AC Milan are certainly experiencing a defensive crisis, as three out of five centre-backs are injured. This has forced Gattuso to re-think his tactics, and against Lazio next weekend we can be sure to see an untrained defensive backline in action.
Even though the International break is currently underway, it hasn’t been of much help for the Rossoneri as none of the injured players will recover in time for the Lazio clash. With that said, Gattuso will have to experiment in the defence, as Zapata is the only centre-back available, excluding the inexperienced Simic (hasn’t played since February).
Initially, one would think that the obvious choice is a four-man backline, given that only one centre-back is available. However, due to previous experiences and problems further up the pitch, it seems that Gattuso will opt for a three-man backline. I myself predicted that he would use a 4-4-2, which the team is used to, replacing the injured Romagnoli with left-back Rodriguez, while Laxalt would move down to the left-back spot.
However, Calhanoglu is still struggling with an ankle injury, experiencing a lot of pain. This has affected his end-product, and it remains to be seen if he will be available on Sunday afternoon. Nonetheless, La Gazzetta Dello Sport predicts that instead of the Turk, Laxalt will start on the left flank. This could explain why Gattuso doesn’t want a four-man backline, since there would be no left-backs available. Then again, we will have to wait and see how Calhanoglu feels.
In Milan’s case, though, this brings yet another question to the table: who will start as the right centre-back? According to Gazzetta, Abate will be given the chance, providing experience to the team at the back. In other words, on paper it will probably be the weakest defence Gattuso has set out all season.
However, it should be noted that Laxalt could be given a more defensive role, helping Rodriguez out on the left. Abate, on the other hand, most likely won’t get as much help on the right side, considering that Suso prefers to attack rather than defend.
Likely AC Milan XI (3-5-2): Donnarumma; Abate, Zapata, Rodriguez; Suso, Kessie, Bakayoko, Calhanoglu (?), Laxalt; Cutrone, Castillejo.
Make or break
As the subheading suggests, this is very much an experimental line-up, and heading into the game Rossoneri fans really shouldn’t expect too much. With roughly six starters out injured, anything else than a loss against an attacking-minded Lazio would be an overachievement. Despite this, should Milan lose, then Gattuso will surely receive a lot of criticism, even though it would be totally unjustified.
What’s certain, however, is that Gattuso and his staff need to look over the training methods, as simply too many players are picking up injuries. For a club of the size of Milan, this situation certainly isn’t common, and something is obviously wrong.
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