What do we know about AC Milan's team? And how can we beat them?

Posted by myrlas on May 11, 2005, 10:11:22 PM

Well being in the "unique" position of supporting AC Milan and Liverpool all my life (don't ask) I thought I'd write a bit about our opponents in the final. I suppose quite a lot of you have seen a couple of Milan matches this season in Serie A or the Champions League, and already have an opinion of your own about what we're up against on the big night may 25th, well here's mine:

Most likely Milan willl have no major injury concerns. They wil have their entire squad to pick from, meaning Ancelotti will start with his favoured starting 11.

Their line-up will probably look like this:

                               Dida

Cafu            Stam          Nesta         Maldini

               Gattuso     Pirlo        Seedorf

                                Kaka

                  Shevchenko   Crespo

Ancelotti might go with the slightly more defensive formation with Kaka supporting Sheva up front, and either Ambrosini or Rui Costa getting into midfield ahead of Crespo. Tomasson/Inzaghi instead of Crespo can be an option as well ... but I doubt we'll be so lucky!

I will now give a little description on every player, telling you what are the strengths and weaknesses of that player. Then I'll add a little information on what might be our best chance if we want to lift our 5th ...

1. Dida (GK)

- Brazilian goalkeeper who has gone from being known as a "naturally shaky goalie from Brazil" to be topping the stats as best goalkeeper in Serie A, in front of the likes of Buffon, Toldo etc. His strengths are his athleticism. His shotstopping is good, as well as his reach and ability with his feet. He plays with an arrogance, and never seems to be upset with anything. His major flaw is his tendency to being unable to gather shots/crosses safely. He often gives rebounds into dangerous areas, meaning we have to be alert in those areas around him when shots and crosses gets in.

2. Cafu (RB)

- Is there a better all-time right back around? Or a more sympathetic player? Probably not. Cafu has been running tirelessly up and down that right-hand side his whole career, with his well known grin on his face. He's won plenty of titles, and still poses a real attacking threat. In fact he still is more like a right midfielder, than a fullback. Cafu has lost a bit of pace, and his defensive abilities was never the best. He has good cover from Gattuso in front of him allowing him to get forward a lot. IMO this is perhaps the easiest way to get into the Milan danger areas ... when Cafu is too high in the pitch.

3. Stam (CB)

- We all know Jaap "Easter Island" Stam from his time at ManU. Well, he's still a solid "bauta" at the back, but he's not in his prime time. His experience is of course solid, but Jaap seems to be caught out of position from time to time. His partnership with Nesta can look fragile at times. Still he has good recovery pace, and he's a handful in the air for every striker in the world. But then again Stam isn't the "chief" back there, and he benefits from being Milan's "Henchoz" who is in there to do his job - nothing more, nothing less.

4. Nesta (CB)

- Best central defender in the world. Has been that for several years. Experienced, fast, cool, and extremely difficult to get past. Can't really see that many weaknesses with him, apart from a few communication problems with Stam?

5. Maldini (LB)

- Does he need any more introduction? No you might say ... but I disagree. After Stam got to the club Maldini was moved out to his old leftback position. That is a move that doesn't really suit Milan as a team. Maldini is still solid, but he's not fast any more. And a more vital thing is that his offensive contribution is almost gone. Cafu's job on the other side means that Maldini stays back almost every time. No matter who plays for us they have to run at Maldini a few times. That might bear fruit. He's still the best defender in history, but again that is for the history books, and not for this final.

6. Gattuso (RM)

- A player who has developed much since he moved back to Milan. He was a terrier ... and ... ehh ... not more that that. But Rhino has became much more mature, both in his defensive play, and with the ball. He's not a creative player, but he keeps it simple, and doesn't give the ball away much anymore. Gattuso is Milans' Lily Savage if you want. Some fans love him ... most opponents hate him. His aggressiveness is next to no one, and both Alonso and Gerrard should be aware.

7. Pirlo (CM)

- Pirlo is Ancelotti's masterstroke. From being a offensive midfielder out in the cold, Ancelotti turned the little man into a deep lying playmaker. And what a playmaker he is. He has fantastic control, and a very good vision. He is also dangerous on deadball situations. It will be vital for us to try to take Pirlo out of the game. He's not that quick, not that strong...not a good tackler. But he is very clever, and VERY cool on the ball. Don't rush into him, but press him.

