Real Madrid vs. Milan: A Nervy Encounter Awaits the Rossoneri

Frank TiganiCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 03:  Pato of AC Milan runs at Alvaro Arbeloa of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between AC Milan and Real Madrid at the San Siro on November 3, 2009 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Tomorrow night Milan will again take the field at the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid. Last year, against expectations, Milan claimed an historic victory in a classic champions league encounter. This season, Milan fans should not expect so much.

Both Real Madrid and Milan are the greatest European sides in history. Between the two clubs they have collected a total of 16 European Cup triumphs with Real Madrid collecting nine and Milan collecting seven. In the modern era Milan have certainly been the more successful, however, times are now changing.

Ever since 2007, Milan has been a club that has slowly but surely been falling from grace. Whilst Milan did enjoy much success this past decade in Europe’s premier competition, Real Madrid have struggled to retain the heights of their class of 2002, led by the legendary Zinedine Zidane.

In an attempt to again reach the summit of European football, Real Madrid made the wisest of choices and brought in Jose Mourinho during the summer.

Jose Mourinho’s successes are legendary. In just the last eight years he has managed to record two Champions League titles with two different clubs from two different countries. A record that is only matched by Ernst Happel. The Special One is indeed the best in the business of turning a team of champions into a champion team.

Real Madrid have not been great this season so far, however, in the last few weeks they have improved markedly as Mourinho’s magic has started to take effect. Under Mourinho, Real Madrid is now a team in the ascendancy and they may well be contenders for this season’s Champions League come next year.

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In addition to the appointment of Mourinho, Real Madrid also made some shrewd acquisitions in the summer.  No doubt, Mourinho played some part in the decision to sign players such as Sami Khedira, Mezut Ozil and his former favourite at Chelsea, Ricardo Carvalho.  

With these recent additions, along with star names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, Xabi Alonso and Di Maria, Real Madrid is now a fiercely competitive side. Led by Jose Mourinho, and for team with such an array of talent, the only way is up.

As for Milan, things could not be any different. Despite coming away with a win against Chievo on the weekend, Milan looked out of sorts. The lack of marking and movement across the park at the San Siro was at times disbelieving.

At the moment, bar a few exceptions, Milan seems to have two types of players. Those that could not be bothered to run for the full ninety minutes and those that due to their age simply cannot run for a full ninety minutes.

Though perhaps not the greatest team players, the additions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho have helped Milan to appear a much stronger side this year. Both these players are potential match winners, with Ibrahimovic in particular already proving that he can lead the Milan attack by providing both goals and assists.

Nonetheless, there are still many weaknesses in this current Milan side that against a master like Mourinho will surely be exploited.

In defence, unless Thiago Silva recovers in time from his sprained ankle, replacement Daniele Bonera is an accident waiting to happen.

At full back things are not much better. Gianluca Zambrotta certainly has the experience; however, against Di Maria or Ronaldo he stands no chance at all to keep pace. Ignazio Abate is another option given his speed but only if he could tackle too. Luca Antonini is great going forward but sometimes suspect defensively making for yet another weakness for Milan at full back.

Things are perhaps worse in midfield. Against Chievo, the lack of movement and the lack of marking by the midfield was a real cause for concern. Against the likes of Xabi Alonso, Khedira and Oezil, it is hard to see the old legs of the Milan midfield taking control of the centre of the park.

Milan will definitely concede goals in this encounter. With Milan’s main strength being in the attacking third, Allegri will hope that his star studded attack can at least cancel out the attacking exploits of Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho has not lost a home match for eight years straight. Therefore, if Milan can come away with a draw, then that will be mission accomplished. However, Real Madrid will be desperate to win at home and reverse last season’s score line. With Jose Mourinho directing things for Real on the touchline, few would bet against a home win.