Jul 292020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
46
Gabbia
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan faced Atalanta without a full team. Conti and Romagnoli out injured and Theo and Bennacer on yellow accumulation suspensions. The replacements didn’t all have good games. Gabbia and in particular Biglia didn’t shine and the latter’s performance only served to confirm that he will leave on a Bosman after the season. Laxalt and Calabria did have good moments but all in all a 1-1 tie with an offensive powerhouse riding high in the standings was a good result. Calhanoglu continued his good form to open the scoring and the soon to sign an extension Donnarumma saved a Ruslan Malinovsky penalty. It is worth noting that VAR remains a farce in particular when it comes to hand balls.

The final two matches will settle the 5th, 6th and 7th spots for the 2019-2020 season. The difference between these rankings is how early the teams enter the Europa League. Seventh means earlier and more (qualifying ) games. Fifth means direct entry into the Europa League group stage. With Roma four points ahead finishing fifth is now unlikely. The battle for 6th and 7th will be between Milan and Napoli. Milan host Cagliari on the last match day. Napoli – currently one point behind Milan – lost their week 37 match to Inter and will host Lazio on the last day.

With Theo and Bennacer back the team is in better shape to face Sampdoria. Donnarumma, Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Kessie will form the defensive unit in the 4-2-3-1. The front line is expected to remain unchanged as Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibrahimovic will try to finish the season as strongly as it has gone since the restart.

The hosts – featuring Andrea Bertolacci – have lost their last two games, before it they had won three in a row.

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 Posted by on July 29, 2020
Jul 242020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
46
Gabbia
93
Laxalt
79
Kessié
20
Biglia
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Week 35’s 2-1 at Sassuolo was overshadowed by big news off the pitch. On the night the match was being played it was revealed that the idea or deal to have Ralf Rangnick take over was off, this was immediately confirmed and Pioli’s good work immediately rewarded with an extension. The news was surprising and time will tell if it is correct to keep the status quo in Pioli. Certainly the team is a different one since the lockdown was lifted but Milan needs more than just a good 10 or so games span. The quality of the matches have improved and the 4-2-3-1 has suited many of the 11 and perhaps more importantly the team is stronger mentally (Ibra effect?) but fundamental changes are still needed to shape the team beyond match days and beyond 2020.

The more immediate concern after Ibra’s week 35 brace is who will play in the remaining three matches of this season. The three matches will take place in a nine day span and Romagnoli won’t take part in them. The captain limped off early at Sassuolo and won’t be ready before the season is done. Conti was injured too and will miss an unknown number of days. Hernandez and Bennacer got yellows to get themselves suspended for week 36. This handicaps the team, at least for the Atalanta game. The defense might not even have Kjaer because the veteran Dane is not 100% with muscle fatigue. This leaves Calabria, Gabbia and Laxalt as the only fit members of the back line. Biglia will likely start in Bennacer’s spot to play along side Kessie and the front four will be Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibra. Castillejo is very close to a return however. Donnarumma – still only 21 – played his 200th game at Sassuolo and wore the armband after Romagnoli left the pitch. A contract extension is near and the goalie looks to stay at Milan for at least another two seasons.

Atalanta are Serie A’s high flying team. Gian Piero Gasperini has become a much celebrated coach in getting his team to the latter stages of the Champions League and having them sitting in second place and just six points behind Juventus. The Bergamo team have scored 21 goals more than any other team so far this season.