8. Seedorf (LM)

- Many have opinions about this player. He has a football CV that is comparable to anyone. He's a big-name player who has played for big clubs his whole career. But his game is rather on/off. He always works hard, and does a good defensive job. His physical abilities are massive, and he also has a wonderful technique. But it doesn't show every time to say the least. Seedorf hasn't been in good form, but he will definitely start, for his big match experience. Hopefully he won't be that much involved in the final. He's gonna act more like a working-ant in my opinion.

9. Kaka (CM)

- The Brazilian wonderkid. He's not the typical Brazilian some might say. He is tall, looks a bit clumsy the first time you see him, but he has everyting. Drive, vision, finishing, hard work...everything. He scores and create goals. He can skip players with ease, and it's VITAL that he don't get time and space to do so. Kaka has also been a bit off form lately, which is good for us. And as for his weakness I'd say that he can go missing in games. But with players like him you must always be on your toes. He  needs just one opportunity.

10. Shevchenko (ST)

- Most likely the best striker there is at the moment. Has everything. And I mean everything. He scores goals in every competition, and he scores every type of goal. It's not easy to defend against players like him. You must hope for an off day. I suppose the duel between Carra and Sheva will turn out to be vital for this final. He tends to drift more out to the left than out right, so he will be more in Carra's zone than in Sami's. But as I said, he has no weaknesses, so just cross your fingers that nothing much falls at his feet.

11. Crespo (ST)

- Crespo is a very special player. He will never win the plaudits from his style, but he might win them with his stats. He's a scoring machine. That's about it. Always lies on the deepest defender to get a nod in (A bit like Inzaghi). Good in the box, and good in the air. He's not a player to fear, but you should be aware of his finishing abilities. His technique isn't the best, so it's better for us if he gets the balls to work on.

Subs of importance:
Rui Costa - Not the player he used to be. NEVER scores, but is still creative.

Serginho - Ultrafast leftsided and leftfooted Brazilian who often are thrown on to change games. A bit clumsy, but has his moments. Provides width in a way the other Milan players don't.
 
Ambrosini - typical hard-working Italian midfielder.

Inzaghi - A nightmare to play against. Works his socks off on everything. Tries the offside-line every time he gets the chance. Goes offside 9 times out of 10, but scores the tenth.

Tommasson - Good for us if he plays. Can be a handful in the box, but I don't rate him at all.

So that was the players. Feel free to add your own views, both positive and negative about them. Now, on to how to beat the team.

For me the key to beat the Rossoneri is to prevent their two creative forces (Sheva and Kaka) space and time. They will definitely not need many opportunities. The best way to beat them is actually to do what PSV did. Approach them like they're not the great, unbeatable A.C Milan, but like a side with an ageing defence with a careful style of football. Pace...aggression...pace...aggression. If we can make Gattuso and Seedorf into their most important players we will be doing something right. If we let Pirlo, Kaka and Sheva dominate the play, we're doing something wrong.

Play a high tempo, high pressing style (a style Sacchi's Milan perfected in the late 80's), and we will surprise them like we did to Juve in the first half at anfield.

Italian teams play a very special and pretty effective type of football. They are difficult to break down, since they usually have extremely good defenders in one on one situations (and that counts for their working-ants in midfield as well).

Milan have great experience at this level...we don't. That is advantage to them...no doubt about it. They have bigger names then us... that counts for nothing in a final. They have probably the best striker in world football at the moment, and one of the most exciting offensive phenomenon in Kaka, that might be a problem.

But we will play with a hunger that they are not used to. We will have fans who are special (as do they). We have players who is capable of taking charge of the midfield. We have a defence that can cope with pretty much on their day. We meet one of the finest centreback pairing in Europe (with Nesta the best central defender there is), but scoring goals in football is about a few moments of brilliance strung together. That's enough. Don't expect it to be a high-scoring game, it won't be.

Now what do you think is the way to beat them? Adapt our style to theirs, or try to control the game from the first minute...?

© myrlas 2005

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