The Rossoneri keep saying all the rights things regarding their commitment and belief in winning Serie A which has been dominated by Inter since the fallout from Calciopoli. But they are now no longer chasing their city rivals as Roma have taken the top spot and are now four points ahead of Milan. The struggles of the two Milan clubs have paved the way for the rise of the Giallorossi who have the easiest schedule amongst the three clubs and can win the Scudetto if they remain calm and focused.
Milan struggled against Catania at San Siro despite a brave comeback which was perhaps too little too late. Marco Borriello was the main protagonist as he struck twice to salvage a draw for the Rossoneri and maintain a reasonable gap with the league’s two leading clubs. His attacking partner Klaas-Jan Huntelaar performed his typical Houdini disappearance act as he followed his stunning strike last week with a pedestrian showing. Such has been Huntelaar’s season that Leonardo has felt justified time and again in benching the Dutchman and sparsely using him when there is a case of emergency or a lack of alternatives. Milan will certainly have to delve into the market to sign a reliable striker who can guarantee at least 15 goals a season.
Speaking of Inter’s dominance and Calciopoli, Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani seemed adamant the sensitive issue has had repercussions which continue to influence the Italian league. All the clubs punished have not fully recovered as a consequence of the scandal yet the most alarming aspect is the Italian league is likely to lose its fourth Champions League spot if the current trend continues to hold. Galliani attributed the potential loss of the fourth spot to the fiasco resulting from Calciopoli. He has been in the news in recent weeks for all different kind of reasons – from Calciopoli investigations to Leonardo’s status at the club as well as the future of Alexandre Pato. While Galliani has insisted Leonardo has the backing of the club, President Silvio Berlusconi was critical of Milan’s play and tactics in another sharp rebuke of the Coach. Leonardo refused to respond and instead stressed his focus is on maintaining Milan’s floundering challenge to Inter and Roma.
When Borriello scored the equaliser the facial expression on Leonardo summed up his great desire to achieve success at Milanello. Leonardo might not be very experienced but he has in one season proven to be a calm Coach who believes in a certain system and does not waver from it despite criticism or negative results. The tactician’s system has actually allowed the likes of Ronaldinho to excel despite the recent voices calling on the Brazilian playmaker to shoot more and play in a more advanced position. If moved further up-front then Milan would be devoid of his creativity in the midfield as Andrea Pirlo has looked increasingly erratic this season.
With regards to Borriello, his two goals were well taken and the build-up to his first goal was a delight with Pirlo’s chipped cross met by a headed pass from Clarence Seedorf and converted by Borriello’s decisive header. The striker enhanced his chances of representing the Azzurri in South Africa 2010. Juventus forward Vincenzo Iaquinta has spent much of the season on the sidelines due to injury while Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino has cooled off after a great scoring run in late 2009. Azzurri Coach Marcello Lippi will likely pick two from Gilardino, Iaquinta, Borriello and Giampaolo Pazzini to accompany Antonio Di Natale and perhaps Francesco Totti. While Borriello did his chances no harm, World Cup winners Gianluca Zambrotta and Gennaro Gattuso have been consigned to the bench. The two veterans will surely be concerned about their chances of making the Azzurri squad given their lack of playing time.
Finally the Scudetto is slipping with every additional moment ageing defender Giuseppe Favalli spends on the pitch, as he has suffered when faced with the pace and creativity of attackers. Even of greater concern is how Thiago Silva has looked below par alongside Favalli with the first goal coming after the Catania player easily lost the Brazilian centre-back. Alessandro Nesta is injured but a club of Milan’s stature should surely have at least one capable alternative at the back. Hopefully the management will acknowledge these deficiencies and act to fill in the gaps where necessary for next season.