Feb 282021
 

Ultimately and to some surprise Romagnoli was benched and Tomori got the start. Roma’s defense was also in something of a changed state with Bryan Cristante a starter. Chris Smalling, Davide Santon, Edin Dzeko and others made up a big Roma injury list.
A Roma half chance very early on threatened but it was Milan who had chances to score. First Tomori knocked the ball in from a corner scramble but he was offside then Ibra almost pounced on Pau Lopez mistake but backheeled the ball just wide. Within 9 minutes another goal was disallowed for offside too. This time on a counter Rebic ran and beat the Roma defenders, instead of shooting himself he passed to a just offside Ibra.
The initial flurry settled but another good chance arrived and Kjaer ht the cross bar straight from a corner. Right after that Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored and it was Roma’s turn to have a disallowed goal, for an elbow on back of Theo’s head.
The game remained 0-0 but could have been as much as 4-2. A goal finally came. VAR and pitch side monitor review awarded a penalty to Milan for a stamp on Calabria’s ankle just inside the box. Kessie convert as cool as he always has.
The second half had Diaz coming on for Hakan and minutes later Leao for Ibra. The Swede had been uncomfortable for most of the game. It also featured an early missed chance, again. Theo shot wide when he could have at least tested Pau Lopez. It was roma who tied soon after, lacklustre marking and defending just out side of the box allowed Jordan Veretout to shoot hard and well to beat Donnarumma. But Milan answered, a poor Pau Lopez clearance was pounced upon and two quick passes found Rebic who made a good turn and beat the Roma goalkeeper.
Rebic signalled that he had injured his left and came off for Krunic. The injuries were starting to pile on already.
At the 70th minute Stephan El Shaarawy, back at his second spell at Roma, came on as a sub as Roma tried to create more.
A bit later Roma had a penalty shout when Mkhitaryan and Theo tangled in the box but that would have been a weak call if given. Milan had one too when Karsdrop made contact with Leao running inside the box.
The game ended with a few more yellows and an important 2-1 win.
What this means about Romagnoli’s place in the starting 11? Time will tell but Tomori was one of the best players on the pitch.

 Posted by on February 28, 2021
Feb 282021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
23
Tomori
24
Kjær
19
Hernandez
8
Tonali
79
Kessié
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Whether a full blown crisis or not the season is likely at a crossroads. Winless in four games in all competitions with zero goals from open play is not what many expected just weeks ago. There has been a downturn in form and points picked up in the last month or two but the regression has accelerated and Milan have ceded first place to an in form Inter.

Romagnoli’s sometimes shocking and often poor defending has led to questions not often asked about captains. The armband has of course made the issue more sensitive. His lack of pace and stand offish ‘marking’ has been deeply exposed and it is not only against physical and big attackers like Romelu Lukaku either. The rest of the defensive line have of course regressed as well as has the shape of the team when the opposition brings the ball to Milan. Kessie has been overused and while still standing tall can not be not tired. Bennacer’s injuries haven’t helped and without him something is lost in the good use of the ball when Milan regains possession. Leao and Rebic have been nominally useless versus recent opposition, opposition that has included beatable teams like Red Star Belgrade. Tonali is hard to make a judgement on, the young Italian seems to be progressing but doesn’t seem to be comfortable in a double pivot with sometimes dual offensive and defensive roles.

So what can be done besides motivation to get a much talked about response? Pioli claims the issue is tactical and not physical exhaustion but the coach hasn’t done enough to tweak or adjust. In fact a case can be made that Pioli is exhibiting a, common in coaches, stubborn trait. One such change would be dropping the captain the captain in favour of Tomori, these calls may or may not be heeded for this match at Roma but the other 10 players must step up as well. Leao more active on the pitch, Rebic better control of the ball, Hakan more intelligent ball choices are just three seemingly obvious other improvements that must occur.

Elsewhere on the pitch Ibra hasn’t had much to work with and hasn’t seen that much of the ball but his concentration must remain on the task at hand. Theo has been getting many minutes and has lost a step or two of his now famous electric pace. If the left back finds it again Milan’s chances of retaining a near top spot will be that much better.

