Tactical Battles That Will Shape Clash Between Milan and Roma

Matteo BonettiContributor IDecember 14, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 12:  (L-R) Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan and Francesco Totti of AS Roma shake hands during the Serie A match between AC Milan and AS Roma at San Siro Stadium on May 12, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Now it's time to see if Milan can capitalize on their Champions League success. Surprisingly, they were the only Italian team to make it out of the group stage.

In their upcoming match against Roma, the Rossoneri will have to hope for a bit of luck finally going their way, as they lead the Serie A in possession but fail to create much when they do have it.

Unfortunately for Milan, they'll have to face Francesco Totti—who says he will make his return to action on Monday at the San Siro. He has scored more goals at that stadium than any other in Italy, aside from the Stadio Olimpico. Granted, two teams play there, so that statistic doesn't tell the full tale.

Against Roma, Milan is expected to play a variant of the 4-3-1-2 formation, which will see Kaka slot in right behind the attacking duo of Mario Balotelli and the misfiring Alessandro Matri.

Milan's possession has been the highest in Serie A
Milan's possession has been the highest in Serie AFourFourTwo StatsZone

Balotelli has finally gotten in a groove domestically after struggling with suspensions and lack of scoring during the first few months. He scored an astonishing brace against Livorno, which almost became a hat-trick when a thundering shot from outside the box rattled off the crossbar. 

Mehdi Benatia has been a rock at the back of Roma's defense
Mehdi Benatia has been a rock at the back of Roma's defensePaolo Bruno/Getty Images

Super Mario will have to go up against the best defense in Serie A, which has allowed only five goals in the first 15 games. The central defensive pairing of Leandro Castan and Mehdi Benatia has been stellar in Serie A, with Benatia being one of the best signings of last Summer.

They'll have their hands full with Milan's three-pronged attack which is by far their strongest asset on the team. There's a feeling that Balotelli and Kaka have yet to hit their best form together, as the two are still building chemistry.

The reason Matri is playing is that Stephan El Shaarawy suffered yet another knock that will keep him out for a few weeks in what has been a nightmarish 2013 calendar year for the young Italian.

In the defense, Milan is expected to finally be with their best two fullbacks—Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio—who will try to help one of the porous backline by providing an extra hand on the flanks. In the middle, the usual lackluster pairing of Christian Zapata and Philippe Mexes are expected to start.

Milan's midfield will have to win this game, as Riccardo Montolivo, Nigel De Jong, and Sulley Muntari must shut down Roma's fantastic unit in the middle of the park, led by Daniele De Rossi.

Milan will need Montolivo to perform well. He has been poor so far this season
Milan will need Montolivo to perform well. He has been poor so far this seasonClaudio Villa/Getty Images

There is good news for Rossoneri fans, as Roma will be without their catalyst Miralem Pjanic, who is serving a one match suspension. Pjanic has really been the link between midfield and attack for Roma, often getting forward and providing a visionary moment of brilliance or a tempting strike from distance.

Elsewhere, it'll be interesting to see if Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri allows Nigel De Jong to move further back into defense as he often has in recent months.

De Jong's taking on a faux-central defender type role allows Milan to switch to a temporary 3-5-2 formation where the fullbacks have more freedom to get forward and give the formation width.

A win would have far different implications for both sides, as Roma is only three points behind first place Juventus. Milan on the other hand is desperate for a positive result. The club is withering away in mid-table anonymity, as this is their worst start of a season since the early 1980s.