Battered, bruised, Bale-less but confident we make our second visit of the season to the San Siro on Tuesday evening.Â Saturdayâ€™s excellent and hard fought win against Sunderland follows on from similar performances against Bolton and Blackburn in the previous fortnight, all three wins were gained through tenacity and commitment, qualities weâ€™ll need by the bucket load in Milan.
Whilst weâ€™re in the Champions League and weâ€™re havinâ€™ a laugh, Milan will be taking their own prospects more seriously being traditional and serial winners of the competition both in its pre and post Moneybags form. They currently sit top of Serie A, three points ahead of Napoli.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic maybe feted throughout Europe but he wouldnâ€™t be chosen to cut the ribbon & open a village one in England. It is he though, together with the Brazilian Pato, who is Milanâ€™s major goalscoring threat. According to my sources (David Hytner in the Guardian) itâ€™s either these two or Robinho in Patoâ€™s place who head a 4-3-1-2 formation in front of a midfield that is characterised by â€˜discipline and industriousnessâ€™.Â Theyâ€™ve conceded only once in their last five league games and have lost only three times all season.Â They have drawn a lot though, and two of those losses were at the San Siro.
The Italians can match our injuries in quantity as well as quality. They have strong doubts over Pirlo, Nesta & Ambrosini with other players struggling so the game may turn into a battle of the squads.
Looking at their firepower and domestic form (Ibrahimovic, Pato, Robinho and the newly added Cassano) itâ€™s hard to believe that they only scored seven times in the qualifying stages, but they were in a tough group with Real Madrid and Ajax. In contrast of course, at home our forwards canâ€™t even locate the banjo yet alone hit the proverbial cowâ€™s arse with it. In Europe however itâ€™s a different matter. So far most teams have shown that they donâ€™t know how to handle Crouch, they allow Defoe to turn and are prepared to give Van der Vaart and Bale a little bit of extra space to do their stuff. How close the latter two will be to the action is anyoneâ€™s guess. VdV has a habit of turning up when you donâ€™t expect it and with a free weekend ahead, Harry must be tempted to give Bale a run out if heâ€™s anywhere near fit, he seems to put the fear of God into anything Milanese-based if nothing else. Maybe a place on the bench rather than risk him from the off. Jenasâ€™s suspension is a bugger, choices in central midfield look inexperienced and lightweight.
The officials are French so a few of our defenders need to watch their mouths.
We have already surpassed expectations in this seasonâ€™s competition.Â In giving it a go, we have nothing to fear. The players have reveled in the space theyâ€™ve been allowed so far and thereâ€™s no reason to believe they wonâ€™t in this game either. Given the absence of so many of our big players, itâ€™s up to those that are left to put in a performance that those around them can learn from and aspire to. Dawson & Gallas will be key, Lennon and Pienaar need to be lively and troublesome, Crouch and Defoe strong and effective and Assou-Ekotto and Corluka solid & please letâ€™s have the 2010 Gomes not the 2011 version. Itâ€™s a lot to ask but put all these together, donâ€™t concede any soft goals, make the most of the opportunities that come our way & we can give them more than a fright. COYS.
Â By MF
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