Tactical Battles That Will Shape Lazio's Clash with AC Milan

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

UDINE, ITALY - MARCH 08: Maurizio Domizzi (R) of Udinese Calcio and  Giampaolo Pazzini  of AC Milan react during the Serie A match between Udinese Calcio and AC Milan at Stadio Friuli on March 8, 2014 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

The next two games for Clarence Seedorf could decide whether he stays in charge of AC Milan through the summer.

For someone who just retired and inherited one of the worst teams the club have ever produced in the era of Silvio Berlusconi, the ultimatum for Seedorf, as reported by Sky Italia and the journalist Gianluca DiMarzio, is both unfair and unjust.

It is true that Seedorf has lost seven of his 13 matches as manager of Milan and that the Rossoneri have lost four in a row in all competitions.

So there are more than just three points to earn against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. But this is a team that needs some stability, and Seedorf needs at least a full season to make the squad his.

There was some good news for Milan: Stephan El Shaarawy, who has appeared in only seven matches this term, returned to training, per Football Italia, after a doctor in the Netherlands cleared the 21-year-old. But he is not ready to play—a return in April is more likely—and Ignazio Abate will most likely miss the match.

Daniele Bonera and Bryan Cristante trained with the group on Friday, according to the club, and Riccardo Montolivo, who took a beating in the match against Parma over the weekend, did a little workout in the gym. Christian Abbiati will miss the match through suspension.

Probable line-up vs. Lazio (4-2-3-1): Amelia; De Sciglio, Rami, Zapata, Emanuelson; De Jong, Muntari; Kakà, Poli, Balotelli; Pazzini.

— AC Milan News (@Milanello) March 21, 2014

Seedorf also looks ready to use Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini together from the start.

Pazzini could act as the focal point in attack while Balotelli, who is stronger in the middle of the park, can retrieve the ball and do more of the running. Sometimes the 23-year-old is restricted as the target man. Pazzini does a better job holding up the ball and giving the rest of the team time to get in position.

We like to see Balotelli run, set up plays and get involved. Pazzini could liberate his partner and give the defenders another reason to worry. But Balotelli is not necessarily a wide player. He can play in the hole behind Pazzini, almost a two-tiered attack.

According to GdS, Seedorf is planning on starting Balotelli & Pazzini- they have only played 360 minutes together this season

— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) March 20, 2014

Kaka himself does not have the pace to play as a winger. He has played in 27 games, including a nine-game stretch at the beginning of this year in which he did not do much. Maybe he would serve the team better in a deeper role.

Seedorf has experimented with the 4-2-3-1 formation, but he needs the players to run, and he has criticized the team’s fitness on many occasions. This formation may demand too much from the team at hand. It is said that Seedorf does not want three-quarters of this squad. For the time being, they play best with the ball, retaining it and controlling the tempo, playing pass to pass.

VERONA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 02:  Antonio Candreva of SS Lazio celebrates after scoring his openig goal during the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and SS Lazio at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on February 2, 2014 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panat
Dino Panato/Getty Images

The speed of Lazio is something Milan may not handle all too well. The Rossoneri are most vulnerable on the counter, and Lazio can hit teams on the counterattack with Senad Lulic and Antonio Candreva the biggest threats on the wings.

Candreva, who served a suspension last week, will return against Milan. He has played the most of any player on the team, per WhoScored.com, and he has scored the most goals (seven) and supplied the most assists (five) on the team.

The rest of Lazio is relatively healthy. In fact, it is one of the first times this season that coach Edy Reja has all of his first-choice defenders at his disposal, per WhoScored.com. Look for Giuseppe Biava and Lorik Cana in the centre.

Lazio have lost just twice in Serie A since the start of the new year, winning six of 11 matches. In that time they conceded just nine goals, beat Inter and drew against Juventus and Roma. They don’t even have a single player in the double digits, but 14 of them have scored at one time or another.

Still, Lazio lack the consistency: They have put together back-to-back wins just once this season. Perhaps a team in turmoil is the perfect opposition for Lazio to face.