International Champions Cup Preview: AC Milan
AC Milan, the most successful club in world football in terms of international trophies won (along with Boca Juniors), are coming to the United States later this month to compete in the 2013 International Champions Cup.
Here’s a preview of the Italian giants:
July 27, 2013: Valencia vs AC Milan, (Valencia)
August 4, 2013: Loser of Valencia vs AC Milan will play loser of Chelsea vs Inter Milan, New Jersey (MetLife Stadium) or Winner of Valencia vs AC Milan will play winner of Chelsea vs Inter Milan, New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
August 6, 2013: Opponent to be determined, Miami (Sun Life Stadium), 6:30pm ET or 9pm ET
August 7, 2013: Opponent to be determined, Miami (Sun Life Stadium), 6:30pm ET or 9pm ET
What to Expect
Massimilano Allegri’s AC Milan, especially since January 2013, is one of the most exciting in world football. Their manager is not afraid to tinker with the tactical setup and the squad’s versatility allows him ample room to experiment. They are now a young squad getting younger, oozing pace in attack and adding more creative talent. They displayed astonishing defensive and counter attacking prowess in their Champion’s League home match against Barcelona. At the International Champions Cup, they will hunger to embarrass Serie A rivals Juventus, who are possible final opponents, and cross-town rivals Inter Milan, who can set up a potential off-shore derby in round two of the tournament.
Who to Watch for
Milan is top heavy with attacking talent. Star striker Mario Balotelli has reinvented himself in the Rossoneri shirt, and left winger/forward Stephan El Sharaawy has been a revelation for Milan this past season. The two link up well for the national squad, and with the possibility of the duo playing centrally behind new signing Saponara, fans will want to keep an eye on Milan’s star forwards.
Out: Mario Yepes, Massimo Ambrosini, Mathieu Flamini, Bojan Krkic
In: Jherson Vergara, Andrea Poli, Riccardo Saponara
Given the recent exodus of marquee names over the past few seasons, and the ownership’s stated goal of investing in youth, it is of little surprise that Milan have made no huge splashes in the transfer market this summer and have let big name veterans like Ambrosini and Flamini walk (though Flamini was offered a new contract). They have brought in more youth, though, in promising Colombian U20 CB Jherson Vergara and an Italian duo: attacking midfielder/forward Riccardo Saponara and central midfielder Andrea Poli.
In Vergara, Milan are investing in a potential powerhouse at CB – 6ft 3in tall, great in the air and at intercepting passes in the box. The nineteen year old has been touted as one of the stars of the Colombian U20 squad and would bring depth and competition to a defense whose form is less than consistent.
In Saponara, Milan fill a gap in their squad, namely their lack of a proper No.10. Last season’s campaign with Empoli saw Saponara tally 13 goals and 15 assists in 40 matches. A No.10 in the mold of Kaka, his presence will have to make up for the fact that another playmaker, Japanese international Keisuke Honda, will likely not arrive this summer, given that the move that was supposed to finance his arrival – Robinho to Santos – has been called off.
And in Poli, look to replace their outgoing defensive mids. His signing has excited fans thus far, who see a potential anchor at the deep lying role – very effective at tackling but with an excellent eye for the pass as well.
Saponara’s arrival in particular could herald a formation change for the club, with his presence making a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-1-2 more feasible thanks to his abilities as a traditional playmaking No.10. The latter formation is one coach Massimilano Allegri has toyed with before, and one familiar to Saponara from his time at Empoli.