If the win against Napoli showed a ray of light in the grey Milan sky, all is doom and gloom again after the defeat at the hands of Juventus. The Rossoneri now need a win against Real Madrid in the Champions League, but that is easier said than done. The Milan team seen on Saturday night does not seem to offer the solidity and the strength needed to beat the current leaders of La Liga.
If the general feeling is that the Rossoneri do not seem to find an effective way of playing, at Via Turati there is instead the belief that Milan played a good match against Juve and that a draw would have been a fair result. After the defeat, Coach Massimilano Allegri said that “there have been some individual mistakes and we have been hasty in some occasions, but we played well, we created chances and we didn’t deserve to lose the match”. There were individual mistakes on the night but there were also collective mistakes and after allowing the second goal the squad lost cohesion and did not seem to attack as a unit, relying more on the individual genius for a comeback rather than on team play.
The long list of injured or unavailable players, or the injury picked up by Daniele Bonera in the first-half, cannot be used as an excuse for Milan’s defeat as the Bianconeri themselves could not rely on a large number of injured players. During the match Gigi Delneri also lost Paolo De Ceglie and Jorge Martínez, and had to resort to play winger Simone Pepe at full-back. More, as President Silvio Berlusconi pointed out “a great team has to have second lines up to the task, so no complaint if we were missing some players”.
The verdict from Saturday’s night match against Juve is that Milan’s second lines do not perform as first lines and were not up to the task. Luca Antonini seemed unsecure, suffered a lot from Fabio Quagliarella’s pace and was unable to stop Mohamed Sissoko despite the Malian mêlée with the ball for the second Juve goal. Ignazio Abate, who came on to replace the injured Bonera, did not cause any problems on his side nor took advantage of Pepe playing out of position, while there are questions asked about Sokratis Papastathopulos’ sense of position and timing.
But that is not the only problem that Allegri faces, as the Brazilians seem to have lost their fair. Robinho is too inconsistent and has failed as a replacement for Ronaldinho. He enjoys playing wide and does not keep to the central position when played as an attacking midfielder behind the two strikers. Ronaldinho has also been inconsistent and his lack of good performances has reignited all the rumours about his future at the club. Alexandre Pato is, at the moment, a shadow of himself. He does not seem to get anything right and makes elementary mistakes. So far Allegri has shown no intention to remove him from the starting line-up as he waits for the young Brazilian to get back to top levels but things may change in the light of recent results and the urgency to win the next Champions League match.
As far as Real Madrid is concerned, Allegri faces dilemmas all over the pitch. In defence he may be able to field Gianluca Zambrotta and possibly Thiago Silva. They both trained with the rest of the team on Monday but the Brazilian skipped the afternoon practice. In midfield it will be crucial to choose the right support for Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso, and with Massimo Ambrosini now available the Coach may decide to utilise his grit. In attack, the only reliable player remains Zlatan Ibrahimović. Ronaldinho should get his place back while the evergreen Filippo Inzaghi, the only Milan striker who seems to give nightmares to José Mourinho, may oust a currently dull Pato.
The match is one of vital importance for Milan’s season as a defeat would seriously jeopardise their chance of qualification to the next stage of the Champions League. Real Madrid are in a far better situation – top of La Liga, top of the Champions League group and scoring plenty of goal thanks to an on fire Cristiano Ronaldo. Against Los Merengues there is no margin for errors for Allegri and his team. Two days ago Berlusconi declared that “Milan have to win in a convincing way”, but tomorrow night everybody at the club will be happy with a scrappy win as it is the only thing they need now.