Mar 182017

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Week 28 proved controversial, almost as expected. Playing against Juventus has always meant to provide moments that will equally enrage and disappoint every opponent. The last second penalty that gave the win to Juventus has almost universally been judged to have been the wrong call. The cross that hit De Sciglio’s hand has not been a penalty decision in a normally officiated game in years, the distance from the attacker’s feet to the hand of the defender was calculated to be less than two meters and the hand was not stretched out to any great measure. At the end of the day anger and player protests after the penalty have meant that Bacca and Sosa are suspended for this Genoa match, the former for protesting after the whistle and the latter for getting a second yellow.  They are joined by Romagnoli who got a yellow earlier in the match and is suspended too.

To add insult to injury Suso remains injured. He missed the Juventus match after seemingly being ready in the build up to last Friday’s match but is now due to miss at least two more week due to a muscular injury. Abate has not been called up but the report is that his eye problem is now fine and he should be back after the upcoming international break.

There was very worrying news on the team sale front as the third and promised €100 million has not arrived. Reports of Chinese government efforts to halt large scale capital exit from China has the potential to bury this deal altogether. Another extension is unlikely and it now seems that Fininvest and Berlusconi, however unwillingly, may hang on to the team.

Genoa travel to the San Siro with Adel Taarabt as a likely starter. The Liguria team have been sliding down the standings and have won only once in the last 10 games.

The lineup for this match will look different than the best possible, by necessity of course. Lapadula is to take Bacca’s spot with Ocampos and Deulofeu flanking him. Montella has a decision to make as to who to use in midfield and with Locatelli not exactly an automatic starter, still for unknown reasons, the coach seems likely to use Bertolacci in the middle. Beyond that any two of  Pasalic, Mati Fernandez and Kucka will start around him.  Back in defense Vangioni may get another start with Paletta, Zapata and De Sciglio lining up to his right. The hope is that the players available for this match will channel the anger from the Juventus match into a positive and grab three points to stay in touch with the European places. Donnarumma kissing the Milan badge at the end of the match in Turin gives us hope that the commitment to the team will compensate for some of the missing talent.

Mar 102017

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Week 27 saw Milan take the team’s undefeated streak to five games. Just as importantly the 3-1 vs Chievo was the first of the streak where the margin was more than one goal. Bacca scoring a brace from open play – and having other chances – contributed to the relative bigger score and the Colombian’s return to goal scoring form would be very welcome of course. The concern post game was Suso’s injury, the Spaniard came off injured in the first half and was replaced with Ocampos. Refereeing was typically poor and Bacca missed one of the penalties awarded to Milan, Lapadula converted the second to seal the win late.

Week 28 is away to league leaders Juventus, the Turin team only managed a tie (1-1 at Udinese) last week and might be distracted with their upcoming Champions League game vs Porto. They are also missing Juan Cuadrado (suspension) and Giorgio Chiellini (injury).

The defense looks set to be different again as Abate and Antonelli are still out injured and Vangioni not really trusted. Reports suggest Montella will try Romagnoli as left back with Paletta and Zapata in the middle and De Sciglio on their right side. The midfield is likely to feature Bertolacci, Sosa and Pasalic with both Locatelli and Kucka somewhat surprisingly starting on the bench. To the relief of virtually every Milan fan Suso returned to normal training during the week and was thought to be ready to play alongside Bacca and Deulofeu, but latest is that Ocampos will get the start.

The uncertainty off the pitch continues unabated with glimmers of good news about the sale and closing keeping hopes barely alive. The ‘latest’ closing date is said to be late March and needs to be preceded by another €100 million deposit. That would take the total deposit paid to €300 million, surely an unbelievable amount to pay for just a deposit. No one can say for sure what will happen next, time will tell.

Mar 042017

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Milan scraped through another narrow win and beat Sassuolo 1-0 in week 26. Bacca converted a penalty not long after Domenico Berardi missed his own. For once Berardi didn’t score against Milan and Milan got another much needed three points. The bigger news of the week has not been about anything happening on the pitch however, more on that below.

The injury situation has alleviated somewhat with De Sciglio and Romagnoli back to the fold for this Chievo match. Abate, with an eye injury is out of the running for at least one week. Paletta or Zapata will start alongside the Romagnoli with De Sciglio and Vangioni the full backs. In midfield Locatelli’s short exile to the bench is set to end. The teenager is set to get his first start in nearly one month. Sosa retains his spot but as a mezzala with Bertolacci the other midfielder. Up front Bacca, Suso and Deulofeu will once again needed to provide the goals.