Roma sit five points behind Milan and have an injury list that includes Edin Dzeko. The capital team have fared better than Milan recently but are not a model of consistency.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 28, 2021
Feb 252021
 

Somewhat unexpected start for Dalot but otherwise mostly predictable almost B team to start the game at the San Siro. Calabria and Calhanoglu started but Kjaer, Ibra and of course Hernandez did not.
Before much action Milan opened the scoring. A Krunic shot hit the defender’s arm from relative close range and a penalty was given. Kessie calmly converted to make the aggregate score 3-2 for Milan.
Red Star did possess more of the ball in the minutes after the goal and won several corners. In the 19th minute the ball went into Milan’s goal from one fo the corners but it had hit the arm of the player before, it was ruled out.
in the 22nd minute a freekick grazed the bar and Milan had another escape.
The escape didn’t last long. Once again Romagnoli stood off an attacker when the ball was lost in midfield and allowed the attacker to shoot and beat Donnarumma into the far side.
A very good chance finally arrived in the 37th minute when a low cross found an open Dalot. The left back failed to beat Milan Borjan with a good amount of space and open goal.
Ibra and Rebic came on out for the second half in Leao and Krunic’s place. Rebic had a good chance in the 53rd minute but the ball went wide.
Little positive was created and Ibra was on the verge getting frustrated as wasd Pioli on the sideline.
Saelemaekers and Hernandez came on for Castillejo and Calabria respectively in the 65th minute.
Moments later it was Red Star who came close to taking the lead, off of a freekick as Donnarumma saved well from a close up Junior Sanogo shot and Marko Gobeljic missed the rebound. Moments later the latter provided an opening for Milan earning a second yellow. Somewhat harsh but Milan were up a man.
Milan came close soon after when Saelemaekers shot the ball in but Ibra was offside in the cross. Ibra seemed to be strolling on the pitch and on few occasions didn’t attempt to move on side.
Some expected a response in this game, nothing of the sort arrived, The 11 looked tired and incapable when one man up.
The game finished 1-1 and Milan made it to the next round on away goals but the questions remained.

 Posted by on February 25, 2021
Feb 252021
 

The first leg of this round of 32 matchup with Red Star wasn’t something to write home about. Red Star seemed very open and vulnerable at the back but Milan didn’t take full advantage of it for much of the 90. Attacking them down the middle always hinted at trouble for the hosts but as the match went Milan didn’t or wasn’t able to exploit it. Several starters were rested, as well as they should have, but the nominal superiority only resulted in a tie. Red Star’s very late equalizer was also a demostration of modern football’s march towards complexity and unnecessary complications of the offside rule.

Milan start the return in Milan by having added a couple of players to the injured list. Bennacer hurt his leg muscle during the first leg and won’t be available and Mandzukic is out as well. The idea will likely remain to rest as many possible for this match too. Ibra and Kjaer are likely to have another day off and possibly be joined by the likes of Rebic and Tonali on the bench.

The recent dip of form has made calls for a plan B including a change of formation louder but ideas featuring playing a 3 man defense are foreign to Milan and it remains likely that it will remain in the realm of online analysis and fan talk. A coach like Pioli will resist major changes and for better or worse stick to underperforming players such Romagnoli.

Tomori and Romagnoli will get another Europa League start but Calabria and Hernandez could be starters too. The latter’s continued use does not bode well for Dalot and the Manchester United loanee could be falling off of Pioli’s plans. In midfield Kessie could come in and Meite is another likely starter. Leao, Calhanoglu, Krunic, Castillejo may be preferred to Saelemaekers and the aforementioned Rebic and Ibra.

Red Star won again in the weekend and remain unbeaten in Serbia’s Super Liga.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 25, 2021
Feb 212021
 

A predicted starting 11 made a cautious start turned offside down. As feared and even predicted Romelu Lukaku’s picked up the ball high up and with pace out ran Romagnoli. eventually crossing to an unmarked Lautaro Martinez for a free header. Within five minutes Milan were trailing.
The subsequent minutes were poor at best and at times it looked like Milan were playing with less men and less space.
A half chance led to some disarray in Inter’s box. The evidence that Inter could have defensive problems was provided but Milan weren’t able to get many balls into the Inter box to test it.
Inter controilled the game and threatened more, Milan’s players were mostly aimless and not good enough.
Milan’s first real chance came in the 34th minute when Theo almost put the ball in low with Samir Handanovic beaten. Another half chance arrived as well but in between Inter were closer and more threatening.
The half ended with only a one goal deficit and that in itself was a good result despite Milan growing into the match, barely.
The second started with three quick fire chances to equalize. First Handanovic made a diving stop from a header then another close range header was pushed out. Ibra came close twice in succession. Then Tonali forced another great save with hard shot at the box of the box.
Milan looked better and more in control to start the second but Inter doubled their lead. A good counter and passing movement led to Milan players wondering. Failure to close channels more aggressively and missing marking assignments gifted a second goal to Martinez.
Milan still retained more of the ball but not the only team getting the chances but it was Inter that scored again. A pseudo counter had Lukaku running at Romagnoli and beating Donnarumma at the near post. A poor goal all around.
Belatedly the subs started to arrive. Leao and Meite came on for Saelemaekers and Tonali and minutes later Castillejo for Ibra signalled a white flag surrender. Tame efforts aside the game fizzled out in moments of half chances.
Many of the 11 were missing and it started at the back with the defense pairing partially at fault and certainly to blame but the problems extended up the pitch to include anonymous performances by the likes of Calhanoglu and Rebic. The coach should and would not escape criticism either.
Handanovic certainly starred for Inter but the loss and humiliation is very much a ‘look in the mirror’ case.

