Club Focus – Milan – Missed opportunities

Milan failed to capitalise on Inter’s 1-1 draw in Palermo as they fell for the trap set up by Napoli at the San Siro. The hosts were not at their best and things only got worse when Alexandre Pato had to be replaced after once again suffering from a recurring injury. The plight of Pato will have a detrimental effect on the Rossoneri’s charge towards first place considering Milan are already missing Alessandro Nesta and David Beckham while Marco Borriello is injury prone.

Brazilian Pato will miss a number of weeks with a hamstring tear. His extended absence might offers the likes of Filippo Inzaghi and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar more playing time, yet both have proved to be incapable of playing on a regular basis due to different reasons. Inzaghi scored against the Partenopei and there is no doubting his goal-scoring instincts which will likely never desert him but he is only getting older and cannot play every single match from the start. He is best used as a second-half substitute or as an occasional start when Leonardo is in dire need to field a healthy squad considering the injuries which have decimated it at various points this season.

Dutch striker Huntelaar has shown he can score yet the problem is clearly his lack of ability to blend in with the formation and adapt to the tactics employed by Leonardo. The Brazilian Coach must surely be frustrated with Milan’s biggest summer signing yet Leonardo has shown time and again his remarkable ability to remain composed in times of frustration. He has proven to be resilient and confident when it comes to his team selections but injuries have frequently disrupted his plans forcing him to use various players at different stages of the season. The tactician’s starting XI is quite evident yet he has rarely been able to use it for an extended stretch during this season. Other than the often injured Pato, striker Borriello has constantly been in and out of the starting line-up due to niggling injuries while as previously mentioned both Nesta and Beckham are out for the season, unless the Italian centre-back can recover quick enough to play a couple of games at the end.

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The defensive line has suffered the most with Gianluca Zambrotta missing ample time and other full-backs succumbing to various injuries during different parts of the season. There is no doubt city rivals Inter have a superior squad to the one available at Leonardo’s disposal but the Rossoneri have done remarkably well to be sitting just a mere point behind the Nerazzurri despite comfortably losing to them in both league encounters. Manchester United have exposed the shortcomings which are obviously the club’s lack in depth, the aging squad and the unforeseen growing injury list. These three factors have hampered Leonardo’s plans and cost the club valuable points in the league as well as in the Coppa Italia. When Udinese eliminated Milan from the cup competition it came as no surprise considering the side’s lack of proper alternatives in almost every position.

The return of Christian Abbiati in goal has been a welcome relief despite the Italian not doing anything out of the ordinary. Abbiati has been a solid custodian and definitely a considerable upgrade on the error-prone Brazilian Dida. The Italian shot-stopper’s presence is even more important considering the absence of centre-back Nesta. Abbiati provides assurance and solid hands which allow the defenders to be more relaxed yet he should work diligently on improving his ability to handle crosses from either flank. This has often been a glaring weakness in the goalkeeper’s repertoire throughout his career which has seen him represent prestigious sides such as Milan and Juventus.

While Milan are mostly concerned with wrestling away the title from the Nerazzurri, Roma are slowly creeping in and are just three points behind the Rossoneri. Milan must take advantage of this week’s double fixtures scheduled for Serie A as Inter have a particularly difficult weekend when they travel to take on Roma. Leonardo must make sure his players are focused prior to the weekend’s clashes as the Rossoneri have a tricky away test against Parma which could prove costly if more points are dropped.

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