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Apr 25, 2014

Milan’s struggles against top teams continue

The FC panel give their opinions on the perpetual drama that is Mario Balotelli.

Despite their recent winning streak, the difference in class was apparent for Milan on Friday night as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Having picked up important victories against inferior sides over the last month or so, the Rossoneri were unable to push on and end their disappointing run against the top teams in Serie A.

- Report: Roma 2-0 Milan

Admittedly, there was a sense of solidity in the opening stages of the game as Milan controlled possession and limited the hosts until Miralem Pjanic's superbly taken goal minutes before halftime. However, as the game continued, Milan visibly tired as Roma began to dominate and eased their way to three points.

While Pjanic along with Francesco Totti, Gervinho and Adem Ljajic provided movement, direction and invention, the attacking trident for the visitors was anything but effective.

Mario Balotelli in particular was singled out for his poor performance while Kaka and Keisuke Honda were largely ineffective and appeared off the pace in terms of providing any sort of spark to inspire Milan in the attacking phase.

Mauro Tassotti noted prior to the game that Balotelli has a tendency to "drift" out of games, and the Italian international did little to dispel that theory in a disappointing display in which he showcased the frustrating aspects of his personality.

Wins against the likes of Livorno, Chievo and Genoa were undoubtedly important in the context of the season and for Clarence Seedorf's future as Milan coach, but their inability to compete with the top teams is becoming more evident.

Aside from an away win against Fiorentina, Milan have lost twice to both Juventus and Napoli this season as well as the first meeting with city rivals Inter ahead of the Derby della Madonnina next weekend.

In addition, they have picked up just a solitary point in two encounters with Roma, lost the first clash with Fiorentina and have lost on both occasions against sixth-placed Parma.

Naturally that has directly impacted their situation this season and leaves them fighting for a place in Europe, albeit the discussion of whether or not the Europa League would be a hindrance continues.

Essentially, that run of form against supposedly direct rivals is not good enough, and while there is an argument to suggest that Milan didn't perhaps deserve all those defeats, it doesn't necessarily mean much when looking at the league table.

Much can in fact be learned from the opposition on Friday night, in both the way Roma have constructed their squad and benefited from the absence of Europa League distractions this season.

Roma boss Rudi Garcia deserves a great deal of praise for the role he has played in the Giallorossi's revival, and although they played at a walking pace at times, their intricate passing and off-the-ball movement was impressive in creating chances to win the game.

With Mattia De Sciglio and Ignazio Abate still sat on the bench, Seedorf continues to play individuals out of their natural position, which in turn creates a negative reaction towards the likes of Constant and Honda.

Perhaps it is favouritism or more likely dependence on who he perceives as more reliable options, but it is clear that there is still some way to go before Milan can be considered a contender in Serie A.

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