There is a rather heavy air surrounding the upcoming trip to Florence, and the somber mood has lingered far longer than I had anticipated. There is little sense to relive the nightmare that was the weekend, and frankly I lack the energy or desire to even delve all that deep into it. The disappointment is still ever present in all of us, and what the Ultras did may never be forgiven, however there is still a chance to make amends and that goes for all parties.
For me this was always Maldini’s last match, and yes it is not at home, but so what. This is a man who’s played in the World’s greatest stadiums: the Rose Bowl, Old Trafford, Wembley, Camp Nou, Olimpico, and the list goes on. His farewell is not meant only for the San Siro but for football stadiums as a whole, and the Artemio Franchi will be home to this final farewell. In a week where a small group of his own fans seemed to fail him, the whole of Europe has come forward to defend and honor. Fiorentina GK and former Milan target, Sebastian Frey claimed a special surprise was in the works for Paolo, while former opponent and friend of Il Capitano, Pep Guardialo, who even went as far as to dedicate the CL victory to Maldini and Italian football.
So while the Artemio Franchi and the Florence faithful send off Maldini proper, I have begun to come to grips with the potential farewell of far more than just Maldini. Could this be Carletto’s last match in charge? Will Kaka leave for Madrid once and for all? Has Seedorf past his expiration date? Will Pirlo follow the man that made him a World Cup hero? Do Ambrosini and Borriello leave to join Donadoni in Naples? These questions will forever circulate day in and day out as the offseason looms and lingers but even as I read over the questions, I know there is the potential for hundreds more, and the realization of true a changing of the guard is becoming all the more real.
Regardless of where any of those individuals end up they all have a job to do it on Sunday. They owe it first and foremost to Maldini to send him off with a victory, but more importantly to the club and themselves to put this team back where it belongs, CL Football. Even a goal loss will assure this place, however this is not the attitude that needs to be taken, a win, and a convincing one at that, is what we all want. As always how the squad goes about that is up for debate. Fiorentina have been reborn at the close of the season and only Udinese is playing better football in the whole of Serie A. The Viola have leap frogged Genoa and now have Juventus and Milan in their sights. A bit of resurgence from Gilardino who as scorching early in the season, a show of form from Vargas, and the emergence of Stefan Jovetic has led the charge. If you have not had the chance to watch Jovetic, please take notice on Sunday, and for Juventus fans who say, “No one can be like Nedved,” guess again.
As for Milan, expect the usual cast of characters across the back. I personally wish to see Maldini at LB for one last time, but due to the lack of healthy center backs this may not be an option. Flamini may once again get the nod at RB to offset the speed of Gila, but the injury to Beckham and suspension of Ambrosini may force Flamini up into the midfield and give Rino his return to the lineup. There could also be an argument for moving Janks into the LM mid role allowing Flamini to play RB, Zambro LB, and Rino RM, but again these choices are all fairly similar in nature, and may not impact the game as much as we would expect. The addition of Rino’s passion in this being Paolo’s last game may be a welcoming spark for all those involved.
Offensively the never ending debate of number of strikers and start Dinho or don’t will always wage on. Dinho played his heart out last week, the man sensed the urgency of the situation and really gave it his all. His tackle on Motta late in the game was a testament to that and if Carletto employs the XMAS tree, there is no reason why the Brazilian trident can’t be in full force, especially if Flamini and Rino are both in the midfield. As much as this makes sense, you could argue that the situation, a controlled game where Milan need only draw, could call for the likes of Seedorf and Pippo, but frankly I want to win, and I want to win big, so Carletto throw caution to the wind, and if it is your last match just go for broke!