AC Milan began training this past week with sights set on a strong 2011-12 season. The first step will be taking home the Supercoppa Italiana.
On August 6th, Milan will play their first competitive match of the season with the first of three guaranteed Milan Derbies. The Serie A champions will take on Coppa Italiana winners Inter Milan in Beijing for the Supercoppa.
Milan have their eyes set on a star midfielder in what remains of the transfer market, but they have decided that if a move is to be made, it will not be until late August like last year with the addition of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With that being the one need of the club, complete a squad worthy of competing for several titles throughout Italy and Europe this season, Milan are still a strong squad and, given the team they have available now, can definitely pick up a third straight win over the Nerazzurri dating back to November.
Looking ahead to the Supercoppa in Beijing, here is what Milan's lineup could look like.
Abbiati was the best goalkeeper in Italy last season, hands down.
Several games came down to the Italian's ability to be aggressive and his great ability in the net.
Milan were the strongest defensive team in Italy last season, allowing only 24 goals in 38 matches. In Abbiati's 35 matches he made 110 saves.
Barring an injury, Abbiati is Milan's guy in the net all season.
Milan made off like bandits on this one.
In April, with his contract at Olympique Marseille set to expire at the end of the season, the 26-year-old Nigerian told his former club that he would be joining Milan after the 2010-11 season.
The left back is a much-needed addition to the club. The left back position was a weak spot for Milan most of the season. After a strong 2009-10 season, Luca Antonini fell off a bit last year and split time with Gianluca Zambrotta, who of course is past his prime.
Taiwo will be the regular for Milan on the left side of defense. Milan's defense was great last year, expect it to be even better this year.
Abate was a revelation last season. Upon returning to Milan for the 2009-10 season, Leonardo turned the midfielder into a defender which Milan badly needed. While that season was not very pleasant for the 24-year-old, he became a star on defense for the Rossoneri.
Many Milan fans dreaded seeing Abate's name in the lineup two seasons ago. Now, he is a fan favorite and was a big reason why Milan only allowed 24 goals last season.
Watch for him to also have some say in attack with his play as a true fullback playing up and down the wing, overlapping with the midfielders and playing menacing balls to the attack.
This is likely Nesta's final year. The 35-year-old has one more year on his contract and it is very likely that he will be hanging up the boots at season's end.
Milan brought in Philippe Mexes from Roma on a free transfer, but the Frenchman is still recovering from a torn ACL in late March. It is expected that he will be ready to go in September.
Until he is healthy, it will be Nesta staying in the center of defense. Nesta had a great season last year, but he is prone to injury and it is unlikely that he would last a full healthy season as the regular starter. He will be a great player off the bench this season.
Silva is arguably the best center back in the world right now. The 26-year-old Brazilian has been impressing everybody in his first two seasons at AC Milan after three great years at Fluminense.
I know Milan chooses its captain through seniority but, if I were manager, I would have no doubts about naming Thiago Silva captain of the Rossoneri. The guy is a crucial leader for Milan in many ways, most importantly being the anchor of the defense. He is a morale booster whenever he is on the field. And, of all the center backs Milan have, he is the no-doubt guy in the middle.
It's safe to say Van Bommel was a key reason Milan held on to win the title in the second half of last season.
After moving in January from Bayern Munich, Van Bommel became a vital member of Milan's starting lineup. Finally having a true holding midfielder, Milan's defense was solidified and there was now an outlet from the back to the attack, making Milan's title run unstoppable.
Van Bommel played one of his best games against Inter Milan in April and nearly scored the Serie A goal of the year when his screaming volley rang the crossbar. Could we see a repeat performance in China? No matter what, Van Bommel's presence in the lineup regularly is almost a guarantee.
I doubt this will be the case when the season gets going later in August, as I expect Milan will be making a move in the midfield, most likely bringing in Riccardo Montolivo as a replacement to Andrea Pirlo.
Until then, it looks like we may be seeing Gattuso in the starting 11 for the Supercoppa.
It was almost a surprise when Gattuso's contract was extended at Milan this summer. Rumors had him heavily linked with a move away from the San Siro, especially with a rumored large contract offer from Anzhi Makhachkala in the initial weeks after the season ended.
While Massimo Ambrosini was injured this past season, Gattuso stepped into the midfield and played very strong in the role of captain and kept Milan right at the top of the league.
It seems like Adriano Galliani and Ariedo Braida's search for Mr. X will go farther than the first week of August, meaning that Gattuso, a seasoned veteran who knows how to win, will likely be in the starting lineup for the Supercoppa.
From the skeptical arrival on loan from Genoa to the fan favorite famous for his Michael Jackson routine, Kevin-Prince Boateng had such a great season with Milan that saw the Rossoneri buy him outright.
