Seedorf coaching cred set for San Siro test
Multiple Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf begins his second career at AC Milan, this time as a fledgling coach, with the world of football watching when the Rossoneri host high-flying Verona on Sunday.
Seedorf, regarded as the most successful player in the Champions League era -- having won the trophy four times with three different clubs -- signed a two-and-a-half year contract as Milan coach on Thursday.
His arrival from Brazil on Tuesday was widely welcomed by the red and black half of the city and Rossoneri fans are hoping the success Seedorf enjoyed during a golden 10-year spell with the club can be replicated at coaching level.
Yet with Milan 30 points behind leaders Juventus and 20 off the closest Champions League qualifying spot, Seedorf has a fight on his hands -- and his lack of top level experience has raised eyebrows.
The 37-year-old, who ended his playing career with Botafogo when the Milan offer came up, has already admitted: "There's a lot to do to hoist Milan back to the top."
And fellow Dutchmen and former Rossoneri Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit both seemed sceptical about the appointment.
"It's a risk. We have to wait and see how Seedorf adapts," said Van Basten.
Gullit said: "I wasn't expecting it. Clarence has no coaching experience and has to prove himself."
Reports said Seedorf, who takes over from sacked Massimiliano Allegri, has already spoken at length with one of Milan's pivotal, but underperforming players -- striker Mario Balotelli.
Whether Seedorf's arrival can spark Balotelli to his clinical best remains to be seen -- if he does it would help corroborate suspicions that Allegri simply could not get the best out of the controversial Italy striker.
Juventus welcome Sampdoria looking to make sure they lose no ground on Roma, who are at home to struggling Livorno on Saturday, and welcome defender Andrea Barzagli back to the fray following a one-match ban.
Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is expected to reshuffle his defence to take on the champions but travels to Turin hoping to see more of the positive mental attitude that has seen 'Samp' revived since his arrival.
"I never tell my players they have to win, but they have to leave everything out on the pitch," said Mihajlovic, who took over from Delio Rossi before Christmas when the Genoese were on the slide.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, travel to crisis-hit Catania - eliminated by Serie B side Siena in the Italian Cup midweek - with new signing Alessandro Matri hoping to make his debut.
Matri was Milan's most expensive signing last summer when he arrived from Juventus but failed to shine with the Rossoneri and was snapped up by La Viola who are still missing strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez.
Vincenzo Montella's side last suffered defeat away to Roma at the start of December but have collected 10 points from their following four games to remain in fourth, although that is in part down to the poor form of Inter.
Inter have hovered among the top five since the start of the season but that early promise, boosted by a takeover from Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir, has failed to fire up Walter Mazzarri's men.
A trip to 10th-placed Genoa on Sunday has come at the wrong time.
Inter have taken only 14 points from their last 10 games, drawing with Atalanta, Bologna, Sampdoria, Parma and, most recently, Chievo in the process.
Mazzarri, who steered Napoli to a second-place finish last season, has so far been given Thohir's backing and, amid complaints from several players over wrong refereeing decisions, and said he hopes the Nerazzurri's luck will change.
"It's a tricky period for us but we have to keep on at it. The lads have faith, but a little bit of luck would help steer us back on to the right path," said Mazzarri.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Roma v Livorno (1700), Juventus v Sampdoria (1945)
Udinese v Lazio (1130), Atalanta v Cagliari, Bologna v Napoli, Catania v Fiorentina, Chievo v Parma, Genoa v Inter, Sassuolo v Torino (all 1400), Milan v Verona (1945)