May 202018
 

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The season that was to be a big renewal and success with a newly launched era is coming to a disappointing end. Qualifying for the Europa League after spending more than €200 million courtesy of new owner, Yonghong Li, and new management must and is to be deemed a failure. A season that had twists and more disappointments than not and featured a coaching change finishes vs Fiorentina. There is a lot that can be written about the 2018-2019 season and there will be repercussions – internally and externally via possible UEFA financial fair play sanctions – for its relative poor results as well, but week 38 provides a chance at an uplifting finale and ensuring the Europa League spot.

Suso will miss this game with a muscle problem and this will push Gattuso to tweak the line up somewhat. The Spaniard is a possible candidate for a summer exit despite repeatedly showing his admiration for Milan. A €40 million release clause could make him an easy target for Liverpool and others. Kalinic and Cutrone look to play up front with Calhanoglu behind them for a 4-3-1-2 formation. The midfield and the back line remain somewhat predictable, the only expected change is Locatelli once again starting. Biglia is not 100% having recently returned from a back problem that was due to keep him out longer. Calabria, Rodriguez will start at right back and left back along Bonucci, Romagnoli and Donnarumma. Antonelli may also feature because this may be his last game as a Milan player.

Fiorentina are finishing off a relative poor season as well. A difficult sesaon that has the team, as with others around Italy and the world mourning the loss of Davide Astori. The Tuscan team’s training grounds are to be renamed after their captain in his memory.

May 132018
 

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Week 36 gave us all a rare easy win. Beating 19th placed Verona 4-1 – and in the process condemning them to Serie B football for 2018-2019 – was not automatic considering that this Milan had lost to Benevento weeks earlier, one was entitled to be pessimistic. Calhanoglu scored the opener and has been regaining some of the form many wish to see more often. Abate scored a nice and very rare goal as well, even Borini got into the act. The rise in fortunes didn’t last long though.

Midweek was the Coppa Final vs Juventus and the small amount of optimism of four days earlier evaporated rather quickly. Aided by the referee, who for example blew for half time instead of allowing a Milan free kick to proceed, Milan crumbled once again. Donnarumma didn’t catch the ball for one goal and pretty much dropped the ball for another to come out of the game with most of the blame. Juventus won the second half thoroughly after Milan had an ok first half where a few half chances were squandered. The 4-0 loss had most in disbelief and anger levels towards all of players and management rose again. The upcoming summer test for the management and indeed the ownership is as high as last year. Such has Milan fallen (again) that a win vs Atalanta is required to earn a chance at Europa League football next season.

The team must approach the Atalanta game as crucial and not perpetuate the seemingly eternal weak mentality issue. Gattuso is already eying the summer transfer market and has mentioned the need for depth and quality.

The likelihood that Gattuso will use Kalinic again seems real and therefore fans are entitled to wonder if Gattuso should even be the coach next season. Other spots on the 4-3-3 are somewhat stable with the only real rotation being Abate or Calabria. A veteran line up seems to be the choice for the last two matches of the season. The veteran lineup will include Biglia who recovered from a back problem much quicker than anticipated and announced.

May 052018
 

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As the disappointing season winds down the feeling is that the uncertainty around the ownership and money available will stretch deep into the summer and beyond. Fassone and Mirabelli, the latter not entirely safe in his job, are still talking as if all be will be well. Besides real money the Financial Fair Play threat that hangs over Milan as well is a concern as well. The 200 million plus spent last year has not gotten Milan into the Champions League and there will be repercussions whether it be moving forward or in UEFA’s eyes.

Verona visit Milan after Milan were able to beat Bologna away 2-1. The week 35 game could have and should have been won by a wider margin but such as it is Milan have struggled to score therefore  forwards will be on the summer transfer agenda. The midfield creativity needs attention as well and it remains to be seen if it will be addressed.

Locatelli started the week 35 game in place of the injured Biglia. He will likely continue to do so for the rest of the season. The lineup is unlikely to change much for the last three games. Calhanoglu and Suso will flank Cutrone. Kessie and Bonaventura will do the same around Locatelli. Romagnoli seems to be ready for a return from injury, if not Zapata or Musacchio will partner Bonucci. Calabria or Abate seems to be most uncertainty for the starting 11. There are whispers that the latter might leave for the MLS in the summer. Next season could feature Conti and Calabria on the right and Rodriguez and Ivan Strinic – the rumored free signing from Sampdoria – on the left. There is also the Pepe Reina replacing Donnarumma possibility. For now though Verona visit the San Siro before the Coppa Italia final vs Juventus in the coming midweek.