Boateng was an inspirational figure in the midfield. In an aging midfield, the speedy and menacing 24-year-old played 34 games in all competitions and netted three goals while providing three assists. His presence always made the team stronger and livelier. He seems to be favorite of Allegri's in the midfield and will probably be the first-choice starter along with Mr. X this season.
Seedorf did a solid job when deployed at the attacking mid-role last season.
Rumors suggest that Santos playmaker Paolo Henrique Ganso will be joining AC Milan in January, following the Brazilian's appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup. He is considered the long awaited replacement to Kaka but, while he remains in Brazil, Milan are going to need a trequartista from within their ranks.
Boateng can play there, as can Antonio Cassano, potentially Robinho and, of course, newcomer Stephan El Shaarawy, but Seedorf has the experience, leadership and ability to play as the playmaker.
For the Inter game, Allegri will most likely be going with Seedorf while trying out other options throughout the preseason.
Pato has been rising every season he plays and, if he stays healthy this year, the Brazilian youngster will break through onto the world stage as one of the most feared strikers in the world.
He had a brilliant season last year, netting 16 goals in all competition and would have had quite a few more had he not been hurt. He only played in 25 Serie A matches and missed three of the Rossoneri's eight Champions League games. If he had stayed healthy, he could have had about 20 Serie A goals and notched a few in Europe.
When he is healthy, there are few who can match his talent and he enjoyed playing Inter this past season. In the 3-0 win in April, he netted the first two goals, including the opener on 45 seconds.
Milan have a strong attack with six menacing forwards, but Pato is the best scorer they have when healthy. Big things are coming from the kid known as "The Duck" this season.
Last season, 21 goals and 12 assists made Zlatan Ibrahimovic a fan favorite at the San Siro. After being hated in the Curva Sud for several years as a member of Inter Milan, the Swede joined the red and black on loan from Barcelona last season and Milan bought him this summer. Worth it? Absolutely.
While his temper can be an issue at times and he may fade away on occasion, Ibrahimovic has an incredible mind for goal and a menacing volley that could leave goalkeepers staring in disbelief.
Against a big, physical team like Inter Milan, the Pato-Ibrahimovic combination is ideal up top. People contested last year that the two did not play well together, but they seemed to figure it out by season's end.
With the pace and agility of Pato and the firepower and physicality of Ibrahimovic, Milan's attack may be too much for Inter's back line to handle. Inter's defense showed its age at times last season. It improved considerably with the additions of Yuto Nagatomo and Andrea Ranocchia, but I think with the firepower of Milan, they can be beaten.
GK- Marco Amelia
Amelia played well when called upon last season and, despite his few appearances, was bought from Genoa at the end of his loan. With the unlikelihood of landing Federico Marchetti (now at Lazio) or Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax's top man and a former Manchester United target) earlier this summer, Milan needed a guaranteed backup. Flavio Roma moving to the No. 2 position did not seem beneficial to the club.
DEF- Mario Yepes
I was really skeptical when Milan said they were signing former Chievo Verona defender Mario Yepes last summer at the age of 34. However, the Colombian was a present surprise. If a mid-30s defender well past his prime can be considered a defensive super sup, that is what Yepes would be. In his appearances for Milan last year, he was fantastic; a brick wall. If he is called upon this year, expect the same.
DEF- Luca Antonini
While Antonini is no longer a preferred fullback at Milan, he has expressed his desire to stay, even with reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain. He will still potentially be called upon if a sub is needed on the defensive flanks. He could prove to have some importance with the club still.
MID- Stephan El Shaarawy
The 18-year-old was brought to Milan on co-ownership with Genoa this summer and it has sparked quite a bit of excitement. The young Egyptian-Italian who just within the past couple weeks graduated high school, is seen as one of the two possible players to become the "new Kaka" along with Ganso. Both are attacking midfielders, but right now it is El Shaarawy to wear the red and black. He admits that he will need time to develop his game and mature, but he could well see some action throughout the season, starting with a potential entrance off the bench for Seedorf in the Supercoppa.
MID- Mathieu Flamini
Flamini has struggled at times, but his offensive and defensive abilities have him as a likely substitute for Milan. His versatility is an important tool for Milan that can be utilized late in a game. We may see him off the bench a lot.
FW- Antonio Cassano
Cassano can play up top or as an attacking mid. He aided in eight goals, scoring four and assisting four, upon his arrival at Milan last winter from Sampdoria. His versatility, speed and ferocity make him a valued member of the attack.
Robinho re-found his form at Milan after a couple miserable seasons at Manchester City tied in with a loan to Santos. His 14 goals were vital to Milan's success last season. He provides tremendous pace off the bench and, while he will be rotated into the lineup a lot during the season, he will likely be in a late game role for this one.