Oct 042015

Milan Napoli

After disappointment of losing the week 6 encounter with Genoa which included yet another sending off, this time Romagnoli, the season risks becoming a lost one if results don’t improve soon. Being six points behind co-leaders Fiorentina and Inter may not seem like much in October but with games against Napoli the gap can grow quickly.

Balotelli is not amongst the 22 called up players for this game and misses through what seems to be a muscular problem. Honda has been sick with fever most of the week but makes the squad, however he is unlikely to start. Honda’s attacking midfield position is probably going to Bonaventura playing behind a reunited Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca. The midfield tweaking and tinkering is likely to continue with Kucka and Bertolacci playing either side of Montolivo. It remains to be seen if a midfield consisting of these three players can provide enough cover for the back four facing the likes of Insigne and Callejon

The defense will be changed again too with the return of Antonelli pushing De Sciglio to the right at the expense of Calabria. Abate is close to returning but is not yet available. Ely should get the nod in place of the aforementioned suspended Romagnoli.

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Sep 272015

Genoa Milan

The trio of Bertolacci, Antonelli and Kucka are back in the line up after relative short times on the injured list. Bertolacci may be the only one of the three to start as the rest of the lineup – in midfield and defense – is likely to remain unchanged. De Sciglio, Romagnoli, Zapata and Calabria will start in front of Lopez and be joined with the aforementioned Italy international, Montolivo and de Jong in the center of the pitch. Bonaventura, scorer of two goals so far including a perfect free kick at Udinese, will sit behind the front two and try to keep his good form going.

Some reports expect the front two to be changed again. It seems that Balotelli will start with Luiz Adriano this time and Bacca rested. This may not be the best decision however. Fatigue prevention in a season outside of Europe is less important, especially in September and at a time when the team seems to be taking shape and winning points.

Perhaps the bigger issue that came out of the 3-2 win at Udinese is keeping up the intensity and not conceding goals. The decision to substitute Alex for Calabria very early in the second half was surprising and added chaos to the falling intensity after an excellent first half. It simply didn’t work and the rationale or reasoning given – adding height – seems a misread by Mihajlovic.

On the Genoa side Goran Pandev and Issa Cissokho are suspended after picking up red cards in their 2-0 away to Lazio. The Liguria team have won just one out of five games so far and are not in good form.

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Sep 222015

Udinese Milan

After the week 4 win versus Palermo the team is looking better and some credit has gone to coach Mihajlovic. The 3-2 win wasn’t always the best looking but Bacca’s brace and overall shape of the team with Montolivo in the center of the midfield provided hope. Calabria’s early introduction for the injured Abate also provided another glimpse of the 18 year old’s talent.

Other than injuries and knocks – notably Kucka – the fact that this match day is midweek means changes to the starting lineup. In Abate’s place Calabria is expected to be given a starting place. Nigel de Jong should take Kucka’s place in midfield. Honda looks to be retaining his spot behind the two forwards, despite some calls for him to be on the bench.

The other change is likely to be that Mario Balotelli will get a start and Luiz Adriano will start on the bench. Balo’s two substitute appearances so far have been positive and it is hoped he can keep going and keep a cool head as well.

Udinese started the season with an upset win away at Juventus but have lost their three games since.

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Sep 192015

Milan Palermo
After the somewhat improved but defeat at the derby last week Milan welcomes Alberto Gilardino and Palermo. Palermo have won two and tied one game and stand above Milan in the standings after three weeks. The disappointment of last week leaves Milan well off the pace in Serie A and the team needs all of wins, improvement and luck.

Honda’s disappointing performance at the derby may see him dropped in favour of Bonaventura playing behind the strikers. The two forwards are likely to remain the same with an outside chance that Balotelli, who did very well as a sub last week, getting as much or more minutes. With Bertolacci still not available Kucka, Montolivo and Poli seems likely starters in midfield. The back four should remain the same as Antonelli is not back either so De Sciglio gets to continue in his favoured left back role with Romagnoli, Zapata and Abate getting starts again. Mexes has not been picked for this match leaving Alex and Rodrigo Ely as the defensive backups.

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Sep 122015

Inter Milan

Summer of 2015 featured what looked like a start of a new era for both Milan and Inter. Milan got a new minority owner and Inter seemed intent on rebuilding. The story of Milan’s 48% sale is not yet fully written as there a few rumblings of problems but it should eventually go through. Inter have started well and new signing Stefan Jovetic looks like to be starting off where he left off with Fiorentina two years ago.

Milan’s early results haven’t been promising with one arguably undeserved win vs Empoli and a thoroughly deserved loss at Fiorentina to start the season. On the injury front Bertolacci is sidelined after picking up an injury while starting for Italy vs Malta. Antonelli is also not available. Therefore the defense will see a Abate recall. The midfield may see the first Montolivo start of the season. If he does start he may do so in either de Jong’s or Poli’s spot. Kucka is likely to be preferred on the other side of the midfield and therefore push Bonaventura into an attacking and more central role.  The front two of Bacca and Luiz Adriano will be unchanged and depending on the course of the game Balotelli may make his Milan ‘re-debut’ in the second half.

