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Milan-Plzeň Preview: Welcome

When I meet someone for the first time, I try to develop friendly conversation, listen to them and get to know them. But when I meet an opponent for the first time in competitions, I look at my opponent as dinner. I am a ruthless, vindictive, win-at-all-costs kind of girl, not above making my opponent cry or worse. It is this carefree, happy, competitive attitude which I hope Milan bring to the pitch on Wednesday when we welcome FC Viktoria Plzeň to the San Siro. All smiles and handshakes and such before and after the whistle, all predatory football to the death in between the whistles.

Oh sure, they're all smiles now. Wait till we get done with them!

But Elaine, you say, shouldn’t we take it easy on this team, since they are the clear underdogs? No. It would be insulting to them and unsporting of us. This is football. Every game should be played to the death, or 90 minutes, whichever comes first. And just because your team plays in the Czech Gambrinus league, doesn’t mean you get any favors from the Serie A Champions. It is the Champions League after all, not a knitting club.

But what of this team, Viktoria Plzeň? Well, they played in Europa League last season, they won the Czech First League for the first time in 2010-2011, and are celebrating their 100th year as a club. My thinking is that if it took them 100 years to win their league, Milan should do our part to ensure that we don’t let them win anything in the Champions League in 100 years, either.

Plzeň are so small, they cannot even play their Champions League home games in their own stadium Due to UEFA regulations, they have to play in the Stadion Eden in Prague. Their home stadium only seats 8,500 people, whereas there were 19,500 people in attendance when they played their first Group Stage match vs. BATE Borislov. Perhaps underdog is too big a word when you look at where they are coming from.

Maybe with all of that CL money, they can afford new mascots...

But when you look on the pitch, which is where it counts, they are hungry. Coming from such peasant football lineage, they will be determined to achieve any kind of result against AC Milan. And they may just have the skill to pull it off, too. Milan will have to take care not to get caught sleeping and should absolutely respect their opponent lest we give up points unnecessarily.

In their opening match vs. BATE, manager Pavel Vrba apparently lined up a 4-2-3-1 formation. His starters were Marek Čech; David Limberský, Marián Čišovský, David Bystroň; Václav Pilař, Pavel Horváth, Milan Petržela, Petr Jiráček, Daniel Kolář, František Rajtoral; Marek Bakoš. And it was the lone striker Marek Bakoš who scored the goal for Plzeň against BATE. Even if they were fairly well matched against the Borussian league champions, don’t think they will just  lie down for us. They’re not going down without a fight.

As for Allegri, he has got to be torn between rushing Ibra back and risking further injury or having more than one starting striker. But the media seems to think he will play. Cassano has done a tremendous job, but has got to be getting tired, too. And we will have a very important match vs. Juventus on Sunday that Allegri has got to keep at the back of his mind. I expect to see a Primavera striker or two on the bench, if not on the pitch at some point.

Fit? Or not fit? That is the question.

Our midfield is starting to gel nicely, but Ambrosini is nearly fit again, so Allegri may mix up the lineup. Aquilani started on the bench on Saturday, telling me he may get the nod ahead of Urby, although I might prefer Urby to start Wednesday and Aquaman on Sunday. But one game at a time.

In the back, I would expect Nesta to start again, having been rested on the weekend. And if it were me, I would throw Taiwo out there again, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Allegri plays Zambrotta instead.

Whatever the lineup, Group H is dead even with everyone on one point. Going for the jugular to ensure this win is very important to make sure that we get out of the group stage. We are expected to dominate both Plzeň and BATE, we need to make sure we live up to those expectations if Champions League is truly our goal this year.

So let’s give our most hearty welcome to our fine representatives of the Czech league by handing them a sound defeat and taking all 3 points from them on Wednesday. It’s truly the most sporting thing to do.


This post inspired by the music of Elaine’s Classic+ mix including AC/DC, Wolfmother, KISS, The Strokes, The Hives, Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, etc.