I am not big on over dramatizing the importance of games or stretches of the schedule, but I can’t help but magnify this week for the Rossoneri. The last time Milan was on the pitch, it seems like eons ago, they were embarrassed at home by Palermo. Since that day they have been unable to redeem themselves because of a calling off and the holiday break. We as fans have been left with a bad taste in our mouths and the growing impatience to make good on the poor performance. Even more intriguing is the six points at stake against two teams within striking distance with Juventus one off tour total and Genoa at seven. Yes, Milan has a game in hand, but wouldn’t it be nice to know those point are available while we are still so close to Inter!?
It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of imagination for a team to overlook a squad like Genoa en route to a match up with Juventus, but considering the bit of turmoil and unrest currently afflicting Ciro Ferrera and his bunch, it is Genoa that poses the larger and more immediate threat. Genoa is an interesting case of inconsistency this season; capable of winning convincingly as they did against Sampdoria and Siena, drawing against Juventus and Parma, and getting embarrassed in games against Inter and Chievo. It is evident that Genoa have yet to truly replace the firepower lost in Motta and Milito, and because of it the offense has lacked the consistency it had last year in their assault on the top of the table. This has not stopped or discouraged Gasperini, a excellent tactician, who he has gotten four Serie A goals each from Crespo and Palladino, and will most likely employ new Inter arrival and former Milan target David Suazo as a member of the striker crew and to rub some salt in that healed over wound. It wasn’t long ago that Suazo was a scoring machine for Cagliari prompting a bidding war in which the Rossoneri ultimately lost, but it was Suazo who was the real loser as his career suffered soon thereafter.
It is no secret that Milan will want and need to attack in order to win this match, and if the front line finds the back of the net early this game may get wide open as Genoa chase an equalizer. Conventional wisdom would favor Genoa in such a match as they have the speed and youth to sustain a high tempo, but an early goal should allow Milan to control possession and slow down Genoa. With the long layoff both sets of players will be fresh, and it will be up to Leo to decide if any players should be rested or held back for the weekend, or used today in favor of a start on Sunday. The biggest question marks are new arrivals Adiyah and Beckham, both have been training with the Club over the holiday break and Leo may want to have them hit the ground running in order to get some rest for his regulars. Beckham will prove useful in the midfield as Leo can rest Seedorf or Pirlo while re-shifting the midfield accordingly, with the possibility of Adiyah getting a run out for Pato or Dinho depending on the state of the match in the final 15-30 minutes. Leo can also continue to make use of Abate, Antonini to counter act some of the pace from Criscito Palladino. He will also have to begin considering using DiGennaro, Flamini, and even Strasser as the schedule grows congested in the coming weeks and the appropriate matches present themselves.
For me the goal is simple, make this a six point week. Come out Wednesday with a high level intensity and strong performance, carry that momentum for the weekend game with Juventus and set the tone for the second half of the campaign and the Champions League run. While I do not have expectations of grandeur, or even really the dire need for silverware this season, I believe with the right performance and attitude moving forward we can safely say a top four finish is feasible, if not expected, and a run at the Scudetto is no longer the pipe dream it was merely a few months ago.