Daunting trip to Naples awaits Seedorf and Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Marco Luzzani/Getty ImagesIn their previous meeting this season, Philippe Mexes and Milan were unable to cope with Gonzalo Higuain and Napoli, who ran out 2-1 winners at the San Siro.

From personal experience, Napoli's supporters rank among the most passionate and fanatical group that I have encountered. The bond which connects the team to the city's people is as strong as can be found, and while they will offer up an intimidating atmosphere on Saturday night, Clarence Seedorf is prepared to accept the challenge and relish it.

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Since his appointment last month, there is an argument to suggest that the Dutchman hasn't been tactically overawed and has been equal to his peers. The 37-year-old has been complimentary to rival Rafa Benitez this week, although the Spaniard arguably represents his biggest test thus far.

Seedorf concedes that he is impressed with the former Liverpool coach's ability to adapt to different countries and respects his experience and knowledge. While he insisted that Milan still require "many hours of study" before they consider this a real examination, it will be intriguing to see how the players and system work against a team considered a rival at the start of the season.

While the Rossoneri's domestic expectations have lowered throughout the campaign as they struggled to find consistency, Napoli have suffered from issues of their own which have excluded them from the Scudetto race and left them to fend off competition for a Champions League berth.

Milan remain fifteen points adrift of a top-three finish, and although they achieved what Napoli couldn't in the Champions League this season, they appear to have fallen behind Benitez in terms of squad development.

This weekend's fixture also represents the first time Seedorf will be forced into numerous adjustments, with Keisuke Honda left out due to illness while Kaka struggles with the same ailment.

January signings Michael Essien and Adel Taarabt "have integrated well" according to the coach, and it will be interesting to see if the latter is given the chance to stake a claim in the line-up in such a difficult trip away from home where the absence of flair is noticeable.

Nevertheless, Seedorf insists that he has seen progress in training since his arrival, but believes that it will take both time and patience for the players to be conditioned and to fully appreciate his philosophy.

In fact, he went into further detail regarding his "philosophy" in his pre-game press conference, suggesting that the win away at Cagliari was perhaps the best indication of what he wants from the players in terms of "getting close to the opponent".

Seedorf's approach clearly requires the team to perform as a unit, pressing high up the pitch in order to win back possession immediately, and with time and increased fitness levels, Milan will essentially become more effective when they are in possession of the ball.

The Milan coach insisted that a formation is merely what is written on paper, and it is his philosophy that he requires the players to adopt and to execute on the pitch. While we may not have seen the ideal implementation of that so far, Seedorf will need a significant effort from his squad if they are to avoid returning home empty handed this weekend.

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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