Playing Udinese probably couldn’t come at a worse time. Sure our history against them is fairly good, and I fondly remember the drubbing we handed them at the end of last season almost a year to the day, when our CL hopes had long faded. I have a sneaking suspicion that they to remember that drubbing and it is because of this and their five straight victories that I fear Udinese will be a far greater challenge than anticipated.
I have a quiet respect and admiration for Udinese. Their valiant effort in the UEFA Cup against Werder Bremen, who dispatched our Rossoneri, was a joy to watch. Though they ultimately failed, it was this fighting spirit that has seemed to carry them into this run of form. I also have to admire the Italian core at the club, with the likes of FabQuags, D’Agostino, Pasquale, Floro Flores, Pepe, and the injured DiNatale. I like their small mix of foreigners like Zapata, Asamoah, and Sanchez, and how these players integrate so seamlessly into the Italian core it makes me yearn for Milan the way it used to be. But don’t let that charm fool you, this team is very capable of scoring goals, and even further capable of being a real handful for any of the Serie A clubs at the top of the table.
Granted our place in the CL is nearly assured, however that is no excuse to drop points the rest of this season. There is also no real why second place is not worth fighting, say for some reason Inter are implicated in some sort of scandal, wouldn’t we want to reap the benefits of a backdoor scudetto much the way they did!? Granted when they won there’s they finished even lower in the table, but second should be a good spot, just in case, a proverbial hedging of bets. All kidding aside, the higher the finish in the table the better off this squad will be from a moral standpoint and building block for next season. I have always been a firm believer in the second place is the first loser type of scenario, and I still believe but after last year’s fifth place finish, second is like a tropical island.
Getting the three points, and ultimately holding second place, will be dependent on the ability of Milan’s defense to handle Udinese’s three man front line. FabQuags, though not blessed with blazing speed the Rossoneri kryptonite, has a knack for finding a shot when it looks impossible and should be heavily marked by Maldini. The pressing runs forward of Janks and Zambro may be less prominent because of the need to potentially stop Pepe and Sanchez on the flanks. A strong effort in stopping these strikers and counter attacking with menace should give Milan the chance to attack with numbers and cause the Udinese defense trouble. Like most teams who employ the 4-3-3, the key is to absorb their pressure and work beyond their first line of defensive pressure, be it the attack or just behind, and suddenly you create space in the attacking third of the field.
Pay special attention to Zapata who has been a favorite of mine and many of you, and a possible worthwhile target for Milan. D’Agostino, a player many are calling the only true backup to Pirlo in the whole of Italy, is worth a look as well, his play last week proved the difference to topple Lazio in the second half. Lastly watch Asamoah, the on loan Ghanian reminds me of his countryman, Michael the Bison Essien. Just imagine for moment if Rino could dribble with pace, and shoot with venom; there you have the potential of a man like Asamoah.
For Milan, and specifically Carletto, the choice seems simple. With Udiense in a 4-3-3 employ two strikers in front of Kaka, Pippo and Pato, to exploit space left in front of the Udinsese defense. Playing Seedorf in a game like this may actually benefit because his time on the ball may allow for defensive reorganization that needs to be negated. Attacking with pace seems to be the key and Pato and Kaka can provide that. As I have said in the past I would even advocate Pato in Seedorf’s role to allow him to run at defenders with the ball at his feet much the way Kaka does, this would also force the defenders up a pinch leaving even more room for the Pippo the poacher to work the line and his magic. It seems that Dida has recovered and will be back in net and that Senderos and Flamini will step in for the suspended Becks and Favalli.