Neutral turf and no Montolivo, what is a Coach to do?
The problem with being the mop up man in front of the defense is that you end up having to make a few "professional" fouls. Those fouls, in no man's land, to stop a quick counter are crucial, the problem is they help you accumulate yellow cards faster than Balotelli's first Milan goal. Thanks to this little issue, Milan will be without Montolivo this weekend and this is far more pressing than many may have considered. The resurgence of Milan has gone hand in hand with the deployment of Montolivo in front of the defense and the inclusion of ball winning midfielders alongside him to free him and do the dirty work. This is not to be mistaken for Pirlo in the XMAS tree, but a busier hyrbid of midfielders working collectively and forming a triangular passing team that presses forward, tracks back, and links the defense to the midfield in efficient simple fashion.
So as we look at the team without Montolivo, you ask who fills the void? A few players that can are struggling for match fitness with leg related muscular injuries. Muntari and Ambro immediately come to mind, but Allegri could also deploy Flamini in the role flanked by Nocerino and Boateng. Then again he can throw us all for a loop and debut Cristante or Salamon, both very unlikely considering the desperate need for three points, but could happen depending on circumstance. I am more of the general mindset to secure the points and not conduct science experiments, so Ambro is first choice with Muntari if fit is a close second.
The attack and defense are a bit a more consistent, but with El Sharaawy, Balotelli and Abate playing midweek, you can justify a rest or start/sub for either of the three. Balotelli was stellar last week and everyone is pining for his presence, but his match fitness is average and last thing we need is an injury as he builds his strength, but then again you play your best and you play to win. For me you repeat the same attacking trident as last weekend and have Pazzo and Binho on the ready. Defensively you can start DeSciglio and give Abate a rest, while Constant, Zapata, and Mexes are as close any defenders in cementing their place. My winning elevel...
Abbiati; DeSciglio, Mexes, Zapata, Constant; Flamini, Muntari, Nocerino; Niang, Balo, El Sharaawy
Ambro doesn't look fit to return, but Muntari is. Abbiati should be back and the rest is up to Max!? See you on Sunday. A blizzard is going to strike the Northeast btw, so in the of chance I lose power I may be out of pocket. Stay safe for all those effected by the snow!