Il Diavolo dropped all three points against Parma, and to make matters worse midfield schemer Andrea Pirlo was sent-off towards the end. The result is not a shocking one because the Rossoneri have made it a habit to throw away any advantage presented by Inter during the current campaign.
Last weekend the Nerazzurri dropped points yet Milan could only match the league leaders by struggling to a draw against visiting Napoli. It was apparent the long-term absentees and the early injury suffered by Alexandre Pato would hinder the club’s chances of overtaking Inter. It is obvious the Rossoneri were fortunate to close the gap to a single point because Milan were going through a negative period which included the mauling administered by Manchester United in Europe sandwiched between an away draw with Roma and a last-gasp win against Chievo at San Siro. These unsatisfactory displays were followed by the unconvincing home draw with the Partenopei and the costly defeat against Parma.
The Nerazzurri have been inadvertently providing il Diavolo with a series of opportunities to catch up in Serie A yet astonishingly Milan have refused to accept their generosity. In recent fixtures the Nerazzurri drew with Genoa, lost away to Catania before a 1-1 draw with Palermo. José Mourinho’s charges appeared to be going through a mini-crisis in the league yet Leonardo and his players have been unable to capitalise on the failings of their city rivals. There were even warning signs Roma would be catching up if Leonardo could not get the players to perform on a reasonable level and at this stage of the season momentum has shifted in the direction of the Giallorossi. If Roma can beat the visiting Nerazzurri during the weekend then they (and not Milan) will likely be the main challengers for the Serie A title.
With David Beckham done for the season and on loan signing Amantino Mancini unimpressive since making the dubious move from Inter, the sending off of Pirlo will be another massive blow to Milan’s chances of competing for the league crown. The Rossoneri are not built to endure a long and extended season but to actually compete on a match-by-match basis, which is exactly why the Champions League was the club’s best chance for a trophy this season. Even the European competition was logically beyond the club’s reach because the first-team line-up (when healthy, injury-free and playing together) was short of talent when compared to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter and Manchester United. Wayne Rooney shredded the Milan defensive line and appeared to be taking on school boys when the sides met at San Siro.
The tifosi are clamouring for fresh and young faces but President Silvio Berlusconi is unlikely to start writing cheques at the frequency desired by the supporters. While the choice of Leonardo as Coach has proven to be a solid one given his calm leadership and his genuine desire to work hard to achieve results, the summer signing of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was an utter waste of funds. The Rossoneri would have been better off to splash a bit more to secure Bosnian international Edin Džeko or lure Sevilla’s Brazilian marksman Luís Fabiano.
Both strikers have a knack for scoring goals and would have fit better with the system and tactics employed by the Coach. Against Parma the Rossoneri did not impress but what is a greater cause of concern is the fact the hosts were not performing to their best either. The Rossoneri tend to struggle when facing teams which can rely on speed, superior physical attributes or close down the spacing available for playmaker Ronaldinho. This has been a persistent problem in recent years with Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi all on the wrong side of 30. The age factor cannot be underestimated and even if Milan win their next few games it is unlikely they will be dethroning Inter. The only team capable of doing so at this stage is Roma.