 Posted by on February 21, 2021
Feb 212021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
8
Tonali
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Amidst a poor run, the worst since over one whole year ago it is time for another Milan derby and now Inter have overtaken Milan for first place in the Serie A standings. The deficit is only a single point however. It is too early to call this Derby della Madonnina crucial but a win will be a morale boost in addition to moving back to the top spot. All this after a disappointing tie at Red Star Belgrade and a much worse loss at Spezia days earlier.

The team has returned to a healthy state, sort of. Bennacer returned to the injured list during the Europa league match and will likely remain there for a few weeks and Mandzukic has an apparently small muscle problem. Somewhat surprisingly Diaz is back in the squad. Inter are also relatively healthy and come into this match with more rest having had no midweek European commitment.

For the starting 11 the only real question mark is the left wing. Rebic is likely to be preferred to Leao as Pioli knows he must keep an eye on Inter’s Achraf Hakimi on Inter’s right side. It is not out of the question that, as a previous encounter against Inter, Krunic gets some minutes in a so called holding role. Otherwise upfront the starters are Ibra, Calhanoglu and Saelemaekers. The latter has recently returned from injury and has been poor. If he regains his 2020 form it will make life easier for Milan. Tonali will have to be Bennacer’s deputy and is the one to play alongside Kessie.

Donnarumma will of course start in goal. Calabria returns to the right back spot and will play the opposite side of Theo. Romagnoli’s below par form and his outstretched hand were at fault at Belgrade and there have been some calls for a Tomori and Kjaer partnership in the middle of defence. However, dropping the captain for a derby match is one of the least likely things that can happen. Therefore Kjaer and Romagnoli will have the task of containing Inter’s Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. Closer and more aggressive marking of the two snipers can make the difference between a win and a loss.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 21, 2021
Feb 182021
 

A changed team featured Tomori, Kalulu, Meite, Krunic and Mandzukic, the latter playing up front for his first Milan start.
Early minutes featured two disallowed goals when Castillejo was called offside after breaking through and beating Milan Borjan in Red Star’s goal and a bit later when a cross was missed by the goalie and defenders and fell to Theo to tap in, the player was called for a hand ball after VAR review.
On the other side of the pitch Tomori and Kalulu looked promising and solid. Tomori’s pace was a good complement to Romagnoli.
In the 22nd minute another breach of Red Star’s central defence resulted in Rebic just shooting high. Krunic was inches away from a great assist.
As the minutes went by Red Star settled into the game and troubled Milan.
In the 38th minute Bennacer was subbed off for Tonali, the Algerian injured his thigh or hamstring.
A goal arrived but it was an own goal when Radovan Pankov diverted a weak Castillejo under his goalie.
The half time score was 1-0.
Leao came on for Rebic at the half, perhaps to inject more directness and pace.
Red Star equalized early on, a ball was shot from close range and hit the inside of Romagnoli’s raised arm, while a penalty was correct the additional yellow was yet another refereeing mistake. Without question.
Milan got a penalty back, Theo running into the area was brought down or perhaps fell down somewhat easily but the defender had made no attempt to get to the ball, VAR awarded the penalty and Theo converted.
Milan had a few encouraging moments but Red Star regained some momentum around the 70th minute.
Dalot came on Theo at the same time when Milan Rodic was sent off for a second yellow after bringing down Leao.
Hkan came on for Mandzukic and his first contribution was a freekick that was headed on by Meite and well diverted over the bar by Milan Borjan.
The stats would show that the ball was given away far too often and Milan failed to take advantage of Red Star’s very apparent vulnerability at the back.
Poor so called clearances and giveaways handed the tie to Red Star. Milan Pankov scored from a corner right before the end but the player was offside right before the ball drifted out for the corner, apparently the rules have to remain confusing and vague.