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 Posted by on July 24, 2020
Jul 222020
 

A lot happened on July 21 2020 in Milan land. A brief summary below:

Milan beat Sassuolo 2-1 away at the Mapei Stadium. Ibra scored a brace and Calhanoglu assisted on both goals. The game featured a Francesco Caputo penalty after a Calhanoglu hand ball in the box. The referee had to use the monitor to confirm the accidental hand ball. The hand ball rule remains a farce.
Yellows for Theo and Bennacer mean that they will both miss the Atalanta week 36 match. Conti and Romagnoli left the pitch with injuries and are doubts for the match as well. Especially since the match is only three days away.
As the game was underway news arrived that Ralf Rangnick is not taking over Milan and the team agreed that Pioli’s good work that has the team unbeaten since the restart deserves a continuation. An extension was announced soon after the Rangnick report was confirmed. Pioli has his contract extended until June 2022. The likelihood that Maldini stays at Milan is now higher, so is Ibra’s possible stay. One must wonder how Boban feels about this. This will also have repercussions on the incoming market as players like Dominik Szoboszlai are widely seen as Rangnick choices.

 Posted by on July 22, 2020
Jul 212020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
12
Conti
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan keep on surprising. The team’s form since the restart remains a source of optimism and has led to calls for Pioli to stay. The not so secret Rangnick take over is questioned daily and every additional point makes a stronger case for Pioli. However it is perhaps wise to remember that the reason Milan needs a real revolution goes beyond current form and dates back to as far back as 2007.

Beating Bologna 5-1 at the San Siro is another step towards the Europa League and some form of respectability. Five different players scored in the win including Calabria and Bennacer, his first at Milan. The tactics and the flow of the game were refreshing. The attitude of the team after being up was even better. Rebic continued his goal scoring form and Calhanoglu had another good game. Saelemaekers opened the scoring and did well too. The Belgian is playing in a spot that would be Suso’s. The Spaniard converted his Sevilla loan to a permanent five year deal and Milan gained a very FFP valuable €24 million in the process. The table has Milan at 7th and more is needed from the last four games to avoid the qualifying stages of the Europa League.

There is little surprise expected in the starting 11 as Donnarumma – who happens to be close to a contract extension – will start in goal with Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli and Hernandez in front of him. Kessie and Bennacer will sit in front of the back four. The former’s value has risen a lot in recent weeks as he keeps playing well without rest. The front four looks to remain unchanged with Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibra starting. Five starters are one yellow away from suspension. Romagnoli, Kjaer, Bennacer, Rebic and Hernandez all risk missing the match versus Atalanta.

Sassuolo haven’t lost since the first post resumption game and sit one place and eight points behind Milan. Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and co are in good form and can stall Milan’s winning form.

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 Posted by on July 21, 2020
Jul 182020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan remained unbeaten since Serie A’s resumption. Few expected this Milan to do this well and be on a 5 wins 2 ties and 0 losses in a schedule that has included Juventus, Lazio, Roma and Napoli. The current streak has raised the chances of Europa League next season but Roma and Napoli are still ahead in the race for automatic and non-qualifying spots of the competition.

Milan made another come back to beat Parma 3-1. Kjaer, Kessie and most of the 11 have been playing well and surprising some. Pioli, working under the shadow of a likely Rangnick take over, has helped the squad grow and more importantly not buckle after falling behind. Changes need to and will happen before next season starts but some players are showing good signs although consistency is still lacking. This hectic schedule is tiring and that is probably a factor in some of the less than great individual performances.

The same schedule forces the coach to make some changes. Although Milan’s starting 11 has been relatively stable and some rest has been provided within the new five substitutes per match rule.

Romagnoli, Kjaer and Theo will play when available. Conti is the preferred right back option but Calabria will need to play some minutes and games. Kessie and Bennacer have played well but Bigila started vs Parma mostly as a rest for Bennacer. The front four of the 4-2-3-1 is likely to remain close to constant with other starts and minutes accounting for rest and injuries. Paqueta is out with a knock and this allows Calhanoglu and Rebic to play alongside of Saelemaekers and behind Ibra. Castillejo is a few days away from a return so the options are limited for this game vs the Mihajlovic led Bologna.

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 Posted by on July 18, 2020
Jul 122020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
12
Conti
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
39
Paquetá
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Following the surprising and encouraging come back win versus Juventus Milan face a direct rival for fifth place in the standings. Napoli have been in excellent form and won the Coppa Italia right after calcio resumed.

