MILAN, ITALY - AUGUST 21: Tha players of AC Milan and AC Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi celebrate after winning the Berlusconi Trophy during the Berlusconi Trophy match between AC Milan and Juventus FC at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on August 21, 2011 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona’s attentions have turned to AC Milan for tomorrow’s match, so continuing with our latest feature, it’s time to "Meet our Contenders". Providing us with his knowledge of AC Milan is Saul, who is a long-time Rossineri, and actually blogs for SBNation, but considering the lack of an AC Milan blog, is blogging on the LA Lakers. Make no mistake though, he stills knows his football!
It was a pleasure to work with him, and hopefully these insights will be read by Pep Guardiola and he will compensate accordingly...
How long have you been a supporter of AC Milan?
Well, the International arena, if you will, was open to me after the 2002 World Cup. Up until this point, I had only known of the domestic MLS league, as well as the FMF and various South American teams. I knew that the great players played in Europe, but I had no way of watching or following those games. After the ’02 WC, I took an interest in the big name players (and young talents) and began to follow them. Of course, this was aided by the purchase of a new PC at the BxF household, and thus the Internet.
As my quest for European football knowledge increased, I was soon drawn to AC Milan. With their signing of Rivaldo (I believe you’re familiar with his work), Cafu, and the young star Kaka, I adopted them as my team. Safe to say, I’ve been a strong supporter ever since.
Who would you say is your favourite player (past or present)?
Ricardo Iseczon dos Santos Leite, commonly and more conveniently know as Kaka. At Milan, I fell in love with his style of play. I even modelled my own measly skills after him. (For the record, I have decent skillz) I know, I know, he’s at Madrid now, but lower your pitch forks people, I’m not the enemy!
Are you a fan of any other clubs?
Yes, I support Arsenal FC (pitch forks!).
Now to AC Milan...The draw has been fairly kind to AC Milan, wouldn’t you agree? Sure, Barcelona are not the easiest opponent, but the other two are surely not serious contenders to that second spot...
I would definitely agree. I’d much rather be in this Group than say, Group A. We cannot discount the other two clubs, but it’s safe to say if both Milan and Barca take care of business, they should easily be through to the next Round.
What do you expect from Milan this time round? Last season was fairly disappointing, the loss to Tottenham in particular, so what would you consider a success?
Ah yes, Tottenham. I’ve been standing up this whole time!
If you had to pick one of your players, who would you say is the Key Man?
I think the Key Man for us is Robinho. If he is firing on all cylinders and doesn’t show the passive attitude that grips him from time to time, he is capable of some excellent link-ups with Zlatan and Pato. The perfect three pronged attack. (Apologies to Messi, Iniesta and Xavi)
For all those unfamiliar with AC Milan, what would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of your team?
AC Milan are good defensively, with Thiago Silva manning the CB position. With the always angry Gattuso manning the middle, possession for any other team not name Barcelona will be hard to maintain. Quick in attack with fluid movements, this Milan team can be a joy to watch when our offensive players are clicking as one.
As for weaknesses, I’m a little worried about our DM situation. I think we’re a little old in that department, with Rino, Van Bommel and Ambrosini. Allegri is going to have to maintain a steady stream of fresh legs before injuries or fatigue filled mistakes cost us games.
Any young players from your side to watch out for that could be on a "break-out year"?
We do have one young player on the verge of a breakout season... his name is Pippo Inzag- wait...Heh, sorry, this isn’t 1899. All jokes aside, I haven’t seen anything that has caught my eye yet, but I’ve heard of "The Little Pharaoh" Stephan El Shaarawi. It may not be a breakout year, but if he can get some quality minutes, his development could benefit.
I understand that Milan omitted Pippo from the Champions League squad, and while I am grateful that he will not face Barcelona, and score another goal like this, it saddens me to think this is the end of an era in football. Any words on Inzaghi?
The great poacher of goals, lots of luck, great situational awareness, but not a lot of speed. Seems like he has been 38 for about a decade now, and he lived and breathed Champions League football. It saddens me as well to see a legend like Inzaghi not featured in a Milan squad. I don't agree with Allegri's decision to leave him out of CL play, as I feel Inzaghi is still capable of coming in at the 82nd minute, scoring the equalizer for Milan in the 89th and sending us home with a draw. Laying all our cards on Pato and Ibra for goals in CL isn't the best thing to do. Alas, Allegri knows what's best for the team, and if he saw something he didn't like with Pippo, then a million thanks from every Rossoneri for you, Pippo Inzaghi.
Stepping aside from Milan, who do you think are the "dark horses" this year?
I think Milan could be considered a dark horse. Perhaps a team like Borussia Dortmund or Man City, if they can peak at the right time of the season, with their pieces, they can make a little bit of noise.
Obviously this is Barcelona blog, and we have to ask: How far do you think Barcelona will go? Is it feasible to think that Guardiola’s team could retain their crown?
For Barca, anything but the trophy in 2012 will be considered a failure by many, including myself. Barring major injuring (knock on wood), they have a great chance to take it all yet again. They can possibly be the first repeat winners since...Milan in 1990. Which brings us to..
Also, I must say that this current Barcelona side are being compared with the great Milan side managed by Sacchi. In your opinion, who is better and why?
As much as I want to say Milan, with that incredible defence, I believe Barca would edge it out in a 2-1, 1-0 game. The reason you ask? Well, Messi wasn’t around back then, and Maradona’s side doesn’t compare to this Barca side. Simple as that, really.
Who do you think will win the UEFA trophies (Champions League and Europa League) this season?
At the risk of having those pitch forks raised at me for the third time, I believe Real Madrid triumphs this season in the Champions League, simply because I think Mourinho decides to "throw" La Liga and concentrate on the Champions. In Europa, I like...(looks up teams there) Tottenham or Atletico Madrid.
Thanks to Saul for lending me his time, and while I hope Barcelona turn in a majestic performance tomorrow, AC Milan will still remain as one to watch in this prestigious competition.
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