Tomorrow afternoon, AC Milan will face Bari in a match that on paper they should win.
But, this is the Serie A, and playing lesser sides is never a guarantee for three points. Added, for this Milan, nothing is ever simple full stop.
It has been a dramatic week for Max Allegri’s side. Losing to rivals Juventus at home was not great preparation for the Real Madrid tie midweek.
The Rossoneri did recover somewhat. Playing with a character not seen for some time (at least after the hour mark), the old guard of Gennaro Gattuso and Pippo Inzaghi played with such passion that Milan almost picked up an unlikely win, only to be undone with Pedro Leon’s dramatic late equaliser.
The drama did not end there. Following the Real clash, Ibrahimovic came out and criticised Robinho, Ronaldinho and Pato by saying that he would prefer to play with Inzaghi. Such a statement is not good for the team morale, no matter if it is true.
Then, again, Ibrahimovic was in the thick of things as he became involved in a training ground spat with Onyewu. The two ended up in a physical confrontation that forced Allegri to abandon training.
Despite Andrea Galliani’s claim that such an incident is a ‘good sign,’ it is hard to see how this can be good for team morale.
Physically the last two games would have taken their toll on some of the old players. Gattuso, Nesta and Zambrotta are due for a rest. Though, given the suspension to Kevin Prince, Gattuso will most likely start beside Ambrosini and Pirlo in midfield.
It will be interesting to see what attacking set-up Allegri opts for. Ronaldinho is completely off-colour these days, and he should really just be set aside. Physically, the Brazilian is still out of shape, and mentally he clearly lacks motivation.
Robinho will probably get the nod after playing no role against Real Madrid. The real question for Allegri is whether he opts for Inzaghi or Pato. After his super-performance against Real, Pippo deserves to start.
Just to put it out there, maybe both Pato and Inzaghi could play with Ibrahimovic sitting behind them.
It is clear that Ibrahimovic does like to play as the lead striker. Despite his physical build that makes him resemble a typical centre forward (and is the reason he is treated as such), the Swede’s style of play is more like that of a second striker, hence his outspoken desire to play someone like Inzaghi.
It is unlikely that this will happen, however, tomorrow or ever. But given Allegri’s failure to find the best system for this team, new formations need to be tested until the team clicks.
Another option could be just reverting to a simply 4-4-2 system. Playing Ibrahimovic up front alongside Pato or Inzaghi would give the Swede even more freedom to roam around and instigate attacks as the second striker.
Robinho could be deployed on the left and the pace of Abate could be utilised on the right. In the centre, Gattuso and Ambrosini could take turns playing as midfield ball winners alongside playmaker Pirlo.
But, again, this is a formation unlikely to be tried, though it served Milan well when it was adopted during the second half against Real Madrid.
In the end, Allegri will most likely stick to his favoured 4-3-1-2 system. Whatever system and personnel he does choose, he will be very much aware that anything but a win against Bari will not suffice.
One win in the last four matches is not a good record. Performances need to improve. This team needs to start playing with more of the passion and commitment that it showed in the second half against Real Madrid.
If the side can do this and if Allegri decides to continue tweaking the side until he finds the right system for this group of players, then maybe Milan can start living up to preseason expectations and actually start playing like serious title contenders.