Milan travel to Palermo’s Stadio Renzo Barbera this weekend hoping to get their title challenge back on track following a second successive away draw to struggling opposition. Now three points off pace setters Inter, any more slip-ups would hand their arch-rivals a healthy margin in the Scudetto race.
Their latest disappointment came at the hands of lowly Torino, despite holding a half-time lead thanks to two superb goals from Pato and Ronaldinho. A harshly awarded, late penalty forced a share of the spoils, leaving Milan licking their wounds thinking of two points lost. There were plenty of positives for Coach Carlo Ancelotti, as the experienced tactician watched his front three rip apart the Toro backline time after time, despite failing to kill off the Turin side.
The summer signing of Ronaldinho caused plenty of stirs in the Italian media, but the acquisition is looking more and more astute every game. No-one at Milan could deny the troubles the Brazilian has had upon his arrival, but no-one in world football can question his ability when on song. The buck-toothed Brazilian got himself into shape and has quickly found form – Sunday night’s screamer making it five goals in 11 Serie A outings. His stunning free-kick might have been his most spectacular Milan goal to date, but his winner in the Derby della Madonnina will sit proudly as his highlight thus far.
After last season’s disappointment of not qualifying for this year’s UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti’s men would have to make a strong start to this campaign if their coach was going to keep his job. And with the prospect of having Dinho, Kaka and Alexandre Pato all donning the Milan jersey at once, optimism spread amongst the Rossoneri faithful. So far the superstar trio have managed 11 goals between them, and going by their performance last outing, there seems to be real signs of chemistry and understanding building between the three Brazilians.
When two of your three forward players have picked up the coveted World Player of the Year award, a certain amount of quality is going to be expected, and if Milan’s hopes are clinching their first Scudetto title in five years is to be achieved, then these three will have to consistently deliver.
Il Diavolo’s trip to Sicily this weekend will make nervous reading for both sides amidst an uneasy run of form. Palermo currently sit tenth after picking up just a solitary point from their last three outings – Davide Succi’s equaliser at Bologna the only time they’ve found the net in those games. And while Milan stretched their current unbeaten league run to eleven games, their last three matches has seen them barely scrape past rock-bottom Chievo at the San Siro – a victory sandwiched between two disappointing away draws at Lecce and Chievo.
With both sides desperate to keep within touching distance of their respective aims, points are imperitive in their bid to keep their campaigns on track. Palermo’s hopes of European football next season are on a knife-edge and if they keep slipping up, their rivals could soon be out of sight. Coach Davide Ballardini has come under a bit of pressure in recent weeks, with the honeymoon period is certainly over following a decent start. Expectations are high at the Rosanero and the clubs’ passionate tifosi give the team great support when things are going well, but are quick to get on the Coach’s back when form dips. Current chairman Maurizio Zamparini has made the Sicilian club a bit of a circus in recent years, with coaches leaving and returning on several occasions – Ballardini will hope for more time than his predecessors.
Milan will without doubt be looking at the Aquile’s poor defensive record this season, with their Samba trio licking their lips at the sight of the desperately leaky defence. Although, the Rosanero acquitted themselves well against the other Milanese giants, Inter, recently, they eventually succumbed to two stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals. It may well be a similar story this weekend, with the electrifying Brazilian contingent all capable of what Ibra produced that day and no matter how well Palermo perform on Sunday, there is little you can do to prevent such moments of inspiration. Palermo – no stranger to scoring goals themselves – might just fancy their chances coming up against the ageing Milan back line.
With both sides boasting an impressive strike force we look set for an entertaining spectacle.