Milan has gained in strength as the season has progressed, although they had a very inauspicious start to the campaign. The rossoneri began their domestic season with several poor results, only managing one victory from their three opening matches. In these, they lacked cohesion, something Milan has become notorious for. The team’s inability to move as one unit was very disappointing for a squad which virtually dominated their opponents in winning the scudetto last season. Then, like a great beast waking from a long slumber, Milan pulled off three successive wins, highlighted by the 2-1 defeat of Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in late September. The main reason for this explosion was what had been obviously missing: the brilliance of Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko. He scored only one goal from the first three matches, and that was just a penalty kick. At Lazio, he bagged a brace in one of the most fearsome venues in all of Europe. He followed that up with another double at home against Reggina. Milan must also feel somewhat confident after they were able to keep their city rivals Internazionale off of the score sheet in the Milan derby, even though they themselves could not score either.
Atalanta are bottom of the Serie A, and will continue to struggle all season to get out of the cellar. An opening day draw against currently third-placed Lecce was followed by two straight losses, at Juventus and against Inter. They then obtained two consecutive 1-1 draws, but had the lead in both matches on goals by Carmine Gautieri. Their next match was a loss at Bologna, then a home draw versus Cagliari this past Saturday. Only two points from moving out of the relegation zone, they will find it hard to move past the sides above them.
Milan have access to a full squad, although several regular starters may be rested because of the congested schedule of the last week. Jaap Stam did not play at the weekend, but performed well in their Champions League match against Barcelona last Wednesday. Hernan Crespo is also back to fitness, and could see action in this fixture.
Atalanta has several players who were not expected to play in their game this past Saturday, but were able to get fit enough for the match, and they may also be available for this encounter. Riccardo Montolivo scored the second goal in a 2-2 draw against Cagliari, and went the full ninety minutes. Former Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini was also able to go the length of the match, even though reports said he would not be available for selection.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
He was the man of the match for Milan versus Inter, causing all four defenders to commit bookable offences. There has been no sophomore slump for this Brazilian ace.
Gianpaolo Pazzini (Atalanta)
With three goals so far this season, Atalanta hope he can continue his good form in a match where they will be short of goal scoring chances.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI’s
Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Kaladze; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Kaka; Inzaghi, Shevchenko
Taibi; Rivalta, Gonnella, Natali, Bellini; Mingazzini, Albertini, Marcolini, Montolivo; Pazzini, Gautieri
Milan will surely not allow another slip-up versus a lesser side, as every match from here on out is very important to the cause of catching up to Serie A leaders Juventus. A valiant effort by Atalanta, but they will stay bottom of the table.
Milan 2-0 Atalanta