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

Matteo BonettiContributor IAugust 30, 2014

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

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    Milan start their Serie A campaign on Sunday as they take on a refurbished Lazio side looking to also break their way back into Europe.

    Both clubs will only play two competitions this upcoming season—the domestic campaign and the Coppa Italiaso any points they pick up will be vital in what's set to be a very competitive top of the table.

    There will be several battles taking place all around the pitch as well as on the touchlines that will determine the outcome of the match. No matter what happens with Fernando Torres, expect Giampaolo Pazzini or Jeremy Menez to start this match as a replacement for Mario Balotelli, who was sold to Liverpool.

    Here are five key battles that will shape the clash between the two sides:

Key Battle No. 1: Filippo Inzaghi vs. Stefano Pioli.

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    Two new coaches will square off as ex-Milan legend Pippo Inzaghi was promoted from the youth team to the senior side while Stefano Pioli joined Lazio having coached Bologna last season.

    Both managers will play a 4-3-3 formation to start the campaign. Inzaghi will look to do his best with a team that has plenty of question marks across the board.

    No one is quite sure who the best centre-back pairing is, while the midfield is still lacking the creativity of Riccardo Montolivo, who's still nursing the leg break picked up in a friendly with Italy before the World Cup.

Key Battle No. 2: Stephan El Shaarway vs. Dusan Basta.

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    El Shaarawy is finally fit after missing virtually all of last season due to several nagging injuries and foot surgery. Only two seasons ago, the young striker netted 16 goals in the Serie A, establishing himself as a premier force in European football.

    He'll be deployed on the left-wing of the 4-3-3 formation, where he'll often go up against newly-signed Dusan Basta, who joined the capital club from Udinese. El Shaarawy has the potential to wreak havoc here, as Basta isn't at his best defensively and was used to playing more as a wing-back at Udinese. 

    El Shaarawy loves taking on his defender on the wing, and it's his scurrying runs down the flank which often results in dangerous opportunities for him or teammates.

Key Battle No. 3: Milan's Centre-Backs vs. Miroslav Klose

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    Even though the 36-year-old Miroslav Klose only scored seven times last season in Serie A for Lazio, he's still one of the most intelligent poachers in Italy.

    Klose has an incredible instinct of always being in the right place, and that could prove to be a nightmare for Milan's new defensive unit. 

    According to La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian), the Rossoneri will field a centre-back pairing of Daniele Bonera and Alex, who was signed this summer from PSG.

    The two have no chemistry playing together and could find it difficult to manage Klose's clever movements.

Key Battle No. 4: Jeremy Menez vs. Lazio's Midfielders

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    It's very possible that Jeremy Menez will be lining up as a false nine in Inzaghi's 4-3-3. In this position, the newly-signed Menez would have to drop back into the midfield to retrieve the ball and then is free to either create or make a run at the defenders himself.

    Very often, having a false nine doesn't give the opposition a reference point, so it'll be up to the likes of Lucas Biglia and the hard-working Marco Parolo to press Menez if he receives the ball in a more retracted position.

    Expect Lazio's Parolo to do a solid job in containment, while also making runs into the box on offense.

    Menez seems to be enjoying his new life with Milan, as he put in a positive performance against Juventus in the TIM Cup and even scored a goal.

Key Battle No. 5: Milan's Own Fans Against the Team

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    It's not a surprise anymore that Milan's fans have effectively turned against their own club.

    The lack of direction coming from both Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi is worrying, as the top talents are being sold and they haven't been replaced properly.

    The Rossoneri won't be playing in any European competition for the first time in 15 years, which is a sobering realisation for a club that won the Champions League seven seasons ago. 

    It's difficult to expect a full stadium at the San Siro, which provides a brilliant atmosphere when it reaches maximum capacity. Also, it'll be interesting to see how much time passes before a constant chorus of boos rings throughout the San Siro if results aren't going as planned.