AC Milan: What Will the Champions Strongest Lineup Look Like in 2011-12?

Tim Fontenault@Tim_FontenaultCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2011

AC Milan: What Will the Champions Strongest Lineup Look Like in 2011-12?

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    The other day, I did a lineup preview of the Supercoppa Italiana for AC Milan as they get ready to play Inter on August 6th. You can find that article here.

    I will admit, I did not fully think through a couple of my decisions, and that is not exactly the greatest lineup combination for Milan.

    Here, I look at Milan's lineup for the 2011-12 season. This includes players who are currently hurt or may not even be on the team yet, but are likely to join this summer.

    What team will Massimiliano Allegri send to the pitch this season? Let's take a look.

Goalkeeper: Christian Abbiati

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    Not really much to discuss here.

    Abbiati was one of Europe's best goalkeepers last season and arguably the best in Italy. He stopped 110 shots last year and was the backbone of Milan's incredible defense, which allowed only 24 goals last season.

    The only way Marco Amelia gets the nod over Abbiati is if the 34-year-old is hurt or suspended.

Left Back: Taye Taiwo

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    Taiwo is one of the four signings already made by Milan this season. He was brought in on a free move from Olympique Marseille in France.

    Finally Milan have a solid left back at last. Luca Antonini is not the player he was during the 08-09 season, but he will make a decent backup if necessary.

    Taiwo does need some defensive work, but he has the capability to be a star for Milan this season. Look for the Nigerian to be a standout this season.

Center Back: Philippe Mexes

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    Along with Taiwo, Mexes is one of Milan's two key additions thus far. The 29-year-old told Roma in March that he had every intention of leaving for AC Milan in the summer. This came after Mexes injured his ACL in the next match with Juventus.

    When he comes back from injury, the Frenchman will be a welcomed addition to the back line. Nesta claims to have more than a year left, but he is known to be injury prone of late, and Mexes will bring younger, faster ability to the back line to partner with Thiago Silva.

    Until his return, Nesta will be on the back line, but Mexes will ultimately be a regular.

Center Back: Thiago Silva

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    Thiago Silva established himself as one of the best center backs in the world in his second season at AC Milan.

    The former Fluminese star moved to Milan for the 2009-10 season, during which he became a fan favorite for his fearless play at the back and his ability to get forward to help the attack.

    In 2010-11, the Italian champions allowed only 24 goals thanks in part to the incredible play of the entire defense, but most particularly their 26-year-old Brazilian superstar.

    He is the leader on the defensive line and will be for years to come. With Thiago Silva in the squad, Milan will be hard to score on.

Right Back: Ignazio Abate

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    What a revelation Abate was this season!

    The 24-year-old Italian is on his way to becoming one of the top fullbacks in Italy and could very well make a case as one of the best in Europe this season.

    He has truly developed into the right back that Leonardo originally wanted him to be and that Allegri completed. I used to be skeptical of his inclusion in the squad, but now he is one of the top defenders on the team.

    Look for Abate to keep making noise this season.

Defensive Midfielder: Mark Van Bommel

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    Van Bommel turned into one of, if not Milan's best, signing this past season.

    The 34-year-old Dutchman left the captaincy at Bayern Munich to join the Rossoneri and get back into a title race. He ended up being a catalyst for Milan in that pursuit.

    Finally having a defensive midfielder, Milan were able to deploy themselves effectively in a 4-1-2-1-2 with Van Bommel at holding midfielder in front of the defense. His play changed the way Milan played as a unit, for the better.

    When he was able to get back into the mix after his debut red card, he provided an outlet from the defense into the midfield. It is safe to say that without Van Bommel in that holding midfielder position, there is a very good chance that either Inter or Napoli could have overtaken Milan and won the Scudetto.

    Van Bommel is back, and there is little that makes me believe he will not have the same success this season.

Midfielder: Riccardo Montolivo

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    Reports are getting hotter indicating that the 26-year-old Italian will be joining Milan anytime now.

