Dec 302017
 

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The last game of the first half of the 2017-2018 Serie A season comes with Milan sitting 11th in the table, few imagined this to be the case after the massive spending in the summer. Failures, mistakes and lack of belief have led to one coach being sacked and the second struggling just as much. Week 18 featured Milan losing at home 0-2 to an Atalanta side punching above their weight for the second consecutive season. The crisis around individual players, the tactical choices and ownership all continue to swirl. Midweek’s better showing vs Inter in the Coppa Italia has given everybody a slight reprieve. The Coppa game had the team showing more resilience and displaying a more compact shape. Even that better showing against an Inter side in a mini losing streak of their own needed an extra time goal – scored by Cutrone after Kalinic limped off injured and was replaced. The teenager took his chance, unlike the Croatian.

The line up will need to be different as the aforementioned Kalinic and Abate are nursing minor injuries and are not available for this match. Antonio Donnarumma who deputized for his teenage brother and Storari on a last minute basis will cede back the goalkeeping duties to Gigio. Calabria is likely to take up Abate’s spot along side Romagnoli, Bonucci and Rodriguez. Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura will form the middle three in an unnecessary change from the Coppa match. Biglia did well enough vs Inter. Up front Cutrone will start alongside Borini and Suso in another unnecessary change as Bonaventura playing further up seems a better choice than Borini in the left wing spot.

Fiorentina come into this game having earnt only two points more than Milan so far this season. Led by Cyril Thereau, Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa the Tuscan team have however not lost in seven Serie A games but were knocked out of the Coppa – by Lazio – in midweek.

Dec 232017
 

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Following the week 17 humiliation of losing 3-0 to 19th placed Verona the team went into ritiro, a retreat where the players spend all day together free of distractions. One is entitled to question if such a tactic works on millionaire players at all, nevertheless the team needs to find ways to win and not react poorly to set backs. Verona’s first goal was somewhat unlucky but the team did not react positively after conceding it. The retreat caused plenty of controversy and words written by various papers, ultimately this season is likely lost as catching the top 4 (and Champions League football next season) is even less likely than it was before week 17.

One question is not only if the ritiro will have an effect but if the tactics on the pitch will be good enough and implemented well. The predicted line ups by newspapers such as Gazzetta list Kalinic as a starter. Ritiro or not there is little reason to have confidence in the Croat finding his scoring shoes. Not for the first time this season experts and fans are entitled to ask ‘Why not Cutrone?’ if Kalinic does start. With Suso suspended after his red at the final whistle vs Verona Gattuso may use Calhanoglu as a nominal left winger and switch Borini to right wing. Cutrone may get one of those spots and it is almost certainly a better option. The midfield may or may not remain the same, Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura are the most likely starters again with an outside chance of seeing Biglia in the middle and Montolivo replacing Kessie. Romagnoli is suspended as well, for an accumulation of yellows, and Zapata is the leading candidate to take his place.

Atalanta are not the same team as Verona of course and on paper this is a much harder match. Led by Josip Ilicic and former Milan midfielder Bryan Cristante Atalanta are doing almost as well as last season’s surprising 4th placed finish.

Dec 172017
 

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Just three days after defeating (3-0) Verona in a Coppa Italia encounter Milan travel to Verona for a re-match. Serie A is a different proposition of course but Verona’s position in the table, 19th after week 16, should on paper make it one of the easier games of the season. Conversely Milan’s recent record against lowly teams is nothing to be happy about therefore this match is anything but easy.

After a very rough start with one point taken from Benevento in the league and Rijeka in the Europa League the team has looked better. Gattuso’s switch to 4-3-3 seems to have coincided with a more direct and more active game. Two wins vs Bologna and Verona have looked somewhat encouraging and there is some room for optimism.

Cutrone’s reputation grows everytime he plays and the 19 year old was one of the stars of the Coppa match vs Verona. It seems however that he will not start in the league. Whether this is a good rotation policy or not is debatable, Montella frustrated everybody by changing the team often and perhaps it is unwise for Gattuso to do the same. Time will tell.

The aforementioned front three is likely to feature Suso, Kalinic and Borini. The middle three is confirming Biglia’s poor form with Montolivo again the most likely player with Kessie and Bonaventura around him. The back four should consist of Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Calabria may be picked ahead of Abate. Musacchio seems confined to the bench, for much the same reasons as his Argentine compatriot in midfield.

Gigio Donnarumma was the subject of an ‘insulting’ banner vs Verona as the war of words between his agent and the management flared up again. There is word that Mino Raiola will try to find a destination for the goalkeeper especially since the team is struggling and may need to sell players, this has been denied of course but most fans are rightly frustrated that this is still an issue after a big contract was agreed upon mere months ago. Many rightly argue that Donnarumma should fire his agent as a statement of intent of his desire to stay and fully concentrate on the pitch.