Apr 212018
 

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Recent results have been underwhelming or perhaps disappointing. The progress seen in earlier weeks of Gattuso’s Milan seems to have stalled. The week 33 1-1 tie at Torino featured the same cast not achieving much. Kalinic, Suso and Bonaventura featured in another listless performance. To frustrate fans slightly more Gattuso decided to use Borini in place of the injured Calhanoglu. The Turkish international has a swollen knee that will have him miss this week 34 match up with the last placed team as well.

There were whispers that week 33’s game was Kalinic’s last chance to prove something. The Croat couldn’t add to his goal tally. The goal he scored vs Sassuolo earlier in April was not the start of something better. The number of Milan goals scored (44) after 33 weeks is the lowest tally for the team in decades. Clearly the new era is on the verge of derailing once again.

Therefore and according to various sources this Benevento game will be played with a 4-4-2 formation and with Cutrone and Silva up front. It may not even feature Suso in midfield. Borini and Bonaventura will play as wide midfield players around Biglia and Kessie. Romagnoli is still missing so Zapata is expected to play along side Bonucci once again. Abate was at fault in Torino’s goal and it is believed Calabria will start at right back again.

There is no excuse, beating the last placed team is a must. Benevento have 1 away point so far this season, out of a possible 48!

Apr 182018
 

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Week 32’s 0-0 tie vs Napoli was salvaged by a late great Donnarumma save. Arkadiusz Milik had time to do better alone on the open goal but nevertheless Donnarumma helped Milan get one point. However the solitary point is probably not going to be too meaningful at the end of the season.

A visit to Torino is next in the last midweek Serie A game of the season. Kalinic started vs Napoli and yet again had most fans and observers questioning why. The Croatian may start again, one is entitled to ask why Cutrone is not starting more games. Suso and Calhanoglu will start on the wings as it is normal. The midfield continues to misfire but as options are not exactly plentiful or reliable the Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura trio get more games even when Kessie can’t complete simple passes, Biglia gives balls away and Bonaventura just shoots high and off target. Having said all that the biggest concern before the Napoli match was the missing Bonucci and Romagnoli. The duo missed the match due to suspension and injury respectively but Musacchio and Zapata were better than expected in keeping the clean sheet. Bonucci is back from suspension for week 33 but Romagnoli is set to miss at least another 2 weeks, if not more.

Donnarumma’s post match comments regarding letting his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola, see what happens in the summer have added to the feeling that he will be sold. His opponent in the Napoli match, Pepe Reina, is the rumoured replacement. The Spaniard is 16 years older than the teenager and if signed won’t be a long term replacement.

Walter Mazzarri’s Torino have been doing well in recent weeks with three wins in last five games. Andrea Belotti’s form has improved slowly throughout an injury hit season. The much talked about Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is out however.

Apr 152018
 

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Week 31 was to give Milan only one point. Dropping two points vs Sassuolo effectively ended the Champions Leagues hopes. A top four finish was always unlikely but the run of results in the 2018 calendar year had provided hope. After the inability to win much needed points vs Juventus and Inter three points against Sassuolo would have restored a little hope. In the end the one point seemed unlikely as well.
Matteo Politano had given the visitors the lead and it required a late Kalinic goal, who had been subbed in for Cutrone, salvaged a tie. Earlier Gattuso had been brave (or “wrong” to some fans) by bringing in Silva for Abate and going for a back three. That had backfired because Musacchio, himself a sub for the injured Romagnoli, played the Sassuolo attacker onside for the visitor’s goal.

The aforementioned Romagnoli is set to miss this week 32 game vs Napoli and to add to worries Bonucci got a needless yellow to rule himself out as well. Milan will therefore face the second placed team with a central defence of Musacchio and Zapata. The rest of the 11 is unlikely to be different and the only question is the usual Kalinic, Silva or Cutrone one. The Portuguese seems favorite to start but that can change by game time.

