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Chievo-Milan preview: conquering the flying fortress

Remember when Chievo were the new kids in Serie A? A team led by Corini from the midfield, with Marrazina and Corradi up front and Sergio Pellissier as their substitute? Surely anyone who watched Chievo's debut Serie A 2001/02 season remembers the two flying wingers, one of whom turned out to be some years older than he claimed to be? Eriberto, Manfredini, coach Luigi del Neri and the rest of the protagonists of that miraculous season went on to become household names in Serie A, most of them joining bigger clubs. And some failing terribly, but that's another story.


Today's Chievo is far from that high-flying team and the last remnant of that squad is Pellissier, one of those tricky Serie A strikers who always reach a certain goal-per-season quota, sometimes through sheer experience and poachery. Even though the top clubs rarely give such players any attention in the transfer market, it is imperative that they are given attention during a game. In this case, Pellissier is also the captain and leader of this Chievo team which makes it that much more important to mark him out of the game, and hopefully Thiago Silva's return to his natural position will secure a quiet night for him.

Milan's midfield troubles should be overcome on Sunday with the inclusion of van Bommel and Merkel and the possible return of Boateng. As for Emmanuelson, I'm still not sold on using such a classic flank player as a central midfielder. It's quite obvious that his strengths are running and crossing, not positioning, shooting, or tackling. Pace is great, but let's have some substance as well. I'd much rather try to turn him into a proper left back, he failed in that position under van Basten, but let's face it - van Basten isn't exactly a defensive genius and I highly doubt his tactical aptitude.

In attack, anything is possible, with Robinho, Cassano, Pato and Zlatan all available. I'm going to go out on a limb and advocate resting Zlatan who clearly needs a break. Robinho, Cassano and Pato should be perfectly capable of creating some chances for one another (read: Cassano should be perfectly capable of creating some chances for Pato; Robinho should be around as the jack of all trades he's been this season). Chievo's only conceded 8 goals in their 12 home games so far, so Milan better make every chance count.

It should however be noted that, in those 12 games, they've only scored 11 times. It's their away games that tend to get out of control, at home Chievo is a tough and organized team and, as such, a prime candidate for a 0-0 draw against an uninspired league leader. Milan should have no problem controlling possession, but it will take fluency and creativity to create any serious goal-scoring opportunities.

Later on Sunday, Napoli will be playing Catania in what should prove to be a heated southern derby, and it wouldn't surprise me if Catania walked away with a point. They are traditionally a tough opponent for Napoli and, frankly, it's high time for the Partenopei to falter.

So let's make this weekend count.

Forza Milan!