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Matchday XXXIV: Milan v Livorno

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The first leg was a 2-2 draw in daunting confines.

Marco Luzzani

In December it took a two goal performance from Balotelli, with one of them coming quite late for Milan to pull a point out of Livorno. The biggest issue of that match was conceding not once but twice and Milan's defensive woes were at the peak at that stage of this season. Balotelli had a good match on that day, despite missing two clear cut chances and it was really Livorno's GK, Bardi, who kept his team in the match and assured Milan didn't take the spoils to the tune of 3 or even 4 to 2.

That was a different Milan, it was one that didn't seem to execute. The team was riddled with errors and on that December day; the culprits were Zapata and Amelia. Oddly enough the errors have not disappeared as the same team will continue to be error prone when pressed, but the balance that alluded the squad late in 2013 has returned and while the chances on goal do not come as often or can be considered as pretty the results have returned. What was supposed a new invigorating pretty Milan, has become a flat track bully and clawed their way up the table. With few big names left a season in the doldrums of Europa may be on the horizon. Is it CL football, no it is not, but the sort of purgatory needed for all those involves as the team continues to struggle to find an identity and end the San Siro Circus!

In the evolution a few players have emerged, of late it is Montolivo who has picked up his game and while Balotelli has not been as prolific under Seedorf, the wide attacking midfielders are finding opportunities and taking them. Taarabt never had any issues, but now Honda seems to have found a bit more form. The real story for the match though is the potential return of Stephan El Shaarawy from an injury that has sidelined him for most of the season. The danger man returns after a second half of last season that saw him struggle in Balotelli's shadow. Now he will most likely be asked to play in an attacking midfield role in a wide area which will require a bit of grit out of him, something he doesn't shy away from but may not help him get back on the score sheet right away. I can live with a zero on the score sheet if it means a #92 on the pitch but it most likely won't be tomorrow as he continues to progress with the Primavera.

With that said the lineup is an easy one really, play those in form and let those that aren't sit...

Abbiati; Bonera, Rami, Mexes, Constant; NDJ, Monty; Taarabt, Honda, Kaka; Balotelli

I never thought I would say play those in form and show a lineup with Mexes and Constant in it!? While both are still prone to blunders they are keeping it in check and have been on the pitch for much of the winning streak. I am still longing for a Honda at CAM, and the fact that his lone goal of the season came through the middle should be telling!