    The Fiorentina captain has let the club know that he is unhappy at the club and wants a move, with Milan believed to be the favorites beyond a shadow of doubt to land the midfielder.

    Rumors have linked Milan with midfielders throughout Europe as the replacement to Andrea Pirlo on the left side of midfield. Cesc Fabregas, Marek Hamsik, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Kwadwo Asamoah, Marko Marin, and Javier Pastore are among the many names mentioned as the new addition in the midfield, a player known as Mr. X.

    Montolivo is the ideal candidate for the position. He is available and affordable, even if it means losing Antonio Cassano.

    Seeing as he will likely be joining the club this summer, I see him immediately landing a spot in the starting XI in that left midfield role.

Midfielder: Kevin-Prince Boateng

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    The Ghanaian Michael Jackson enjoyed a wonderful start to his Milan career, which is sure to be long and successful. The 24-year-old joined on loan from Genoa after a move from Portsmouth the very same day last summer.

    It took a little while for him to get a regular spot in the team, but Boateng made his mark. His speed, talent, determination, and desire to win are just a handful of the reasons why he is such a great player and a deserving starter.

    As Ganso is likely not to arrive until January, Boateng will probably spend the first half of the season as the trequartista but will probably move farther back in the midfield to allow the natural playmaker Ganso to start behind the forwards.

    With Milan looking for youth and speed in the midfield, a Montolvio-Boateng combination is ideal.

Trequartista: Ganso

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    After a lot of hype and anticipation, it seems extremely likely that Paulo Henrique Ganso will be moving from Santos to AC Milan during the winter mercato.

    One of the most wanted players in the world, the 21-year-old Brazilian is one of the bright young stars in the game and has been sought after by the likes of Milan, Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Anzhi Makhackala, among many others around the world.

    Milan have yet to find a permanent replacement for Kaka at attacking mid, with the likes of Ronaldinho, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Clarence Seedorf, Robinho, and Antonio Cassano (to name a few) each spending time at the playmaker position.

    Ganso has made clear that he wants to play for the Rossoneri. His agent made this clear recently to La Gazzetta Dello Sport:

    "I don't know where this information of an offer from Paris Saint-Germain has come from. It is pure invention.

    "We are not interested in PSG's petrodollars. Ganso wants to play in Italy with AC Milan.

    "He wants to play against the likes of Inter, Roma and Juventus and he is fascinated by the Italian league.

    "In the next few weeks we will meet with Milan directors to see if the transfer can happen.

    "He can leave now, or wait until January as this would give him the chance to play in the Club World Cup in December against Barcelona."

    It is extremely likely that the move will be put on hold until after Ganso competes in the FIFA Club World Cup, as he wants a shot at Barcelona for the world title.

    When the move does happen, expect Ganso to come out firing and emerge as a star in Italy and Europe. Unlike some other potential winter moves for Milan, Ganso will not be ineligible for the Champions League as Cassano and Van Bommel were this season, meaning he could come in and make an impact should they get past the Group Stage.

    Milan fans, get excited. Ganso will be here soon.

Forward: Alexandre Pato

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    Pato is really emerging as a star on the big stage. Had he not been out with two long term injuries, he could have been close to 20 league goals last season.

    Healthy according to Max Allegri and preparing to return now that Brazil are out of Copa America, Pato is primed for a big season. Look for him to be even more of a menace in front of goal. I'm expecting him to better his 14 Serie A goals and have much more of an impact in the Champions League.

Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Ibra will more likely than not be getting a lot of the time up front along with Pato. The Swede matched both his fellow front men Pato and Robinho as they all netted 14 goals, but overall, Ibra's 21 in all competition sealed his place as last year's top scorer.

    He has had trouble with discipline since joining Milan, but he loves wearing the red and black and if he keeps a cool head, he will be fine.

    With Pato, Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Antonio Cassano, Filippo Inzaghi, and Alberto Paloschi, Milan have an incredible attack. It will be deadliest with Pato and Ibrahimovic up top, but no matter what this offense will be scary this year.