Inter are missing Miranda through injury and Felipe Melo may get his Inter debut in the center of midfield.

Lots more on the game on the forums.

Sep 012015

The summer 2015 transfer window has come and gone and it ended with a whimper. The promise and goodwill of late spring and early summer days evaporated in the last days and weeks of the window.

Witsel Milan

Axel Witsel in action vs Milan in 2012

What started with an exciting new ownership structure and a new more experienced coach started losing steam slowly. Early June brought on news of Silvio Berlusconi selling 48% of Milan to Bee Taechaubol and his partners and not long after Sinisa Mihajlovic accepting the coaching job. On the day when the coach was introduced several so called dead weights were confirmed to be leaving. Bonera, Muntari, Essien and Pazzini exited the team along with those – Bocchetti, van Ginkel and Destro – whose loans expired. Rami also exited and packed his bags back to Spain with Sevilla, albeit too cheaply.

After failure to sign Jackson Martinez Adriano Galliani turned to Carlos Bacca from Sevilla and the prolific goal scorer and recent Europa Cup winner signalled a new era of spending. Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk, Jose Mauri, a free agent after Parma’s collapse, and Andrea Bertolacci followed in soon after. The total transfer fees paid had already reached €58 million.

The new stadium issue seemed to take a step forward with the Fondazione Fiera accepting a Milan offer for the land in the Portello area adjacent to Casa Milan. That location started unravelling a few weeks later with questions about the land. Berlusconi and his daughter Barbara’s timetable for a new stadium by 2018 was already in trouble with other locations being considered but no final decision imminent.

Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic claimed that he is not afraid to speak his mind and apparently convinced Galliani and Berlusconi to pursue Alessio Romagnoli from Roma. The young central defender played under the Serbian at Sampdoria. Weeks of negotiating led to his capture and took the transfer spending into the 80 millions.

Talk of Ibra making a Milan return sprang up as he was thought to be willing to cancel his PSG contract and rejoin. Pictures and reports were prominent for a few days before they died down partly in response to PSG’s unwillingness to lose a star name. Axel Witsel, the Belgian international at Zenit, was another name often mentioned. Many questioned his quality but as friendlies in China and at the Audi Cup in Munich in particular continued to emphasis, Milan’s midfield lacked depth at best. He would be a solid presence helping to move the ball up the pitch.

As is normal with any transfer window various names were rumoured to be close to joining. Everybody from Monaco’s Aymen Abdennour to Genoa’s Diego Perotti were mentioned. As time went by so did the quality or excitement level of the names being mentioned. Add to it players like Stephan El Shaarawy departing (on an initial loan to Monaco) and Hachim Mastour reportedly being shopped around (he eventually left on deadline day to Malaga on a two year loan) all added to a sense of disappointment or anticlimax.


Ibra didn’t make his anticipated Milan return

With a 25 player squad limit coming soon Galliani was also on increased pressure to reign in the numbers. Deep into August Milan were still not in a comfortable spot. Although the 25 number applies to those over 21 years of age only there were and are still issues because the limit requires a 4 player quota of home grown and the team’s own youth players. Despite the early clear out in June players like Zaccardo, Nocerino and Matri were still wearing the Milan shirt as the 2015-2016 season started and many rightfully questioned why.

The final days of August featured yet more surprise with Mario Balotelli making a loan return after an exact one year flop at Liverpool. Slovakian Juraj Kucka also arrived from Genoa, a solid but underwhelming choice to aid Milan’s midfield. The same midfield that had begged for bigger names and was run over in the opening game of the season at Fiorentina too. Alsessandro Matri and Zaccardo were finally offloaded to Lazio and Carpi respectively, though the former only a loan, to at least lighten the weight of the squad. The final hour rumours continued to feature more recent names like Sampdoria’s Roberto Soriano but nothing happened and all reports indicated Milan couldn’t or didn’t want to spend more.

Milan fans’ agitation once again grew as it seemed that the required pieces for a top 3 finish, or arguably a top 5, in Serie A were missing. Where does midfield service come from was a question that was expected to be solved early with the new money. Where was the midfield creativity? Why was Gabriel Paletta a name to leave but Mexes renewed? More questions than answers.

If – and the if got bigger with the recent financial crisis in China – Bee Taechaubol intends to heavily promote Milan in China and rest of Asia he surely needs bigger names and a fast route back to the Champions League. What has been done by Galliani this summer doesn’t take Milan there.

It was a summer of change for all of Milan’s rivals too with many important changes at Juventus, Roma and Inter. It might not prove relevant if Mihajlovic doesn’t find a way to get a lot from the squad he has, or doesn’t get more reinforcements in January.

