Guest Post: Trofeo TIM Review

Another treat for you today, as the fabulous Sam Lewis, Deputy Editor of Forza Italian Football, reviews the tournament for us...

So this evening welcomed the TIM cup, that most illogical of preseason tournaments - made up of teams usually without their best players, and mainly without a care. Milan turned up on paper as the weakest side of the three, Inter benefiting from their large South American contingent who weren't picked for their nations Olympics - Guarin, Coutinho, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Milito and new signing Rodrigo Yes-I'm-still-a-Padawan Palacio, whilst Juve benefiting from their frightening squad depth, missing out on the players that competed in Euro 2012 (and the core of the Scudetto winning run) but still looking a strong outfit, able to field Matri, Vidal, Asamoah, Caceres and ex-Inter defender Lucio, among others.

And it was those two that kicked off this pointless procession; and despite the general assumption that Juve would walk this competition (seeing as they have the strongest squad on paper at the moment) it was Inter who took the lead after 10 or so minutes of Bianconero domination, a long ball from the back deceiving the flat footed Lucio, allowing Coutinho to get in behind his teammate and put the ball through Storari's legs with a smart finish. The Brazilian looked pretty sharp, wearing the #7 jersey - pretty much confirming Pazzini's absence from manager Stramaccioni's plans. Guarin for the Nerazzurri looked pretty good as well, the athletic Colombian looking like the player that Inter wanted him to be back in January. 

For Juve, if I'm honest they looked pretty stale for most of the game. They dominated a lot of the early exchanges, but Fabio Quagliarella's profligacy and Alessandro Matri's relative anonymity did nothing but highlight Juve's need for a WC forward (as well as confirm my belief that Matri should be nowhere near a Milan shirt, unless as a decent back up.) In midfield they looked solid, Asamoah joining in the attack confidently, whilst Marrone looked decent on the ball - spraying it around quite comfortably. However, like most of the season, seemed to be lacking up front. Never thought I'd say this, but they missed Vucinic, his incision would have been welcome in that match.

Pre-match thoughts: Up next, Milan against Juventus, Bonera and Yepes making up a defensive paring that turns slower than milk, with the inexperienced but promising De Sciglio and the dreadfully unsuited to Italian football player, Taye Taiwo making up the defence. New signing Traore joined Ambro and Urby in the middle while Robinho and El Shaarawy made up an energetic front two, the latter pretty much the sole owner of my optimism.

Juve fielded Vucinic next to Bakaye, Giovinco I'm assuming still on a break from the Euro's, the other notable changes were Padoin, Pepe and Ziegler entering the line up. 

Milan began the game energetically, El Shaarawy must have received by optimism by cross-ocean telepathy, because he played with a desire and vigour not befitting of the tournament. Emmanuelson and KPB looked fresh, the latter seeming to benefit from his long absence. De Sciglio and even (pauses to check whether Hell froze over) Taiwo looked solid early on, the former hitting a great cross that Il Faranone couldn't direct goalward. Minutes later Juve has the best chance of the first 15 minutes, Vucinic evading Milan's centre backs to fire wide. 

After the 20 minute mark, Juve began to tighten their grip on the game, utilising Pepe on the right hand side as the primary option, shown by his bustling run inside and shot, resulting in a penalty appeal that was waved away by the referee.

For fans of the Azzurri, "new Buffon" Nicola Leali came on for Storari at the 25minute mark. The former Brescia stopper has high hopes on his shoulders. Juve also brought on Michele Pazinenza for Arturo Vidal, the Italian having returned from his loan spell at Udinese. 

And then, just as I was getting relatively hopeful; Juve won a penalty. A spell of Juve possession found Mirko Vucinic in the box, whose clever dummy was too smart for Bakaye Traore, whose first major contribution in Red and Black was a negative one. The Montenegrin converted, and the Bianconeri went in front.

Surprisingly, as the game began to draw into it's final 10 minutes, both sides seem to get frustrated, Robinho and Pepe getting silly yellow cards.

Milan looked good on the ball at times, Robinho-El Shaarawy and Urby/Prince forming neat triangles every so often, but nothing seemed to click or look particularly fluid. Milan looked a little rusty the further the game went, Juve's high pressing tactics emphasising this point.

Goalscorer Vucinic went off with a thigh injury in 42nd minute, Matri replacing him, and before the long - the final minutes had descended into a flurry of tape, naive doctors and well practised pained expressions. Juve brought on Lichsteiner for an academic final minute or two whilst Cacereres practised gamboling in a 2 yard radius. The South American was whisked away, strapped to a stretcher like a maimed air pilot. 

Milan had a chance in stoppage time when El Shaarawy once again found himself in the box, but playing it to Robinho proved to be a mistake, the Brazilian displaying the calm in front of goal that has him as Milan's most maligned forward. He inevitably missed, and the whistle blew. 1-0 to Juve.

