Fourth placed Genoa travel to the San Siro on Wednesday looking to close the gap on third placed rivals, Milan. Il Grifone has been urged to play without fear when they face the Rossoneri all-stars and with the pressure on them to win not has critical as the home sides, they may find a freedom to their game to trouble Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Milan has been rejuvenated in recent weeks and in spite of losing key players through injury has picked up valuable points. Not least the 4-1 demolishing of Bologna at the weekend where they showed character in responding immediately with an equalising goal after falling behind early on. The injuries the Rossoneri have suffered though have been offset with the arrival of David Beckham and with fan favourite Kaka committing his future to the club, the San Siro faithful can breathe a sigh of relief.
On paper, Milan’s line up is frightening. The lethal Brazilian triumvirate up front, a host of world class options in midfield and an experienced back line is a Coach’s dream, but one of the problems for the experienced Rossoneri Tactician is which of his stars to field and which to leave out. Generally he has favoured to play both Kaka and Ronaldinho – given the immense ability of both players his decision is understandable. In doing so though, his side had become unbalanced, a problem which prompted Kaka to voice his opinion in public a couple of months ago. The established San Siro favourite explained he could not impact on games with the same effect he can when playing with Clarence Seedorf. It was interesting to note then that Ronaldinho was relegated to the subs bench for the trip to Bologna at the weekend in favour of the Dutchman – a condition of Kaka staying at the San Siro perhaps? Notably, Kaka was instrumental in an emphatic Rossoneri victory, scoring two and playing a part in Seedorf’s opener. It would be no surprise if the Milan boss kept with the same front line up when his side face Genoa.
The on loan arrival of Beckham, from LA Galaxy also balances the side. There was grave concern when Gennaro Gattuso was ruled out with a long-term injury. His dogged work ethic is an inspiration to his teammates, but more importantly his tenacity was key to winning possession and setting up attacks. For all Andrea Pirlo’s talent, the playmaker’s best work would best suit a role in the final third but has found himself stuck in that deeper, anchor role. Flanked by Massimo Ambrosini on the left and Golden Balls on the right, there is plenty of graft and ingenuity in the middle to protect a backline which has looked vulnerable at times this season. The inclusion of the England hopeful so early into his spell with the club came as a bit of a surprise given there were doubts over his fitness, but Becks has defied sceptics and proved he is full of running. His bursts down the right and into the box were rewarded with a goal at the weekend and once he gets settled into the Italian game, expect more to come. The Milan board and coaching staff have been so impressed with Becks since his arrival reports in the media suggest the club are prepared to splash out around £4.5m to bring the player to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on a permanent basis. With Beckham’s desire to be involved with the England setup, it seems likely that a deal will be favoured by the former Manchester United Winger.
Establishing a settled back four has been disruptive to Milan’s progress this season. No sooner do they fill the gap left by Alessandro Nesta in the heart of defense that the new replacement to partner captain Paolo Maldini is also ruled out. The latest recruit is former Arsenal man Philippe Senderos who for all his height and power is good in the air, but prone to error when put under pressure. For now though Ancelotti doesn’t have any other option. Marek Jankulovski returns after serving a one match ban and is likely to get the nod over Giuseppe Favalli at left-back.
Milan’s defensive troubles of course will suit Gian Piero Gasperini who’s Genoa side are surprisingly in the hunt for a top four finish and a reckoning for a lucrative Champions League spot. A win would bring them to within a point of their hosts and keep them at arms distance from their nearest challengers, Roma. Much of the success for the Rossoblu has been the form of front man Diego Milito who has 13 goals to his credit for the campaign and was on hand to rescue a point against Catania at the weekend. The Argentinean will be supported up front by Bosko Jankovic and Giuseppe Sculli, both of whom weighed in with important goals during Milito’s recent absence.
Thiago Motta and Ivan Juric will play a pivotal role in their attempts to temper Milan’s attacking threat. With Marco Rossi and Francesco Modesto utilised as wing-backs to exploit the space down the flanks where their opponents are somewhat threadbare, the centre pairing will need to be on their guard to stifle speedy Milan counter-attacks. Both players will want to keep Kaka on a close reign to prevent him from having any impact on the game.
With influential defender Matteo Ferrari serving a one match suspension Sokratis Papastathopoulos will step in to form a central wall alongside Domenico Criscito and
Giuseppe Biava, in the heart of defence protecting Rubinho’s goal. They will no doubt make it a frustrating evening for Milan’s young striker Alexandre Pato, but will have their work cut out coping with the Brazilian’s pace and picking up runners from deep.
The match is evenly poised, both sides have plenty to play for and with Genoa gearing up for the game with a no fear mentality, goals are expected – and perhaps even a potential upset.