Antonio Cassano will make a return to his old club in what promises to be a cracking quarter-final match...
Sampdoria commenced the 2010-11 campaign plotting a place in the top six in Serie A and qualifying for Europe next season. In 2009-10 the Blucerchiati finished fourth in the Italian top flight and made it to the qualifying rounds of the Champions League but failed to progress into the group stage.
Subsequent departure from the group stage of the Europa League, failure to sustain consistency in the domestic arena, the much publicised and almost radical fall-out between club president Riccardo Garrone and talisman Antonio Cassano all contrived to drag Samp into mediocrity, and as one encroaches upon the second half of the season, it can be safely assumed that Samp will eventually finish somewhere around a mid-table position.
Which is why the Coppa Italia provides Domenico Di Carlo's side with a sense of adventure that they need to keep on going for the remainder of the season. The Italian Cup is not exactly a competition that is held in high regards but the lure of a trophy and the consequent European spot it assures are incentives that should seduce the Genoese side to give their all against Milan in the quarter-final tie today.
Samp got the better of Udinese in the Round of 16 on penalties after they let a one-goal lead slip in normal time and were then forced to come from behind in extra-time. Playing at home will give the former Italian champions an advantage and given their encouraging goalless draw with Juventus at home at the weekend they will aspire to get the better of Milan and qualify for the semis.
Hunting For The Treble
Approaching the business end of the season, Milan remain in the hunt for the treble. After watching arch-rivals Inter conquer Italy and Europe in scintillating fashion last season, the Rossoneri are aiming to design a similar conquest this campaign and will take the trip to Genoa today basking in hope and expectations.
Massimiliano Allegri's side, though, have struggled in the new year and despite remaining one of the most entertaining and enjoyable teams to watch not only in Italy but in entire Europe, the Diavolo have not always been effective and have looked uncertain at the back.
After back-to-back draws with Udinese and Lecce, Milan returned to winning ways last week when they brushed aside Bari 3-0 in the Round of 16 of the Coppa Italia and at the weekend defeated Cesena 2-0 at San Siro to maintain their four-point advantage at the top of the table in Serie A.
Problem is that Lecce, Bari and Cesena all are serious relegation candidates and defeating these poor teams was always going to be a formality. Sampdoria in Genoa would provide a different (and difficult) test altogether and they would know this perfectly from their 1-1 draw with Samp at the Marassi in the league earlier this season. The game will also mark Cassano's return to his old club since leaving them under acrimonious circumstances in the winter.
Milan coach Allegri knows that despite Milan's attacking prowess they cannot take Sampdoria with ease and said on Tuesday, "Tomorrow there is a lot at stake. We will be up against a team that knows how to play football, but we are starting to score goals again. We need to continue playing this way and give 100%".
Di Carlo has named winter signing Massimo Maccarone in his squad and the Italian striker could make the start alongside Federico Macheda upfront in a 4-4-2 formation. Forward Giampaolo Pazzini is out injured.
Flavio Roma will start in goal for the Rossoneri in Genoa, Luca Antonini is likely to start at left-back while Urby Emanuelson is set to make his debut in left-midfield.
Mark van Bommel is also in line to make his debut for Milan but it depends on whether Massimo Ambrosini is passed fit to play.
Antonio Cassano, though, is unlikely to start but could make an appearance from the bench later on in the match against his old club.