Serie A Preview: Roma v. AC Milan

Date: Saturday, January 9, 2016

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

Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

League Position: Milan (7), Roma (5)

Two struggling Serie A giants collide as Milan travel for a clash in the capital. The Rossoneri have struggled to beat some bad teams recently. Any predictions how this match against a good team might play out?

In a match at home where they saw 60% of the ball, outshot their opponents 17 to 7, and had 10 corner kicks to their opponents 0, Milan still found a way to lose. Saturday in Rome I imagine we will not be able to control the game nearly to the extent we saw against Bologna, and at this point I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing.

And that to me is the most maddening this about Milan these days. I have zero idea what to expect from one game to another. The formation has been fairly consistent and so has the squad selection, and yet the results hardly conform to any clear kind of pattern.

I imagine Mihajlovic must be thinking similarly right now, but I’m glad I’m not the one relying on this cast of characters to keep my job. Should we fail to pick up a point against Roma, or at the very, very least put on a competent display, I fear the andata will be all for the latest man to ride the Milan coaching carousel.

Looking up the table at... Sassuolo.

Looking up the table at… Sassuolo.

Tale of the Tape

Last 6 Serie A matches:

Milan: LWDDWL
Roma: DLDDWD

Recent history is almost as concerning as recent form. Roma have lost just 4 times in their past 38 matches at the Stadio Olimpico, while Milan have emerged with the full 3 points just once in their past 11 meetings there.

The teams are dead even in shots per match (15) and corners (6), yet Roma has scored 11 more goals than us, with an impressive 10 of their total coming off set pieces, the highest number in Serie A. We’ve allowed 7 from set pieces, so you just know Pjanic is licking his chops.

One thing that explains Roma’s superior effectiveness in front of goal is how close they get to the goal. 60% of Roma’s shots come from inside the box, leading them to average close to 2 goals per match to our 1. That leaves them second in Serie A behind only, and surprisingly, Chievo, the team that just matched them in a 3-3 draw.

There’s an obvious disconnect between our midfield and our attack and one number I think illustrates that is our offside stat. We are caught offside more than any other team in Serie A (between 3 and 4 times per match), and I know all of you, like me, have screamed at your television more than once this season as we see a Rossoneri player making a good run seemingly ages before the player with the ball even lifts his head.

Missing Pieces

Romagnoli thankfully returns from suspension so it’s just the injured Balotelli, Diego Lopez, and Menez out for Milan this week.

There are a few squad members who haven’t seen the pitch anyway out for Roma, but Keita and Salah are the only noteworthy absences.

Possible Line-up

Donnarumma

Abate – Alex – Romagnoli – De Sciglio

Honda – Kucka – Bertolacci – Bonaventura

Bacca – Niang

I think it would be quite harsh to blame the Bologna defeat on our defense. Yes they allowed a late goal that several including Donnarumma could have (should have) done better with, but you can’t win if you don’t score and we had plenty of opportunities to do so. With Romagnoli back, we have our full strength defense on hand. Just how full of strength they really are is certainly still up for debate though.

Honda was roundly booed when he left the pitch on Wednesday, but honestly I thought he was solid again. Bertolacci and Bonaventura were fine too. Hmm, who does that leave as the weak link? Someone, anyone has to take Montolivo’s place on Saturday. I’d honestly prefer Mauri, but with so little match time under his belt recently I’ll slide in Kucka who can at the very least be counted on to put in a hard-nosed shift.

Up front it’s still Bacca and Niang for me, but scoring, you know, scoring would be great.

Sure looks like a "DAI!" to me.

Sure looks like a “DAI!” to me.

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Pjanic has been Roma’s shining star so far this season, and his partnership on the right with Florenzi in behind him has been very fruitful. He’s their most consistent performer, top scorer (7), and top assist man (5). Always a set piece threat, Pjanic’s got the tricks and skill to tantalize defenders and is constantly finding himself in dangerous positions. Milan have fallen prey to much less talented midfielders this season, so containing the Bosnia and Herzegovina should be central to this week’s preparations.

A Sense of Urgency – From the manager, from the players, from anyone! We are somehow still within striking distance of European football but we can’t rely on the teams in front of us (Roma in particular at this point) continuing to stumble. We’ll have to be the ones to actually make them stumble at some point and these games against the top sides will be big point swings during the ritorno. As for Mihajlovic, while I don’t place the lion’s share of the blame on his shoulders, he’s firmly on the hot seat at this point. Can he inspire these players to get up to their best, or can these players find it within themselves to actually fight for the man’s job? I’m not sure what kind of relationship he has with all of the players, but the relationship everyone wearing Milan colors has with the fans in the stands (and at home) continues to deteriorate.

 

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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