streak at home, winning only 4 of 11 matches held so far.
Team news and tactical brief
With injuries plaguing Milan all season, coach Allegri had to resort to Milan’s defensive prowess rather than their attacking skills in their last encounter against Lazio. It doesn’t help a coach when the injured list has more experience than the first eleven, and that was clearly seen in their last match, where he fielded a back four of Antonini, Yepes, Bonera and Oddo with an extra defensive cushion in the form of Silva. That tactic did yield some result and incredibly, there were no shots on goal in the second half. While defending resolutely has been an Italian art-form but unless you score goals, you really don’t expect to win games. The forward trio of Robinho, Ibrahimovic and Pato has been tried in the last few games, but unfortunately as much as the line up wets one’s lips, the results are somewhat not coming as expected. This week, Cassano will replace Pato in the front three, as Allegri takes on this game with an eye on the Champions League fixture a week away. Having an injured Pato and a cup-tied Cassano at the end of the week really makes no sense. So it’s better if Pato is dropped to the bench for a while and Cassano leads the way in the league.
Talking of starting formation, Vam Bommel should return following his red card the previous week. Though his second yellow against Catania was a bit harsh, but Van Bommel needs to realize that the refereeing system in Italy is a bit different compared to Bundesliga or La Liga. He is an experienced campaigner and having him on the field would bode well for the men in red-and-black. Along with Van Bommel, Gattuso and Flamini would form the midfield troika. The Milan rearguard would comprise of Antonini, Bonera, Silva and Yepes. After focusing on defense in the last few matches, it is time to showcase why Milan are presently league-leaders. A 4-3-1-2 looks likely as the starting formation which eventually gives way to a more flexible 4-1-2-1-2, with Vam Bommel dropping down deep to provide cover should the need arise. Gattuso and Flamini in the midfield should provide adequate passes to the forward three. Emanuelson, Seedorf could get a few minutes of action in the second half.
Probable starting line-up: Abbiati(GK), Antonini, Yepes, Silva, Bonera, Vam Bommel, Gattuso, Flamini, Robinho, Cassano, Ibrahimovic
Genoa coach Ballardini spoke about his team’s intent to attack Milan from the very onset and playing an aggressive game throughout. Stating that “Milan are built to win“, Ballardini stated that playing a waiting game would not suit them well against Milan because of their technical expertise, which only got enhanced in the last transfer window. With Genoa losing to Fiorentina even though they played with their hearts out, it would provide as the perfect inspiring point for the team. Genoa are currently in the 12th position in the league with an outside chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup. But with only 15 more rounds to go, they have to be a lot more consistent if their aim is to secure qualification for the UEFA Cup. A 4-4-2 formation looks likely with Mesto, Kaladze, Dainelli and Criscito forming the back four. Konko, Milanetto, Kucka and Rossi comprising the midfield while Palacio and Floro Flores the front-line.
Probable starting line-up: Eduardo(GK), Mesto, Kaladze, Dainelli, Criscito, Konko, Milanetto, Kucka, Rossi, Palacio, Floro Flores
1. Genoa has won only 4 of their home matches so far this season.
2. Milan have lost only once on the road this season.
3. Milan have a goal difference of 21, 6 more than their closest rival, Internazionale.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Will Cassano score his first goal for Milan this weekend?
Antonio Cassano(Milan): He is a dynamite waiting to explode on the big scene. His talent is undeniable, and with only assists beside his name, he would be itching to get on the score-sheet in this match. It’s a mouth-watering combination of Cassano, Robinho and Ibrahimovic upfront, and should all three of them shine together, Genoa are in for one hell of a game.
Genoa 0-2 Milan
It will be an intensely fought match. Neither of the teams would sit back and look to play on the break. Milan should aim to maintain their focus and determination and if that happens, it would mean a fitting birthday present to one of the Rossoneri legends, Cesare Maldini.