Week 29 was a squandered chance. Dropping points against a team at the bottom of the table is not new for Milan but it is always a lost opportunity. SPAL did not look comfortable on the ball or show much at all but the Milan 11 once again showed toothlessness and lack of ideas and penetration. The hectic schedule and knocks meant some changes but Gabbia and Calabria struggled and only Paqueta showed some form and motivation. In light of all this SPAL were the one to open the scoring. A corner pinballed in the box and was finally shot in by Mattia Valoti. Almost immediately after Castillejo had to limp off with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Saelemaekers. The pattern did not change and it was 38 years old Sergio Floccari who scored next. He doubled SPAL’s lead with a great looping ball over Donnarumma. VAR disallowed a Calhanoglu goal as Rebic was judged to have been offside in the build up. A life line was given when Marco D’Alessandro’s yellow was changed to a red after the referee reviewed his tackle on Theo. The second half was therefore available for Milan to tie or even get the three points. Leao and later Ibra were brought on but little changed. The sub did score when a low cross got to him and he beat Karlo Letica in SPAL’s goal. The game did seemed destined for a 2-1 loss until Francesco Vicari diverted a late cross into his own net.
A point at SPAL makes the subsequent games even more important if European football is on the cards. The schedule gets very difficult with Lazio the week 30 opponent.
Lazio are missing Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo through suspension. If this is to turn out to be a positive for Milan it depends wholly on the 11 players starting. The surprise title challengers will not be easy to beat of course but the absences do take away a big portion of Lazio’s firepower.
Conti and Kjaer are expected to reclaim their spots on the right of Theo and Romagnoli. Bannacer and Kessie are to remain starters but further up Castillejo’s absence will force a change. The Spaniard could be back soon but further tests will be done in about a week. Saelemaekers, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu will be behind Ibra. Ibra playing for a tired Rebic could be expected but Paqueta’s absence as he was gaining form is disappointing.
Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.
The 2-0 win vs Roma was an important win, the three points are just as important as the fact that Milan beat a team above them in the standings. Almost as importantly was that the performence improved as the match went on. The first half was lackluster and the team was unable to create much. Paqueta and Saelemaekers came on early in the second and injected some variation and energy and Roma eventually ran out of gas. Milan’s first goal was made possible by a bad Zappacosta back pass. Rebic pounced on the ball and scored after a couple of rebounds. For Milan’s second Theo’s speed forced Chris Smalling to make contact in the box and Calhanoglu converted the penalty.
To be able to finish the season by early August the fixture list is busy and games will be played every three or five days. This and the summer weather will force more than the usual rotation. Playing the bottom placed team is making it easier for Pioli to make some changes in the starting 11. Ibra is back from injury and is available for selection.
Calabria comes in for Conti and Gabbia for Kjaer, further up Paqueta replaces Bonaventura. The rest of the 11 is the same as week 28 but there were some expectations that Saelemaekers would be given a start. Perhaps he and Ibra could get some minutes in the second half.
SPAL are now coached by former Italy U21 coach Luigi di Biagio after firing their long time coach, Leonardo Semplici, in February. Sitting in last place the Emilia-Romagna team are almost certainly going down.
Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.
Serie A restarted and Milan beat Lecce 4-1. The game was not as easy as the score suggests, at least not in the first half where Milan did not make the best use of their chances and often shot straight at Gabriel in Lecce’s goal. Castillejo did open the scoring as Calhanoglu, the man of the match, provided the assist with a low cross. VAR came to Milan’s aid as Biagio Meccariello scored but was ruled offside on review. Lecce did tie the game in the second when Gabbia, on for the injured Kjaer, made the slightest of contacts with Khouma Babacar. But the game opened up soon after with quick goals by Bonaventura and Rebic and later Leao. The 4-1 score provides some optimism for the remaining games.
Roma provide a different opposition than Lecce of course. The game will be another small test for both teams coming back from football’s suspension due to COVID-19. Earlier in the week Roma beat Sampdoria 2-1 with two Edin Dzeko goals and are nine points and three spots above Milan.
Kjaer landed hard on his knee vs Lecce and couldn’t continue and for most of the week it seemed he would be facing a layoff but he is available and starting. His possible absence would have been a big problem as Musacchio is facing a few weeks or even months out after ankle surgery and Duarte has recurring problems and is few days away. Therefore the starting 11 will remain the same. Donnarumma in goal. Conti, Romagnoli and Hernandez with Kjaer in the back four. Bennacer and Kessie behind Calhanoglu, Bonaventura and Castillejo and Rebic as a lone center forward. Ibra is close to a return and could be ready as early as the next match day on July 1st when Milan travel to SPAL.
Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.
Following in Coppa Italia’s footsteps, with congratulations to Gattuso’s Napoli for beating Juventus and winning the 2019-2020 edition, Serie A is going ahead with its attempt to finish the 2019-2020 season. Left over week 26 games were completed over the weekend and now week 27 begins with the aim to conclude the season by early August.
Ten days after limping out of the Coppa with a 0-0 second leg game versus Juventus the remaining Serie A games can allow Milan to make a push for a respectable end of season. Milan sit in 9th position but only three points behind 6th and an European spot. The upcoming games will set the stage for another managerial change as Ralf Rangnick’s arrival is very much on the cards. Relegation threatened Lecce – featuring three ex- Milan players in Gabriel, Saponara and Lapadula – provide a test for a Milan that started sleepy and rusty vs Juventus on June 12th.
Ibra, Duarte, Musacchio and Krunic are on the injured list but the Swede could return soon. In the meanwhile there are two center forward options and Rebic is preferred to Leao. The 4-2-3-1 formation will likely remain for a while yet with Castillejo, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu the likely three behind the forward. Bennacer and Kessie are also likely to remain. The back four could be more fluid but Pioli has only few options. Both Conti and Calabria have been poor enough to be the subject of exit rumours but for now Conti seems preferred. The summer transfer window, now likely for September, may see big changes for the right back spot. Kjaer and Romagnoli provide a solid center pairing and Theo will hope to continue where he left off before the pandemic enforced suspension.
Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.
With the pandemic somewhat, to use the word loosely, under control Italian football has been given the green light to return behind closed doors. Other countries, notably the German Bundesliga, have been well under way with little to no repercussions, so far. Italy has been hard hit with COVID-19 and the resumption of football has been questioned and delayed many times and dangers remain.
The attempt to conclude Coppa Italia 2019-2020 that was at the semi final second leg stage before football was suspended is now on. If all goes well it can conclude on the date that it was originally scheduled with the final to play next week. The Serie A has many more games left of course and will return next weekend with hopes of finishing the season some time in August. The hope is to have a proper and complete league finish and to start the 2020-2021 season in October or November.
The first leg of the Coppa semi final finished 1-1 and had its share of controversy. As any Juventus and Milan encounter the ref did his part and produced cards that rules out Ibra and Theo Hernandez out of this second leg. The former is currently injured and is not due to return before the end of the month. The two absences hhat has left Pioli with some line up choices.
Up front the available options are Rebic and Leao. The former was in form before football was suspended and is getting the start. Paqueta who was certainly not in form may get a chance with Calhanoglu and Bonaventura in front of Bennacer and Kessie. Bonaventura is leaving on a Bosman when the season finally ends as another busy transfer window beckons (more on that coming soon). The back four requires a change with Theo’s absence and both very out of form full backs are headed for starts. Calabria and Conti will play with Romagnoli and Kjaer in between them. Gigi Donnarumma is of course starting in goal.
With Serie A still suspended and many plans and ideas discussed Italian football might finally return on June 19th. The Coppa might restart a few days earlier and continue it’s semifinal with Milan still in with a shout vs Juventus.
Bundesliga recently restarted without any in the stands and so far has worked as well as one can expect. A few leagues like the Belgian Jupiler Pro League already cancelled the 2019-2020 season but Italy apparently can not afford to and will press ahead. A medical protocol has been set up and individual and group training will hope to succeed so Calcio can finish the season.
The still not official schedule will hope to finish the season by late August with matches mostly at night to avoid summer heat. After that the teams have envisioned a transfer window that runs through the month of September and early October before the next season can start. A lot is still unknown and Italy is not alone in it pandemic uncertainty.
Stadium plans move ahead as well and so do the daily diet of transfer rumours. How much of it can be believed especially in no physical meeting times is a good question. In Milan’s case the identity of future management is still not certain though this has not stopped many from speculating on Ralf Rangnick’s transfer plans. The German is still on a path to take over – at least in a management capacity – and bring about a real youth movement built for the future in an image that will take Milan in an unfamiliar direction. Many names have been mentioned with a few more notable ones below:
- Luka Jovic, 22 years old forward, Real Madrid. To replace possible outgoing Ibra.
- Denzel Dumfries, 24 years old right back, PSV. Finding a solution to Conti and Calabria problem.
- Dominik Szoboszlai, 19 years old midfielder, Red Bull Salzburg. Rebuild the midfield and replace the outgoing Bonaventura.
- Florentino Luis, 20 years old midfielder, Benfica. Another piece in the midfield rebuild to complement Bennacer.
