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.

Mar 112018
 

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Following the tragic death – in his sleep – of Davide Astori in the early hours of March 4th the week 27 Sunday matches, including the Milan derby of course, were postponed. The Fiorentina captain and former Milan youth player was 31.

The derby will take place in an as of now undetermined date. For now Milan travel to Genoa having to focus on the Serie A after a week filled with grief and a midweek game that was very disappointing. Milan started the last 16 Europa League game vs Arsenal dominating the London team but the pressure and promise soon fizzled out with virtually all of the starting 11 having an off day. Bonaventura, Kessie and Biglia gave the ball away repeatedly. The latter was responsible for two early and notable poor passes one of which led to the Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal seconds later. Passes were not completed, there was no pressing and shots were off target. The front three were ineffective and the full backs left space and made mistakes. When Suso had anything of the ball either Sead Kolasinac was there or he shot way off. Donnarumma did what he could and was beaten via a deflection for the first goal and was left all alone with Aaron Ramsey dancing in for the second. The 0-2 home loss was Milan’s first loss in 13 games.

It is believed that Gattuso will make changes for the Genoa game, how many is not known. Sadly any change in the front three likely means Kalinic starting in place of Cutrone. Borini is another candidate for a starting place and at least he has shown willingness and goal scoring ability too. In the middle Montolivo and Locatelli are alternates for Kessie and Biglia. The central defenders were the least at fault vs Arsenal and considering the alternatives should retain their place in any case. Abate and Antonelli are not fully fit. Calabria and Rodriguez must put the Arsenal game behind them. The former had shown great form before the Arsenal match and needs to continue on that path. Calabria also took a knock during the Arsenal game but looks to be available.

Genoa feature many former Milan players in Adel Taarabt, Andrea Bertolacci (on loan from Milan) and Gianluca Lapadula (also on loan). Not all three are starters but may feature some time in the game. The reverse fixture last October ended in a 0-0 tie with Bonucci red carded in the first half for a foul on Aleandro Rosi.

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