Galliani can not and must not survive one more failure, if Milan’s position doesn’t look well next May he must be the first to leave.

Aug 292015

Milan Empoli

Week 2 and it’s already a must win. Sinisa Mihajlovic claimed during the pre-season that Milan wants to win every game, this is now even more important as the 2015-2016 home opener at Fiorentina soon turned into a debacle. A card happy referee, poor organization and inexperience against a good pressing opposition made for a near disastrous loss.

Empoli provide a lesser opponent. The Tuscan team features ex-Milan player Riccardo Saponara and the aging Massimo Maccarone in attack. A win is crucial following a strange week in the transfer market that featured a surprise return in Mario Balotelli. It is also important to enter the derby, next match day, with three points.

There have been whispers that Mihajlovic is ready to change his preferred 4-3-1-2 in favour of a 4-3-3 but it seems more likely that the formation will remain the same with Cristian Zapata filling for the suspended Rodrigo Ely as he did when the latter got his second yellow last week. Other possible changes from week 1 – according to Gazzetta – are Suso and Nocerino replacing Honda and Bonaventura in the starting lineup. Balotelli, the other newcomer Juraj Kucka and Zaccardo are in the squad but Matri, Mexes and Jose Mauri are not even on the bench.

The match is at 20:45 Milan time on Saturday August 29th.

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Aug 282015

Kucka Milan

Transfer targets and rumoured names have taken a sharp turn in quality in the last week. Names like Ibra, Axel Witsel and Moutinho have given way to others who inspire less confidence. The Fiorentina defeat highlighted a lack of creativity, among other issues. To make a big leap from last season’s 10th place more needs to be done but now this seems unlikely.

Juraj Kucka, 28 year central midfielder, joins from Genoa on a four year contract for a reported €3 million. This is a name that has been rumoured for at least two summers but with the new funds most expected Milan to continue to aim higher this summer. He will add some quality in the central part of the pitch but lots more is needed to close the gap to the likes of Juventus and Roma.

Gabriel Paletta didn’t seem to be in coach Mihajlovic’s plans from the beginning. He seemed to realize it and asked for a way out. He has now joined Atalanta on loan.

The mercato window closes in less than a week. Milan still lacks quality and depth at midfield in particular.

Aug 252015

Balotelli Milan

A year to the day Mario Balotelli was sold to Liverpool for €20 million he rejoins Milan on a free loan.

Uninterested is only one of the many ways he has been characterized by fans and coaches. In January 2013 after joining Milan from Manchester City for around the same €20 million many predicted or at least hoped he will change his attitude for a team he had said he loves. Eighteen months later his goal tally wasn’t the worst (30 in 54 matches in all competitions) but he just didn’t fit. Whether it be on training ground, the dressing room or just everything in general Berlusconi and Milan made a decision to offload him, Liverpool came calling and Milan didn’t hesitate.

After not convincing, Liverpool started a desperate attempt to find another team for him and in a somewhat surprising move Milan appeared willing. It is said that he met personally with coach Sinisa Mihajlovic on Sunday and the go ahead was given to talk to Liverpool.

Today he has completed his Milan medical, will join on a free loan without a buy out clause and with Milan only paying a portion of his salary. The terms, as reported, say a lot about Liverpool’s view of the player.

Last year we were told the Liverpool move was his last chance. At only 25 is this his new last chance? How does he fit in a team with Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca? Stay tuned. FORZA MILAN

Aug 232015

Milan Fiorentina

A summer that can be termed revolutionary is about to end and a new era is in full swing. A much changed Milan team will start the 2015-2016 Serie A season with higher aims and more money hoping for a swift return to the elite or at least to the European stage. Fiorentina, themselves with a new coach in Paulo Sousa and changes (Mario Suarez and Davide Astori just to name two) provide the opposition on the first match day.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has settled on a 4-3-1-2 and signs in the pre-season have been more positive than not. The Coppa Italia lineup earlier in the week vs Perugia is likely to remain unchanged partly due to Jeremy Menez remaining on the injury list with a back problem. The other major injury is M’Baye Niang who likely will not return to the line up before November.

Diego Lopez hopes to continue to provide man of the match performances and Mihajlovic will start the season depending on youth in defense. Mattia De Sciglio or Ignazio Abate will play along side Alessio Romagnoli, Rodrigo Ely and Luca Antonelli. The quartet’s average age is in the low 20s making them one of the youngest. The midfield three will be relying on Nigel de Jong cleaning up in the center with Andrea Bertolacci and Giacomo Bonaventura on the sides. Riccardo Montolivo’s status is somewhat unanswered, it is unlikely that he remains benched often when healthy. The front two are established. The two big summer buys, Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca, only need a settled provider which for now is likely to remain Keisuke Honda. The final days of the transfer window might change this however.

The transfer window will close after two Serie A matches. Empoli will provide the opposition next week.

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