Club Focus – Milan – Rossoneri must start winning to build confidence and save Leonardo

Milan can no longer afford to drop points as they try to overcome Udinese for the first time this season. A loss would cause them to lose touch with Roma who are currently making a strong run for second place. Udinese defeated Milan twice this season including the 1-0 win in the Coppa Italia.

With il Diavolo winless in four games the pressure is intensifying on Coach Leonardo as he faces another period of uncertainty similar to the one at the beginning of the season. Milan’s players were able to overcome their earlier difficulty by sticking to Leonardo’s plans and rewarding the Coach’s faith in them. He has confirmed this is the most important month of the campaign, a win against Manchester United over the two legs is a must or else he risks losing his job at the end of the season. In the past few days there were reports about potential Coaches taking over if Leonardo fails with Rafael Benítez one of those candidates named.

Victory against Udinese will raise morale at Milanello after weeks of gloom and uncertainty. The match has been given additional impetus considering it will serve as a preparatory clash ahead of the encounter with the Red Devils. Two familiar faces in the shape of legends Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini were reportedly at Milanello to show their solidarity with the team. Maldini retired at the end of last season so he is familiar with most of the current players. According to Adriano Galliani both Alessandro Nesta and Alexandre Pato should be fit to face the English team, so it will be interesting to see whether Leonardo will give them a cameo run off the bench or perhaps even start them. Nesta has only been missing as of late but Pato might be in need of some minutes on the pitch to get back into playing routine.

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One player likely to be dropped for the Champions League will be Clarence Seedorf. The Dutch midfielder did not impress against Livorno and Bologna so he might feature on the bench while Gennaro Gattuso or Mathieu Flamini will start giving Andrea Pirlo more freedom to roam further up the pitch. Leonardo might be concerned with the physical nature of the Premier League champions and may opt for muscle as opposed to Seedorf’s skills, particularly with the Dutchman struggling for form. The Red Devils have suffered a blow prior to the first-leg with Ryan Giggs expected to miss both ties against the Rossoneri. The Welshman has a fractured forearm and his leadership will be sorely missed. Nevertheless, they have experienced players who have won the European trophy but Milan’s core is superior experience wise with a number of players having won the Champions League and the World Cup. This is precisely why the absence of Giggs will be hard felt on and off the pitch given his experience on the European scene.

The Rossoneri were rather passive during the January market but they have stepped up their activity in terms of confirming personnel. Full-backs Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini have extended their contracts to keep them at Milanello until 2014. Abate has been deputising as a right-back with Massimo Oddo and Gianluca Zambrotta out injured while Antonini has impressed on the left flank. Both were nurtured in Milan’s academy before getting farmed out on loan or co-ownership deals to other clubs in order to gain experience. While the two Italians are set to remain with the Rossoneri, one of the old faces is likely experiencing his last days in Milan. Georgian Kakha Kaladze is apparently on the verge of moving to either Rubin Kazan or Zenit St. Petersburg. We recently reported the unlikelihood of seeing the Georgian on the pitch in Milan colours again. Leonardo chose to stick with the older Giuseppe Favalli when Nesta was injured and then opted for Daniele Bonera the moment he was fit again. His departure will signal the end of an era for the back-line as Nesta will become the oldest serving defender on the roster.

Lost in the midst of all this is the status of Marco Borriello who is suffering from an injury which could explain the slight dip in form in the last couple of games. Borriello’s presence is critical given Leonardo’s reluctance to use veteran Filippo Inzaghi and the lack of playing time afforded to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Inzaghi is no stranger to European ties and if Borriello misses then the goal poacher will likely step-in ahead of Huntelaar. Again the game against the Zebrette will give clues as to which players are available for selection and who will likely miss out due to injury or lack of form.

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

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