The final countdown has begun in Milan: only 2 hours left for the biggest soccer showdown of the week-end, AC Milan-Juventus. Over 76,000 people are expected at San Siro tonight, despite the fact that Juventus supporters have been forbidden access.
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Manager Carlo Ancelotti has called upon 18 players for this match, with little doubt on who will be fielded in the starting lineup. Paolo Maldini is a clear favorite over Serginho for the left-back position (given the Brazilian’s very shaky performance in the Champions League match Wednesday). Also, it would create a big gap on the wings to have both Serginho and Massimo Oddo (on the right), because these are two players who like to push up a lot.
The final practice session at Milanello yesterday didn’t reveal too much in terms of line-up choices though, because the Milan coach mixed and matched his formations quite often. It would be very surprising to see anything other than the usual “Xmas tree formation” (4-3-2-1) for AC Milan, with Alberto Gilardino at the top and Pippo Inzaghi on the bench.
As for Ronaldo, Emerson and Marek Jankulovski, they are on the injury list (although both Ronaldo and Jankulovski should be available for the Club World Cup in Japan).
In the past week, Claudio Ranieri seemed to favor a 4-4-2 line-up with David Trezeguet-Vincenzo Iaquinta as the lone strikers, with Alessandro Del Piero ready to step in like in the Palermo game. However, that hypothesis included a healthy Mauro Camoranesi, which unfortunately has been forced to a forfeit for Saturday’s big match.
While the 4-4-2 option is still open (with Marco Marchionni or Raffaele Palladino to replace the Italo-Argentine winger), the more likely solution from yesterday’s practice seems to be a 4-3-1-2 with Del Piero operating behind the two strikers, in front of a 3-man midfield (Nocerino, C.Zanetti, Nedved).
Giorgio Chiellini is back from suspension and should pair up with Nicola Legrottaglie at the heart of the Juve defense. With Zdenek Grygera still out, the wing-backs will be Jonathan Zebina and Cristian Molinaro.
The excitement is growing, only 2 hours to the match! Kick-off is at 20:30 CET (14:30 ET).