Even if Leonardo is keeping a cool head at Milan, it does not mean they are not in trouble. 11th in the league with two wins, one draw and two defeats, one of those a mauling in the derby by city rivals Inter, is simply not good enough for the Milanese faithful. Milan need to get a run of games together where they are consistent and have the individual performances to match – too many times this season players have gone missing in big games and the new signings are yet to shine.
Bari on the other hand have impressed. The “draw specialists” of Serie A lie in 12th position, one point behind Milan with only one defeat to their name. They have played some exciting football and also shown resolve.
The main problems for Leonardo will be the same one that has faced him every week so far – a lack of goals and managing to get his top players to perform. The Rossoneri Coach has had to rely on veteran Filippo Inzaghi and, last weekend, Clarence Seedorf for goals and has seen both Ronaldinho and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar perform disappointingly this season. While Huntelaar was prolific at Ajax, the Dutchman was underused at Real Madrid, despite netting eight goals in 20 appearances, so his move to Milan may be make or break for him. As Leonardo is now out of options he could be forced to give the striker games when the pressure is on.
Milan’s line up for Bari will not change much from the one which suffered defeat to Udinese, although the big question will be whether or not to start Huntelaar or stick with the faithful Inzaghi.
44 Oddo – 13 Nesta – 4 Kaladze – 15 Zambrotta
8 Gattuso – 21 Pirlo – 10 Seedorf
7 Pato – 11 Huntelaar
Bari have had a good start to Serie A – they managed to hold the champions Inter to a draw on the opening day and have picked up further draws against Bologna and Palermo. A fantastic 4-1 win at home against Atalanta the highlight of the season so far. Only a defeat on Wednesday at the hands of Cagliari has disappointed the Biancorossi.
Therefore, excepting injuries, Bari’s first XI against Milan should be the one that started on Wednesday. Coach Giampiero Ventura will smell blood at an under performing Milan and, having already experienced San Siro in their draw with Inter, his team will not be intimidated. Bari may fancy themselves to, at the very least, contain a misfiring Rossoneri. The football played going forward has also been of a good standard and this could be a good hunting ground for any of their six different goal scorers this season.
5 Andrea Masiello – 13 Ranocchia – 19 Bonucci – 17 Salvatore Masiello
90 Álvarez – 16 Donati – 14 Gazzi – 23 Langella
19 Barreto – 69 Maggiorini
Milan have a difficult test on their hands in the shape of Bari. A lack of goals and poor performances have left the tifosi wondering more when, rather than if, Leonardo will part company with the Rossoneri. A defeat at home to a supposed minnow of Serie A would increase the likelihood of his departure. Much will lie on the front men of Milan to take the game to Bari as well as the old guard using all there experience to raise their game.
Bari however, also have a point to prove. This is a tough game for them and they will need to show how they can bounce back from defeat at Cagliari. Newly promoted, they will be aware of the dangers of being sucked into consecutive defeats, no matter how good their start has been. A draw seems a likely outcome, but this would still be a huge result for Bari and a catastrophe for Leonardo and Milan.