Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Bologna

Date: Sunday, January 20 2013

Kickoff: 9:00 AM ET (USA) / 15:00 CET (ITA)

League position: Milan (7) – Bologna (14)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy

The return half of Serie A began better than the first with Milan picking up a point over a Sampdoria side that snatched all three all the way back in round 1. At this point in the season (and in the “new Milan” adventure) a draw in a game that could have gone either way is satisfying enough, although the Rossoneri did miss out on the chance to leapfrog listless Roma. Bologna is a squad Milan easily handled away in September, but the Rossoblu have found an offense and the victory might not be as easy to come by this time around.

Bologna’s away form is woeful, though they did win at Napoli twice in the span of 4 days back in December. With the acquisition of former Milan striker Alberto Gilardino and the emergence of young Manolo Gabbiadini, Bologna have bolstered the attack in front of the always dangerous Alessandro Diamanti and flashy Greek international Panagiotis Kone.

Milan’s ever shifting backline will have its hands full for sure, and you get the feeling the home side will need to bulge Agliardi’s net more than once to secure the full three points.

Tale of the Tape

Having already mentioned Bologna’s troubles away from home, it is worth noting that they have failed to score in 6 out of their last 8 away matches.

Milan should see far more of the ball, having averaged 58% possession in all Serie A matches as opposed to Bologna’s 46%. They also play, on average, 128 more passes than the visitors!

Milan have proven successful at containing the counterattack of opposing squads, having conceded just one goal from these situations. Bologna look unlikely to threaten that statistic to0 much, having scored just 3 times on the counter.

That said, Bologna don’t need to get too close to the net to score. They take a lot of shots (13 per match), many from long distance, something that has been an Achilles heel for both Milan goalkeepers during this campaign.

Both teams intend to play with width and each average over 20 crosses per match (Milan 28 – Bologna 23)

Notable Absences

Ambrosini and Yepes are the most recent additions to the injured list, but De Jong’s long-term injury might be most significant for this match. He’s exactly the type of player I would like shutting down Diamanti in the middle. Whoever gets selected in the midfield needs to be mindful of their defensive responsibilities.

For their part, Bologna aren’t missing anyone who has made more than 4 starts this season except for French youth international midfielder Saphir Taider, who has only pitched in one goal for the cause.

Neither team loses a man to suspension, though it is worth noting that El Shaarawy is one yellow card away from a ban.

Possible Line-up

Abbiati

De Sciglio – Mexes – Zapata – Constant

Boateng – Montolivo – Nocerino

Robinho – Pazzini – El Shaarawy

Bench:

No surprises at the back. I think Yepes might have gotten the nod over Mexes were he fit, but Mexes is a bit more mobile (a bit) of an option than the big Colombian and makes a pair with the speedier Zapata that can deal with the wiles of Diamanti.

De Sciglio and Constant should have some room to roam as Bologna rarely hit on the counter. That said the visitors will still want to use the flanks, so they need to be mindful of their duties defensively as well.

Still without a real breakout game, I do like Boateng more as a box-to-box player despite the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have the total skill set to consistently excel in this role. However, on a good passing, or alternatively, shooting day for the Prince, he could truly be the difference in a match.

It's been that kind of year for KPB.

It’s been that kind of year for KPB.

And at least he moves and moves the ball quickly, unlike the skilled but languid Montolivo and the industrious Nocerino.

Like Pete, I’d like to see Emanuelson reinserted into the lineup, but it seems he hasn’t featured in some time now.

For the front three I think Pazzini at the center gives the outside players the best target. Bojan could just as easily start but we haven’t seen Robinho and El Shaarawy combined in attack for prolonged stints and I think it’s possible that the two could find a dynamic.

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – It was tough for me to choose who Milan must be most mindful of in this match. Gilardino was a tempting choice as he seems to be returning to solid form and can poach the type of goals Milan have been conceding all season.

But Bologna’s most dynamic character is still Diamanti, who possesses the unpredictability and class to stretch and unsettle Milan’s central defensive pairing. His penchant for accurate, long-range shots will trouble the Milan goal and he is liable to be the one swinging dangerous free kicks in to the waiting Gilardino.

