While Napoli could be missing key player Ezequiel Lavezzi for Sunday’s clash at the San Paolo, Milan could be missing up to10 first team players. Wait, how many in a starting lineup? Oh yeah, 11. And we’re missing 10 players. Nice. Will this match have a viewer warning with it? And should we be bringing extra stretchers with us now to these matches?
Here is the lowdown on Milan injuries as of this writing: Kevin Prince Boateng out with rib injury (no breaks) for this match, could be back within 10 days; Ambrosini out for up to 4 weeks with dislocated shoulder; Gattuso still out because of the problems with blurred vision, etc.; Kingsley Boateng out with a sprained right knee; Robinho not quite fit yet; Pippo with a painful calf still; Ibra out with muscle injury for up to 3 more weeks; Flamini still out until February or so recovering from his knee surgery; Mexes still gaining fitness after his knee surgery; and Taiwo, possibly could play if he is fit in time. If I missed anyone, it was wishful thinking.
Okay, so now that we know what we don’t have, let’s work with what we do. We’ve got Abbiati and at least 3 of our 4 starting back line in Abate, Nesta, and Silva. I would hope Allegri starts Zambrotta at left back should Tawio not make it, but he really likes Antonini. In that sense, Allegri is like the parent that sends the child off to run their first 5K, but adds double ankle weights - he gives us a solid starting 10 and then burdens us with Antonini. Our midfield is a bit like a ghost town, but thank goodness we have Aquilani and Nocerino, van Bommel is still healthy, Seedorf may be able to conjure up another decent performance, or Urby Emanuelson may get some deserved playing time. For strikers we would have Cassano, Pato, and El Shaarawy available. But we also saw some youth preseason who should be called up to the bench at least, and possibly get to play.
Enough about us, though, let’s talk about Napoli. They were a threat last year, and over the summer they added Gökhan Inler from Udinese, a brilliant midfielder. Also, the tried and true Goran Pandev up front who is never to be discounted. So a great team last year, reinforced. They would be a handful for us at full strength. I think it may take a miracle for us to take this one, especially in their house.
Midweek, Napoli paid a visit to an old Italian friend, Roberto Mancini, at Manchester City for the Champions League Group Stage. Mind you, Man City were 4 for 4 so far in the league, having overspent yet again this summer for more star players. Yet little old Napoli, having finished 3rd in Serie A last season, came to the EPL giants’ house and took a point with a thrilling 1-1 draw. I’m hoping that wore them out and they won’t have enough in the tank, but I highly doubt that.
Walter Mazzari employs a 3-4-1-2 formation that, while unusual in Italy, seems to work pretty well for them. On Wednesday, his lineup included De Sanctis in goal; Captain P. Cannavaro, Aronica, and Campagnaro in the back; Gargano, Inler, Zuñiga, and Maggio in the middle; then Cavani, Lavezzi, and Hamsik on attack. I would say this is their ideal starting lineup, it will be hard to know how many players Mazzari will rest with midweek games next week, especially since they will face underdogs Chievo. I’m pretty sure he will use whatever they’ve got left in the tank to try to take 3 points from the reigning Serie A Champions.
Lavezzi’s injury will potentially have an impact on Napoli, as he had 12 assists last year in Serie A and already has 1 goal in 1 game vs. Cesena this season. Last season when he was out, Cavani struggled to score. Let’s hope history repeats itself for our sake, should he miss Sunday’s match. Obviously Hamsik and Cavani will be handful, as they always are, but maybe, just maybe, they will miss Lavezzi enough to stay off the scoreboard.
I think even more than 3 points, I would like to leave the San Paolo with everyone still in one piece. But that will be hard if Napoli play as physical a game as they did midweek. They racked up a whopping 4 yellow cards against Man City and 13 fouls, let’s hope they play like gentlemen against us. Okay, let’s just hope we get the better of them, then.
I would try to figure out matchups or what Milan need to do, other than maybe a lot of praying to the gods of football this week, but I would guess at this point that Allegri is doing what he was last year when we had this many injuries: looking in the dressing room to see if there are any extra players lying around. The latest news says Taiwo is back in full training with the team, so realistically, he may play, meaning we at least have a full strength defense.
Still, I cannot help but think that our luck vs. Napoli from last year may be nearing its end. We don’t have Oddo anymore to make miraculous crosses, and what is Pato, who was crucial in the second leg vs. Napoli last season, what is he realistically going to do to top his amazing midweek performance against Barcelona?
But maybe that is just the old Milan way of thinking. After all, we are league champions now, and champions find a way to win, no matter what. We pulled off the draw against Barcelona, something no one believed we could do, now we can grab 3 points from a team that will likely be one of our biggest Scudetto contenders again this year. And if Allegri could manage the injury crises of last year, he certainly can manage now, with a reinforced squad and a Scudetto in hand.
Let’s go to the San Paolo and take 3 points. And please, if there is any mercy anywhere, let’s leave the match with no more injuries. We’ll need 11 players to play midweek when Udinese come to town!
This post inspired by the music of XTC