Club Focus – Milan – Nesta & Pato return to help boost Milan ahead of the season’s most important match

Leonardo must have been a relieved man after seeing his players finally notch a win to overcome bogey team Udinese who have defeated Milan twice this season. The match marked the return of key duo Alessandro Nesta and Alexandre Pato. The Italian centre-back will bring experience and confidence to a defense which has looked shaky in his absence. Nesta is truly one of Serie A’s pleasant stories this campaign after not only featuring regularly for Milan but playing with purpose and poise as well.

The Coach will look to Nesta, who was crucial in previous Champions League triumphs, to try and limit Wayne Rooney’s threat. With all respect to the former Lazio captain he is no longer as agile or as fast to completely cancel out Rooney’s threat but at this stage of his career the extensive experience and his calm demeanour will help him deal with Rooney and potentially reduce his impact on the match proceedings. As for Brazilian youngster Pato, his return will be a massive boost to the struggling Rossoneri offense which found the back of the net in his absence on one occasion in the last four games. Pato’s presence in itself will be crucial as his pace and set of skills will bother Manchester United’s defenders. He even scored a goal against Udinese and did appear a threat whenever he had the ball.

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One concern is the status of striker Marco Borriello, who is still nursing an injury and was rested against Udinese with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar starting in his place and capping his appearance with a brace. Despite the start, Leonardo does appear reluctant to rely on the Dutch striker and he must see something which the tifosi do not as he has limited Huntelaar to a series of cameo appearances. It would be hard to bet against him benching Huntelaar if Borriello shakes off his injury to prove he is fit enough to start against the Red Devils. Leonardo has shown throughout the season he is confident about his selections and formations even when the Rossoneri have struggled.

One other worry is the condition of Nesta’s partner Thiago Silva, but the latest reports from Milanello indicate the Brazilian is improving well and will likely start tonight. He has formed a solid partnership with the rejuvenated Nesta. Together they have been one of the better central defensive duos in Serie A during this campaign. Leo will be pleased to have rediscovered Ronaldinho, who was struggling for a couple of games and facing rumours of partying prior to certain fixtures. The Brazilian playmaker was impressive against the Zebrette to the extent he overshadowed the returning Pato and goal scorer Huntelaar. The Brazilian Coach will be relying heavily on Ronaldinho to slice open the visitors’ defense and supply the forwards with assists to convert into goals. He is one of the few players in the Milan side who can create something out of an ordinary situation as Pato tends to rely more on his pace, exuberance and scoring touch. The club’s other creative force, Andrea Pirlo, can come up with the occasional defence-splitting pass but is no longer the same player he used to be.

Leonardo appears to be focused on countering the aggression and physical prowess of Sir Alex Ferguson’s midfield so he is likely to bench Clarence Seedorf to make way for either Gennaro Gattuso or Mathieu Flamini to partner captain Massimo Ambrosini and add some steel to the Rossoneri midfield. Milan will be focused on keeping a clean sheet at home but acknowledge a scoreless draw will not do them favours ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford so they will be looking for Ronaldinho and Pato to register at least a goal. The Rossoneri players know this European tie could decide Leonardo’s future come season’s end but realise their experience could work to their advantage. Ferguson claims Milan are in a tough position after losing Kaká this season, but as Clarence Seedorf suggested, United are going through their own transitional period after losing Cristiano Ronaldo. The Rossoneri must be aware of the fact the English side are beginning to hit form after some inconsistent displays earlier in the season.

The match will serve as a revenge mission for the Red Devils who were eliminated by the Rossoneri in the semi-final in 2007. Ferguson referred to the 2007 tie when discussing the expectations for tonight’s match-up. Who is better off without their respective star, Manchester or Milan?

Milan Club Focus 2009/10

Pre-season


Pre-season expectation
– August 18, 2009

Week 1


Leonardo breathes as Brazilians relieve pressure
– August 25, 2009

Week 2


Kaka returns to the San Siro
– August 27, 2009


How to play 4-3-1-2, a lesson from their rivals
– September 1, 2009


Reshuffle the current squad, regain the winning mentality
– September 4, 2009

International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)


Leonardo’s time to react
– September 7, 2009

Week 3


Livorno springs opportunity to end crisis
– September 11, 2009


Serie A slides down priority list
– September 15, 2009


Leonardo lurches into decision-making territory
– September 18, 2009

Week 4


Off the pitch rumours continue to swirl
– September 22, 2009

Week 5


Old legs cannot win forever, will Berlusconi follow in Della Valle’s footsteps?
– September 25, 2009

Week 6


A powerhouse that no longer strikes fear
– September 29, 2009

Week 7


Time is running out to save il Diavolo’s season
– October 2, 2009


A draw as bitter as a defeat
– October 6, 2009


The club is not for sale
– October 9, 2009

International week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)


In search of strikers and defenders
– October 13, 2009

Week 8


Berlusconi reiterates he will not sell as the Rossoneri prepare for Roma
– October 16, 2009


Brazilian duo see off Roma
– October 20, 2009

Week 9


Rossoneri record famous win in Madrid
– October 23, 2009


Leonardo stumbles upon the 4-2-3-1
– October 27, 2009

Week 10


Two precious points dropped
– October 30, 2009

Week 11


Borriello strikes twice as Milan continue climbing the table
– November 3, 2009


A bitter draw after Pato’s disallowed ‘goal’ as Huntelaar emerges unscathed
– November 6, 2009

Week 12


The Rossoneri challenging Juventus for second place
– November 10, 2009

International week (Italy-Holland, Italy-Sweden)

Week 13


Crucial stretch begins as Dzeko linked again
– November 20, 2009


Rossoneri continue impressive run
– November 24, 2009

Week 14


Missed opportunity to qualify
– November 27, 2009


Huntelaar breaks his duck with a late double to lift Mila to second
– December 1, 2009

Week 15


Season-defining week looms ahead
– December 4, 2009


Sunshine glimmers from the San Siro, but those clouds won’t leave
– December 8, 2009


Qualification secured after a scare
– December 11, 2009

Week 16


Gattuso to help the aged a little longer
– December 14, 2009

Week 17


Staying away from the market
– December 18, 2009


Winter break starts early
– December 22, 2009

Winter break


Beckham lands in town
– December 29, 2009


Giants on the transfer horizon
– January 5, 2010

Week 18


Beckham makes second Milan debut
– January 8, 2010

Week 19


Ronnie puts the breaks on in Turin
– January 12, 2010


Weakened Rossoneri scrape by Novara
– January 15, 2010

Week 20


Ronaldinho is enjoying playing again and soaking in the love
– January 19, 2010

Week 21


Milan derby looms large
– January 22, 2010


Inefficient Rossoneri surrender to Inter’s title assault
– January 26, 2010


Coppa Italia defeat reveals once again the lack of depth
– January 29, 2010

Week 22


Mancini joins from Inter
– February 2, 2010

Week 23


Rossoneri trying to regroup amid rumours about Ronaldinho’s partying
– February 5, 2010


Another draw as the Rossoneri drop to third
– February 9, 2010

Week 24


Rossoneri must start winning to build confidence and save Leonardo
– February 12, 2010


Nesta and Pato return to help boost Milan ahead of the season’s most important match
– February 16, 2010

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