Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coppa Italia: Milan vs. Lazio Preview

Last year, fresh off of our Scudetto win vs. Roma, Palermo knocked Milan out of the Coppa Italia Semifinals. Yeah, those boys in pink. This year, Allegri says we need to make it to the finals. That’s why he fielded a team that looked like an open casting call for American Idol vs. Novara. But still, he brought in the big guns when plan “A” didn’t work, forcing both overtime and Pato’s last game for a month or so. Anyway, on Thursday, we’ve invited Lazio over to the San Siro for some Quarterfinal action. One game to determine who goes to the semifinals, one game to rule them… sorry, that’s a different story altogether. Those boys from Middle Earth… er, I mean central Italy may face quite the epic battle. Or they may find that Allegri has fielded a bunch of Hobbits and the San Siro looking more like the Shire.

Gollum... er, Rocchi, with "the Precious"
Lazio actually won the Coppa Italia in the 2008-09 season, so they know all about “the Precious.” That’s right, the patch that’s shaped like… you guessed it, a ring. You know, the one the winner of the Coppa Italia gets to wear on their uniforms all next year?
The Precious
Well, after losing to Inter on Sunday and dropping to 5th in the table, the Precious and the accompanying trophy may be the most realistic success Lazio can achieve this year outside of maybe a Europa League spot. So I’d guess coach Eddie Reja, also known as the White Wizard for this match, may field a decent lineup for this battle… er, I mean match. Or not. It is the Coppa, after all.

The home of Sauron's Army (Inter)

Sunday vs. Inter, when the San Siro was more Mordor, less Shire, Lazio fielded a strong 4-4-2 consisting of the renewed and invigorated Marchetti; Dias, Biava, Radu, and Zauri in the back; the enviable midfield of Ledesma, Hernanes, Lulic, and Gonz├ílez; and the evergreen Rocchi and Klose up front. It was Gollum… er, I mean Rocchi that scored for them, but this is a team that can surprise. Like in September, our first official match of the season, when we drew 2-2 with a team everyone expected us to beat. And they've continued to surprise with grit and determination all season, despite Sunday's loss.

Allegri will need the wisdom of Gandalf to decide who goes into this battle. Our injury toll is comparable to that of Helm’s Deep, and his original lineup vs. Novara in the Coppa last week needed some important reinforcements and extra time to find victory. And that was 20th place Novara. This is 5th place Lazio. He will need to find the right balance of Hobbits and Elves, and Dwarves and Men, to take back Middle Earth (or at least a spot in the Semifinals.)

Our team has fared about as well as the Armies of Men at Helm's Deep

A random guess: I’ve not heard Abbiati is cleared yet, and even still, I’d probably play Amelia in this one. In the back, Abate, Mexes, Silva, and Mesbah. I’d go with Merkel, van Bommel, and maybe Urby in the middle, with Robinho behind the strikers. And perhaps an attack of the Elvish El Shaarawy and Longshanks Inzaghi up front, leaving Ibra or perhaps a Hobbit from the Primavera as reinforcements. Again, I do not have the wisdom of Gandalf, nor the courage of a Hobbit.

Part Legolas, Part Gimli, but I would be surprised to see him risked on Thursday.

Will this be an epic battle for Middle Earth? Probably not. But the winner does take on Wormtongue’s… er, I mean Conte's Juventus, who defeated Roma today 3-0, so we already know which evil lurks in the Semifinals before we even play. The Semifinals include 2 fixtures, home and away, to determine who goes to the final. For a complete Coppa table, click Tabellone TIM CUP 2011/2012 to download in a PDF. Remember, Inter are the reigning Coppa champions, or as some of us know them, Sauron's Army. If Napoli don’t dethrone them on Wednesday, they will almost undoubtedly get past the winner of Chievo vs. Siena to snake a berth in the Final. If we should get past Lazio and  even more improbably Juventus, then I believe in Frodo, and I believe we can go into Mordor and destroy Sauron for good. Or at least take back the Precious.

Okay, I may have been watching too many Lord of the Rings movies. But still, we will have to take this match seriously on Thursday to advance to the semifinals. Because then we face Cagliari on Sunday for our return leg, and then Lazio midweek again in the league. With so many injuries and the question of Tevez or Maxi Lopez still not settled as of this writing, it will be important for our boys to have courage in the face of the enemy and battle as if for Middle Earth. Even if it’s just the Coppa. (My precious)

Coppa Italia Quarterfinals: Milan vs. Lazio
Thursday, January 26 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)
This match will be shown on GOL TV and ESPN3 in the U.S.
(will post links for streams on gameday)

Speaking of Preciouses, Milan won a lot of bling on Monday at the Oscar del Calcio awards. Check out the comments in the previous post for details.
And Congratulations to all!!

This post inspired by the music of the Lord of the Rings Soundtracks