Friday, January 18, 2013

Milan-Bologna Preview: Pazzini Bolognese

Last time we met Bologna was at the beginning of September. After having lost our first match, Pazzini secured a 3-1 win with a hat trick. Would it be too much to ask for a repeat performance? I am not actually that demanding, I would be thrilled with a win, regardless of who scores. With all of the teams ahead of us starting to slip up and show their weaknesses, we need to take advantage of every match and hope that our fortunes will increase and take advantage of our opponents’ misfortunes if we have any hope of achieving fourth place. Oh, wait, third place. Right. Anyway, perhaps Pazzini has another flavorful performance in him and can make a sauce out of this Bologna side.

Pazzini Bolognese is a tasty dish that includes snake eyes
Bologna will likely be a little shell-shocked (and more probably really tired) from their midweek Coppa Italia match at the San Siro where they lost, 3-2 in extra time to our cugini. It was a long, tough match, and most of their starters played the 120 minutes. They have had a long, tough season, with many disappointments, which is why they now sit in the 14th spot on the table with 21 points. However, they, like us, seem to be fighting to improve, and most notably took a win away from Napoli, 3-2, at the San Paolo just a month ago, so do not count them out. They are also coming off of a 4-0 win over Chievo last weekend, and would do well to take advantage of our weaknesses.

On Wednesday vs. Inter, Stefano Pioli lined up probably his strongest lineup in Agliardi; Portanova, Antonsson, Motta, Morleo; Sorenson, Perez, Guarente, Diamante; Gilardino, and Pasquate. And yes, that is our Gilardino. He had been kept mostly quiet this season with 6 goals, then scored a brace against Chievo last weekend for a total of eight goals on the season. But the one that always scares me is Diamanti. His stats don’t look much, with five goals and three assists, but he seems to be at the center of everything good that happens for Bologna. He also got a taste for the San Siro nets on Wednesday with a goal, so let’s hope our boys can shut him down.

Let's not make this a nice homecoming for Gilardino

On the flip side, Allegri has had a busy and possibly distracting week with all of the mercato happenings. And he’s still got defensive injury woes with Yepes and Bonera still out injured. Then Ambrosini is now out for at least a month with a thigh lesion, and of course no De Jong, so he’ll likely start Mexes and Zapata in the back with today’s birthday boy, Montolivo in front of defense. I would expect Abbiati to start after his performance last weekend, but who knows? And ideally, De Sciglio an Constant would be the full backs, but again, with Allegri, anything is possible.

The midfield is a mystery to me. I would like to believe that Boateng wouldn’t get the start, but then what message would that send to the racists… I mean, Allegri would never dream of benching his favorite player. I’d like to see Nocerino, personally, as his season seems to be just taking off, but that’s me. I honestly have no idea what Allegri will do.

Let's hope the birthday boy has a great  match to celebrate

Up front, it’s nearly as mysterious, although I think he may play Pazzini. After his lackluster Coppa performance last week, he got a break via suspension on the weekend, so at least he’ll be well rested. And who knows, maybe he’ll be hungry for some more Bolognese sauce? It’s a shame he keeps wanting to put Bojan in as a center forward like he did vs. Sampdoria, because he plays much better elsewhere, but he’s less likely to get a start under Allegri. I would guess it would be more likely that El Shaarawy and Robinho complete the front line, even if Bojan, Niang, and Urby might all be better candidates to fill the other two spots.

Hopefully, urgency lines up with our starting 11, whoever they may be. It didn’t last week against Sampdoria, and we paid for it by dropping two points. But now we are at home. And even if we’ve lost four of our ten home games in the league, we can make that right again this second half of the season by taking back our house. It won’t be easy, but if our boys can find the same sense of urgency they played with against Juventus, then we can make a tasty meal of Bologna and keep all three points for ourselves. We’ll need to be hungry, but we’ll need to stay focused for 90 minutes. If we can do that and capitalize on their fatigue, maybe we’ll grab a tasty victory after all. And if we’re really lucky, maybe someone will serve up some more Pazzini Bolognese.

This post inspired by the music of Madness

Milan vs. Bologna
Sunday, January 20 • 15:00 CET (9am EST)
This match will be broadcast LIVE on BeIn Sport and RAI in the U.S.
(check the comments here prior to the match for stream links)