Catania v AC Milan Preview
Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: AC Milan earned an improbable victory over Scudetto holders Juventus on Sunday but will be in tough against a Catania side that was unbeaten in four before suffering a 3-1 loss to Sicilian rivals Palermo on Saturday.
BREAKDOWN: Little more than reputation separates these two sides ahead of Friday’s showdown at Stadio Angelo Massimino.
Catania have nowhere near the pedigree of their famous guests but are nevertheless two places higher in the table ahead of kickoff while European giants Milan are attempting to put together a run of results appropriate for a side of their stature.
The Rossoneri snuck a 1-0 win from under the noses of league-leaders Juventus the last time out and are now unbeaten in their last three matches in all competitions. But with such modest streak on which to build manager Massimiliano Allegri is aware that the most important game is always the next one, and he said exactly that in his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“This game will be much more important than the match against Juventus,” Allegri told reporters. “This is a match of fundamental importance to our league position. Catania are a point above us, and we want to follow up on our win over Juve.”
Catania, meanwhile, are presently eighth in the standings and would temporarily move ahead of Parma with a win on Friday. They’re confident about their chances of taking all three points from Milan, and manager Rolando Maran is hoping for exactly that after the loss to Palermo.
“We can emerge from the derby better than ever,” he said. “We need to remember what has been done so far in the campaign and not forget the good things that have happened. We have spirit and quality, and that will be essential when we face Milan.”
Presently 10th in Serie A, Milan would move up three places with a win and leapfrog Catania in the process.
ESSENTIALS: Catania are without midfielders Fabio Sciacca, Marco Biagianti and Julio Izco and forward Keko, all of whom are injured. Defender Nicolas Spolli and forward Alejandro Gomez are both suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards.
Milan’s injury list includes defenders Djamel Mesbah, Didac Vila, Ignazio Abate Daniele Bonera and Luca Antonini and midfielder Sulley Muntari. Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati is expected to start between the sticks after picking up a back injury ahead of the Juventus match. Defender Mario Yepes is suspended.
KEY BATTLE: Francesco Lodi wears the number-10 shirt for Catania and, appropriately, pulls all the strings for the Rossazzurri going forward. He has enjoyed a tremendous start to the season and will look to supply quality service to Catania’s three-pronged attack. He’ll also be seeing a lot of Nigel de Jong on Friday as the Milan hardman will attempt to limit Catania’s creativity in the centre of the park.
FORMATIONS: Maran will deploy a 4-3-3 formation with Souleymane Doukara, Lucas Castro and Pablo Barrientos across the forward line. Allegri will go with a 4-3-1-2 with Kevin-Prince Boateng operating in the hole behind Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy.
BETLINE: Catania 21/10; Draw 12/5; AC Milan 5/4. Catania held Milan to a 1-1 draw on this ground last March.