Monday, November 19, 2012

Champions League – Anderlecht vs. AC Milan Preview: Atonement

If you will recall when Anderlecht came to the San Siro in September, the match people were certain we would win ended in a 0-0 draw. If it wasn’t the low point of our season, it was one of the low points. So now we head to Belgium for the chance to atone for this match. But we have to do it in their house, having just played Napoli on Saturday and needing to save something for the match against Juventus on Sunday. With Galliani publicly insulting, Allegri berating and insulting, and Berlusconi telling Allegri how to do his job, it’s not the ideal climate for success. However, I sense that our boys are tired of not winning and want to prove themselves. So I think they will give it their all, whichever 11 are lucky enough to play, in whichever formation Allegri decides to play them in, and despite anything the insane multiple personality tactician decides to scream at them. Our boys are looking for atonement, come what may.

Can Milan end the stalemate, atone for the draw, and qualify at the same time?

Atonement may be hard to come by. Anderlecht have the distinction of beating Zenit just two weeks ago, which left Zenit bottom of the group by a single point. The Belgian side will be motivated to get three points in this one to take second place away from us before the final match day. And with home field advantage, they stand a very good chance of doing just that. On the flip side, if Zenit don’t manage to beat Málaga in St. Petersburg and Milan do take Anderlecht in Belgium, Milan secure a spot in the round of 16. So it is not only a chance to atone, but to advance.

Anderlecht have won five of their last six matches and are top of the Jupiler League table on 34 points.That I can find, they will only be missing one player to a longterm injury, so Van den Brom will have a full squad to choose from This includes Proto; Safari, Gillet, Kouyate, Nuytinck; Bruno, Biglia, Kljestan, Jovanovic; Praet, and Mbokani; the starting eleven that defeated Kortrijk yesterday 1-0. They managed to keep us off the scoreboard at the San Siro, now will they be able to score and keep a clean sheet at home?

Will the masked Mbokani spoil Milan's night like he did Zenit's?

Hopefully the answer to that question is a big fat no. But the squad will have to play with more determination than they did at home, and Allegri will have to stop with the chaos theory lineups and put our best 11 out there, ideally in the 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked so well this season. Or whatever, I can’t guess what the man will do. But he has got to stop with his tinkering addiction, get some help, and do lineups like a normal, sane, healthy coach would do.

He will have Ambrosini available again, having served his one match ban. Abate is a strong possibility to return, whether or not Allegri will risk him after he sent him out with an injury during warmup that put Abate on the training table remains to be seen. He will still be missing Bonera, Antonini, Mesbah, Didac Vila, Strasser, and Muntari all out with injuries. What he does with the healthy players is beyond me. Take your best guess. Will he rely on the boy Pharaoh again? Or will others step up and become heroes? Will he even lineup players with hero potential? Because so far this season, the only thing that is certain is that there is no certainty in Allegri’s choices.

Allegri, you scream like a girl

And seriously, Allegri, it’s Psychology for Dummies: people respond better to positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement, so enough with the yelling and the calling out and criticizing of players publicly. That goes for you, too Galliani. I know times are tough, but these are the guys who are the blood, sweat, and tears of Milan, and you’re not exactly gaining fans by being so disrespectful. If you want to turn this season around, turn your attitude around, and commend those who are doing well. It’s really a no-brainer.

Anderlecht want to qualify, Milan want to not lose. At the end of the night Wednesday, Milan could be qualified for the next round, which would make Uncle Berlu’s pockets happy, as it would mean more Champions League money for us. Anderlecht need more than us to qualify, but a win on Wednesday would almost guarantee them, too. So let’s go to Belgium and see what these guys are made of. Will they be able to pull it off? I think they have the capacity to. And if they do, they’ll likely qualify and get what they probably want most: atonement.

This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Absolution” album

Champions League Group Stage
RSC Anderlecht vs. AC Milan
Wednesday, November 21 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm ET)
This match will be shown LIVE in the U.S. on Fox Sports West(or local) and RAI
Check comments before match for streams