Tuesday, October 28 th, 2014
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Goodbye Balotelli: how should Milan play without him?
As Italy's striker heads to Liverpool, coach Inzaghi has a few rebuses to solve especially up-front: will he count on experience or will he bet on Niang's speed and freshness? Keeping in mind that the transfer window closure is still one week away...
by Max Ascolani
With the imminent departure of Balotelli, there must be one or two purchases coming in the next few days. Alessio Cerci and Mattia Destro seem to be the most probable additions (one or the other) , as Galliani carries on non-stop negotiations with his Torino and Roma counterparts. However, this is how Milan at the moment will be lining up this season.

 

Goalkeepers 

Diego Lopez. The best keeper at Milan by quite a bit. At the peak age for goalkeepers, 32, Milan made an absolute steal, and one of the only bright sparks of a doom and gloom transfer window for Milanisti. The Spaniard has been one of the best keepers in Europe for the last few years, and a great replacement for the ageing Abbiati. There should be no doubt that he will be Milan’s number one keeper for the Lazio game and the rest of the season. He may have had a shaky debut in the Valencia friendly, he will surely come into his own by the time the first game of the season kicks off.

 

Full Backs 

The competition for the right back position is probably the most competitive position in the team. Both De Sciglio and Abate are more than capable, however De Sciglio, the strongest full back in the squad, is able to play on both the right and left side. The only competition for the left back position is Armero, as Albertazzi is not good enough to compete. If Inzaghi does play Armero it will mean De Sciglio will move to the right hand side, however, the more likely selection will be the Abate and De Sciglio duo.

 

Centre Backs 

The centre backs have given a headache to the Milan management ever since the trustworthy Thiago Silva and Nesta departed the club. With the recent arrival of Alex and the purchase of Rami after his loan, Milan will be hoping the problems have been sorted. However, after an awful preseason in which they conceded 11 goals in their last 5 matches, the problem doesn't look like it’s going to be dealt with that easily. The two favourites at the moment are in fact the recent arrivals, Rami and Alex. On their day they are very good defenders but the question to be asked is if they can perform regularly. Competition for the spots comes from Zapata and Mexes. Both have come out and said that they're happy at the club and want to stay on, but Milan want to get rid of one of the two with Mexes being the more likely due to his age and ridiculous wages.

 

Midfield 

Milan will have to be without their captain, Montolivo, for a few months after injuring himself just before the world cup. His injury has left a massive void, a void that a couple of players will be more than willing to fill. De Jong is a guarantee. Probably Milan’s best player last year, the midfielder is key for the centre of the park, and no one can take his place. The remaining places will be filled by two of Muntari, Poli, Saponara or Cristante. Inzaghi will most likely go for reliability over creativity and youth to start off with, so that means Cristante and Saponara will be left on the bench.

 

Attack 

This is probably the trickiest selection that Inzaghi has to make. There will no doubt be an attacking player brought in to replace Balotelli, but if the game was to be played tomorrow this is how the team would probably be fielded.

 

El Shaarawy, like De Jong, is pretty much a guaranteed starter, as he’s had a few good matches in the preseason (including last night's Trofeo Tim with a promising goal vs. Sassuolo) plus he's Milan’s biggest goal threat now that Balotelli has gone. He’ll play on the left.The other two positions are a little harder to predict. It would be easy to say Pazzini and Menez, however Niang has been Milan’s top scorer in the pre-season and can easily play in the middle or on either side of the wing. Plus there’s the added fact that Menez has had a few injury problems in recent weeks. Niang probably deserves to be one of the three players the most, as he's had an excellent preseason not only going forward but also tracking back.

 

Honourable Mentions 

Honda. A very difficult formation to implement him in. Probably the best position to play him would be as a mezz’ala but the fact that he’s not reliable defensively means that he’ll probably be benched.

 

Bonera. He’s been complained about by many Milan fans, however he’s really come into his own in the past year or so. He’s suddenly become reliable, and though it would be unlikely that he starts, it would not be the biggest shock in the world if Inzaghi decided to play him. 

 

Formation 4-3-3

Starting Line-up: Diego Lopez; De Sciglio, Rami, Alex, Abate; Poli, De Jong, Muntari; El Shaarawy, Pazzini, Niang

Sunday, August 24 th, 2014
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