Previous weeks have featured a very disappointing Bonaventura and arguably the midfield has been the team’s biggest weakness once again. This week there has been more talk of what will happen in the summer transfer window and most of the names mentioned have been free or Bosman players. Despite continuing questions about the ownership, funds and Financial Fair Play sanctions Fassone continues to insist that there will be incoming players but he also concedes some may leave. One such player could be Suso, whose apparent €40 million release is to be triggered by a set of teams, including Milan’s week 32 opponent.

Napoli sit four points behind Juventus for first place and they themselves have almost thrown away their chance at catching the Turin team. Last week Napoli needed two late goals to beat Chievo at home and the week before Sassuolo held them to a 1-1 tie.

Apr 082018
 

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Amid the tough schedule that featured a loss to Juventus, a tie in the rescheduled derby and an up coming match against Napoli there is this home game against Sassuolo. The midweek tie vs Inter had some element of luck as Mauro Icardi could have won it for the cross city rivals. The Argentinian missed two open chances. The end result of the last two matches lowered the chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which were small to begin with.

However, Gattuso’s work of turning around the team and providing that glimmer of a top 4 finish has been rewarded. He signed an extension to remain coach until 2021. It is a risk to extend any such contract midseason but the management of the team did what many others have done before them and gave the coach a big raise as well.

Midweek also brought news that sufficient money has been deposited to cover costs until the end of the season. The fact that a team like Milan is facing such deadlines or dates show that ownership questions are going to overshadow all other summer activity. Transfer activity and pursuit of big names may not only depend on Champions League qualification but also on the future of the team’s ownership.

As for the game at hand not many changes are expected, though there is always a question whether Cutrone will start up front or sit on the bench, in favor of Andre Silva or Kalinic of course. The midfield three, having not impressed in recent weeks, can be tweaked as well. Biglia, Montolivo, Bonaventura and to some extent Kessie have all been below par. The back four is as settled as it can get but with Rodriguez struggling, especially defensively, and Calabria being inconsistent the full back situation is hardly satisfactory.

Sassuolo have one solitary Serie A win in this calendar year and are missing Claud Adjapong and Francesco Magnanelli after both were red carded vs Chievo in midweek.

Apr 042018
 

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The derby that was due to be played on March 4, 2018 was of course postponed due to the sudden death of Davide Astori. The April 4th date became available after Milan exited the Europa League at the hands of Arsenal. The home and away defeats to the Londoners and the week 30 loss to Juventus are the only three losses of the 2018 calendar year. Such has been the form under Gattuo that the loss to the reigning champions was not wholly expected. However a loss did happen and the shortcomings of the team were exposed, to some extent.

Paulo Dybala found enough room between the defensive and midfield lines and beat Donnarumma from long range to open the scoring in the 3-1 loss. Juan Cuadrado found room on the far side from a cross to score Juventus’ second and Sami Khedira did the same more centrally. Juventus’ introduction of Cuadrado and Douglas Costa highlighted that the midfield and defensive shape of the team is not without its flaws and the Gattuso’s sub choices, bringing on Kalinic and Montolivo, showed both the squad’s lack of depth and the limits of the coach himself. Kalinic, as usual, contributed little. Andre Silva starting was a mid surprise and he should have been replaced by Cutrone and not the Croatian.

After going through a very poor phase late in 2017 and early in 2018 Inter’s form has picked in recent weeks as the team recently tied against Napoli and beat Sampdoria away 5-0. This derby is fraught with risks and with the outside chance of Kalinic being involved the chances don’t look too good. Cutrone, only a late sub vs Juventus, should start and with Calhanoglu and Suso around him form the front three. Of course there is evidence that a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 featuring both Cutrone and Silva can be very effective. Bonaventura’s poor form can and perhaps should make Gattuso ponder using Calhanoglu further back and let Silva start as a defacto left winger or support striker.

Biglia is suspended for this derby after picking up a yellow in Turin. Montolivo seems the only option, however there is a case to be made for Locatelli starting but he has rarely featured this season and seems to have regressed or has he? fans or observers can’t be sure as some players seem to drop off the map.

