Dec 042016

Milan Crotone

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Week 14’s 4-1 win at Empoli didn’t seem a sure thing at half time, with an unimpressive first and a 1-1 score three points didn’t seem a very good possibility. Lapadula starting in place of the injured and absent (and spotted in Spain) Bacca had opened the scoring but another former Milan player, as they often do, had equalized soon after. This time it was Riccardo Saponara scoring a rare Empoli goal. As it transpired the win was comfortable in the end with Empoli dropping their resistance in the second half.

The game was not all good news as Mati Fernandez injured himself early and was joined on the injury list with Bonaventura. Both will miss this Crotone match. The former may be out longer than Bonaventura and both could miss week 16’s encounter against Roma. With the injuries adding up the midfield is now an almost mandatory trio of Locatelli, Sosa and Pasalic, with Kucka perhaps deserving the start over one of Pasalic or Sosa. Bertolacci is back to add another midfield option. Bacca is still out however.

The week’s news was once again dominated by the sale and closing saga and it seems that another delay is on the cards. The saga will likely drag on into the new year adding fuel to doubts that it is ever going to happen. The Chinese seem to have difficulty “authorizing” the cash needed to pay Fininvest. Berlusconi has insisted that the sale will go through in the end but questions seem still unanswered. In the meanwhile expectations for a the January transfer window have nosedived.

Crotone, the newly promoted team, sit tied for last place with Palermo and have not won away so far this season.

Nov 262016

Empoli Milan

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Week 13 and the latest edition of the Milan derby didn’t end the way Milan fans hoped but the point earned in the 2-2 tie is nevertheless valuable. Inter enjoyed the bulk of the possession and Milan could be faulted for sitting back a bit allowing the very late Inter tying goal. However, Suso’s value was enhanced and his two goals added to his status.

Romagnoli’s presence was missed in the derby and while declared fit he might not be risked vs the weak offence of Empoli. The Tuscan team have scored only 6 times in 13 Serie A games and only two of those at home. The low return may mean little however as players like Massimo Maccarone have a habit of raising their game vs Milan. Empoli also feature Milan owned Jose Mauri but he hasn’t featured regularly since being loaned there.

Surprisingly indications are that Montella is making other changes and rotating the squad. Bacca is an enforced one – to be replaced by Lapadula – after picking up an injury late in the derby but reports also say that the starting midfield will feature both Pasalic and Mati Fernandez in place of Kucka and Bonaventura. The latter may be pushed forward with Niang also not starting.

The back four will likely remain the same as the derby with a slight chance of Antonelli replacing De Sciglio.

Nov 192016

Milan Inter

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The win at Palermo, with Pasalic finally getting a start, was again less than impressive and again featured a spectacular goal, this time it was hardworking sub Lapadula cheekily diverting Suso’s low shot into the far corner, this after the Spaniard had opened the scoring himself. Ilija Nestorovski had tied it in between the two Milan goals and the game had been on and off at best. The importance of these three points can be highlighted when seen in direct comparison to the struggles versus similarly placed team during the 2015-2016 season. Last season Milan dropped many valuable points against the likes of Verona and Carpi. The team owes its current third placed standing to winning such games.

The latest edition of the Milan derby comes after an international break, a time when Milan often seem unprepared, whether it be due to the the layoff or the tiredness of players returning from international duty. One key member of the team who would usually be most affected by any fatigue is Bacca but in the latest installment of the break he played a grand total of 14 minutes for Colombia in their 2 games vs Argentina and Chile.

Inter started the season once again expecting more and with a new coach in Frank de Boer. Their early season games included beating Juventus, but it has been mostly downhill and de Boer hasn’t even survived the team’s downfall. Now in a somewhat underwhelming choice it is up to Stefano Piolo, he formerly of Lazio, Bologna and many others, to try to limit the damage. Perhaps of greater impact is and will be Walter Samuel joining Inter’s ‘backroom staff’.

Meanwhile Milan looks to be closing in on finally being sold to the Chinese but even this late there are questions as to who is really buying the team but it is expected to be a done deal in December. Meanwhile incoming CEO Fassone and sporting director Mirabelli seem to be preparing for the sale with the latter travelling and watching many games across Europe.

In player news Donnarumma will have Mino Raiola as his agent as soon as he turns 18. The infamous agent is already talking up his future but one thing is certain and that is Donnarumma will need to stay a Milan player and his progress will be more than welcome in many derbies to come.

Elsewhere Romagnoli is going to miss the derby after hurting his groin on international duty vs Germany but otherwise the starting 11 will likely remain predictable and that includes Bacca keeping his spot ahead of Lapadula. Suso and Niang will start up front with the Milan number 70. Kucka, Locatelli and Bonaventura will be in midfield and Abate, Paletta, Gomez and De Sciglio get the nod at the back.


