I can’t sit here and be the pillar of optimism, and you may have gotten that from the title, but having been on the opposite end of not one, but two CL miracle comebacks, I can’t deem this mission impossible, but you have to understand my apprehension. It is fitting that we had a weekend of futility in front of goal, the last time our strike force went so blatantly cold was our match against Man United at the San Siro. So many missed chances and wasteful plays; the answer seven goals in the next three matches leading to another mind boggler against Roma, can we expect the same answer? I sure hope so, because only a two goal victory will punch the Rossoneri ticket into the next round of the knockout stages.
The last match at the San Siro did prove one thing, and while the result was not what any of us wanted, Leo and company showed they could run with Manchester United, and they are not this unbeatable juggernaut the Man U-centric media machine makes them out to be. SAF, despite his pompous demeanor, will do what he can to park the proverbial "bus" in front of Van Der Sar, in an effort to keep Milan from doing exactly what is need to move on in this tie and that is score goals.
Leo on the other hand has to be cautious and find that balance that we always talk about. He can’t go all out attack for fear of conceding, but he needs enough attacking prowess to find the net. If we can all recall; the injury to Antonini proved pivotal, and the fixture of Dida in net is long forgotten, so Milan will be in bit better shape this time around, regardless of Wayne Rooney being fit or not. We also have Flamini coming off his game of the season against Roma, and for a guy who knows Man United very well, it should be a big plus for Leo and his winning eleven.
The back line in front of Abbiati is an easy choice, with Bonera, Nesta, Silva and Antonini. It was Antonini that wreaked havoc early with Ronaldinho in the previous tie, and I hope they can both find that rhythm again to get the first goal out of the way as quickly as they did in the last match. The midfield line should be just as easy a choice with Flamini, Pirlo, and Ambro getting the start, and Becks or Rino waiting in the wings to give a breather, depending on what the current score-line calls for. If Milan are fortunate enough to find themselves with a two goal lead, the "bus" needs to get parked on our end because we know SAF will certainly put his in drive to get the goals needed to send the tie in his favor.
The biggest "if" is Pato, and I have to say I wouldn’t push the issue all that much for the Duck. His performance in the last match against Man United left much to be desired. He looked lethargic, one dimensional, and downright lazy; while he lacked match fitness, he certainly will lack it here as well. Abate may prove a worthwhile starter for his pace alone. Despite his poor game last time out against the Red Devils, KJH proved he can work alongside Borri on the weekend, it is just a matter of how far central Leo decides to deploys Ronaldinho. KJH is not made to play wide right, and neither is Borriello, playing both strikers more central will force Bonera to get forward leaving gaps at the back, but Flamini proved more than capable at fixing this problem. Abate on the other hand can give the width needed, but may lack the touch needed to prove instrumental in finding the back of the net. It is quite the conundrum Leo has on his hands, but I have a strange calming and trusting feel in the manager for once, and I am going to run with it. While I would prefer the 4-3-3 with Abate wide, I can’t argue with the use of KJH either. Either way, both players should be more than ready to come out and do their part. Who knows maybe the sub KJH will enjoy the success he has all season coming off the bench.
So while I am firm believer in the idea that NOTHING is impossible, it will take a bit of a miracle to pull off a feat, winning by two at Old Trafford, something that I can’t even find the last occurrence of! But considering where this season started and where we stand now, I can’t help but feel that every win and every strong result is merely icing on the cake of a pleasantly surprising season. So while the money in advancing would certainly be very nice, it is comforting to know we can still compete for the scudetto if this mission is not a success, not the most hopeful way to end, but certainly a nice surprise either way.
If Milan go into this game knowing they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, they will be a very difficult opponent to face, and that kind of mentality is very dangerous. A mentality that I like, and ultimately hope this squad thrives on!!