Author: Reza

Week 21: Inter – Milan

Inter – Milan February 5 2023 20:45CET

The new calendar year has gone south. Milan are in full crisis allowing goals by the bucket and looking like a dysfunctional team. Lowly Sassuolo were the latest team to highlight this abysmal post World Cup slump. Allowing five goals at home wrote another unwanted chapter in Milan’s history with many questioning every member of Milan family from management to players. Pioli’s insistence on a formation that is failing badly has been the focus but management’s public unwillingness to do anything in the January transfer window and the players themselves are of course all to blame as well.

Inter and others near the top of the table are not exactly flying high but of course Milan have dropped from their long held second place position in the Serie A table. Napoli seem to be running away with the title but Milan can still recover and hold one of the top four places. This needs to start with response and statement in this week 21 derby.

There have been rumblings that Pioli will try a new formation, whether it be 433 or 352 there has to be an effort to solidify the midfield. The usual lineup predictors at Sky and Gazzetta provide different versions of the is possibility with the latter claiming that both Messias and Saelemaekers will start. This possibility will make Milan’s right side look poor and will surely not come to pass. The back four have looked much worse than recent times and need to be more compact and aware of their positioning to return to the days they were praised for holding the fort and providing highlight recoveries. Having Tatarusanu as the goalkeeper is probably not the best confidence boost for any one and it is a mystery as to why Pioli does not even entertain the idea of using Mirante or even new signing Vasquez. Maignan’s return from injury, hoped for later in February, is very anticipated. Ibra trained with the team for the fist time in a long while but his return date is not known. Other absences include Tomori and Bennacer. It will be left to all healthy players to provide a show of strength in this derby.

Unsurprisingly Inter’s injury list is much shorter than Milan’s. They now sit in second place, 13 points behind Napoli (before week 21 matches).

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Week 20: Milan – Sassuolo

Milan – Sassuolo January 29 2023 12:30CET

Milan are somehow still second in the Serie A standings. The half way mark of the season was reached with a humiliating 4-0 loss to Lazio. The team’s limitations and lack of depth were exposed. The long injury list and Pioli’s insistence on the same pseudo 4-2-3-1 has left Milan in a crisis. On top of all that the team seems unwilling to invest with growing fears that Gerry Cardinale and RedBird will not be what some hoped. Nicolo Zaniolo’s name was thrown around for a few days with little possibility of meeting Roma’s €30 million plus demands.

Milan host Sassuolo in another early game with hopes of turning things around as the danger of dropping out of the top 4 becomes real. The injury list has becomes slightly smaller with Theo and Ballo-Toure back in the squad. Tomori remains out alongside Maignan, Ibra and Florenzi. Maignan could be back in the middle of February and his return would be one of the most welcome as Tatarusanu has been one of the culprits in the recent downturn. Kjaer will replace Tomori in the back. Krunic may replace the suspended Bennacer in the middle but it is a good question to ask Pioli if Vranckx is indeed on the bench. It seems it is Saelemaekers’ turn to start on the right in place of Messias. De Ketelaere has a chance for a start, over Diaz, and if he does he will do well to shrug off the growing flop label. Leao will start on the left of course. Predictably Giroud is almost certain to be the forward.

Unsurprisingly Sassuolo have a healthier squad. However, the Neroverdi is in a freefall with their last Serie A win all the way back in October.

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Lazio 4-0 Milan The C Word Is Back

Lazio 4-0 Milan
Milinkovic-Savic 4’ Zaccagni 38’ Luis Alberto 67’ (P) Anderson 75’

In a seemingly post World Cup free fall Milan’s hopes for a response were soon dented with an early goal Sergej Milinkovic-Savic goal where Milan got all the marking and shape wrong. Milan threatened very little and Lazio were just better on the ball with Milan making it easy for the hosts to recover the ball. The half was just as poosr as the first half against Lecce the week before and just as mediocre as the Supercoppa encounter with Inter in Saudi Arabia. it was therefore likely and inevitable that Lazio doubled their lead before the half. After another injury – Tomori limped off to be replaced by Kjaer – Mattia Zaccagni scored a sneaky goal with all and in particular Tatarusanu looking ineffective and poor.

The second half brought little change except a triple sub before the hour. Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere and Origi came on for Messias, Diaz and Giroud with little added life. It was Lazio who added goals with a penalty after Pedro’s leg was clipped by Kalulu in the box and then Luis Alberto converted the penalty. Felipe Anderson made it 4-0 after an incursion into the Milan box had the defenders all over the place. Not for the first time Milan had lost the ability to retain and keep the ball, nevermind to recover it. Rebic replaced Leao for the final 11 minutes. Added time had Calabria in severe pain after making contact while try to win a ball back.