Nov 062016

Palermo Milan

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Week 11 brought a sometimes lacklustre 1-0 win vs newly promoted Pescara. The win was a more than welcome three points after the massive disappointment at Genoa. Boanventura’s ‘under the wall’ freekick goal kept Milan near the top of the standings at a time when the closing of the sale to the Chinese seems very close. The sale, still shrouded in somewhat of a mystery, should be finalized by December and with it the hope of investment starting as early as January.

Many names are starting to be linked with Milan and those include a fair number of Chelsea surplus players. Fabregas is an attractive name that may be available on loan but Ivanovic would be an unwelcome addition. Interesting times are certainly ahead and with Palermo sitting 19th with five out of five home losses this is a game that almost demands three points.

Niang was set to miss the Pescara game with the flu but he ended up starting. He is almost certain to miss this game with the same flu! This should push Bonaventura forward alongside Suso and Bacca. The latter caused a mini controversy by showing, not for the first time, displeasure when being substituted in the 84th minute vs Pescara. For a day or two at the beginning of the week it seemed like the Colombian would be dropped but he is set to start. Pasalic got his Milan debut and played 28 minutes vs Pescara and did enough to earn a start alongside Locatelli and Kucka. Paletta returns from his one game suspension and should start with Romagnoli, Abate and De Sciglio.

Oct 302016

Milan Pescara

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Week 10’s 3-0 loss to Genoa was a disappointment, coming only three days after an impressive and important win against Juventus it was inevitable to wonder if the young team will be able to cope with the sudden increased hype.

As it happened a mixture of poor play and poor judgement, Paletta’s use of both feet to earn himself a red for example, contributed to a set back. All Milan fans now hold their breath and hope that it was only that, a set back, as the coach was keen to emphasis too.

Pescara visit the San Siro for week 11 and the newly promoted team of course feature Massimo Oddo as an up and coming coach. After tweaking the line up and starting Honda and Poli against Genoa it is thought that Montella would revert to the same line up that started vs Juventus, except for the suspended Paletta. However word is that Niang has a fever and may miss the game. Therefore the likeliest scenario has Bonaventura moving up to Niang’s spot and Sosa coming in either to the middle of midfield or the left side of it. This will mean Suso and Abate reclaiming their spot and Gomez starting in Paletta’s spot.

Oct 252016

Genoa Milan

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The 1-0 win vs Juventus is only 3 days old when this young team of average age around 25 has to play another important game. The wonder goal and and the three points tightened the race and the standings and has Milan only two points behind Juventus and first place. Locatelli, Donnarumma and others need to control their emotions and hype and remain disciplined. The veterans have to do the same, for example Poli who came on as a sub in the Juve game, seemed close to getting himself sent off in the short minutes he played.

Being a midweek game squad rotation is also important. Montella needs to balance the winning momentum with player management and decide who plays. Indications are that changes will be minimal and Honda may get a chance in Suso’s spot, as might Poli at fullback in Abate’s place. Calabria and Antonelli are still not available and of course Poli has played at right back before. In Suso’s case, he has played almost all minutes so far this season and is a good candidate for rotation. Zapata is back in the squad but will of course remain on the bench. Romagnoli and Paletta have done well and will keep their place.

Genoa are 12th and are coming off a derby loss to Sampdoria.

Oct 222016

Milan Juventus

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With the good result away to Chievo Milan now sit third in Serie A, level on points for second place, behind Roma. To be in third place is a good achievement and of course it is hoped the progress continues and is bolstered with new owners. Montella must take a good deal of the credit for these signs of hope and what looks to be greater metal strength. As Milan continue to be one of the younger teams, and now even younger with Locatelli a starter things are looking up.

Niang is one of those who has shown those signs of progress and his value to the team is being recognized. He will start alongside Bacca and Suso. Lapadula worked hard but missed chances in his start vs Chievo and will return to the bench. Montella will keep the same midfield trio and hope for continued improvement from Bonaventura in particular. In defence Antonelli and now Calabria will be absent so Abate and De Sciglio will continue to start. Paletta and Romagnoli have their places secured but Zapata has returned to training after a long absence.

In goal this is another chapter in the battle of veteran vs future in Gianluigi Buffon vs Donnarumma.

Juventus’ Medhi Benatia will continue to deputize for the absent Giorgio Chiellini. First placed Juventus are coming off a 1-0 away win at Lyon in the champions league and will have some other notable absentees in Mario Mandzukic and Marko Pjaca.

In the larger context a good result in this game will strengthen team morale and will mean more than any number of points in the table.


