Monthly Archive: February 2018

Week 26: Roma – Milan

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Important but not spectacular 1-0 wins vs Sampdoria and Ludogorets have added to the momentum of Gattuso’s Milan. The talk of him remaining beyond the summer has become louder and will become even more so if Milan continue to do well in upcoming matches vs Roma, Inter and the next opponents in the Europa League (Arsenal). A very sound first half vs Sampdoria produced a tame penalty miss by Rodriguez and a goal by Bonaventura. In Kalinic’s absence Cutrone started and Silva came on a sub, Cutrone did well and Silva too. In midweek, with Kalinic on the bench, all three of Silva, Cutrone and Borini started up front. The latter scored the goal from a good Cutrone cross to take Milan to the next stage with a 4-0 aggregate score. The opportunity was taken to rest all of Suso, Calhanoglu, Bonucci and Biglia.

Roma provide a big test and coming before the continuing heavy schedule the pressure and fatigue is sure to be ever present. After Roma there is the second leg of the Coppa Italia semis at Lazio (0-0 first leg), Inter and with no respite the last 16 of the Europa League.

Roma lost in the Champions League midweek (2-1 at ) but Dzeko, Under, El Shaarawy up front and Alisson in goal will test and resist Gattuso and Milan.

Milan will likely revert to the more settled lineup that features Calhanoglu, Cutrone and Suso up front. Biglia, Bonaventura and Kessie in the middle and Rodriguez, Romagnoli, Bonucci and one of Abate or Calabria at the back. Gigio will return to his spot after also having a match off vs Ludogorets. The settled line up and uptick in fortunes on the pitch are in contrast to more troubling reports that owner Yonghong Li is bankrupt and in trouble at home in China. This was denied via a video message by the man himself but the saga is nowhere near cleared up.

Week 25: Milan – Sampdoria

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Beating SPAL relatively easily at 4-0 and having a similar game at Ludogorets (0-3) in the middle of the week has raised the hopes and the hype on the team and players, Cutrone in particular. The 20 year old forward is climbing up the charts of young players in world football and will need to keep a cool head.

The wins have also raised the possibility of Gattuso getting a raise and extension before the summer. This is likely a bad and unnecessary idea. Such decisions can be left for the summer.

Kalinic misses week 25 again through injury and Kessie is suspended after getting another yellow last weekend. The upcoming schedule is a hard and busy one and this week 25 game is a start of a real defining period. Donnarumma, Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez are the best Milan has at the back at the moment and as shown last week Abate is not the best option. In midfield Locatelli is perhaps off form, based on the little he has played and shown his development has either slowed or stalled, and therefore Montolivo and Biglia (along side Bonaventura) are the favorites to be the starters. Up front Cutrone seems the only option with Calhanolgu and Suso. Borini deserves a mention for another good sub appearance and goal midweek. Andre Silva could be a starter for the return game vs Ludogorets and is now in all likelihood a secondary player until the end of the season at least.

Sampdoria feature Lucas Torreira, the 22 year midfielder in demand around Europe, and 30 year old
Ivan Strinic (left back) who is a possible Bosman summer signing for Milan.

Europa League Returns And The Schedule Ahead

Milan survived the 2017-2018 Europa League group stage relatively unscathed but a lot has changed since last December. At that time Gattuso had recently replaced Montella as coach and the initial days looked as bad the ones that prompted Montella’s sacking.

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad were drawn in the round of 32, very much on the easy side of things because others like Napoli drew RB Leipzig and Atalanta drew Borussia Dortmund, just to name two other Italian teams. The upcoming home and away provide a chance to advance of course and in the next round a more high profile team is more likely. This edition of the Europa League also features teams like Lyon, Villarreal, Zenit, Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon among others.

This matchup may present another opportunity for Milan’s group stage co-leading scorer Andre Silva to get more game time but that is far from a certainty. The Portuguese is approaching a place where ‘no future at Milan’ is on some lips. Some would argue that he is young and needs more game time to grow but it is possible that, for reasons more unknown than known, it is not meant to be. The management of the team have and will insist that they believe in the player but a summer change is a not a small possibility.

