Preview: Los Rojiblancos host the Rossoneri in a make or break clash for both sides
It will be a tale of two polar opposites when Atletico Madrid host AC Milan on Tuesday evening in the second leg of their Champions League tie. The Rojiblancos have gone from strength to strength so far this season in both domestic and continental campaigns.
They have been keeping pace with the powerhouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid so far, much to many observers' surprise and transformed the title race into a much more exciting one this year. And in Europe, they comfortably finished top of their group with 16 points, joint-tied with city rivals Real for the most in the group stages and outscored their opponents by 15 to 3.
Preview: Both teams looking to respond after defeats
Both sides finished in the top five last season but have been struggling to replicate their form this time around. Milan are positioned 10th in the league table and have lost thrice in their last five outings in all competitions. A Champions League defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid was followed by a 2-0 win over Sampdoria. But Milan failed to build upon their victory as Juventus subjected them to a 2-0 loss in the subsequent match.
Preview: Milan look to pull off a big upset at the San Siro
AC Milan and Juventus are two of the most historic clubs in Italy. Apart from all of that history, both sides are currently heading in two very different directions.
Juventus are the reigning Serie A champions, and they look destined to win the title again. Antonio Conte’s side has an eight-point lead over AS Roma, but with 13 matches remaining, the visitors will not want to drop points at the San Siro.
Ricardo Montolivo believes that his side has what it takes to embarrass the league leaders, as they did in November of 2012.
Diego Simeone’s men have made major strides this season and from being a club which battled for a top four spot in yesteryears, Atletico have turned into title contenders.
Their performances in the Champions League have been even more overwhelming. Atleti were one of the few teams which managed to go past the group stages of the competition unscathed winning five of the six matches they played with the away fixture against Zenit Petersburg resulting in a draw.
Those were the only two points Atletico dropped this season in Europe and the way they have been playing, it will not be a surprise if they do the unthinkable by winning the Champions League while being the underdogs, something Jose Mourinho’s Porto did when they won the competition back in 2004.
For most managers beginnings are humble. They either start in the lower divisions, working their way to the top after gaining enough experience or manage clubs not having lofty ambitions. Then there are managers whose first managerial job is to take reins of a club that is one of the most successful ones in Europe but is in decline. Such is the plight of former Netherlands international Clarence Seedorf. The Dutchman made a big name for himself during his time at Milan, winning two Champions League crowns with the San Siro giants apart from other accolades.
It was a bit surprising to see the player announce his retirement as a player and then being given a very tough managerial job without ever being part of a coaching staff at any level. The Dutchman arrives at a turbulent period for Milan.
Preview: Milan kick start life without Allegri
The Italian tactician was relieved of his duties after weeks of speculation. The 4-3 loss at the hands of 17th placed Sassuolo sealed the 46 year olds fate who within 24 hours of the defeat was sacked. Mauro Tassotti is expected to take charge of Milan for his first and last match, as the appointment of former Milan player Clarence Seedorf as head coach of the Rossoneri seems imminent.
The Dutchman who spent 10 years at AC Milan announced retirement from his playing career upon Milan’s interest in appointing him as their new manager. In a statement the former Botafogo midfielder revealed:
Preview: The Rossoneri should have the upper hand against a struggling Sassuolo
AC Milan's campaign has not gone according to plan, which has left some Milan officials and their fans asking for change. Galliani was nearly one of those changes, but now it appears that Allegri will leave the club after the current season.
But until then, the Milan manager will try to get his side closer to the top. The Rossoneri are 11th in the Serie A table, with only 22 points in 18 matches. They are closer to the relegation zone, than they are to the top of the table, which is something AC Milan is not used to dealing with.
Preview: Inconsistencies and bad defending have hurt both Milan sides
Both AC Milan and Inter Milan are two clubs who have enjoyed success over the years, but this season in Serie A, neither has been all that impressive.
Inter comes into Sunday's derby having conceded four goals against Napoli in their latest defeat. From their last three matches, the Nerazzuri have conceded nine, which currently has them fifth in the table, with 28 points from 16 matches.
They have not won a Serie A match since November 9th, when they defeated Livorno 2-0 at home.
Raja Casablanca, the shock finalists of the Club World Cup, squared off against Bayern Munich at Stade de Marrakech yesterday. The game took place ahead of the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday and the reason why the final is being discussed is that just a few years back, Inter overcame another African giant in TP Mazembe to lift this unique trophy. That trophy was the last time Internazionale lifted something of any significance as Rafa Benitez was sacked soon afterwards (apart from the Coppa Italia in the same season).
At that time, Inter were eight points off league leaders Milan. Though Inter narrowed down the gap to just two points before the Derby in April, Milan won the game 3-0 and went on to claim the Scudetto.