Dec 142017
 

The Milan derby is of course one of the biggest in the world football. The rivalry is magnified at least partly because the stadium is shared. The San Siro, which opened in 1926 and now with a modern capacity of 80,000, has been the subject of several plans by one of Inter or Milan with the aim of being the sole owner, or the two teaming up and renovating it, meaning they will take control of it from the city of Milan. However it turns out in the future the fact that the two teams share it – and have their ultras in the curva nord and curva sud – has served to enhance the rivalry.

The Derby della Madonnina, named for the famous statue of Virgin Mary in the city of Milan, first started in 1908 not long after Inter had broken off and formed the new team. Milan won that first derby 2-1. The 1960s featured a few famous matches – the two teams led by with Gianni Rivera on one side and Sandro Mazzola on the other and coached by Nereo Rocco and Helenio Herrera – made the encounters more famous The 80’s brought more success for Milan and the Serie A was propelled into a major league attracting the biggest stars due in big part to the money of the likes of Berlusconi and Moratti family. Both teams signed and fielded star studded teams. Italy show casing itself with the 1990 World Cup further assisted.

The Milan teams and the league itself have faded in the 21st century and the stadium it is a matter of time one team moves out. Beyond the next few years the rivalry and status of the derby is unlikely to diminish but the history of it will always be the main highlight.

Some notable derby wins for Milan include the famous 6-0 win on May 11th 2001 with goals from Gianni Comandini (2) and Andriy Shevchenko (2), Federico Giunti and Serginho. Andriy Shevchenko is the all time Milan derby top scorer with 14 goals, one ahead of Giuseppe Meazza who, though mainly an Inter star, played and scored for both teams.

Below are the head to head statistics that highlight the Milan and Inter rivalry.

Total matches
Milan wins
Ties
Inter wins
189
62
57
70

In addition to the Milan derby an infographic that was produced by Betfair football odds is included. The infographic features various derbies that have current and past history in England.

(click for full size)
Football Derbies

 

Dec 102017
 

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Gattuso’s reign as Milan coach has started as poorly as it can. Points lost courtesy of a last minute goal conceded to Benevento and an abject loss to Rijeka in the Europa League game have served to add another air of crisis for Milan. The questions regarding the sale and ownership – including a rumour of Saudi billionaire involvement – and UEFA’s position regarding the Financial Fair Play and health of the team have made for another period of frustration for Milan and its fans.

Bologna visit the San Siro having not lost in 3 games and feature former Milan youth player, Simone Verdi, as the team’s leading scorer. The bigger issue however is if Gattuso can right the ship and use the best 11 at his disposal. The much talked about and used back three might be abandoned for this match at least. A return to a 4-3-3 is on the cards. One can hope that a stable line up can be found and the sometimes needless changes that Montella was guilty of can be left in the past.

The 4-3-3 – if it indeed happens – is likely to feature Abate, Mussachio, Bonucci and Rodriguez at the back. The midfield will probably feature Montolivo in the middle as Biglia has often disappointed this season. Kessie and Bonaventura are the other likely starters. Andre Silva and Cutrone were ineffective midweek vs Rijeka and Andre Silva was specifically singled out by Gattuso and as of this point it seems just as unlikely as ever that he will picked ahead of Kalinic. Suso, Kalinic and Borini are therefore the more likely candidates for the front three.

Dec 032017
 

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The season of disappointment continued with more points dropped in the 0-0 tie vs Torino at the San Siro. Starting both Andre Silva and Kalinic did not produce any improvements and Montella was rightfully and expectedly fired. Rino Gattuso, he of the primavera, was swiftly appointed in his place. Interim or otherwise appointing another ex-player with limited experience is risky. At least the expectation will be low, based on recent history at least.

Milan travel to Benevento for match day 15, the promoted team has zero wins and zero ties in the first 14 games of the season and has scored 6 goals total in the Serie A. Needless to say anything but a win is a deep disappointment and embarrassment.

A lot has been written in the few day since Gattuso’s appointment. Besides the aforementioned limited experience and little success as a coach the issue at hand is the formation and tactics. It is pretty clear that character and grit, conveyed through the coach’s own history and temperament, are not enough to push Milan into the top 4. In his introduction Gattuso was quick to point out that he has coaching credentials (of course) and won’t rely on character alone.

Team observers have been trying to get a feel of the coach’s preferred tactics. In these early days the line up is predicted to be a 3-4-3 with the players that get to start more or less the same 11 as the week(s) before. Various sources point to a back three of Bonucci, Romagnoli and Musacchio or Zapata. In the middle Borini or Abate with Montolivo, Kessie and Rodriguez. Up front Suso, Kalinic and Bonaventura. If this is indeed the starting 11 then Gattuso needs to impart his own stamp on it because a very similar line up had looked decidedly average during Montella’s reign.

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