Mar 302019
 

The international break following the 2-3 derby loss was dominated by stadium talk and the Kessie – Biglia incident on the bench during the derby. The two players had to be held apart for something that is not fully explained. Gattuso talked of it as a second defeat – besides the derby loss itself of course.  Squad unity and discipline is highly regarded by Gattuso, perhaps even too much, and he has since talked to the players and the team has fined Kessie for the incident. The team needs to move forward, improve and fight the “10 finals” to the end of the season.

The stadium issue seems to have shifted focus to a shared solution, a new shared stadium and not the San Siro itself. A fully and solely owned stadium is likely beyond the financial means of most owners but it is surely a better solution if the team is to maximize its value and revenue. Elliott and future owners must attempt to build and not share. However, there are still many (municipal) hurdles to jump over before a final decision.

The derby itself was disappointing. Inter broke out of their recent woes and were far more dynamic and quick in possession. Perisic and co still without Icardi attacked Milan on numerous occasions, Matias Vecino attacked between the lines while Paqueta, Kessie and the whole defense looked on and soon Milan buckled. Bakayoko scored his first Milan goal and gave hope in the second half. Later a handful of close chances were missed and near the final whistle an unlikely tie was one or two yards away.

Sampdoria, five places behind Milan, host this week 29 encounter. The Liguria team has scored and conceded many goals this season. Fabio Quagliarella is leading the Serie A top scorers list and at 36 earned a return to the Azzurri line up.

Milan are expected to use a somewhat predictable starting 11 but Kessie is likely to give way to Biglia. Bakayoko’s much improved form has made the calls for a permanent transfer from Chelsea louder and lining up with Biglia and Paqueta has the makings of a more solid middle three. The latter scored his debut selecao goal during the international break, vs Panama and may be rested for this match. Suso will need to break out of his slump as he is retaining his up front spot alongside Piatek and either of Calhanoglu or Castillejo despite a very poor run of form, but then again Gattuso is a loyal to a fault kind of coach.

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Mar 172019
 

It is time for another edition of the Milan derby, aka Derby della Madonnina. This derby comes at a time when Milan are riding a somewhat unexpected winning streak. The team have won 5 in a row and last lost in the Serie A back in December. The wins have not been all high quality and neither was the 2-1 win away at bottom placed Chievo. The week 27 win was achieved by a strong performance and a nice free kick goal courtesy of Biglia. The Argentinian had recently returned from injury and was giving Bakayoko a night off. Piatek scored the winner after Perparim Hetemaj had equalized for the hosts. The win allowed Milan to stay ahead of Inter and get one week closer to a top four, or indeed top three, finish. 

The still Icardi less Inter come into the derby on a more losing note than earlier in the season. Their former captain was stripped of the armband back in February and is out of the team, officially due to knee issues, but the bigger issue is the drama that was triggered after he and his wife/agent criticized his teammates and team. This has handicapped Inter as they are dependent on Lautaro Martinez for goals. However, others like Perisic are capable of punishing teams and in a derby they are likely to step up with a bigger performances. On a further low point midweek saw Inter dumped out of the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt in what was a home loss and poor outing.

As mentioned Milan haven’t been firing on all cylinders. The recent record may suggest otherwise but players like Suso have been in poor form and need to do better if the team is to remain in the hunt for Champions League places. There is now a small cushion with fifth placed and now Claudio Ranieri coached Roma losing their week 28 game to SPAL.

Line up changes are not likely as Gattuso made minimal changes for Chievo and will revert to his regular 11 for the derby. The squad is healthy and the starting 11 is predictable with Calhanoglu and Piatek lining up with the aforementioned Spaniard. Bakayoko, Kessie and Paqueta will try to outshine Marcelo Brozovic, Matteo Politano and co in Inter’s midfield. Rodriguez returns from a one match suspension and replace Laxalt on the left of Romagnoli and Musacchio. Conti struggled vs Chievo so Calabria is the safer option on the right of defense. Donnarumma has raked up a solid number of clean sheets and has been reliable and some times spectacular this season. The goalkeeper might be in line for an even richer contract than his last.

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Mar 092019
 

Week 26’s 1-0 win against Sassuolo was far from impressive, the San Siro visitors controlled the midfield better than their midtable position and form (only two wins since the start of December) might indicate. Stefano Sensi in midfield and Jeremie Boga did well and pushed back Milan on numerous occasions. The goal was credited as a Pol Lirola own goal but Musacchio was closest and had a part in diverting the ball towards the goal. In the second half the Sassuolo goalie was red carded. Andrea Consigli misjudged the bounce of the ball and made light contact with Piatek just outside of the box as the Polish striker was about to run past him towards the wide open goal. Gattuso would be criticized for adapting a defensive mode despite being one man up and inviting pressure instead of going for a second goal. The three points mattered most and along with another Inter hiccup Milan found themselves third in the table.

Milan now visit last placed Chievo a week before the derby. The predicted lineup features a few changes perhaps in part due to the tougher tasks ahead. There is also an enforced absence because Rodriguez got a late yellow vs Sassuolo. Laxalt is expected to start in his place. Conti, Musacchio and Romagnoli will line up alongside the Uruguayan. In the middle Bakayoko is expected to give way to the returning from injury Biglia. Up front the underperforming Suso will retain his spot. By now Gattuso has shown that he will stick with players through rough patches. Borini or Castillejo could start in Calhanoglu’s usual spot on the left of Piatek as Cutrone find minutes hard to come by for now.

Chievo have a sole win this season and are led by another 23 years old Pole in Mariusz Stepinski. Sergio Pellissier, the long time leader of the team is out through injury.

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Mar 022019
 

While Suso was serving a one match ban for accumulated yellows Castillejo started in right wing and delivered a man of the match performance. The week 25 3-0 win vs Empoli featured a goal and an assist for the Spanish wide man. The assist was a good hard working play which led to a rare Kessie chipped ball good finish. Castillejo’s goal was another good play and was assisted by Conti who was starting in Calabria’s spot. Piatek had opened the scoring and the final score was Milan’s third game in a row  scoring three goals.

Midweek arrived and the Coppa Italia semis first leg was a mediocre performance with Suso, back in his usual spot, playing another poor game. The 0-0 tie could also be classified as a borefest. However, in the bigger context it is perhaps a good result and sets the stage for the return game in April at the San Siro.

The Coppa game had one other change with Borini giving Calhanoglu the night off. Calhanoglu is set to return to the starting line up for this game vs Sassuolo. There were whispers of a healthy Biglia grabbing a starting spot but it seems that Gattuso will stick to his preferred middle three and have Kessie with Bakayoko and Paqueta. Suso and the aforementioned Calhanoglu will partner Piatek for a chance to leapfrog Inter for third spot. The still Icardi-less Inter lost to Cagliari and have presented Milan with an opportunity to grab a more favorable Serie A position with two weeks to go to the derby.

Sassuolo sit at midtable and of course feature Manuel Locatelli. The once highly touted Milan midfielder has spoken of his time at Milan and frustrations at being something like a Messi when scoring but criticized as soon as not. Many Milan fans fondly recall his goal vs Juventus in 2016 and his departure is still a question mark to some, but the team have almost certainly moved on.

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