Update: We now know who Milan will face on each match day
The draw for the 2023-2024 Champions League group stage was conducted to day. It could be argued that Milan’s group F is the toughest. Group F features reigning French champions PSG, Bundesliga vice champs Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle.
There are two home comings or returns as far as Milan is concerns. First it is a matchup with Tonali’s Newcastle and of course PSG feature Donnarumma.
Milan were seeded in Pot 3 and the expectation of at least one tough match up was high and so it transpired.
The six match days are as follows, with the opponents becoming available shortly.
Matchday 1: 19 September 2023 Milan – Newcastle 18:45CET Matchday 2: 4 October 2023 Borussia Dortmund – Milan 21:00 Matchday 3: 25 October 2023 PSG – Milan 21:00 Matchday 4: 7 November 2023 Milan – PSG 21:00 Matchday 5: 28 November 2023 Milan – Borussia Dortmund 21:00 Matchday 6: 13 December 2023 Newcastle – Milan 21:00
A summer of change was not wholly expected, at least not at the scale that it has transpired. When the off season started with the abrupt departure of Paolo Maldini – and the sale of Tonali to Newcastle – expectations were immediately lowered and doom set upon Milan fandom. It has looked different than initial fears. The 2022-2023 was certainly a regression following winning the scudetto the season before, the 2023 calendar year form worse than regression. However wholesale changes and the addressing of at least one chronically poor position – the right wing – has alleviated some of the fears.
As of this writing there have 12 departures from the team that finished the season in early June with eight arrivals since. Integrating them into a gelling team will be the challenge of the early part of the season. Added to that is Bennacer’s long term injury which renders the midfield all new for all practical purposes. Additionally if Pioli opts for a 4-3-3 then the formation will need to be integrated as well. Question marks remains if the 4-2-3-1 is best suited for the players at hand. Having brought in both Pulisic and Chukwueze the 4-3-3 will mean one remains on the bench. The former is marketed as one of the faces of the new team and it would be surprising to not see him every week.
More changes are expected before the transfer window closes in about two weeks but for now the 2023-2024 season starts with a visit to Bologna. Thiago Motta’s team will have much talked about Nicolas Dominguez in their line up but it looks likely that he will depart for greener pastures this month.
Milan look to start with the aforementioned 4-3-3 with Leao, Giroud and Pulisic up front. The almost all new midfield of Loftus-Cheek, Krunic and Reijnders will be facing early tests. Maignan is of course in goal with a more predictable back four of Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori and Theo. The sometimes alarming form of Tomori was one of the concerns of last season and eyes will be on him more than most.
There will be more changes before September arrives, for now follow the match and the mercato happenings on the forum.
The 2023 summer started in possibly the worse possible way. Within mere hours after the season ended a meeting between Gerry Cardinale and Paolo Maldini ended with the latter leaving his director’s post. His exit was followed by Ricky Massara exiting in unison. Fan disdain was multiplied when Milan fan and much admired Sandro Tonali was sold to Newcastle. The money was big but fans expected the player to be a life time Milan player. Fears of a sell off led to near outrage online but since then slowly, but surely, the tide has turned.
Milan have been busy in the transfer market using the reported €65 million from Tonali’s sale, and more. As of early August eight new players have arrived replacing the so far 10 who have left. Marco Sportiello, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tijjani Reijnders, Noah Okafor, Christian Pulisic, Luka Romero, Samuel Chukwueze and Ynuns Musah have arrived for a total of €115 million or so. Crucially none of the arrivals are on loan however of those who left four were at Milan on loan. Sergino Dest, Brahim Diaz, Astor Vranckx and Tiemoue Bakayoko returned to their teams. Ibra (retired), Vazquez, Tatarusanu, Gabbia, Rebic and the aforementioned Tonali have left Milan. The long time right wing issue has been addressed with speedster Chukwueze able to provide a threat. His presence should open up spaces for Leao on the other side. Pulisic is also a primarily a right winger and it will be interesting to see how Pioli uses the new player(s) at his disposal. Not only on the right wing but because of the mooted switch to 4-3-3 raises questions about who will be a starter up front and indeed in midfield. Tonali’s sale and Bennacer’s enforced injury absence leave question marks for the midfield. Can any of the midfield signings – Loftus-Cheek, Musah and Reijnders – be considered a like for like? The answer looks to be no and Pioli will have to build the team with more box to box characteristics than a more rigid or defined set up.
The defense has changed less but Gabbia’s departure on loan to Villarreal opens up a possible spot and the presumed imminent departure of Ballo-Toure – his latest suitor is said to be to be Werder Bremen – has the team weighing options for a vice Theo. Basel’s Riccardo Calafiori is one of the many names discussed for the left back position.
Other departures are also in the works with Junior Messias on the market, with Torino or Fenerbahce on the list. If he leaves Milan for the Turkish club he will be joining Rebic who left to Istanbul for a small fee. De Ketelaere’s flop season at Milan has also led to many exit rumours with Atalanta apparently close to taking the Belgian on loan. The aforementioned 4-3-3 would almost certainly provide even less chances for the Belgian.
There are still over three weeks left in the summer 2023 transfer window and Milan may yet remain one of the more active teams. Giorgio Furlani, Geoffrey Moncada and of course Cardinale have yet more work to do to convince Milan fans.