It’s hard to believe that AC Milan are such huge underdogs against Atletico Madrid, but when one of the top three teams in Spain plays against an Italian team that at best will somehow finish with a ticket to the Europa League, things become a little bit clearer.
It’s hard to read Atletico Madrid. Is this the season they turn the La Liga into a permanent three-horse race? They can’t compete with Real and Barca financially over the long run, so they make up for it with a manager who picked the perfect strategy and players to run in the race, which so far has been working perfectly for him in both the local and continental scene.
Maybe this is a now or never kind of season, and afterwards things will be back to normal. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Atletico have been able to avoid injuries until last week when Tiago went down, making the whole issue of not having a deep squad irrelevant.
Atletico aren’t a possession based team. They like to push things forward quickly, using Diego Costa as a finisher and target man. David Villa has scored 11 league goals this season, but this is Costa’s offense, and many of the things Villa has been able to do have come from Costa’s excellent set up work, or from Koke and Arda Turan doing all the hard work in the midfield.
This won’t be the Atletico we saw against Barcelona or Real Madrid, trying to ruin the match just to get a result. It imploded for them in the Copa Del Rey derby, and there’s no need for such negativity against AC Milan, another team Simeone has some history with from his playing days in Italy, spending a couple of seasons with Inter.
AC Milan are somewhat on the rise, but pretty much everything is better than what they had with Allegri this season. Clarence Seedorf isn’t a miracle worker, and there’s only so much he can do with a very limited squad creativity wise, not to mention the suspensions to Ricardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari, leaving him with a central midfield of Michael Essien and Nigel de Jong, which means we’ll see a lot of long balls to Kaka, Taarabt and Mario Balotelli.
Prediction – Maybe in a full squad we could see Milan somehow harnessing experience and the home fans for a winning display, but too many missing players and simply being the inferior team means that the best they can hope for is a goalless draw.