This Sunday’s encounter at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa will pit Sampdoria against Milan in a match-up between sides whose UEFA Cup campaigns both prematurely ended in midweek. The Blucerchiati crashed out against Ukrainian side Metallist Kharkiv 3-0 on aggregate whilst the Rossoneri suffered a heartbreaking defeat to German side Werder Bremen on the away goals rule in a game after going 2-0 up heading in at the break only to through the game away in the second half.
The defeat has not done any favours to Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti who is under immense pressure and speculation is increasing that the Rossoneri Tactician could be out of the job come end of the season.
It could be said that the Rossonerri are in a middle of a crisis of some sorts with recent lacklustre performances and results. Draws against Genoa and Reggina, the defeat in the Milan derby, followed by a not-so-convincing victory over in-form Cagliari combined with the European exit has really got to the Rossoneri tifosi who are starting to get impatient with their team. The frustration seems to have also gotten to Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani who, according to the La Gazzetta dello Sport, held a special meeting with Carlo Ancelotti and the rest of the squad behind closed doors at the club’s training ground. Galliani seems to be demanding answers from everyone as to why a game which they should of won instead turned into a disaster and it seems the Rossoneri’s disappointing season is only getting worse and nothing but a victory against the Blucerchiati will do.
Although not on quite the same level, Sampdoria Coach Walter Mazzarri has not fared well in recent times either, with many fans calling for his resignation after a disappointing campaign. However, Club Chairman Riccardo Garrone has backed his Coach, insisting the 47-year-old is not going anywhere. This is not a position the Blucerchiati tifosi were hoping to be in – currently 14th place and far from safe, they probably won’t go down this year but football can be unpredictable at times – just ask any Diavolo fan after the midweek debacle in Milan – but Samp has picked up valuable points recently especially last weekend against Atalanta where in-form striker Giampaolo Pazzini scored the game’s only goal. The win seems to have eased the pressure on the Coach for now.
The Rossoneri could probably do with a match against Doria, with il Diavolo enjoying a strong recent record against their opponents. In fact, the 2-1 defeat the Rossoneri suffered in the 2005/06 season was the first defeat against the Blucerchiati since another 2-1 defeat back in 1995/96. The meeting earlier this season ended with a comfortable 3-0 victory where Ronaldinho scored a double and Pippo Inzaghi netted in injury time, Ancelotti’s men also thumped Doria 5-0 last season showing the dominance they have over the Genoa outfit. Sampdoria is probably just what the doctor ordered for the Rossoneri.
Sampdoria will need to find a way to break their slump against the Rossoneri with one bright spot for the Blucerchiati being the great new partnership that Antonio Cassano has formed alongside newly acquired Giampaolo Pazzini. The former Italy U-21 standout is finally playing up to his potential having not really done it with la Viola. Since his arrival from Fiorentina he has scored in his previous four Serie A games – look for him to make it five against a tired Milan defence. These two will need to play a strong game if their side is to gain anything from this game especially with the fact that back-up striker Claudio Bellucci is suspended for the match and the team quite short up up-front. Other absentees from the squad are defender Daniele Gastaldello and midfielders Nenad Krsticic and Gennaro Delvecchio – all out injured.
The Milan coaching staff have their own injury worries to deal with, with long term absentees Gennaro Gattusso, Marco Borriello, Alessandro Nesta unavailable and joined by Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Daniele Bonera and Zeljko Kalac all sidelined or doubts for the game with short-term injuries.
Both clubs may have seen their UEFA Cup campaigns come to a sudden end but many believe that this could be a blessing in disguise for both teams because they can now both focus their attention on their domestic leagues and not worry about mid-weeks flights out to Europe to play pretty tough teams. Doria were probably never looking to progress far in the competition, with the domestic league prioritized after their shocking start. The second leg against Metallist Kharkiv showed their ambitions as they fielded quite a weak side resting key players.
It will probably won’t be the prettiest or most exhilarating of encounters at the Stadio Luigi Ferrraris with both teams having played during the week but there is still a crucial three points up for grabs and it’s points that neither team can afford to drop.