Yes. This maniac.

Yes. This maniac.

Set Pieces – Speaking of free kicks, here’s a stat that should worry Milan fans: Bologna have scored from set pieces 8 times so far this season, good enough for a third of their goals. Milan, as you are surely aware, have conceded 9 from dead ball situations.

On the bright side, Bologna are just as likely to give one up from a free kick, having conceded 8 as well. If Bologna can effectively muddle up this match, it could come down to a set piece showdown. This could be a great game for a reliable Milan free kick artist to finally emerge.

Substitutions – With Milan finally in a good run of health, they have the clear advantage in options off the bench. If the match doesn’t go Milan’s way in the first half (and let’s face it, not many have) I expect to see a rapid response from Allegri. He has multiple options at both the forward and fullback positions and can reshape the game for the final 45 if he chooses.

 

About Dave Lamb

Dave Lamb is a lifelong Milan supporter, public school teacher, and aspiring stand-up comedian living in Boston. You can follow him on twitter @DaveLambComedy

3 Thoughts on “Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Bologna

  1. MrEskola on January 18, 2013 at 4:31 PM said:

    Personally I didn’t like Urby’s performances at the right flank or at the trequartista at all but I think he’s worthy of a place in the line-up. Nocerino is a very simple box-to-box player with not really special technical qualities as you all know. I think Urby would be a better choice in the central midfield, at least he would probably combine better with Constant and El Shaarawy I presume.

    We have no defensive midfielders at the moment, unless you count Flamini as one. But Flamini is a liability so I’d rather use Boateng for this purpose. But Boateng surely isn’t as good defensively as de Jong or Ambro but unfortunately we don’t have any other options. But as you mentioned, we could also use Montolivo there and then we would have a quicker Boateng on the right side of the midfield. I’d rather be without a real defensive midfielder, it can’t be too bad option. Even Juve doesn’t have a pure defensive midfielder since Vidal ventures forward pretty often.

    To be honest, I missed Pazzini’s presence in the match against Sampdoria. Bojan’s position shouldn’t be there because when he plays with his back to the goal, he’s simply useless that way. Pazzini is a lot more useful in playing with his back to the goal.

    I don’t has any of you guys noticed but I believe Bojan has usually played better when he has came off the bench rather than playing from the start.

    This is the line-up I hope to see on Sunday:

    Abbiati
    De Sciglio – Zapata – Mexès – Constant
    Boateng – Montolivo – Emanuelson
    Robinho – Pazzini – El Shaarawy

    FORZA MILAN!

    • Dave Lamb on January 18, 2013 at 6:12 PM said:

      A Boateng-Montolivo-Emanuelson midfield is intriguing. Montolivo could sit behind the two speedsters and facilitate the ball movement from the defenders to them, but I think this might make us more narrow and minimize the effect of the fullbacks.

      At any rate it would be a very attack-minded formation, one that might be worth trying, but not one I’m not sure Allegri has the inclination to try. The only time I can remember him going super offensive was the second leg against Arsenal in the CL last season. Mind you it was the wrong time to try that, but it blew up so badly I think he’d be very hesitant to do it again.

      • MrEskola on January 18, 2013 at 7:42 PM said:

        Yeah, you’re probably right, Allegri likes to have at least two midfielders deep at all times, so that favours the possibility of having a defensive midfielder in the line-up. Maybe the defensive midfielder will not play in the middle (Flamini played on the right and Montolivo in the middle against Sampdoria) but he wants one defensive midfielder, or at least one midfielder who has decent defensive capabilites. I don’t know if Muntari is fit enough to play but he played the second half on the left side of the midfield yesterday in the friendly match at Milanello. He would be better option than Flamini but he’s not a miracle worker though. Another option would be Traoré but I doubt Allegri wants to use him.

        The last time Allegri tried an attacking tactic was possibly in the match against Roma in December. In my view he gave the players the freedom to charge forward and that decision cost us very badly. For example Nocerino was constantly out of position, offside and not there where he should’ve been when Roma were attacking on counter. Allegri obviously tried to improve the team’s attacking movement this way but it certainly didn’t work against Roma.

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