Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Champions League Group Stage: Milan-Celtic: The Walking Dead

This is not how it was supposed to be. We were supposed to come into the Group Stage, having had a lot of luck to get here, and have our freshly reinforced team from the Summer mercato to face off whomever we drew. In this case, Celtic. Playing at the San Siro. A game we were supposed to win. But after Saturday’s debacle against Torino and the ensuing Injury Armageddon™, nothing is certain anymore. Other than the fact that Milan are the walking dead.

Riccardo Saponara after being treated by Milan Lab all summer

To make matters worse, Milan seem to have lost the support of a very enlightened fan, Snoop Dogg Lion. Somewhere between being photographed with a Milan jersey and converting to Rastafarianism and changing his name, Snoop became hyperfocused on supporting Celtic, offering to buy a stake in the club, amongst other things. I think it might be the color of the jersey, to be honest. Anyway, everyone knows that after Celtic surprised Barcelona in the group stage last year by beating them 2-1 at Celtic Park, Celtic’s luck ran dry when Snoop Lion was denied his request to be the mascot and lead the team out against Juventus at home. (Celtic lost, 5-0 on aggregate.) So maybe we’re not missing much after all, except for a killer after party. Snoop is West Coast, and I am West Coast, so I’ll see what I can do.

When it comes to Snoop's affection, how can Milan compete with the color green?

Celtic may have to play without the support of their number one rapper fan, but they are in pretty good form. Currently in second in the Scottish Permiership, their season thus far consists of 4 wins and a draw, with the most recent win coming Saturday, a 3-1 win over Hearts. Neil Lennon is missing defender Mouyokolo to a ruptured achilles tendon sustained last week, and may be without midfielder Forrest due to a back problem he picked up on international duty. On Saturday, when they met Hearts, Lennon lined up Forster; Izaguirre, Ambrose, van Dijk, Lustig; Matthews, Brown, Boerrigter, Ledley; Stokes, and Commons. Stokes and Commons each scored, while Pukki came from the bench and scored the third. With Samaras also partially rested, having subbed on in the half, Lennon’s side seem to be in pretty good shape for their trip to the San Siro.

Kaká missed Milan Lab so much, he decided on a 4 week stay, free of charge

Milan, on the other hand, could really use all the support they can get, even from the lover-of-all-things-green Snoop Lion. In fact Milan Lab might want to check into getting one of those medical marijuana cards you can get here in Snoop’s home state, the way the injuries are piling up. Here is a list of the current injuries as of this writing and expected length of time each player will be sidelined.

Abate: groin injury, expected to train Thursday, could be available Sunday
Bonera: broken knee cap, back in about 6 weeks
De Sciglio: knee surgery, 3-4 wks.
El Shaarawy: hamstring lesion, 2-3 wks.
Kaká: left thigh injury, up to 4 wks.
Montolivo: thigh muscle injury, 2-3 weeks
Niang: minor shoulder injury, training w/squad, could be available Sunday
Pazzini: knee surgery, end of Oct./early Nov.
Poli: bruised thigh, possible for Celtic
Silvestre: knee surgery, 3-4 wks.

So it may have been more prudent to list who is not injured, such is the undead state of our squad right now. But you may want to sit down for this, I believe in Allegri. This is his specialty. He has fielded some of his best teams when he was faced with Injury Armaggedon™. And despite rumors that he will field Birsa as the trequartista (even if Saponara has been back training with the squad,) or that he’ll stick with the 4-3-1-2 after il terrible Torino™, the horrific display some still insist on calling football, I believe. Even if we are raiding Pippo Inzaghi’s Primavera team of a number of players, players who will no longer be eligible to play in UEFA’s Youth League this season, I believe.

Will Allegri start that Slovenian guy?

To be fair, what else can I do? It’s my team. I bleed red and black, and even if lately I’ve hemorrhaged so much that I’m anemic, I still have to believe. I believe in our boys, I believe that Champions League is in our DNA, and I believe that anything is possible in 90 minutes. Even if we have a team of zombies leaving body parts all over the San Siro pitch trying to keep up with a fitter, more in form Celtic team, we are Milan. And to me, that always means something.

So we’ll face off against the Scottish Giants tomorrow, hoping we can actually field 11 living players. But with history and home advantage on our side, I will put some faith in our boys. They have surprised us before, and I know they’ll surprise us again. Hopefully in the form of a win tomorrow. A win that will be that much sweeter if won by Milan’s walking dead.

This post inspired by the music of Ministry

Champions League Group Stage
AC Milan vs. Celtic
Wednesday, September 18 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This match may be broadcast on PrimeTkt in the U.S., check your local listings
Check here for stream links prior to the match