“We certainly could’ve drawn worse,” AC Milan club director Umberto Gandini mused after learning that his side had been paired off with La Liga’s Atletico Madrid in the round of 16. The Rossoneri, who had finished second in their group could have faced off against the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester United, or Chelsea as their opponents.
So, in light of the terrorizing prospect of dealing with last year’s Champions League winners or a Los Blancos spearheaded by the rampaging Cristiano Ronaldo, who set a new tournament record with nine strikes in just five appearances, then, yes, one could say, theoretically that the “other” Madrid club isn’t the “worst” draw they could’ve gotten.
Preview: AS Roma tries to stay in pursuit of Juve, while AC Milan seeks their fifth victory
We are already 15 matches into the Serie A campaign, and AC Milan only has four victories to their name. It is not often that the Rossoneri struggle this bad, but things do not look to get much easier with AS Roma coming to town.
On the day that Allegri's side found out they will take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Knockout Stage, they will have to focus on Totti & co., who have yet to lose in the current domestic campaign.
On Monday, AS Roma take on Serie A strugglers AC Milan in a league encounter which the capital club would be looking to use as a further proof of their Scudetto credentials, something that the club’s fans have not witnessed in a long time.
After four draws on a trot which followed an incredible start to the season which saw Roma win all of their opening ten matches in the league, the Lupi once again returned to winning ways thanks to a 2-1 win over Fiorentina last week. The win was very important for Rudi Garcia’s side as they got their title chase back on track.
Shrugging off the controversy off the pitch, following the topsy-turvy esque nature of Adriano Galliani’s resignation, Milan players picked up a desperately needed 3-1 win at Catania on Sunday.
It was great to see the Rossoneri replicate their performance from the Champions League win over Celtic to Serie A and it seems that Massimiliano Allegri has finally turned the corner following a poor start to the new campaign.
Once again, Milan were left chasing the game but like the Milan sides of yesteryears, they rallied towards a very important win that could define their season.
Zero. That is the number of games that AC Milan have won on the road all season—both in domestic and continental competition. Sure, they’ve, oftentimes been fortunate to escape with a draw—their Champions League tie with Ajax and Serie A clash with Torino come to mind, but the Rossoneri have yet to secure all three points away from the San Siro.
And as if their 11th place standing wasn't bad enough, one should note that they’re currently on 12 points, which is just three above nine. That's the exact number of points that 18th-placed and relegation candidates Sassuolo have earned so far this season.
Preview: Both sides seeking revival after disappointing start
Both Milan and Lazio have had difficult starts to the new season and will be hoping that a win on Wednesday can kick start their campaign. Hosts AC Milan after losing against Parma courtesy of a last ditch goal by Marco Parolo, have slipped down to tenth place in the league table.
Following the match coach Massimo Allegri singled out troubled striker Mario Balotelli for criticism, claiming that the Italian international failed to follow the instructions given out by the head coach.
Barcelona are set to reacquaint themselves with the fabled San Siro as they take on AC Milan on Tuesday. This is the seventh time these two sides have met in the past two years. The last time the Catalan giants were in Lombardy, it was a case of them running back to Catalonia with their tails between their legs, thanks to goals by Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari.
At that time, many thought that the defeat was the beginning of the end for Barcelona. The same team that was then considered to be fading away has now become a genuine Champions League contender while their victors are now struggling a lot domestically while being exploited by inferior opposition in Europe.
Preview: Mario Balotelli is the latest headache for the Rossoneri
While Balotelli may be a constant headache for the Milan management, due to his on and off the pitch antics, he handed the Italian outfit another setback.
Super Mario's injury will definitely be a big loss, given how many times he has come to the rescue for Allegri's side. Who will now step up and score goals for Milan in his absence? Could the pressure fall on the shoulders of one Alessandro Matri?
The former Juve forward will need to guide his new club past Udinese, who is eighth in the Serie A table, four spots and two points ahead of Milan.
The tie could not have come at a better time for Juventus, with Milan currently suffering from a number of injuries including their talismanic yet troublesome striker Mario Balotelli who will continue to serve his three match suspension as a result of a red card against Napoli.
However former Juventus forward Alessandro Matri who joined the Rossoneri back in August is set to lead the line along with Robinho against his former side. Even though the 29 year old is yet to open his goal account for his new club, he believes he can turn things around when his team faces Juventus and has further indicated that he will celebrate if he gets his name on the score sheet.
Preview: Kaka's return will help overshadow Milan's injury list
When Ricardo Kaka left Milan to apply his trade at the Santiago Bernabeu, Rossoneri fans were left with hope that he would one day return to the San Siro. After playing for the Italian side from 2003-2009, Kaka became an icon, but his injuries while in Madrid limited his impact in the squad.
Heading into the 2013/14 campaign, Milan fans were hoping to see some defensive signings, but apart from the arrival of Cristian Zaccardo, Allegri's squad still lacks depth in their own third.