Okay, so if you thought the lineup options were bleak in the Juventus Coppa Italia Preview, you’ll be thrilled to know that they’ve actually gotten worse. And we’re playing away. In a 2nd vs. 4th place match. To a team we drew against when we were basically at full strength back in September in our house. Are you sensing a theme? Yes, it’s going to take a miracle to pull this one off.
|Can he step up in this match and be a hero?|
Lately I’ve kind of wanted to skip the matches and just have someone wake me up when they’re over. But never more so than for this one. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the game will be on at 9am here. That’s easy compared to the 3:30 and 6am games, anyway. This match has pain written all over it, and while I tolerate pain pretty well, I don’t encourage it.
Udinese sit in 4th place in the table but only 3 points back from Milan. Should they win, they will draw level with us. And should Lazio also win, they could go ahead of us. Although Udinese have struggled a bit of late, particularly with so many of their important players away on national team duty in the African Cup of Nations tournament, they still have a strong squad at their disposal. Speaking of the African Cup of Nations tournament, they will still be missing Asamoah and Badu, the only break Milan are catching with the timing of this match.
|The 34 year-old scoring machine|
Francesco Guidolin and company are just coming off a painful loss to Fiorentina on Sunday, and are likely to be both rested and determined to achieve something more than a draw in this match. Di Natale should lead the squad up front, just like he leads the scoring in Serie A with 16 goals. A probable formation for the Bianconeri would be Guidolin’s preferred 3-5-2 consisting of Handanovic; Benatia, Ferronetti, Danilo; Armero, Pazienza, Fernandes, Isla, and Basta; DiNatale and Abdi up front.
Meanwhile, in addition to missing so many players midweek for our Coppa Italia Semifnals first leg match, both Ibra and van Bommel are suspended for this match. I have not heard yet whether or not Silva will be available after his injury on Wednesday. Although last I heard Abbiati and Abate should be back. We can only hope. Of course Muntari will join the squad on Monday, and Boateng and Pato are expected to train with the team on Monday, possibly being ready for our Arsenal match on Wednesday, but that doesn’t help us tomorrow.
So things given what they are, here is my “sad fantasy” lineup for tomorrow: Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Silva, Mesbah; Urby, Ambrosini, Nocerino; Robinho; Maxi and El Shaarawy. Well, that’s not my fantasy, but it’s what I think Allegri is likely to field.
|Coach of the Year? He'll be Coach of the Decade if he pulls this one off.|
Whatever I have criticized Allegri for, I still do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t support him as our coach 100% when the whistle blows. Even if there were a “better” option available, I would never recommend changing coaches right now. Plus, he’d need to do a lot worse to actually be fired. For all of our frustrations, the man deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for keeping this band of misfits together and fielding 11 warm bodies every 3 days through an injury crisis that is reminiscent of the Black Plague:
So I’ll keep this one a little shorter than usual so I have time to buy more Kleenex and say more prayers. It’s time to forget the blame and pointing fingers at recent failures (there’s always time for that after the match) and rally around our team. It’s time to do every gametime ritual, pray to whatever footballing or other gods you worship, and chant “I believe in Milan” over and over just like in Peter Pan. Because this one will take a miracle. Hope is running thin when I think about the realities. But I do believe in my boys. And I do believe in miracles. Forza Milan!!
Udinese vs. Milan
Saturday, February 11th • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)
This match is being broadcast on RAI International
and ESPN3 in the U.S.
This post inspired by the music of the White Stripes