Gattuso may not change much in terms of lineup and use a so called full strength team. Kalinic is almost certainly still missing through injury however and that only leaves Cutrone the most likely starter up front. However a look at the Serie A schedule ahead might give the coach some pause. Currently Milan sit in 7th position with 38 points. The next three matches are versus Sampdoria (6th, 41 points), at Roma (4th, 47), versus Inter (3rd, 48). In other words a lot of ground can be made up by taking points in the next three weeks.

Is this team capable of it of gaining ground and push for a crucial 4th place finish? Time will tell in the meanwhile Europa League provides another hurdle, showcase and possible podium. Recent weeks under Gattuso have shown improvement – the team is undefeated since last Christmas with 4 wins and 2 ties in the Serie A and a win and a tie in the Coppa – but it is arguable if it has been as good as it seems.

Week 24: SPAL 2013 – Milan

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The three game winning streak came to a halt. Week 23’s 1-1 tie at Udinese should count as a disappointment. Suso’s typically spectacular goal – shot from distance that hit the underside of the cross bar and went in – was cancelled out by a Donnarumma own goal. The own goal was an end result of poor concentration by more or less the whole team that allowed a cross which Donnarumma mishandled after Bonucci had the slightest of headers. There was also an unnecessary second yellow which had Calabria sent off. The other story of the game was a somewhat surprise start for Andre Silva. The Portuguese didn’t get much service and was not a major contributor. The young forward has becoming a talking point of the season with fans divided on if he has a future on the team or not.

Kalinic came on for the aforementioned Portuguese forward but misses this week 24 match at SPAL with a thigh problem. The likely starter becomes Cutrone, almost by default. Suso and Calhanoglu will continue to start up front. The latter has been praised by Gattuso and is now a more established Milan player. In the middle there is little change, Biglia is favourite over Montolivo and Kessie and Bonaventura remain first choice. Offering different characteristics has helped the three and the team. The back four has been more fluid due to injuries and suspensions. Rodriguez is back after both a suspension and a stomach illness. Abate will likely get the nod on the right. Donnarumma is the goalkeeper behind Bonucci and Romagnoli as usual.

SPAL are in the relegation zone and without the injured Marco Borriello. SPAL of course feature two other players familiar with Milan fans in Alberto Paloschi and Bartosz Salamon.


Week 23: Udinese – Milan

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The coincidence of playing a team twice within a week seems to happen a few too many times. So it was in this case, a weekend of meeting Lazio in the Serie A and three days later a Coppa Italia semis encounter. The league game was to be Gattuso’s first bigger test. The team (and the coach) passed the test with encouraging signs and a dominant first half that saw the team control territory and cut off most Lazio chances before they reached anywhere near Donnarumma. There was controversy with not even VAR catching Cutrone’s apparent hand goal. The typical referee bias issue overshadowed the win but the performance was one of the best in a while – with Calabria and Romagnoli in particular adding much needed solidity at the back – and the 2-1 win added hope that the coach is starting to make his mark.

The midweek Coppa game again featured Kalinic as a starter, to the disappointment of some, with a few other changes to the starting line up. The most noteworthy of the changes was the use of Borini in the left back position! The game was quiet relative to the one three days earlier. The best chance of the game was Calhanoglu missing an open goal late. The ball came to the player deep in the penalty box and he shot just high. The 0-0 tie left it all for the second leg in Rome.

Udinese are next and the Friulians are doing well being only two points behind Milan’s current 34 points. The team is coached by former Milan player Massimo Oddo and play a 3-5-2 and are very much an offensive team led by Kevin Lasagna and Maxi Lopez up front.

The Milan starting 11 will unsurprisingly feature Kalinic although there is late word of a possible Andre Silva start. That being said the case for Cutrone being a regular starter is very strong but for now it is difficult to know Gattuso’s mindset and how feels he needs to manage the busy schedule to come with Europa League matches coming up in February as well. Calhanoglu and Suso are now the other established members of front three. Kessie and Bonaventura will be in the middle with Biglia a possible starter or ofcourse Montolivo. The back four is also more or less established now however Rodriguez is missing out again. The Swiss international remains absent with illness after he missed last weekend’s game due to suspension. Donnarumma is of course in goal.