Friday, May 3, 2013

Milan-Torino Preview: Bullfight

As if it wasn’t hard enough to be one point away from losing our Champions League berth, now we come to a bullfight. Torino, also known as il Toro (the Bull) are themselves sitting dangerously close to the relegation zone. So don’t expect Sunday’s match to be pretty. It’s likely to be a bloody battle, a bullfight for all three points.

No need to taunt them, they're fighting for their Serie A lives

Torino are newly promoted this year from Serie B, having come in second place in that league last year. While they have spent much of their history in Serie A, they are struggling to stay up this season. Currently, they sit 4 points above the relegation zone, so they will not be sitting back when we face them Sunday afternoon. They also troubled us back in December, when we managed to beat them 4-2, but lost De Jong for the season to his injury. So just because we are at home this time, don’t expect it to be easy.

Certainly, they tested Juventus last week during the Derby della Mole, seemingly surprising the almost champions this year, but eventually giving up two goals in the last five minutes. They also came back from a 3-0 deficit against Fiorentina, but gave up one last goal in stoppage time to give Fiorentina all three points. It was this win that solidified Fiorentina’s place right on our backs, so I’m not exactly thrilled with Torino, to be honest. Especially considering the rumors that Fiorentina are sending their fans to the San Siro to help root against Milan. Although the fact that Torino have conceded a whopping 15 goals in their last five fixtures, at least two in each game, is encouraging, so maybe I will like them come Sunday evening after all.

Maybe Meggiorini will be distracted by the charges that he racially abused Pogba

Back to the Derby della Mole last week, Ventura lined up Gillet; D’Ambrosio, Ogbonna, Masiello, Glik; Basha, Sangana, Cerci, Gazzi; Bianchi, and Meggiorini. Juve did us a favor and got Glik mad enough to earn a red card, so we won’t have to deal with him. But Jonathas came on for the last 25 minutes of the match and looked very, very dangerous, so even if we manage an early goal, we cannot become complacent.

Speaking of complacent, Milan should have been able to coast through the last fixtures, holding steady onto third place. But now our back is up against the wall, we cannot afford to drop any points. And now we have injuries, too. Montolivo has an apparent hamstring injury, Pazzini also took a knock in training yesterday. Well, and Antonini has a small injury, too, but that might be more of a blessing. So, in true Allegri style, we are making things hard for ourselves. Which, in his first season at Milan, managed to still work for us. Last year, not so much. What will happen this year? Will he choke again? Or will we manage to hold onto third place?

Sunday’s match is part one of a four-part thriller to answer these questions. Abbiati was back in training on Thursday, we can only hope he is fit and chosen to start. That will give us some confidence. Despite the family stress of this week, I should hope Zapata is back from suspension and ready to play with a vengeance. Or if not, maybe Allegri lets Yepes play again, since Bonera proved last week that he is still the one goal wonder that Milan legends are made of. He’s got three fit fullbacks to choose from, I expect he’ll figure out who is best to play there.

With both of these guys likely to miss due to injury, who will play in center midfield?

But now we have a bigger problem in midfield. I have not heard as of this writing that Ambrosini is fit. Montolivo is likely not to be fit. Ironic that it was this away fixture that we lost De Jong, as we could really use him now. I really don’t even know what to expect in midfield, but have to cross my fingers that Allegri does what he has traditionally done very well: in the face of injury, he comes up with the best lineup from what we have. But considering he has still been putting Boateng up front, I may have lost some faith in that. I hope that Balotelli and El Shaarawy are fit and ready to do some damage. This would have been a great time for Montolivo to score, as Gillet is the Serie A keeper who has given up the most goals from outside the box. But then again, Flamini is on a scoring rampage, too, so maybe he and Muntari can work up a couple of shots from distance for us.

I said it in the last podcast, I want revenge. Revenge for Torino not at least drawing with Fiorentina when they could have. Revenge for not beating that other Torino-based team. And considering that other team is likely to clinch the Scudetto on Sunday, I’d like to at least have 3 fresh points in our pocket as we sip the bitter cup. But Torino, like the bulls they are named for, are stubborn and will not go down without a fight. It is a fight that I really hope Milan are up for. I still believe in third place, and I hope our boys do, too. Let's win this one for De Jong.

This post inspired by the music of Prodigy

Milan vs. Torino
Sunday, May 5 • 15:00 CEST (9am EDT)
This match is NOT being shown LIVE in the U.S.
(check comments for stream links before kickoff)