AC Milan started off this season on the wrong foot, losing to newly promoted side Hellas Verona. Milan may have beaten PSV earlier in the week to put themselves in the Champions League group stages, but a win versus a solid Cagliari side is still a must for Massimiliano Allegri. Sure, il diavolo had an awful start last season, too, and still managed to finished third, but they can't rely on a savior sporting a strong resemblance to Mario Balotelli every season.
Cagliari, on the other hand, can afford to be relaxed. They won their first match "at home", some 800 kilometers away from Sardinia, beating Atalanta 2-1. The isolani aren't expecting miracles at the San Siro, considering their past duels, but they have the quality to create problems for one of the best teams in Italy.
AC Milan surprisingly lost Kevin-Prince Boateng and (less surprisingly and importantly) Luca Antonini this last week. They have left the club for Schalke 04 and Genoa respectively, while Milan brought in Alessandro Matri from Juventus and, uhm, Valter Birsa came from Genoa as a part of exchange deal for Antonini. Don't worry if you're not really excited by the prospect of Birsa playing for Milan, no one is. Both Matri (new Milan's number 9) and Birsa were called-up for the match vs. Cagliari, but will be on the bench.
Giampaolo Pazzini is still injured and won't play. Future rossoneri star Mattia De Sciglio has a knee injury, so he's out too. Same goes for Daniele Bonera and young Riccardo Saponara and Colombian defender Jherson Vergara, as well as Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel, though would they play anyway even if they were fit? Sulley Muntari is back from suspension and might play in the 3-man midfield, together with Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Poli, but it seems more probable that Allegri will prefer Nigel De Jong. Kevin Constant will likely get the nod over Urby Emanuelson at left back, while M'Baye Niang is expected to start as Robinho warms the bench.
Cagliari come to Milan after 9 straight losses there, and have not a single win in their last 21 clashes. In 65 Serie A matches, Cagliari have won just 7, Milan 33. It is more than clear that tradition is on Milan's side, but does that mean the cagliaritani don't stand a chance? Um, no. Cagliari was one of the most impressive teams last season. After a rough start, they were able to easily avoid relegation, playing some really nice football even while shuffling from stadium to stadium.
For this game, Cagliari's coaching tandem, Ivo Pulga and Diego Lopez, are without the injured Andrea Cossu and Francesco Pisano. It is expected that Lorenzo Ariaudo will again get the nod over their best defender, Davide Astori. As Lopez explained, with constant rumors of his transfer either to Roma, Napoli or AC Milan, the defender just isn't giving his full concentration to Cagliari.
Last week, Atalanta scored first, but Cagliari answered immediately through a goal by Radja Nainggolan. Matias Cabera added another in the second half to ensure all three points. Cagliari managed the most shots on goal during the last round, with sixteen. As Milan's defense is not exactly their strongest asset, the isolani certainly can create problems for Allegri's team.
Milan injuries and suspensions:
Out: Mattia De Sciglio, Giampaolo Pazzini, Daniele Bonera, Riccardo Saponara, Jherson Vergara, Gabriel (injured)
Cagliari injuries and suspensions:
Out: Andrea Cossu, Francesco Pisano (injured)
Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Zapata, Mexes, Constant, Montolivo, De Jong, Poli, Robinho, Balotelli, El Shaarawy
Cagliari: Agazzi, Dessena, Rossettini, Astori, Murru, Cabrera, Conti, Ekdal, Nainggolan, Pinilla, Sau
Match date/time: Sunday, September 1 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Stadio San Siro, Milan
TV: RAI Internazionale (USA), BT Sport (UK), SKY Calcio 1 (Italy)