Milan-Cagliari Preview: Bentornato

Open top busses parading through tens of thousands of fans in Milano. Players with their children on the pitch before the match. Kevin Prince Boateng’s infamous Moonwalk. Fireworks and lasers. But these memories must pale in comparison to the 4-1 drubbing they took that night, or the most painful, watching their former manager’s club lift the Scudetto. And they were all memories of Cagliari’s last trip to the San Siro last May. I wonder if they will be intimidated by these memories or angered? Or will they be haunted/inspired by the 2-0 beating Milan gave them just 5 weeks ago in their house? It is hard to say. But when Milan open their arms and the San Siro to say “Bentornato” (welcome back,) I doubt it will feel warm and fuzzy.

Coach Davide Ballardini, looking more Secret Service Agent than Serie A Coach, has now lasted longer than both of his predecessors combined, and that’s just the managers Cagliari has had this season. Of course, it is his 3rd time managing the club, and you know what they say about the 3rd time… Anyway, since we last met just before Christmas, Cagliari have impressed. They beat Genoa at home, 3-0, drew with Juve away, 1-1, and last week drew with Fiorentina 0-0 at home, although they were the better team that day, it was Boruc, Fiorentina’s superstar keeper that kept them off the scoresheet. Needless to say, they may not enjoy Ibra’s welcome and are undoubtedly planning to avenge the drenching wet 2-0 beating we gave them at home in December.

Ballardini, like his fellow former Cagliari coach Massimiliano Allegri, prefers the 4-3-1-2. Against Fiorentina he fielded Agazzi in the net; Astori, Canini, Agostini, and Pisano in the back; Ekdal, Nanggolan, Dessena; Cossu; and Ibarbo and Larrivey up front. I am not aware of any suspensions or injuries, but that’s not saying anything. I have heard, though, that Juventus are in talks for Nainggolan, whether it be now or June. So if something is happening there, we may be spared his wrath… for now.

Will the boy Pharoah get his chance to rule the pitch?

Allegri probably mutters lineups in his sleep right now, with our injury crisis in full force, and our schedule he’s got to choose players very carefully. Not only do we have FIVE midfielders out injured (Merkel will be out for one month,) but we also have some potential suspensions based on card accumulation, too. Those one card away from suspension include: Antonini, Aquilani, Bonera, and Mesbah. Certainly, this month will show us if we truly have the depth we need to battle on 3 fronts.

Sooo… Will Allegri play any of his shiny new toys? Will he give a start to the young Pharoah? Or will he give some gratuitous minutes to Pippo? Who exactly will he start, all things considered? In the words of Dr. Seuss, “I don’t know. Go ask your Mom.” I will try to conjure a few ideas, though: Abbiati is said to be fit. If so, I say he starts in goal. In the back, Abate, Nesta, Silva, Mesbah. In the middle, Ambrosini, van Bommel, Nocerino, Robinho, with Ibra and El Shaarawy to start up front. Or Robinho. Or Maxi Lopez, although I’m guessing if he plays, it’ll be as a sub.

Left Back Roulette was fun, but it's over. Mesbah for LB!!

However, I rarely get these lineups right, I am way more emotional and much less predictable than Allegri, so I never know. I like exotic things like shiny new players, young players, and legends who are tried and true. Allegri likes soldiers, they don’t have to be stars, just fit in with his plans, be very fit, and not be too old or too young or any of those other horrible things. Given his relentless dependence on a few players who have fairly consistently underperformed, I cannot pretend for a moment to know who he’ll play or how his mind works. But since that mastermind is a big part of why we have our 18th Scudetto, I will try to trust in him (with the caveat that I can still complain, just like any good Italian fan does.)

He came, he saw, he signed. Will he play, though? Welcome Maxi!!

By virtue of their record, Cagliari have climbed a spot in the table to 11th since December, with 23 points, whereas we are in 2nd with 40 points, one point shy of unbeaten Juventus. It promises to be a good matchup, and one we need to win, but it may not be a walk in the park. However, given the challenges we face this next month, it is imperative that we take the points that are a little more attainable, lest we slip up when the going gets tough. Also to keep pace with Juve, who are playing Udinese tonight, weather permitting. Any loss of points for them and a win for us puts us back in the driver’s seat, leading the tour, just where I like to be.

Milan vs. Cagliari
Sunday, January 29 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)
This match will be shown on FSC, RAI International,
and ESPN3 in the U.S.

This post inspired by the music of Front 242, Ministry, and Nitzer Ebb
Milan-Cagliari Preview: Bentornato Milan-Cagliari Preview: Bentornato Reviewed by Elaine on 12:57 AM Rating: 5
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