The 2002-2003 Champions League season featured two group stages. The first featured eight groups of four and the second four groups of four comprising those teams that finished top two in the first group stage. Milan finished first in the first group stage with Deportivo second followed by Lens and Bayern Munich. The draw for the second group stage pitted Milan against the Real, the defending champions, Borussia Dortmund and Lokomotiv Moskow. In the first match Real visited the San Siro and Milan’s starting line up was:
Dida, Kaladze, Costacurta, Maldini, Simic, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Rivaldo
Real’s star studded team featured all of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos. But Real hadn’t impressed in the first group stage and only managed nine points in a group with Roma, AEK Athens and Genk.
The stage was set for a big game that was opened by one of the best long distance assists. Rui’s time at Milan has started with injury and would not be as impressive as he was at Fiorentina but his class was evident and shone in this game. A pin point assist from inside Milan’s half led to the opening goal in a game that would finish 1-0. Shevchenko’s big game mentality was evident and had him scoring one of his most confident in taking on the ball and beating Iker Casillas in Real’s goal with ease with a low accurate shot.
Milan would lose the return in Madrid (3-1 with Rivaldo scoring Milan’s sole goal) but finish first in the group. The team would go on to beat Ajax, Inter and finally Juventus via penalties to win the Champions League that season.
The 2006-2007 Champions League was to be a form of redemption for Milan. Beating Liverpool in a final not so long after the Istanbul debacle was relief of sorts for its fan, the team and its history too.
Milan didn’t blow teams away in the groups stage. The team did finish first but lost twice in a group H that featured Lille, AEK Athens and Anderlecht. The first knock out stage was only won 1-0 (aggregate) against Celtic. A bigger win came in the quarter finals when Bayern Munich were conquered 4-2 in aggregate.
Kaka had scored many and was in form. Manchester United would be the semi final opponents with the first leg in Manchester. A not so great early sequence led to Dida, in Milan goal, unable to save and both a deflected and diverted ball was credited as a Ronaldo goal. Kaka opened Milan’s scoring with an early touched that fooled Edwin van Der Sar in the Manchester goal and made it 1-1. Few minutes before the half the Brazilian gave Milan the lead. He took on a long pass and ran towards goal on the left side, three defenders converged on in attempt to stop the solo counter. Kaka danced between them and with both a touch and a low header beat Patrice Evra, Gabriel Heinze and Darren Fletcher and finally van Der Sar. The former two collided and all in the stadium witnessed a magical goal. The lead would not survive as Wayne Rooney would score twice. The return provide some dose of magic to set up another final versus Liverpool.
After the match Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester’s legendary Scottish manager, called Kaka one of the world’s best two players and tried to sign him more than once.
Extended highlights in the video below and the goal itself starting at 4:35.
The 2012-2013 Champions League featured Milan in a tight group stage with Malaga, Zenit and Anderlecht. It was late November and match day five with all teams still with a shot at the top two spots. Milan traveled to Belgium with the following starting line up:
Abbiati, De Sciglio, Mexes, Yepes, Constant, Nocerino, De Jong, Montolivo, Boateng, Krkic, El Shaarawy
With Pato, Robinho and Pazzini all on the bench
Certainly not vintage Milan at all and the first half passed scoreless but early in the second the game changed. El Shaarawy scored early and the match seemed headed for an 1-0 away win but a Montolivo central freekick led to Milan’s second goal. The freekick was taken on by Mexes. The Frenchman lifted the ball with his chest and proceeded to shoot hard with an acrobatic bicycle kick from distance. The ball looped down into the far side beating Silvio Proto in goal for a 2-0 lead. Pato scored an added time goal after Tom De Sutter had made it 2-1. The 3-1 win allowed Milan to finish second and move to a first knock out stage encounter against Barcelona.
Match day one of the 1996-1997 season had Verona visiting the San Siro. Milan had won the scudetto the season before and Fabio Capello had departed to Real Madrid, for what was to be a short stint. For what would not be the first time Milan had brought in a Cagliari coach to replace Capello. Oscar Tabarez started his Milan tenure starting the following 11
Rossi, Galli, Costacurta, Maldini, Panucci, Albertini, Desailly, Boban, Baggio, Weah, Simone
At the half it was Verona ahead by one goal but the second half exploded with a Simone brace and a late goal where Weah took the ball straight from a long Verona corner to ran and dribble past defenders before beating Attilio Gregori with a low shot. Baggio would add a later fourth for a 4-1 win.
The big win wouldn’t reflect on the season as Tabarez wouldn’t even last the calendar year and a Sacchi return is an unsuccessful one as Milan end the season in 11th place.