Serie A Preview: Fiorentina v. AC Milan

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2015

Kickoff: 2:45 PM ET (USA) / 20:45 CET (ITA)

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy

Who’s ready for the new new new Milan? It’s been another eventful Summer for the Rossoneri on and off the field, but now we are ready to begin the 2015-2016 Serie A season! New manager, new players, new business partnerships (is that finalized yet?), new stadium (on the way, supposedly), and new hopes from the red and black faithful. I mean, at least a few of you have to be optimistic, right?

I’m back for another season of previews to ready your cynical Diavolo hearts for yet another campaign aiming to restore our beloved club to its former glories. Well, OK, we’d really settle for restoring some pride and making it back into the Champions League.

Preseason Focus

Without any statistics to work with yet, let’s take a look at preseason goings-on for both sides.

In terms of transfers, Fiorentina were involved in a lot of moves. They did some addition by addition (Mario Suarez, Astori), some addition by subtraction (Aquilani, Mario Gomez), and some subtraction by subtraction (Salah, who was just a loan but hugely important to their success late last season). They also, theoretically, have a healthy Giuseppi Rossi, who allows them to play the “like a new signing” card. I actually think former Dnipro man Nikola Kalinic may prove more useful up top in the end, but if the Italian-American can stay healthy he has proven to be a potent goalscorer.

The Rossoneri were just as busy in the window, offloading the likes of Muntari, Rami, El Shaarawy, Pazzini, and Albertazzi. Some nice names were brought in: Bertolacci, Ely, Luiz Adriano, Bacca, Mauri, and after a prolonged saga, Romagnoli. Perhaps a big Swede to be named later.

Fiorentina had some notable success in their travels to North America this Summer, defeating Benfica, Barcelona, and Chelsea after an opening defeat to PSG. Other than that there have been a few tune-up games and not much else as they will enter Coppa Italia in the next round.

Milan passed that first hurdle with a fairly comfortable 2-0 win over Perugia, but it’s really been more of amixed bag this Summer. A derby victory in the US was nice, followed by a hard-fought PK loss to Real Madrid. Performances in the Audi cup were very lackluster though as Bayern and Tottenham both defeated us tidily. Then, we won our first trophy of the season! Woo! TIM Trophy! Ok, the only thing to really be excited about there is we managed to defeat Inter again, which is always nice. To be honest none of the performances I saw really gave me any earthly idea of how this season is going to go, so for now I’ll buckle up and try to enjoy the ride.

YAY TEAM!

YAY TEAM!

Missing Pieces

Milan will be without the services of a French attacking  duo, Menez and Niang. Last year’s team top scorer may well find it difficult to get back into this side once healthy.

A few fringe defenders, Bakic and Roncaglia, are all the absences for La Viola.

Possible Line-up

Diego Lopez

Abate – Romagnoli – Ely – Antonelli

Bertolacci -De Jong – Bonaventura

Honda

Bacca – Luiz Adriano

The midfield is what we all wanted to reinforce last season, and Bertolacci and Mauri were brought in to add quality and depth. De Jong is the center of course, but there are plenty of player who will want to prove they can be the answer at the other spots. Not including Nocerino, of course. Jack and Berto flank the Dutchman for me this week with Honda primed to breakout in a more preferred role. Please oh please let that be a prophetic statement.

Our fullbacks weren’t the problem last year, but I want to see more consistency from the two Italians on the flanks. Really I want to see De Sciglio turn into the defender we all thought he was, but I’m not holding my breath for that any longer. And while this would be a very, very young central pairing, I see no reason not to start fresh in a position that let us down time and time again last season.

Up front, we bought them so lets see what they can do. Bacca in particular looks quite the player, and both will be looking to get among the goals early with a certain 6 ft. 5 in. presence always looming over the Rossoneri these days.

That armband really brings Nigel's outfit together, don't you think?

That armband really brings Nigel’s outfit together, don’t you think?

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – I mentioned Kalinic before, and he’s my pick this week as the likely starter up front over Rossi who’s still being treated cautiously. A scorer in the Europa League final last year, he has decent strike rates throughout his career for club and country and has quality in the air, something that continues to vex Milan defenders. He’ll get a steady stream of service from a strong midfield behind him and Diego Lopez will surely have to deny him at least once or twice.

Mihajlovic’s Influence (Balls) – I’ll be totally honest, I was not 100% on board with this appointment. This is another coach who has won, but not won at the highest of levels, and who hasn’t stuck around for more than 2 seasons with any club he’s managed. But in both his time as a player and as a manager he’s proven to have one thing that Milan have been in desperate need of: balls. He has a tendency to cross the line too no doubt, but someone was needed to put the fight back into the Rossoneri and he’s going to get the chance. The way his players respond to him and are shaped by him needs to be exhibited in some hard-nosed play on the pitch. Isn’t it time opponents were afraid of Milan again?

Leadership on the Field – As last season roundly illustrated, a passionate manager can only do so much. A tactical manager helps too, but I digress. This season we need to see some one (or two or three, if possible) take this squad by the scruff of its collective neck and flat out drag the team to victory if necessary. I’m not even just talking about a vocal leader here, but one that can rally the troops by example just as well. De Jong is a great general for this club and I don’t mean to discount his leadership qualities, but I’m looking closely to see who else this team takes inspiration from early on this season.

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

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