Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Palermo

Date: Saturday, September 19, 2015

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

League Position: Milan (12), Palermo (7)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy

After a disappointing derby, another undefeated team visits the San Siro. Iachini’s Palermo have taken 7 points out of 9 and will relish the chance to stay near the top of the table. Milan limp into this match a bit although some have noted an improved performance despite the defeat to Inter.

I guess I saw some positives too but we still lost and did not score a goal. Mario looked like one of our best players for gods sake.

As I was looking at the stats for this preview, I noticed that WhoScored was trolling me by having the gall to host a site declaring that Milan “has no significant weaknesses.”

Wow. There’s more than one, but the root of it all is still the midfield. Our strikers are starved for service and we lose the ball far too easily and frequently. It’s a tall task to figure out but if Mihajlovic doesn’t he’s in for a long season, or maybe a very short one.

Tale of the Tape

Palermo defeated Milan for the first time in a long time in their first meeting last year, running out 2-0 winners at the San Siro, before the Rossoneri got their payback in Sicily during the Ritorno.

Milan have won their last 3 games at home (as the home team, of course) dating back to last season, scoring at least twice in each of those matches.

Neither team has averaged over 50% possession, though Milan did just edge out Inter in that department. I expect Palermo to sit back and counter in this one, so it will be interesting so see if the Rossoneri can capitalize on, you know, having the ball.

Palermo have completed just 77% of their passes (Milan not much better with 79%) but they average twice as many shots on goal (4 to 2). Not coincidentally, they have scored twice as many goals (4 to 2!).

Both of these sides are dispossessed too much (13 times a match), but Milan have been better at taking it from their opponents as well with almost 19 interceptions on average. What’s missing is any midfield ability to turn those turnovers into fast break opportunities.

Like last week, calling our opponents this round undefeated does not tell the whole story. After two narrow 1-0 victories over Genoa and Udinese, Palermo were fortunate enough to draw Serie A debutantes Carpi at the death last round, denying the Biancorossi a famous first victory.

If only he could score too.

If only he could score too.

Missing Pieces

Milan are working on quite an injury list already with Bertolacci, Niang, Menez, Mexes, and Antonelli all missing out.

Palermo count out only Bolzoni.

Possible Line-up

Diego Lopez

Abate – Zapata – Romagnoli – De Sciglio

Suso – De Jong – Bonaventura

Mauri

Luiz Adriano – Bacca

So there’s my midfield for this weekend, and I’ll have a heart attack if it’s even 50% correct. But I just feel like we might as well have guys in there who are going to at least attempt to do positive, creative things with the damn ball. And of course De Jong. If he’s fit, he plays.

The quest to find someone to play behind the strikers continues, at least it should, and why not Mauri who was so influential and bright for a dire Parma side last season? With a job as wide open as this one is, you’ve got to check out all your applicants.

The strike duo remains the same and I still find it hard to judge them too much when they are out there trying to force their own opportunities. Still, they’ve got to produce and bury some of the chances they (or maybe even someone else) do create.

Zapata always does this to us. He has a solid game, maybe even two, and then he Zapatas the hell out of the next one. I’m tempted to still go with Ely because I don’t think it’s a precipitous downgrade, but I’ll give the Colombian a 47th chance to prove he deserves a consistent spot.

Abate and De Sciglio play because who the hell else is going to play!?

Give him another half hour and he'll be the most fouled player in Serie A.

Give him another half hour and he’ll be the most fouled player in Serie A.

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Franco Vasquez this week for me. Yet to get on the scoresheet himself, though it’s only a matter of time, the Italian international has been Palermo’s best player and creator. A constant menace in the center of the pitch, the Argentine born oriundo possesses an accurate long shot and is dangerous with the ball at his feet. Don’t be surprised in the middle of whatever Palermo can get going on Saturday.

Balotelli – I don’t think he should start and I wonder how match fit he is, but Balotelli’s cameo role in the derby more than earned him some more action in this one. I realize the expectations are lower this time around but there’s still a sense of unpredictability every time he gets the ball. He’s a player capable of winning a match in a moment, maybe a player we should hope we don’t actually have to use, but there’s no doubt that he has once again become one of Milan’s most compelling players.

Substitutions – I was a little surprised by our first two substitutions last round. Balotelli on didn’t phase me except for who he replaced. I thought Bacca was clearly the better of the two forwards at that point but Luiz Adriano was left in to continue having little effect on the game. Then, down a goal, Kucka was removed for… Poli? I mean, Poli is OK for me as a sort of utility player, but the situation screamed for someone with the talents to go out and tie the match. Hopefully I’ll see a little more logic in the manager’s decisions on Saturday.

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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