Milan did relatively well leading up to the World Cup break. The six Serie A games leading up to mid November were an on paper easy stretch with matches against Verona, Monza, Torino, Spezia, Cremonese and Fiorentina with a Dinamo Zagreb Champions League match tucked in. Milan managed 13 out of 18 points to finish the calendar year in second place and beat Zagreb too. All in all not a bad set of results but Napoli’s continuing hot form – winning all their matches in the same period (and Juventus’ turnaround of sorts) have Milan needing to do well and better in 2023 to keep up.
Using the next set of matches which include a round of 16 Coppa Italia match versus Torino as an indicator seems like a good way to get a gauge of how Milan will fare. The matches begin at Salernitana, a team that spent relatively big amounts last summer and is on the up. The team has already added another big name in World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa. The goalkeeper has not had the most distinguished club record but has been out of this world level for Mexico. Roma come next with an indifferent pre World Cup form. Mourinho’s possible defection to coach his national team could provide a distraction. Torino’s Coppa match is next and the one leg format can produce unpredictable results. A trip to 16th placed Lecce should be easy but Milan do not always follow form. Lecce won their last two pre Qatar games including beating Atalanta. After a mostly symbolic Super Cup match against Inter Milan travel to Rome to play Lazio. Sarri’s men were Juve’s last victims before the mid season break. The final January game has Milan hosting Sassuolo. Sassuolo were one of the teams that gave Milan trouble but the head to head has been mixed more recently.
As is often the case with Milan the injuries will be a favor or at least give head aches to Pioli. The team lost the two friendlies the played during the World Cup, to Arsenal and Liverpool and there is concern with some players’ availability. The biggest is Maignan. The French goalkeeper has been struggling for fitness and was expected to recover some time in December but remains a big doubt. Ibra and Florenzi remain long term absentees. Additionally, Origi, Krunic and Messias are uncertain to be ready for Serie A’s early January return.
A last friendly versus PSV Eindhoven before the new year will keep players in shape and then Milan can set the tone for the unofficial second half of the season as early as January 4th. There is of course the winter transfer window and the possibility of Leao and Bennacer extensions to deal with but as always … Forza Milan.