As mentioned above the big news of the week concerned the 800 days and counting team sale saga. At the beginning of the week all seemed a go, finally the sale closing was within sight. The money transfer and the news conference including flown in journalists were all set for a final signing off before this Chievo match, but things unraveled quickly. News and rumours of an investor, possibly China Construction Bank, withdrawing came through and uncertainty took over. Sino-Europe Sports led by Yonghong Li now lacked funds and the already existing doubts kept growing and no one was sure what would happen. News that Berlusconi would pull the plug completely was countered by the possibility of a new deadline and/or deal that would be agreed to if another €100 million was paid in seven days. Most on the outside, including fans, had and have found it hard to believe that the €200 million paid already would come to nothing and hoped for a miracle of sorts. Sino-Europe Sports’ lack of transparency had always made this deal one to be unsure of and now more than ever few actually believe that the Chinese deal would be a good option for Milan’s future, if the deal is still possible at all. Can Berlusconi look for and find another group now? Can Nicholas Gancikoff, involved in the take over deal until last summer, make another come back? If Fininvest and Berlusconi do keep the team what will the team look like in a year or later? Milan is at a crisis point off the pitch while it collects points on the pitch.

Feb 262017

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Week 25’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina provided three important points and somewhat revived the dimming European football hopes for next season. The injury situation made for another almost second choice lineup with Gomez and Vangioni covering for the missing Romagnoli and De Sciglio. Defensively the game wasn’t always convincing and Sosa in midfield was poor without the ball and was little help for the defense. The Argentinian’s start was also somewhat perplexing as Montella seems to have benched Locatelli for now. In the end good finishes by Kucka and Deulofeu mattered most and three points were very welcome.

Sassuolo are up next and the so called Milan nemesis, Domenico Berardi, has recently returned from injury and is getting back in to form just in time to possibly hurt Milan again.

Milan’s own injury situation sees De Sciglio back in the squad but possibly not starting. Romagnoli and Antonelli are still not ready so the defense might remain identical to week 25 with a possibility that Zapata takes up Gomez’s place. The midfield looks to be anchored by Sosa again with Bertolacci and Kucka around him.

The misfiring Bacca apparently refused another China offer to stay at Milan. The loyalty that he has shown to Milan is very commendable but his goal production and effort on the ball are much less so. In recent months Milan has missed a poacher and goalscorer as much as any other player. The Colombian seems to have the coach’s trust however, and will start with Deulofeu and Suso.

If all goes as planned and reported this will be Milan’s last match of the Berlusconi era! Forza Milan.

Feb 192017

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In retrospect the week 24 1-1 tie at Lazio was not the worst result possible. Having to play with 3 out of 4 regular defenders missing and not allowing a goal from open play should be acceptable – Lazio’s only goal came when Biglia converted a penalty after Donnarumma was judged to have brought down Ciro Immobile. Suso salvaged a late point when it again looked unlikely.

The full back injury situation was and is not helping and will affect this week 25 match as well. Antonelli and De Sciglio are still a week or two away from action but Calabria is back in the squad. Romagnoli is still out but Paletta is back from yet another and now seemingly continual red card suspension. News is that middle three will be led by Sosa and not Locatelli, the teenager was surprisingly subbed early vs Lazio and Montella seems to want to use Sosa more. The reasons for this is not very obvious but Locatelli does shows signs of inexperience. Bertolacci and Kucka are the likely starters and in front of them Bacca will once again start. For the Lazio match Montella opted for the so called false 9 formation with no recognized strikers in the line up. Deulofeu played with Suso and Ocampos but the experiment is unlikely to survive.

If all goes as planned or rumoured this could the last home match of the Berlusconi era as the Chinese may close the sale before Chievo visit the San Siro in two weeks. Time will tell.

Feb 132017

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The match at Bologna proved one of the more bizarre in memory. To start, the fullback injury situation meant Vangioni got a start. The match itself was mix of poor judgment and poor refereeing. Paletta and later in the second half Kucka got themselves sent off with virtually every foul a yellow courtesy of ref Daniele Doveri. Milan having had started dominantly the first 10 minutes faded quickly due in part to the expulsions. Down to nine men Milan’s substitutions started to look odd on paper with, for example, Gomez coming on for Locatelli. To add to the troubles Romagnoli injured himself in the first half – he will be out for an as of yet undetermined period – and later with all subs used a hard working Poli, himself a sub, had to remain on the pitch after a knock. Finally, with two minutes remaining and to the surprise of most watching Deulofeu dribbled his way into the Bologna zone and cut inside to the rushing Pasalic who scored relatively easily. The 1-0 win will enter the record books as one of the most unlikely.

The injury situation plus the suspensions make for a much weakened team for this Lazio match. Romagnoli, Paletta, De Sciglio, Antonelli, Calabria and Bonaventura are unavailable. The defensive line is therefore at best unreliable. The  aforementioned Vangioni will line up with Zapata, Gomez and Abate. Poli or Bertolacci will line up with Locatelli and Pasalic in midfield. Bacca is due a bench spot because his production has been anything but satisfactory, one can even question his work rate. While Montella apparently considered using Deulofeu as a false 9 in middle of Suso and Ocampos it is Lapadula who is expected to play with Suso and Deulofeu.

Feb 082017

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This match was originally scheduled for the same week as the supercoppa and it is being played on February 8th instead. That same supercoppa win versus Juventus is now close to a distant memory and it is very much going to be the highlight of the season. The team has struggled since and even fallen out of the European spots in the Serie A standings.

