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AC Milan vs. Real Madrid: Play Ball!

Wednesday night, at one of the most famous baseball parks in the world, a game of football will be played in the city that never sleeps. And it will be played by two European footballing giants. In fact, they are two of the best known and most successful football clubs in the world. With world class players (and Bonera and Antonini) as well as world class coaches (okay, “class” may be a stretch on this one,) this could prove to be one of the most epic matches of the year. Except it’s only a friendly. So check your outrageous expectations at the parking lot, and Play Ball!

Who will score the first home run?

Very few of the “World Football Challenge” matches in the United States have felt like they lived up to a name so pretentious as that, the most recent being Real Madrid’s match vs. Santos Laguna. Who? Exactly. Pitting one of Europe’s most elite clubs against one of Mexico’s first division clubs and having them both face off in the crazy desert heat seems more like a gladiator event, with Real Madrid being the lions. Only at times, they looked more like kittens, and their 2-1 win hardly seemed epic.

Or just a day earlier, when Milan faced off against Honduran giants CD Olimpia, in the heat and humidity of Boston. At least Milan started out playing like lions and managed a 3-1 win, with their goal conceded late when everyone was tired. These matches were really more challenging due to the weather condition, more “Survivor” than “World Football Challenge.”

For me, Wednesday will be more about any drama that occurs around the event. For example, will Kaká take advantage of being on United States soil and defect to Milan, asking for political asylum? What will Jose Mourinho say about Allegri or Milan to insult them on this night? Or even more importantly, will he try to poke Tassotti in the eye?

Who will he blame if Milan win?

What percentage of the players’ names will the commentators pronounce correctly? And will the huge rivalry of Cristiano Ronaldo and Daniele Bonera finally be realized? I mean, two world class players of the same caliber facing off, it’s got to be epic, right? Also, now that our boys have been to an American baseball game, will they know the words to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” should they accidentally play it over the PA system? Or if throwing bananas is considered racial abuse, if the fans throw peanuts, is that considered calling them elephants and abusing players for obesity and pre-season fitness issues? So many questions to be answered.

But the biggest question of the night will be Allegri’s lineups. For example, which player will he try to make into a trequartista on this night? Urby is so last season. Cassano did well enough on Saturday, will it be him? Or will he go back to his “false 9” number 10 Boateng? And who will he start up front? Robinho and El Shaarawy both did well with Cassano behind them, but wouldn’t just about anyone? And will he start any of the youth players, given that this is their last chance to impress on this tour? Nah, who am I fooling? This is Allegri.

Sorry, Cristante, Allegri likes 'em a little older

In the midfield, it is hard to imagine him not starting Nocerino. If I could take that man’s workrate and eye for goal and bottle it, it would probably become an illegal substance. But the other positions are questionable. Will he go with the tried and true captain, Ambrosini in the middle or give Montolivo another chance? Will he give Urby a start on the left, since he’s said he will now NOT be playing at left back this season? (and given his other stellar preseason performances?) Or will he try to see how long Traoré can stay on the pitch without getting carded?

In the back I’d guess he’d start with Abate on the right. I don’t know if he’d change the Bonera-Acerbi center back pairing, at least to start, although we haven’t seen Yepes much preseason, maybe he’ll get a go? And will Mesbah’s performance on Saturday earn him a start over Antonini? It’s hard to know. When Allegri makes jokes about playing Kaká as a regista should he come to Milan, it’s hard to take his starting lineups seriously.

Galliani may be talking to the wrong guy, Kaká still belongs to Jesus

But nothing in this game should be taken seriously. They’re playing on a converted baseball field, for goodness sake. And just because it’s an incredibly famous one doesn’t make it a football pitch beyond a few games they’ve got scheduled there. Just like lining up some of our players with “potential” against a squad full of players who cost more than their weight in gold does not make them world class. No, class is determined both on and off the pitch, and I hope more than anything that Milan show that even if our “potential” is perhaps lacking, our class truly is world class. (translation: don’t piss of Mourinho, we don’t want to look like Barca.)

So step up, get your hot dogs, get your peanuts, and do the wave. It may be two giants of football, playing in America’s largest city, but it is only a friendly after all. We already beat the reigning European champions, so for this one we can sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Play Ball!


This post was inspired by the music of “Take Me Out To the Ball Game”


AC Milan vs. Real Madrid
Wednesday, August 8th • 8:00 pm EDT
Yankee Stadium, New York, NY, U.S.A.
This match will be broadcast on ESPN2 on TV and ESPN3 online in the U.S.


Congratulations to Sam Lewis for being voted our Milan Obsession Honorary DS for a day for his fabulous mercato choices!

Check out this fantastic new Fantasy Serie A game from my fabulous former co-blogger, Jovan