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Derby Preview: Tactic's Thursday - Montolivo in the Midfield

With Nigel De Jong out with a hamstring injury do you start Montolivo at CM after just getting back from a long term injury?

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Filippo Inzaghi has his first real tactical dilemma on his hands as the Derby draws near.  Does he start a fresh from injury Ricardo Montolivo at CM in place of an injured Nigel De Jong or does he stay with a shield in front of the defense?  The question is a loaded one and not as simple as a like for like switch!

The real problem here, is not one of fitness, but of tactics.  If Montolivo is ready you almost have to play for lack of a better option, but what does that do tactically to a team already struggling in defense?  The immediate issue is one of balance and if you play Montolivo you may have to shield him a bit more.  Regardless of what formation Pippo chooses, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1, or 4-3-1-2 the midfield stays a flat three which is good for sake of consistency.  The personnel makes a difference. The real flanks for a guy like Monty should be two guys like Muntari.  Work horses, ball winners and channel runners.  While a guy like Andrea Poli fits the bill, a guy like Ricardo Saponara or Giacomo Bonaventura will surely benefit the offense but may expose an already over exposed defense. From an attack standpoint Inter has cooled from their hot scoring start, notably the form of Pablo Osvaldo, but the their attack needs to be considered when this choice is made.

Montolivo does offer you a bit more ball possession but ithat also comes with a "reaction." Do you want to play short balls in say a false nine and then let Menez piss away possession in the attaching third?  Do you want to play a bit long and wide with a Fernando Torres?  This would be my play, but with Ignazio Abate possibly out as well you lose the attacking width?  So then do you force a 4-3-3 with SES in the widest left channel and stand to lose benefit of Honda to far wide? Maybe the answer is Menez and SES in the wide channels and a striker to hassle an in form Andrea Rannochia that Montollivo can use a fulcrum to move the ball into wide areas?

As you can see the return of Montolivo offers a unique tactical opportunity but without knowing what he will bring from a form perspective presents a unique gamble.  It was under Max Allegri that Montolivo truly shined following an NDJ injury.  He was played in front of the defense in a 4-3-3 flanked by Muntari and Flamini, coincidentally that showed the best form of SES and Pazzini as well.  Could this have the same effect or will the weaker Milan defense struggle to accommodate for Montolivo.  It's a tough choice and one that will have an interest result come the final whistle on Sunday.