Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Milan hopes to revisit past European success
by Ridge Mahoney, February 18th, 2014 8:46PM

MOST READ
TAGS:  uefa champions league

MOST COMMENTED

[UCL PREVIEW: AC Milan-Atletico Madrid] Far adrift of Juventus in Serie A, AC Milan resumes its Champions League schedule in the unlikely role of an underdog.

Rarely in recent memory has the seven-time European champion been so regarded in the round of 16, but it hasn’t been as far as the semifinals since winning its last title in 2007. So even though its opponent, Atletico Madrid, hasn’t reached the semis in 40 years, on current form the Spanish team is the popular choice in the two-game series that starts Wednesday at the San Siro. (The game will be shown live on Fox Soccer Plus at 2 p.m. ET and delayed at 5 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes.)

The Rossoneri have won just four of their last 12 home games and in European group play – after winning a playoff against PSV -- squeaked into second place, a point ahead of Ajax and four back of Barcelona, with two wins and three ties. Atletico romped through its group unbeaten and 10 points clear of second-place Zenit St. Petersburg while outscoring opponents, 15-3.

Milan started over last month by firing head coach Massimiliano Allegri after a disastrous 4-3 league loss to Sassulo and replacing him with a club legend. Former Dutch international midfielder Clarence Seedorf helped Milan win two European crowns during his decade (2002-12) with the club, and when Milan called abruptly terminated his player contract with Botafogo to take charge.

"We have a lot to do to get the club back where it belongs and I'm very happy to be back here,” said Seedorf upon his hiring. After a month in charge, there’s not yet much evidence of improvement, yet he does have one of Europe’s most potent weapons. Forward Mario Balotelli is -- as usual – racking up incredible goals and cautions nearly one-for-one.
Balotelli drilled an astonishing shot from distance into the top corner to down Bologna, 1-0, in a Serie A match last weekend, but otherwise he and his teammates grappled for answers in their 4-2-3-1 formation. In league play, he leads the team in goals with 10 and in cautions with eight;

Seedorf must tweak the lineup extensively in any case against Atlético, which is locked in a three-tie atop La Liga with giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. Japanese international midfielder Keisuke Honda, who played with Kaka and Adel Taarabt in a line of three behind Balotelli against Bologna, is cup-tied. He scored two goals in six matches for CSKA Moscow in the group phase prior to arriving on a free transfer in January. Sulley Muntari is suspended for the first leg as is Riccardo Montolivo, who starts a two-game ban incurred for a sending-off in the group finale. Robinho is out with a thigh injury and Kaka is questionable with a sore ankle.

Atletico Madrid isn’t as prolific offensively as its two La Liga rivals, but it can score. Diego Costa has already more than doubled the 10 goals he scored in league play last season to set a personal high, and his tally of 21 is one of many reasons coach Diego Simeone can be confident of snatching an away goal or two,. Still not giving up a goal is his first priority.

“Both teams will play attacking football, so it will be important to defend well and not concede,” Simeone said.

Like Seedorf, he knows well the sensation of playing in the San Siro from his days with Inter Milan as well as Lazio and Pisa. He was also playing for Atletico when it last reached the Champions’ League quarterfinals in 1997.

“Playing at San Siro is a great feeling for any player. I am focused on this game. We do not consider ourselves favorites, we have to show we are better than them on the field.”

Offense may be the best approach for Atlético, since it is shorthanded on the defensive side. Defender Juanfran is available after serving a one-game ban, but the back line is weakened at the corners. Outside backs Fillipe Luis and Javi Manquillo were both injured recently in Copa del Rey action. Filipe Luis suffered a torn adductor muscle three weeks ago in the quarterfinals and Manquillo is recovering from a neck injury resulting from a head-first fall in a semifinal loss to Real Madrid. Manquillo needs to wear a cervical collar for at least a month.

Midfielder Tiago is also sidelined. He left the field Feb. 9 on a stretcher during a 2-0 league loss to Almeria. Medical tests revealed a right knee ligament strain and broken left wrist.
Though he’s been in job barely a month, Seedorf believes there is a game plan he can utilize in his first European encounter as a coach.

“Atlético deserve respect,” says Seedorf. “They are a strong team –- well organized –- but they have chinks in their armor that we hope to exploit. We will give our best and we will stick together.”


No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
Concacaf Olympic women's qualifying results    
West Virginia University's Ashley Lawrence scored three goals and 16-year-old Deanne Rose had the other two ...
CCL Countdown: MLS's four clubs face daunting tasks    
MLS's four representatives in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals -- the LA Galaxy, Seattle, Real Salt ...
WCQ Countdown: Guatemala wins in Claveri's debut    
Guatemala warmed up for its make-or-break World Cup 2018 qualifying series against the USA in March ...
What They're Saying: Prince Ali    
"How are you then going to earn the respect of the entire world and players across ...
What They're Saying: David Villa    
"Right now it's better for me, it is important for me. As captain of the team, ...
Making a List: MLS All-Stars vs. EPL Teams    
The MLS All-Stars will face Arsenal in the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 29 ...
MLS player tracker with complete rosters (Feb. 11)    
In need of help in central midfield following the knee injury to Designated Player summer signing ...
Video Pick: How MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal came about     
The best promotional video ever gets underway with Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and Herculez Gomez, features ...
Making a List: MLS players on move to NASL    
Brazilian defender Adailton became the latest former MLS player to sign with an NASL team when ...
MLS player tracker with complete rosters (Feb. 10)    
The Philadelphia Union signed forward C.J. Sapong to a three-year contract. He led the Union with ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives