Tactical Battles That Will Shape Udinese vs. AC Milan

Matteo Bonetti@@TheCalcioGuyContributor IMarch 7, 2014

AC Milan defender Adil Rami, left, of France, challenges for the ball with Udinese forward Luis Muriel, of Colombia, during their Italian Cup soccer match, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Milan will look to get a positive result against Udinese after succumbing to a 2-0 loss at the hands of league-leading Juventus last weekend.

Udinese have picked up eight points in their last five Serie A outings, and their coach Francesco Guidolin has been put on the hot seat with speculation that he might not return next season.

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 22:  Mario Balotelli of AC Milan in action during the TIM Cup match between AC Milan and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 22, 2014 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

As we've seen throughout Clarence Seedorf's two-month tenure at Milan, the 4-2-3-1 will be the preferred formation yet again against the Friuli side.

According to the probable formations from Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Kaka will start this match from the bench to get a much-needed breather after he's been featuring as a starter in nearly every match this calendar year.

Keisuke Honda is expected to take his spot as a trequartista, which will be interesting since he still has yet to play in his preferred position in Serie A, as Seedorf has used him primarily as a right attacking midfielder. 

Here are some of the most interesting tactical battles we'll see on Saturday when these two teams square off:


Keisuke Honda vs. Allan

As noted above, Honda will be in the middle of the attack right behind the striker.

Udinese's best defensive midfielder is the Brazilian Allan, who's a no-nonsense tackler with excellent work rate as well. He's often used to man mark the opponent's playmaker and will look to negate any attacks coming from the middle.

Allan dives to try and stop Honda's cross.
Allan dives to try and stop Honda's cross.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Honda has looked out of sync with his teammates since joining from Russian side CSKA Moscow in the January transfer window. His problems seem to be more physical than mental, as he might be gassed from playing a full season in Russia then starting a brand new one with hardly any rest.


Antonio Di Natale vs. Milan's defenders

The 36-year-old Udinese captain has defied the norm by consistently being productive and having his most prolific seasons well into his mid-30s. 

Twenty-nine, 28, 23, 23. These are his goal totals in Serie A over the past four seasons—an astonishing number for an aging striker in a league not known for its abundance of goals. Even though he only has eight strikes this season, he's always a danger man in the Udinese attack and can create just as well for teammates in open space. 

Expect the diminutive Antonio Di Natale to give both Adil Rami and Daniele Bonera plenty of problems.


Milan's onslaught vs. Simone Scuffet

One of the most remarkable stories this season has been the rise of Simone Scuffet. Udinese's 17-year-old goalkeeper has ousted both Zeljko Brkic and Ivan Kelava for the starting goalkeeping position.

Scuffet still has a lot to learn, but he has shown a knack for making a few incredible reaction saves while demonstrating poise far beyond his years. 

On Saturday, he'll have to go up against four attacking players in Milan's formations who can test him from inside the box or from long range.



Even though Milan are favored, Udinese have proven to be a tricky adversary for plenty of the top teams in Serie A. 

One of the biggest storylines will be whether or not Mario Balotelli will be fit enough to start from the first minute.

In the above tweet (in Italian), Balotelli tells his fans that he cannot stand being sidelined anymore and that he is desperately trying to get ready to play against Udinese.

As it stands, Giampaolo Pazzini gets the nod while Balotelli will be relegated to the bench after suffering a shoulder injury against Atletico Madrid.


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