The latest set back came against Sampdoria, the injury riddled squad forced Montella into somewhat creative changes with Kucka lining up as right back – though he was in reality playing as a right midfield. The 0-1 end result was both unlucky and poor.

Abate and Calabria are near fit and the line up will look more normal versus Bologna. Meeting a team that was crushed 1-7 (versus Napoli) during the weekend makes this a required win. The central defenders will remain Paletta and Romagnoli. Locatelli was always likely to return to the starting line up and in any event Sosa received two yellows versus Sampdoria and is not available. Pasalic and Kucka are set to be the other midfielders. Bacca, who once again showed angered at getting subbed, will start in between Suso and Deulofeu to retain the usual 4-3-3.

We may be approaching the conclusion of the Chinese takeover saga with more reports that the deal will close before long. The future may just be brighter but this season may end just as poorly as recent ones, on paper at least.

Feb 052017

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It is safe to say 2017 hasn’t started well for Milan. The team hasn’t won a game in over three weeks in a year only five weeks old. The dreams of finishing top three – or even that optimistic talk of top two – are rapidly fading.

The team is also suffering its first injury crisis in a long time. The injury issue has affected the full back situation most of all but has also hit the creative heart of the team.

De Sciglio will miss around a month after injuring himself versus Udinese. Antonelli, Abate and Calabria are fighting knocks and only the latter has a chance of making it for this Sampdoria match. That leaves the team with only one recognized full back in Vangioni. Vangioni has barely played of course and is well on his way to being on the list of worst Galliani signings ever. His fitness and/or lack of suitability is made even more stark when one sees that he is unlikely to start even in this situation. There is some tactical reasons for it, Sampdoria play with two center forwards in Muriel and Fabio Quagliarella, but Montella is contemplating using three central defenders in lieu of using Vangioni. If that is the case Romagnoli will get to play as a left defender/left back with Paletta and Zapata beside him. The whole back four situation has also turned into somewhat of a farce with the attempt to entice Martin Caceres to Milan. The Uruguayan is without a team and has passed a medical but is yet to agree on a contract. The need for a full back is urgent but it seems that Caceres will not be able to see action soon enough to be of help when needed most. He is therefore likely be another surplus signing if he is added to the team later instead of now.

The team will be missing Bonaventura the most, he is out for the rest of the season after injuring his abductor muscle and requiring surgery. Kucka, Bertolacci and Pasalic will be in the midfield and somewhat controversially it is said that Locatelli will be benched in favor of Sosa. Locatelli made a crucial mistake in the lead up to Udinese’s first goal last week and that came after getting sent off against Juventus days earlier. With talent and age firmly on his side he will surely return to the starting line up next week against Lazio. Up front the absence of Bonaventura will be filled with Deulofeu or possibly the latest Milan player Ocampos. The Argentina winger arrived at the deadline on loan from Marseille, via Genoa.

Jan 292017

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A relatively eventful week included Milan exiting the Coppa Italia after a 2-1 loss to Juventus. The game had Milan falling behind 2-0 again and failing to recover, again. The game was not always a high quality one and the foul ridden game featured nine yellows, two of which were shown to Locatelli.

In transfer news Niang’s loan exit was confirmed and he will spend half a season at Watford and is more likely than not to return.

Milan, now free to concentrate on the league, travel to Udine next. Udinese enjoyed period of good form in December but have now lost three in a row in January.

Milan’s lineup is expected to be predictable with a slight possibility that Deulofeu starts. The Spaniard made a good impression on his debut, coming in as a sub vs Juventus but is very likely to remain a sub for now. Bonaventura, Bacca and Suso will be front line starters until either Suso needs a rest or Bonaventura is pushed back to midfield. Bertolacci, Locatelli and Kucka will start in front of De Sciglio, Romagnoli, Paletta, Abate and Donnarumma to complete an expected 11.

Jan 252017

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Hot on the heels of beating Torino in the coppa Italia Milan travel to Juventus stadium for the coppa quarter finals. This game is also not too long after beating Juventus in the supercoppa in late December. A mark of the progress made under Montella’s coaching is that this game represents a chance to beat the league leaders and reigning coppa and Serie A champions for the third time this season,

The team looks slightly different from a few days ago. Niang has been completely dropped from the squad amid rumours of a loan to Genoa (in exchange for Lucas Ocampos?) or a move to the English Premier League. It has been reported that the French player rejected any loans and may yet remain with Milan, for now at least, if a good EPL offer doesn’t arrive. In Niang’s spot comes Gerard Deulofeu on loan (with no option as of yet) from Everton. The Spaniard has been called up for this coppa match and may yet feature in it. If Deulofeu does play Bonaventura will reclaim his spot in midfield behind the 22 year old. While Deulofeu is best known as a right winger it is surely unlikely that a short term loan is negotiated and pushed through solely for finding a back up for Suso. Therefore the front line may be the trio of Deulofeu on the left with Bacca and Suso and Bonaventura, Locatelli and Pasalic behind them. Romagnoli and Paletta should be reunited at the back with De Sciglio and Abate as full backs.

Juventus are missing three important players in Gigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio and Patrice Evra.

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