This has the makings of a tricky game for Max Allegri and AC Milan. Samp is never an easy opponent, and in fact losing 2-1 in this fixture last season should be evidence enough that this game should not be taken lightly. There is a lot of noise being made about the absence of Antonio Cassano and the possibility that come January he is playing behind Zlatan and Robinho at AC Milan, but that is not a point of concern at this moment because the players at Samp are plenty capable of earning a result at home and Allegri shouldn’t worry about players who are not available.
This game is also tricky because midweek you could see the fatigue in the legs and on the faces of Zlatan, Zambro, Nesta, Clarence, Ambro and Rino. Now this is no small problem, especially because in this glut of games Milan has won 5 straight matches in all competitions and working on three straight clean sheets. Making a lot of changes now may upset the balance that has been forged so well over the last few games and with no midweek game looming, it is a difficult decision to rest or push forward in this match. I think looking at the list of tired players you could rest Seedorf for Pirlo, Zambro for Antonini and Prince for Rino or Ambro. But Nesta or Zlatan may be a tall order, one for leadership and the other for the gluttony of goals. It doesn’t mean that depending on the situation they can’t be subbed, but this would have to a very proactive approach for Allegri which despite his very impressive month has not been a strong trait for him.
It would also be an opportunity to see if Pirlo can function in a more advanced CAM role. I have some minor doubts, but not because of Pirlo the player, but more because of Pirlo’s strengths. His long passing would not be as effective closer to goal, but his ability to keep possession, find a short pass and hopefully shoot a bit should benefit Milan as well. He is also the master of the professional foul and he will have no problem stopping counters with a little trip or tug, if he can’t fill in proper. The key to this whole rebirth of AC Milan has been the removal of one player from the attack and the addition of that player to the center of the park, so as long as that balance remains, there is no reason why this team can’t continue to be successful.
So if I were Allegri I go with a pseudo balancing act:
Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Silva, Ants; Flamini, Ambro, Prince; Pirlo; Zlatan, Binho
Keep Rino on the ready for Ambro, Yepes for Nesta, and Dinho for Zlatan and use those subs based on the flow of the game, and if you can get them in early (65th minute) all the better. This gives you a strong squad to start, but also flexibility in formation by dropping Pirlo deeper into a 4-4-2 with a lead, or even potentially playing one striker if you can get up by two goals.
For Sampdoria, Pazzini is in great form and I thought this season would be a big one for him, but the loss of Cassano has hurt, though he is still scoring. They will also be without Palombo at the start but he will be fit enough for the bench. Poli and Guberti are both playing well enough to do some damage in a very standard 4-4-2 which will crowd the center of the pitch and force a lot of short possession passing. This should actually help Milan in controlling the pace of the game and using some patience to get themselves to goal. You only need one goal to win, and Milan has proved that week in and week out now; and for the first time in a long time there is a confidence on both sides of the ball that even if the game is scoreless at half, Milan still has a chance to earn the result. Keep a close eye on Poli, he has been on Milan’s radar for a season or two now and maybe even as soon as this January he could make the switch; it is always good to see a player perform, just not that well to beat us!
Confidence is riding high but Allegri has preached caution rightfully so, and Milan are could win their fifth straight in Serie A and if goes a well a FOURTH STRAIGHT SHUT OUT! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet…as always FORZA MILAN and check back here tomorrow for the match post. The game will be on ESPN3, no TV stateside, but as always share streams if you have them.