Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Napoli

Date: Sunday, October 4, 2015

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

League Position: Milan (11), Napoli (10)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy

Third time never seems to be the charm for the Rossoneri as they limp back to San Siro after a dispiriting loss against a weak Genoa side. Still yet to record three wins in a row since two seasons ago, Milan now face a Napoli side undefeated since the opening round and coming off a big win over Juventus.

Still, Milan are tied on points with their visitors this weekend, and had been clicking offensively until the Genoa match. It’s clear somethings not working for Mihajlovic and company though, as high-scoring, nail-biting wins and putrid displays against poor opposition are certainly not going to get them anywhere near the top of the table.

Should I still be hoping they’ll be near the top of the table? Probably not, but in a year where my New York Mets can make the playoffs, surely still anything can happen.

Tale of the Tape

Last 6 Serie A matches:

Milan: LWLWWL

Napoli: LDDWDW

At least one trend looks promising for Milan. We’ve won our last 4 Serie A matches at the San Siro, while Napoli have failed to win on their travels in their 6 latest away matches.

There’s goals a-coming, with Milan seeing at least three goals scored in their past 5 home matches, and Napoli seeing at least three goals in their last 14 matches. Neither side has been convincing defensively either, so this could be a fun match to watch for the neutrals.

It’s pretty amazing that we are tied on points with Napoli thus far. They’ve scored more (12 to 8), conceded less (8 to 9), have much higher possession (61% to 48%), take many more shots (19 to 12), and pass more accurately (85% to 78%).

Offensively, set piece statistics are actually in our favor so far this season. We’ve scored from 4 ourselves while Napoli have yet to convert from a dead ball this season. Defensively? Same old story. We’ve conceded as many as we’ve scored.

Finally, Napoli average 635 passes per match. Milan come into the match averaging 411. This match-up is tailor-made for Milan to sit back, soak up some pressure, and hit on the counter, but with the back line we are likely to field on Sunday I fear we’ll go from soaking to over-saturated over the course of 90 minutes.

Not our prettiest player (looks too much like Allegri), but our most effective so far.

Not our prettiest player (looks too much like Allegri), but our most effective so far.

Missing Pieces

Romagnoli is the latest Rossonero to see red, adding to our Serie A leading total for the past few seasons. He’s out suspended with Abate, Niang, Mexes, and Menez still injured.

Napoli have their full squad available so, good for them.

Possible Line-up

Diego Lopez

Calabria – Zapata – Ely – De Sciglio

Kucka – De Jong – Bertolacci – Bonaventura

Bacca – Balotelli

I realize that there is little chance Mihajlovic deviates from the 4-3-1-2, but the performances using this formation have been inconsistent at best.

I toyed with the idea of removing both De Jong and Montolivo but with this back line I think the Dutchman’s defensive cover will still be necessary against Napoli. Three youngsters and Zapata in defense, what could possibly go wrong?

In my mind this 4-4-2 has a sort of flat diamond in the middle, with Bertolacci playing centrally but more advanced in front of Nigel and Kucka and Bonaventura providing some offensive width and defensive hustle on the flanks.

And up front Adriano has really yet to show us very much so I’m sticking with Balo and Bacca. There are reports that Mario picked up a knock in training though, so the Brazilian may get another chance on Sunday.

Are YOU my trequartista?

Are YOU my trequartista?

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Take your pick against this Napoli side. Higuain is the top scorer with 5 goals, Hamsik is always in the thick of things, and Callejon has the instinct to pop up in the vital moments. But this week I’ll go with Lorenzo Insigne. The Italian attacker has flourished with consistent playing time recording 3 goals (most recently against Juventus) and 2 assists in Napoli’s first 6 matches. He provides excellent service for his teammates and is surprisingly strong on the ball for someone his size. Expect him to play a major role in Napoli’s scoring on Sunday.

Discipline – It’s hard enough for us to win with 11 men on the field, so that fact that we continually get reduced to 10, and often early in the match, is absolutely killing us. Certainly there have been some soft calls against us during this over-a-year-long card flurry we have experienced, but the referees can’t be blamed for our inability to finish a match at full strength. I’m not even sure how to remedy this to be honest, but then I’m not the one being paid to do so.

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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