 Posted by on February 18, 2021
Feb 182021
 

After successfully navigating the Europa League group stage last year Milan kicks off the knock out stages of the 2020-2021 Europa League at Fudbalski Klub Crvena Zvezda also known as Red Star Belgrade. The Serbian team is very familiar to Milan fans pf course chiefly due to Dejan Savicevic.

The Serbian team is now coached by long time Serie A player and agitator Dejan Stankovic. The former Inter player has his team undefeated in Serbia’s SuperLiga after 21 games. Mirko Ivanic and Filippo Falco formerly of Bologna, Lecce and others lead the hosts on the pitch.

Milan is coming off the disappointing and poor defeat at Spezia and entering another crucial period of the season. Changes may be necessary to keep the players as fresh as possible for the Serie A challenge that has Milan now second in the standings behind Inter.

To that end it is predicted that Calabria, Kjaer, Kessie and Ibra are the leading candidates for the bench. Kalulu – or possibly Dalot – Tomori, Meite and Mandzukic will deputize for the aforementioned respectively. Theo is thought to remain a starter as do Romagnoli and Bennacer. The former may need to be rested as well with the derby coming up only three days after Belgrade but Pioli’s options are limited. Leao and Calhanoglu could also find the bench. The former will be replaced by Rebic and the latter can only really be replaced by Krunic as Diaz is still out injured. Castillejo looks to get the start at right wing as Mandzukic looks to get his first Milan start.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
20
Kalulu
23
Tomori
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
18
Meïté
4
Bennacer
7
Castillejo
33
Krunić
12
Rebić
9
Mandzukic
Substitutes
 Posted by on February 18, 2021
Feb 132021
 

An almost complete starting 11 made for a rare sight.
Uneventful and poor start had Spezia with more chances or half chances including a Riccardo Saponara shot saved by Donnarumma. Once again a former player coming close to causing problems for Milan.
The team seemed off the pace with little created except from (sometimes poor) free kicks.
Spezia’s high press would normally invite fast counters but Milan were mostly inviting the press instead of countering with speed.
Spezia roamed and pressed well without dangering Milan too much however Milan did less and the half ended on a tame note with a misplaced Leao ball.
The second started arguably even worse and at times Milan’s were blocking shots in a row and Milan’s only chances were via free kicks.
Spezia deservedly opened the scoring. Giulio Maggiore took advantage of the superiority and Milan’s very much day off to score. Shortly after a triple sub taking out Leao, Bennacer and Kjaer for Mandzukic, Meite and Tomori the lead doubled. Simone Bastoni scored a highlight goal after a free kick awarded to Spezia right out side the box on Milan’s right side.
The struggles continued as the game entered into the ’embarrassing’ territory with virtually all of the 11 poor and Ivan Provedel barely tested in Spezia’s goal. Hauge and Castillejo were further subs but little changed.
Plenty of questions and concerns with such a poor game. Spezia thoroughly deserved to win this one.

 Posted by on February 13, 2021
Feb 132021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
5
Dalot
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
4
Bennacer
79
Kessié
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
17
Leão
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

A relatively rested team beat last placed Crotone 4-0, the season’s biggest margin, last week. The team has now gotten another relative long rest and is healthier as well. Kjaer – sooner than expected – Bennacer and Tonali are back in the squad this week. The squad is therefore almost at full strength with Diaz the only player missing through injury. Calabria’s yellow on week 21 rules him out of this match as well.

Salary negotiations are dominating the news more than the injury situation which in itself is a positive but more on that later and in another article. One of the talking points of this week 22 match is who starts. As mentioned Kjaer has returned from his leg injury faster than predicted and it seems he will start. Whether that is wise ahead of the midweek match vs Red Star Belgrade and next week’s Milan derby is a good question. It seems that Pioli will start the Danish veteran and Tomori will return to the bench. Dalot will take Calabria’s place with Romagnoli and Theo starting on the left side of the back four. The prospect of Kessie and Bennacer starting together is indeed even better news. The two playing together has been almost a rare occurrence. Leao is more likely to start ahead of Rebic with Calhanoglu and Saelemaekers on his side. The latter has been underperforming and the need for a right wing signing is back on the minds of many. Ibra will start up front. The 39 year old shares an agent with Donnarumma and both – but especially Donnarumma – are subjects of ongoing contract chatter. Raiola, their so called super agent, is not winning any friends but that has always been the case. More on the task that faces management on salary negotiations soon.

M’Bala Nzola remains out for Spezia and his nine goals will be missed but the Liguria team have had mixed fortunes without their top scorer. Vincenzo Italiano will also miss other key players like Diego Farias. Tommaso Pobega, the Milan loanee, will likely start on the bench.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on February 13, 2021