I rarely do game previews but the prospect of another spectacle and coming together of two European powerhouses, AC Milan and Real Madrid is too good to miss. The last time the two teams met in Bernabeu, the scoreline read 3-2 in favour of the Rossoneri. That day three noteable things happened :
– Dida spilled the ball and allowed Raul to score. (Key word here – Raul!)
– Pirlo scored a screamer!
– Drenthe scored! (How rare is this?! )
For this reason, I did a one on one with Gianfranco who writes for AC Milan – The Offside. Below are the questions he was kind enough to answer for the big game tomorrow night. This would definitely help us Madridistas understand what’s in store for us tomorrow.
Tanuj (T) : Lets start with checking how Milan have been in the domestic league and champions league so far..
Gianfranco (G) : Milan have been inconsistent at best. They have been successful when teams come out and attack, but have struggled to break down teams who like to defend deep and counter. They have showed some resolve to win games where they were not necessarily the better team, as shown in the Genoa match earlier in the season, and a big problem from last season. However; in the same vein they have not been able to close out games and put them out of reach of opponents, not just by scoring games but dictating the tempo as well, instead they turned the Chievo game into a nail biter and couldn’t put the finishing touches on Lazio a few weeks back.
T : 3-1 victory over Chievo sends you to top of the Serie A. What has improved this season over last?
G : The biggest difference maker has been the play immediately following a goal. Last season Milan often scored first and conceded soon thereafter. This season they have been able to at least gain and maintain possession in those moments where the opponent is pressing for the equalizer. The true test of our first place position will be the next four weeks, if we are still there after that then this team may be able to achieve something.
T : What positives do you see in Allegri over Leonardo?
G : I see Allegri as having a greater overall understanding of the game and tactics, but it has yet to translate on the field. He has shown a greater understanding of the players at his disposal and putting them in positions to succeed which should also prove a positive in the long run. Instead of shoe horning a player out wide like Leonardo did to former Madrid man Huntelaar last season, Allegri seems willing to experiment and move guys into places to be successful both within and outside of his preferred formations.
T : Who so far in your opinion has been exceptional for the club this season?
G : Pato has been on his game when healthy, his pace and touch are devastating to opponents, he is starting to realize his infinite potential. I also have to admit that both Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo have played well so far, but seeing they are on the wrong side of thirty it will be difficult for them to continue playing at that level with a crowded fixture list and challenging games on the horizon. Abbiati has quietly been putting together an excellent season with one of the best goal against average in Serie A as well.
T : Where do you think your vulnerabilities lie?
G : Milan’s vulnerability is simply balance, without the right mix of attacking and defending players it is difficult for this team to stop counters as well as simply maintaining possession. The standard 4-3-3 formation is far to stretched allowing space for a team like yours to operate and be dangerous. Allegri would do well to find a more compact formation with players behind the ball.
T : Just like last time AC Milan visited Madrid do you think we should be wary of Pato? Add to that he scored a double over the weekend ..
G : As mentioned earlier Pato has been exceptional when fit. I think Mourinho would do well to be weary of Pato and do his best to keep his back to goal and not allow to run at players to his pace. I think if Pato can collect the ball at the edge of the attacking third and run at defenders he will be successful in this match and is a big key to our potential success.
T : Which Madrid players do you think can bother your defense?
G :Cristiano Ronaldo is a difference maker and his pace should give him the advantage on the right flank. If Allegri plays Zambrotta, Ronaldo may have a big game, Abate can surely keep up with him, but stopping him is another story. I also think Ozil will be a challenge for the defensive midfielders chosen by Allegri, his movements will be difficult to track and open up space for his teammates, his time and space on the ball should be limited, but I don’t think we have a player up to that task.
T : What is your predicted lineup?
G : A very good breakdown of the squad here and while not popular with the Ronadlinho fans, balance is the name of the game!
T : What is your prediction for the game?
G : If Milan come out attacking it will be tough for us not concede so I would expect a 2 goal win in favor of Madrid. If Allegri gets his tactics rights and plays with at least 8-9 players behind the ball then Milan have a chance for a draw and maybe even a win.
And just for rumours sake, T : Would you take Kaka back?
G: We had a very interactive discussion about this here. Personally it is best both player and Club move on, Milan have far more pressing needs than another attacking player. Thanks for the memories and best of luck to him wherever he is.
I want to thank Gianfranco for answering the questions and providing an insight into what should be a cracker of a game tomorrow night!
Would love to hear what everyone thinks of the game coming up? Predictions? What lineup would you want to see?