45 minutes in July is not enough to justify an in-depth autopsy, nor is it the time for panic. Milan looked...average. No real incisiveness or constant presence in the box, which was to be expected given we haven't got a proper forward in the squad, but provided the reason behind the Rossoneri's seeming lack of forward pressure. In addition, the midfield behind Boateng looked functional, but not fantastic. But 1 goal by a penalty was not embarrassing, but we weren't fantastic.

On to Inter, and the hope of seeing some young faces...

Antonini started as captain, which tells you much more than I could. Ganz, Cristante, Valoti and Albertazzi also saw starts in a young looking Milan side.

It began with the Boateng hitting the bar from a powerful strike 2 minutes in, and a free kick and a corner, the Rossoneri exerting some decent early pressure. However, nothing came from them, and Inter managed to clear their lines.

For the first 10 minutes Milan had almost solid possession, Mesbah in particular seeing a lot of it, putting ball after ball into the Inter box. However, like football seems to always be, Inter cleared and had the best chance of the previous 8 minutes, Milito finding Coutinho on the left, whose shot nestled safely in Amelia's arms.

Meanwhile, 90 minutes of football wore down the already poor Bari pitch to soemthing resembling the Somme, fleet footed players like Palacio, El Shaarawy and Coutinho regularly hitting the dirt.

Milan gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch on 15 minutes (which was a worrying regular in both games) and Palacio put the ball wide. 

But then, out of nowhere - a Milan goal! A long ball nodded on found El Shaarawy, who had the pace to get to it before the onrushing Inter centre back (maybe Silvestre, my stream was blurry, but it's also exceptionally likely to be Chivu, on account of him being awful) and slot home comfortably. 

The goal seemed to give us confidence, the ball zipped around a little quicker, players like Valoti and Mesbah linking well on the left flank. Boateng made way for Carmona, while Pazzagli went in between the sticks instead of Amelia.

And then, at 24 minutes, Inter equalised - Palacio put a curling ball into the box after having a little bit too much space on the right flank, finding Guarin to head powerfully home. 1-1.

At the 27th minute El Shaarawy recived some more of my love by beating two Inter players at once near the touchline before being clattered. Thankfully, he got up. Milito then made his Trofeo exit to be replaced by Longo, another prospect falling off Inter's seemingly never ending conveyor belt.

El Shaarawy made his exit at 31 minutes after two bright performances to be replaced by Urby, before Inter stuck the knife into my hopes of a less than awful result by having the ill-manners to break free from the once again poor Milanese defence to finish. 2-1 and Milan fading fast. 

And all of sudden, Milan were looking shaky, constantly leaving gaps in the centre of defence and struggling to clear, susceptible to a shark-like Inter front line, circling menacingly and smelling blood.

As the game wore down into a flurry of substitutions (Iotti for Albertazzi, Prosinek for Traoré for Milan, some young Inter players for other Inter players - again, my stream was terrible) the result became inevitable. Inter won 2-1, holding onto the Trofeo TIM they won last summer.

Ok, first of all - take a deep breath. This has no bearing on the season, the transfer market or most likely, our potential squad next year. A couple of months training and the three signings Allegri has publicly requested should shake the team up, not to mention the return of the Euro players, who were probably cringing from their hotel televisions.

However, it did highlight a few things. 

Firstly - Milan's defence is awful, and even a Mexes return would be welcomed with open arms. The quicker we get a replacement for Thiago that we can integrate into the team, the better. Looked decent in parts vs Juve, but when Inter started to stretch the play, the naivety and pace of the Milan backline was exposed. worrying.

Secondly - going forward Milan looked ok, Valoti, El Shaarawy and Boateng looked good in parts, in particular Il Faraone, who is beginning to look he will be a huge part of Milan in the future. Fingers crossed. 

Pace in the midfield was an issue again, especially against Juve. When harried and pushed by the pressure that the Bianconeri have made a key part of their game Milan looked uncomfortable, the likes of Traore and Ambrosini only looking decent when there was more space. Against Inter, who opted for an more generous absorb and counter type of game plan, the youth and exuberance of Max's second line up seemed to benefit. Although in both games, Milan gave the ball away a fair bit unnecessarily, which is a worry regardless of the opposition. 

Bottom line, this was just a procession, a formality. Milan's team (hopefully) will not look this bare again, and the season can still be looked on with a curious optimism. All this did was show us that a lot of work is still needed to be done, and Inter are great at picking up useless trinkets. But we knew that anyway.

Thanks for reading, and Forza Milan!

Thanks again to Sam for this fantastic review.
You can follow him on Twitter @SamCalcio

Our next match is Schalke 04 vs. Milan 
Tuesday, July 24th 19:00 CEST (1:00pm EDT)
Guest Post: Trofeo TIM Review Guest Post: Trofeo TIM Review Reviewed by Elaine on 3:41 PM Rating: 5
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