The burning question prior to the Derby is Leo’s squad selection. With two Rossoneri regulars, Seedorf and Pato, coming back from injury does Leo go back to the lineup of old or does he stick to the new 4-3-3 with the delta midfield featuring Pirlo and two defensive mids? This will surely be a topic discussed here at the blog, but also across the boot as the derby is of the utmost important for Milan’s title chances, and really a statement game for Leo and the Rossoneri.
I think the most important thing to consider is the match readiness of both Seedorf and Pato. For two players who have been on such a long layoff will they be ready to give a full ninety in the most challenging game of the season? Probably and realistically not. What I find even more annoying is how these guys found a way to get injured during the break, which for me either means they were excessive in their rest period and didn’t take care of themselves, or they were not working hard enough in the lay off to get back to where they needed to be. Either way a bit frustrating considering the way the rest of the team is firing on all cylinders. With these factors the initial reaction on my part is that both players if fully fit deserve to start on the bench. I will also take this opportunity to say that while I like Seedorf and his years of service, I feel that he limits what the team can and cannot do tactically and therefore if he can be moved into a vice-Pirlo role in this new setup that all the better, if not then I firm handshake and thank you on your way out the door. Felt good to get that off my chest…
Apart from the issue of match fitness, I also feel a bit like Pato has regressed. While I don’t mean this negatively, I think he has grown a bit complacent and starting a game or two on the bench, or being brought on as a sub, would not crush him. It would give him a chance to reflect, but also re-instill some of that hunger that seemed to make him so dangerous earlier in the year. The team is multifaceted now in the attack and with Bori and Dinho firing on all cylinders and with Becks able to play high and wide, Pato can be ready and just as dangerous as a change of pace later in the match, if needed. I also feel as though a match of this magnitude begs for some experience across the pitch and having Becks up top may help in terms of balance if Abate plays and moves forward. Pato is still very much the future of the this Club, but it doesn’t mean he plays every game with little consideration for form or function.
As for the midfield my vote is on Pirlo with Ambro and Flamini behind. While Rino is playing better and Flamini may be injured, I do not believe Rino should be anywhere near this match merely as punishment for his Red Card in the last Derby. The DM position is usually the most hard working on the field anyway, so having three capable guys rotating in and out is not an issue, and since the inclusion of two DM’s in front of the defense Milan have only conceded one goal in three games and the defense has been under much less pressure allowing for the growth and progression of the wingbacks and giving Silva a bit of leeway to run forward in the attack. If Leo’s 4-3-3 was an master stroke, than this midfield conversion is a truly his "capo lavoro".
Defensively the back four should remain the same, the backline always seems to approve with consistency, and those guys are starting to work together very nicely. I don’t think they should be shaken up and it will find give us a chance to see how far Antonini, Silva, and Abate have progressed with Old Man Nesta anchoring the line. Who would have thought a backline with an average of 33.75 last year would be down to 25.75 this year and playing with just as much as skill, passion, and intensity oh yeah and pace, LOTS of pace. What was a black hole of depth for Milan, and still is a bit depleted, at least now we have the youth on the front line with experience waiting in the wings. I am excited to see what this group can do.
Inter, though without the services of Eto, pivotal in the last derby, will counter with a pseudo 4-2-3-1 depending on personnel, but the real engine room is Sneijder. While were busy wooing the immovable Dutchman KJH to Milan, Sneijder quietly went to our rivals, and whoever Leo chooses as the two DM’s, will have to shut down this guy quickly. Tactically we are a far more mature than we were in the last derby and while I don’t put much stock in sport cliché, you have to believe we are an entirely different squad. New players featuring, new formations, and new tactics. Jose will have to do his homework because this Milan team is ready to roll. I will be back Thursday and Friday with a two part preview and more discussion regarding Inter's tactics, with this post just be a Rossoneri perspective, until then lets see your Derby formation, here is mine (not sure how much we can deviate, seedorf? Pato?):
Dida, Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini, Flamini, Ambro, Pirlo, Becks, Bori, Dinho