AC Milan v AS Roma, Serie A, October 18, 2009
We may be just seven matches into the Serie A season but this encounter perfectly illustrates the difficulties of coaching in Italy. Roma travel to the San Siro under new coach Claudio Ranieri after Luciano Spalletti was sacked whilst in the home dugout, while Leonardo is on shaky ground as the Rossoneri really need to claim all three points here to keep the Brazilian in a job.
Reports during the international break had suggested that Leonardo’s tenure was reliant on his side picking up results against Roma and then Real Madrid in the Champions League. With the Rossoneri facing Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on Wednesday, a convincing victory over the club from the capital looks like being Leonardoâ€™s best chance of holding on at the San Siro for the time-being.
Milan have been pretty woeful on the pitch this season and lie in 12th position in Serie A with just two wins so far. Leonardo may be well liked within the club and by the Italian media but his side have looked disjointed throughout the campaign.
Many will point to the fact that Silvio Berlusconi has not backed the manager in the transfer market, especially following the money received from Kakaâ€™s departure to Spain. Nevertheless, despite having some top notch strikers at his disposal, Milan have scored a meager four goals in the league â€“ as many as rivals Inter smashed past them in one game.
Milanâ€™s last match against Atalanta summed up their current plight. Substitute Ronaldinho (6/4 to score) was lauded for firing home an equaliser with the home side down to ten men. The buck-toothed one then preceded to party it up in Paris and really needs to capture his Barcelona form if the Rossoneri are to make anything of this season.
As a result, Romaâ€™s recent upturn in fortune under new coach Ranieri suggests the Giallorossi could be another nail in Leonardoâ€™s coffin. Roma are now looking up the table and before the weekend were just three points adrift of third position in Serie A. (Roma are 25/1 to win Serie A.)
Roma won their last match before the international break, a 2-0 victory over Napoli (14/1 to repeat that result), inspired by club captain Francesco Totti. The veteran striker, who has since intimated he wants to return to the Italy squad for the World Cup, is a doubt for this match and his presence is key.
Elsewhere the battle between Italian internationals Daniele De Rossi (7/1 to score first) and Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo (9/1 to score last) should be worth watching. De Rossi was late this week linked with a move to Juventus and the suspicion remains that if Italy are to claim a second successive World Cup title in South Africa, the Roma midfielder will be a key man.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (6/1 to score first) has also been the source of much speculation this week and the Dutchman will be eager to get off the mark in Italy. Fellow Milan striker Alexandre Pato (6/4 to score) hasnâ€™t scored since the opening day of the season and the Rossoneri strikers really need to get their shooting boots on.
101gg predicts: AC Milan 2 â€“ AS Roma 1 (7/1)
Full match odds here.