Beating Juventus 4-2 after being down by two is very unexpected and results like it have become rare in recent seasons. Ibra (via penalty) started come back and Kessie, Leao and Rebic finished off the league leaders. Milan had more direct shuts on goal and managed to hold off Juventus.

For this match Calhanoglu makes a return to the starting 11 and lines up behind Ibra with Rebic and Paqueta. The rest of the 11 are constant with Bennacer and Kessie who have impressed in front of Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli and Theo, with Donnarumma in goal.

Napoli are full strength and David Ospina is starting in goal for this Milan encounter.

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 Posted by on July 12, 2020
Jul 042020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
12
Conti
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
5
Bonaventura
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Week 29 was a squandered chance. Dropping points against a team at the bottom of the table is not new for Milan but it is always a lost opportunity. SPAL did not look comfortable on the ball or show much at all but the Milan 11 once again showed toothlessness and lack of ideas and penetration. The hectic schedule and knocks meant some changes but Gabbia and Calabria struggled and only Paqueta showed some form and motivation. In light of all this SPAL were the one to open the scoring. A corner pinballed in the box and was finally shot in by Mattia Valoti. Almost immediately after Castillejo had to limp off with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Saelemaekers. The pattern did not change and it was 38 years old Sergio Floccari who scored next. He doubled SPAL’s lead with a great looping ball over Donnarumma. VAR disallowed a Calhanoglu goal as Rebic was judged to have been offside in the build up. A life line was given when Marco D’Alessandro’s yellow was changed to a red after the referee reviewed his tackle on Theo. The second half was therefore available for Milan to tie or even get the three points. Leao and later Ibra were brought on but little changed. The sub did score when a low cross got to him and he beat Karlo Letica in SPAL’s goal. The game did seemed destined for a 2-1 loss until Francesco Vicari diverted a late cross into his own net.

A point at SPAL makes the subsequent games even more important if European football is on the cards. The schedule gets very difficult with Lazio the week 30 opponent.

Lazio are missing Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo through suspension. If this is to turn out to be a positive for Milan it depends wholly on the 11 players starting. The surprise title challengers will not be easy to beat of course but the absences do take away a big portion of Lazio’s firepower.

Conti and Kjaer are expected to reclaim their spots on the right of Theo and Romagnoli. Bannacer and Kessie are to remain starters but further up Castillejo’s absence will force a change. The Spaniard could be back soon but further tests will be done in about a week. Saelemaekers, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu will be behind Ibra. Ibra playing for a tired Rebic could be expected but Paqueta’s absence as he was gaining form is disappointing.

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 Posted by on July 4, 2020
Jul 012020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
46
Gabbia
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
7
Castillejo
39
Paquetá
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
Substitutes

The 2-0 win vs Roma was an important win, the three points are just as important as the fact that Milan beat a team above them in the standings. Almost as importantly was that the performence improved as the match went on. The first half was lackluster and the team was unable to create much. Paqueta and Saelemaekers came on early in the second and injected some variation and energy and Roma eventually ran out of gas. Milan’s first goal was made possible by a bad Zappacosta back pass. Rebic pounced on the ball and scored after a couple of rebounds. For Milan’s second Theo’s speed forced Chris Smalling to make contact in the box and Calhanoglu converted the penalty.

To be able to finish the season by early August the fixture list is busy and games will be played every three or five days. This and the summer weather will force more than the usual rotation. Playing the bottom placed team is making it easier for Pioli to make some changes in the starting 11. Ibra is back from injury and is available for selection.

Calabria comes in for Conti and Gabbia for Kjaer, further up Paqueta replaces Bonaventura. The rest of the 11 is the same as week 28 but there were some expectations that Saelemaekers would be given a start. Perhaps he and Ibra could get some minutes in the second half.

SPAL are now coached by former Italy U21 coach Luigi di Biagio after firing their long time coach, Leonardo Semplici, in February. Sitting in last place the Emilia-Romagna team are almost certainly going down.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 1, 2020
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