The struggling Elefanti are preparing to host an in-form Rossoneri side on Sunday evening…
Kick Off: Sunday, November 29, 20.45 CET
Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania
For the second season in a row, Catania frustrated Palermo at the Stadio Renzo Barbera. Giulio Migliaccio had put the Rosanero in front, but Jorge Martinez equalised 10 minutes after the break to secure a draw. While they did not humiliate their Sicilian rivals on the pitch as they had last year with a 4-0 win, the Elefanti fans would have taken great pleasure in seeing former coach Walter Zenga fired shortly after the game by Maurizio Zamparini.
However, the Rossazzurri have more pressing concerns than their rivals’ tribulations ahead of their match with Milan. They remain 19th in the league, three points from safety and with just one win to their name all season. Coach Gianluca Atzori has been under pressure to start picking up results, but he maintains that he has the support of the squad and that his side haven’t had the rub of the green so far this season.
There is no lack of quality in attack for Catania with the likes of Giuseppe Mascara and Takayuki Morimoto, while the Sicilians have had a difficult start to the season after travelling to Inter and Fiorentina. In addition, they have scored the first goal against the likes of Roma, Udinese and Lazio but haven’t been able to hold onto their lead – a problem that Atzori is sure to have picked up on.
Matches against Milan haven’t tended to produce many points over the years. With the exception of a Coppa Italia victory in 2007, the Elefanti have struggled to pick up more than a point against the Rossoneri. Any positive result would be a bonus for the Rossazzurri, but their season will be decided by results against the likes of Siena and Livorno, who they face in the coming weeks.
Leonardo has certainly found an entertaining tactical formula. Labelled a 4-2-fantasia by Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani, the advantages and disadvantages of the system were on show last weekend against Cagliari. The ultra-offensive style paid dividends as they put four past Massimiliano Allegri’s side, but not before they had gone 2-1 down after half an hour.
The Rossoneri also rode their luck in midweek against Olympique Marseille. A 1-1 draw ensures that a victory against FC Zurich will see them progress to the next round, but they were lucky to come away with a point after Brandao inexplicably hit the crossbar from close range and Souleymane Diawara hit the post.
Nonetheless, it was a fixture that the Diavoli would have lost two months ago. Leonardo has now found the right tactics and instilled confidence in his players, and his adaptation to the role on the bench is reflected by his players’ performances on the pitch.
The challenge now is to keep the run going. Sicily is always a difficult place to go, despite Milan’s good record against the Etnei. Matches against the likes of Sampdoria and Fiorentina are also coming up ahead of the winter break, and the Rossoneri will be desperate not only to try and keep pace with the leaders, but to gain ground on Inter.
November 22 v Palermo (A) – DREW 1-1 (Serie A)
November 7 v Napoli (H) – DREW 0-0 (Serie A)
November 1 v Fiorentina (A) – LOST 3-1 (Serie A)
October 28 v Chievo Verona (H) – LOST 2-1 (Serie A)
October 24 v Inter (A) – LOST 2-1 (Serie A)
November 25 v Olympique Marseille (H) – DREW 1-1 (Champions League)
November 22 v Cagliari (H) – WON 4-3 (Serie A)
November 8 v Lazio (A) – WON 2-1 (Serie A)
November 3 v Real Madrid (H) – DREW 1-1 (Champions League)
October 31 v Parma (H) – WON 2-0 (Serie A)
Gennaro Delvecchio, Pablo Barrientos, Fabio Sciacca and Giovanni Marchese are all sidelined. Ezequiel Carboni and ’keeper Mariano Andujar will pick up suspensions if they are booked against the Rossoneri.
Probable Starting XI (3-5-2): Andujar; Silvestre, Terlizzi, Spolli; Alvarez, Biagianti, Carboni, Llama, Martinez; Mascara, Morimoto.
Alessandro Nesta returns from suspension, but Andrea Pirlo must now serve a one-match ban. Massimo Oddo, Gennaro Gattuso, Oguchi Onyewu and Marek Jankulovski are all injured, with the result that Ignazio Abate is likely to get the nod at right back. Mathieu Flamini should also return to the midfield after injury.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Dida; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta; Flamini, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Pato, Borriello, Ronaldinho.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Takayuki Morimoto (Catania)
The young Japanese striker has risen to prominence over the last 12 months, and has already netted against Sampdoria, Udinese and Roma this season. The return of Nesta will be crucial, but Morimoto will have an eye on ending his recent dry run against the Rossoneri after seeing Cagliari score three at San Siro.
Marco Borriello (Milan)
Borriello has really found his feet again after an injury-plagued season last year, and scored his first ever Champions League goal in midweek. The 27-year-old has also scored three times in seven games in the league, and will be looking to add to last weekend’s goal with another strike against Catania.
The Sicilian crowds always make away games difficult for any side, but Milan will have enough about them to record their fourth successive Serie A win.
Catania 0-3 Milan