The back four and goalie will be the usual but neither Rodriguez nor Calabria had good games at the weekend. Bonucci did score against his old team and Romagnoli was mostly solid. The two central defenders have grown and improved compared to early in the season and will be tested against Inter and then Napoli in 11 days time. In between there is also a Sassuolo match. Any remaining chance at a top four and Champions League place will hinge on getting the majority of the points in the next week and a half.

Mar 312018
 

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Milan’s Serie A form (last 10 games) WWWWWDWWWD

With the 3-2 win vs Chievo before the international break Milan continued the surprising form that has elevated Gattuso’s name in the coaching ranks. Milan took a lead courtesy of Calhanoglu but two very quick Chievo strikes made it seem like the fragile Milan could return. The feeling didn’t last long. Cutrone and later Andre Silva made it a come back win. Milan could even afford a late Kessie penalty miss. Why is Kessie the one taking penalties can be asked later perhaps.

The international break provided some good new as Conti, who was back in the squad for the Chievo match, seemed very close to getting back into action and providing needed quality and depth at right back. The right back position has been up and down and with Abate injured it was left to Calabria or Borini in recent weeks. However the young Italian re-injured his knee in training, and while it is not a ligament tear as happened last September it is still uncertain as of now and rules him out for the rest of the 2017-2018 season.

A visit to Turin will provide the stiffest of tests for Gattuso’s Milan and it isn’t helped that the Inter rescheduled match will come four days after this one. With Napoli also on the horizon (April 15th) the next 15 days will definitively show if this Milan is capable of climbing back into the top four and Champions League spots. Juventus will be missing Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Alex Sandro but are of course led by Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala up front. The speed of Douglas Costa and the possibility of Juan Cuadrado playing will provide a big test for Rodriguez, Calabria and the whole team.

The central defense will be the now established Bonucci and Romagnoli. The midfield will feature Kessie, Bonaventura and Biglia. The bigger question is up front where any one of Cutrone, Kalinic and Silva can play in between Calhanoglu and Suso. Kalinic is back in the squad after being banished from training earlier in the month but word is Cutrone and Silva are ahead of him for the Juventus encounter.

Mar 182018
 

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The week 28 match at Genoa following the disappointing Europa League round of 16 first leg loss to Arsenal at home was somewhat underwhelming. The game was often played at a pace that made it seem the team was showing the effects of the home loss to the London team. The start given to Kalinic up front didn’t inspire much confidence, for the fans at least. Borini got a start at right back with Calabria not fully fit and Abate out injured. His presence there created some problems and Genoa saw more space down their left side. Calabria eventually came on and his introduction coincided with more freedom for Suso. In the very last action of the game the Spaniard crossed and it was headed in smartly by Andre Silva – who had come on as a sub. The players rushed to the Portuguese to congratulate him on his first Serie A goal and celebrate what looked an unlikely three points.

The focus shifted to trying to reverse 0-2 scoreline in London. The Arsenal match would be a big test for the young Milan. Refereeing decisions – a Danny Welbeck dive after Rodriguez barely made contact and a ball hitting Calum Chambers’ arm in the box but not seen or judged to be a penalty, just to name two –  and generally poor or bad luck play combined for a 3-1 loss (5-1 aggregate). Calhanoglu had opened the scoring with an excellent long ball but it was not meant to be and the loss is to, hopefully, be proven a learning experience. The team fought well but it was not a great performance. The referees only highlighted the need for improvement in their line of work.

Chievo, led by Roberto Inglese and his eight Serie A goals, come to the San Siro and Milan ‘s recent Serie A record has put the team to within touch of a top four finish. That a Champions League place is at all possible serves to show how the team has improved in 2018 but many more points are needed to achieve that. Nine games and 27 points are available till the end of the season and most of them are required. The line up looked likely to revert back to one where Kalinic starts but on Saturday the Croat was sent home after what was reported to be a training ground issue, one which made Gattuso unhappy. Silva and Cutrone got a chance in a 4-4-2 in London but it is unlikely that a similar formation will be used this weekend. Cutrone will replace Kalinic in the often used 4-3-3. Calhanoglu and Suso will start as will Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura. It is thought that Calabria may not recover from his muscle fatigue and therefore Borini is to start along Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez again. However late in the week Romagnoli was ruled out with a knock so Zapata or Musacchio will start in his place. Donnarumma was at fault for Arsenal’s second goal (scored by Granit Xhaka) but will of course start when available.

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