Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can Niang and his African brothers fire L'OM past Milan?

AC Milan v Marseille preview

There is a strong African connection in the French team's lineup: Mamadou Niang, Diawara, Taiwo, Stephan Mbia.

With three former European winners - Milan, Marseille and Real chasing two places in the next round and separated by one point, things are looking tasty in Group C.

Marseille, with 6 points, are in a comical goalscoring position because their top goal-getter is Gabriel Heinze - with just 2 goals. That's not the man you usually expect in that position but this means they need to step up their game against Milan, who are level with Real on seven points.

The last time they met in September Pipo Inzaghi upset L'OM after his two goals left the French with a 2-1 loss. At the time Milan badly needed the win because their coach's job was under threat due to a poor run.

Now, though, Milan are in very good shape and have shown they can score when they need to. Last Sunday their 4-3 win over Cagliari might have given the message that they have a leaky defence. Yet for me this is the price Leonardo's new system has to pay at times.

With his 4-2-1-3, the Brazilian has sought to make his strikeforce more potent - Pato, Ronaldinho, Inzaghi - and in doing so, he's left some gaps in the middle.

That is where Marseille may look to exploit. Niang has not been scoring much but his Rooneyesque assists have proven very effective for his team. On a good day, other players like Brandao, Diawara and Mbia can all score, but let's not forget that this game would be at the San Siro and wont be easy.

People point to the fact that Milan have not been exactly unshakeable at home this term but Didier Deschamps is a smart guy and he would have noticed that since he last played Milan who months ago, the Rossoneri won against Roma, held Real Madrid at home and have dropped just two of fifteen available points in the Serie A. The only blip was the the failure to win when FC Zurich came around.

Marseille, who lie seventh in the Ligue 1, would also be wary because Marco Borriello has returned from long term injury with goals and Pato has 4 goals from his last 6 league games. Ronaldinho is still Ronaldinho and on a good day will render the opposition useless.

This preview may suggest that Milan have it covered but let's not forget that Marseille have shown that they too can score especially after that 5-5 thriller a fortnight ago against Lyon and the 6-1 demolition of Zurich before that. As for their position at home and whether it may affect the way they play tonight, coach DD knows he has to win this one.

"That (seventh) is not a position we should expect to be in," says Didier Deschamps and yet he knows the stakes involved. Milan and Real are yet to play the FC Zurich, the whipping boys in this group so the French will do themselves some good if they win this one.