Oct 162016

Chievo Milan

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The eventful and come back win vs Sassuolo may be a turning point of the season, however the number of goals allowed have to improve for the rise in the standings to remain sustainable. The week 7 4-3 win which featured Luiz Adriano starting in place of the expected Niang changed when the latter reclaimed his spot. Bonaventura’s low long distance shot had given a good start but almost immediately after the goal an atrocious Abate mistake derailed the game and eventually Milan fell behind 1-3, to later see Abate get the captain’s arm band after Montolivo was substituted made it look even worse. Eventually a Locatelli screamer and an excellent Paletta header were highlights and produced a much desired win.

Now that Montolivo is ruled out long term after damaging knee ligaments on international duty the central midfield role falls to either Locatelli or Sosa. The former seems to be preferred at least for now. There is also late word that Lapadula will start in Bacca’s place to give the Colombian time to recuperate after a tough South American journey with his national team. The rest of the starters are likely to remain predictable with Romagnoli returning after missing out vs Sassuolo.

Chievo featuring Valter Birsa in a playmaking role have started the season well and sit above Milan on goal difference.


Oct 122016

As the sale moves or crawls forward towards a possible closing in mid November a lot is of course happening behind the scenes.

Li Yonghong

Every few days there is a whisper that the ownership group is unknown or that no one knows who is putting the money forward. It might be easy to distrust Berlusconi but this is a man who months ago declared he is entrusting the team in good hands, it seems almost outlandish that he or at least the top brass at Fininvest have no idea who is bringing the cash. As it is equally unlikely Fininvest were tricked or cheated with fake bank papers, another summer rumour.

More recently and after the Chinese, officially the Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co Ltd, appointed ex Juventus and Inter director Marco Fassone as CEO a few Milan legends began to question the new set up. The other appointee, Massimo Mirabelli, the now officially sporting director and formerly a chief scout at Inter raised additional concerns. Then began talk that the new ownership want to entice at least one Milan legend with an ‘important’ role in the new era. Demetrio Albertini was one obvious choice. The former player who left Milan to Atletico Madrid in less than best terms back in 2002 has had some experience at the Italian Football Federation and ran unsuccessfully for its leadership in 2014. Fassone was said to be talking to Alessandro Costacurta and Massimo Ambrosini too. Albertini seemed to be tapping into fan and former players concerns when he used his twitter account to take a shot at Inter, almost simultaneously talks with those former legends seemed to be going nowhere with more whispers that Paolo Maldini, too, will refuse offers unless he sees clear plans.

Albertini's Twitter

Albertini And Others React To New Management?

As time moved forward rumours of former player discontent seemed to rule them out one by one and this culminated on the 11th of October when Maldini released a statement via facebook and officially refused to join the new management team. He cited a lack of certainty, ambiguous ownership structure and unclear hierarchy between himself, Fassone and Mirabelli as reasons.

It is disappointing to see public noise by former players and legends, one can’t help wonder why they have been so public about the process. It is conceivable that all the talk could be more private and only the final decision made public. It may also be prudent to not publicly undermine this new era this early in its evolution. Of course this is coming out of deep affection for the team but that love needs to give the new management time too. Some players keep insisting that they “can’t imagine a Milan with Berlusconi”, this list most recently includes Gianluca Zambrotta, Serginho and Rui Costa, but they must imagine it, it is that same man that has insisted on leaving the team in more capable hands. It may also be better if players like Maldini do join the new set up and help influence it and make it succeed even if there isn’t the clearest of plans at the very beginning, now.

In the meanwhile the closing is at the very least one month away and before then the ownership group needs to travel to Milan to meet and formalize remaining issues and show themselves too. But before long focus must shift to the pitch and squad enforcements, those include finding a Montolivo replacement. The midfielder damaged his knee ligaments playing for the Azzurri and will not be available until very late in the season. Montella will look internally and Sosa or Locatelli will remain in the running for the central midfield role deep into the January transfer window.

Oct 022016

Milan Sassuolo

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The week six tie away at Fiorentina featured Calabria and De Sciglio as full backs, the majority consensus was that both struggled to some degree and Fiorentina were able to exploit width to their advantage. The end result however was a 0-0 tie and the game showed signs of promise as well. In another sign of progress the tie was the third clean sheet in a row.

Despite coming on as a substitute Antonelli is back on the injury list but Abate is likelier to reclaim his lost spot from Calabria with De Sciglio starting on the left again.

Sassuolo’s injury problems are bigger with Domenico Berardi and Stefano Sensi among those set to miss out, Alessandro Matri might not be able to start as well.

The forward line is likely to remain  unchanged with Niang, Bacca and Suso playing in front of Boneaventura, Montolivo and Kucka.

Another solid outing would go a long way towards what is hoped to be the closing of the sale next month. Galliani has once again implied as much, speaking late in the week he has said that everything ends.

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