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Coppa Preview: A Second Helping of Milanese

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TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 03:  Paolo De Ceglie of Juventus FC celebrates scoring the first goal during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AC Chievo Verona at Juventus Arena on March 3, 2012 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 03: Paolo De Ceglie of Juventus FC celebrates scoring the first goal during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AC Chievo Verona at Juventus Arena on March 3, 2012 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Well it's been a hell of a couple of days, living in the afterglow of our 5-0 thrashing of our one-time rivals Fiorentina (and I say "one-time" because one wouldn't say that a nail has a "rivalry" with a hammer). In fact, it was such a resounding victory that it motivated the editorial board at TuttoSport to attempt to dabble into comedy (LOL Mirko = Ibra). But now it's back to reality and time to host our old buddies Milan at home to see who can complain louder about terrible officiating. Here's a hint: our draw streak may restart.

Avanti!

The first leg saw our B squad dispatch of Milan's A-and-a-half squad (hey, they had some injuries so technically their best players weren't all available), courtesy of a brace from our old friend Martin Caceres. We now head back home with a 2-1 aggregate lead, with two away goals which could prove to be potentially huge.

This time around, however, I am not sure that Martin will play. While Conte rested Stephan Lichtsteiner during the first leg, Forrest picked up that one-yellow-card-too-many at the Florence turkey shoot last weekend, and thus will miss the next Serie A match this weekend. Who are we playing again? Anyway, maybe that means Licht will play since he'll be rested this weekend by default, and so Licht + a fully fit (MOTM) Paolo De Ceglie = no Martin. Or does it?

Le chiavi: Back to the whole Caceres-playing-or-not-playing thing. If he does play, than that means Conte will be utilizing him as part of a back three in a 3-5-2 formation (what could possibly go wrong?!) and I may no longer have a TV with a fully-functional, uncracked screen.

Look, I get the rationale for switching to the 3-5-2. Conte started with the 4-4-2 (4-2-4), but that meant only two-thirds of M-V-P in midfield. To accommodate all three, he then switched to a 4-3-3, sacrificing a bit of width. Then there were questions about who would play left back, with Chiellini the preferred choice for a while. Then Conte realized that with a 3-5-2, he can effectively play three solid, natural centerbacks in Chiellini, Barzagli, and Bonucci (don't even start with the 'pfff Bonucci isn't close to solid,' right now, I'm not in the mood), with two wide players, and keep Marchisio, Pirlo and Vidal untouched in midfield.

But, this became problematic. Our wide players aren't suited for that formation, particularly Lichtsteiner, one of the best fullbacks in Europe right now whose talents are wasted as a wingback. Furthermore, the 3-5-2 had a detrimental effect one of our biggest strengths, our midfield -- particularly on Marchisio.

To a return to a 3-5-2, I say nay. Stick to a 4-3-3, use Lichtsteiner on the right, Paolo De Ceglie on the left, and save Martin for the weekend. Or if Chiellini and/or Barzagli are still not fit enough to play, use Martin in the center again. That'll work again for now.

Unfortunately, it isn't up to me.

Good news: Three words: Paolo-De-Ceglie.

Paolino has been absolutely solid since being reintroduced to the pitch, and he's earned the job as first-choice left back. In fact, he's the left-sided fullback we've long craved. There, I said it. Let the nasty comments begin.

Bad news: Milan is going to be pissed, and right now they're playing as if they've forgotten how to do anything but crank out goals and +3's.

My Starting XI: (4-3-3) Storari; PDC, Chiellini, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner; Marchisio, Pirlo, Vidal; Elia, Matri, ADP.



*update* No sooner did I publish the preview did I check back at TMW and see that Conte may surprise everyone and stick with the 4-3-3 yet...