Maldini’s words about inability or unwillingness to add this January transfer window now looked bad. Last summer’s acquisitions have so far contributed little – none in fact – as well.

The C word is back. Milan are in crisis again.

Week 18: Lecce – Milan

Lecce – Milan January 14 2023 18:00CET

Milan threw away a two goal lead versus Roma and settled form one point. Subs and team attitude were questioned after the game with a many highlighting the state of the transfer market. The summer 2022 transfers that include the not so cheap De Ketelaere have played little and contributed much less. Could the transfer market be considered a flop and could Pioli be in the wrong for not using the players more. Either way the week turned further negative with a lackluster 0-1 Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Torino, all at home.

A long injury list has sidelined Maignan with his return from a calf injury seemingly being postponed multiple times. He is missed as goalkeeping has emerged as a weak point. Tatarusanu and the front four (or three) in front of him can not keep clean sheets and despite some good game minutes and games in front of them the team has looked out of sorts.

Tonali will miss this Lecce with a too many yellows suspension and it is likely that one of the aforementioned summer 2022 transfers will not be the one to start in his place. Pobega looks to be preferred to Vranckx. The Italian scored last week against Roma and will get a start with newly extended Bennacer. Bennacer signed an extension to 2027 with a reported salary (€4 million) more than twice his current one. The attacking players are likely to be predictable in Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao and Giroud. The latter two’s contract situation may be close to being resolved with multiple reports that Leao will accept somewhere along the lines of €6.5 million. The back four also holds little surprise with Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori and Theo trying to hold the fort.

Lecce, featuring Samuel Umtiti on loan from Barcelona, sit in the 11th spot having drawn with Spezia in their first post World Cup game.

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Week 17: Milan – Roma

Milan – Roma January 8 2023 20:45CET

Milan put the World Cup break friendly malaise behind and beat Salernitana in a good game. Chance conversion rate remains a problem as do the numerous injuries, Maignan in particular. Leao and Tonali helped Milan to another three points and a small step to catching Napoli as the Serie A leader tied Inter.

Roma presents a different proposition but a home game in front of a near capacity crowd will provide a good hand. On the injury front all Milan fans are familiar with a big and continuing list. Pioli has taken responsibility for the situation and work on reducing future injuries is under way, at least it is hoped.

Maignan seems further away from a return than he was one week ago and it is also one reason that Milan are rumoured to be looking to bring in Atalanta’s Marco Sportiello now and not in June. Florenzi and Ibra are still a month or more away. Joining them on the list is Origi, Krunic, Messias, Ballo-Toure, Rebic and Kjaer. Contrast this with Roma’s injury list … Georginio Wijnaldum. That’s it.

Hard work and motivation will have to drive Milan forward. The starters are unlikely to surprise as Pioli has little options. Tatarusanu will start in goalm with Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori and Theo in the back. Tonalis and Bennacer in the middle. The latter is apparently close to an extension that is set to include a €50 million release clause. Saelemaekers, Diaz and Leao will play behind Giroud with little to no space for De Ketelaere and Adli. The latter may join the ‘loaned out again’ ranks this January. Speaking of loans, Andreas Jungdal, the young keeper may go on loan as well. With a not so big prospect of a future return.

Roma sit six points behind Milan and beat Bologna with a solitary Lorenzo Pellegrini penalty in the 2023 Serie A restart.

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Week 16: Salernitana – Milan, Plus Looking Forward

Salernitana – Milan January 4 2023 12:30CET

The World Cup break provided rest for the many Milan players that were not on national team duty. However, bad news and concerns for the rest of the season did not go away. Three friendlies were played against Arsenal, Liverpool and PSV and all three were losses. The handicapped team looked inept at times and it was not just because Leao, Theo, Dest, Giroud, Ballo-Toure, De Ketelaere and Kjaer were in Qatar but that Maignan (injured before the World Cup) was joined on the – of course growing – injury list by Origi, Krunic and Messias. Post World Cup added Rebic to the said list. Maignan has not recovered and has the team seeking goalkeeping solutions with the French player dangerously close to the ‘made of glass’ tag.

The team will need to recover from the friendly losses and look to not only catch up to first placed Napoli but keep its second place position in the table which is under threat with Juventus, Lazio and Inter close behind. Tatarusanu, not the most convincing, will start. Mirante was only to be an emergency signing when he joined in October of 2021 but he is still considered a third choice keeper. Both backups have an expiring contract and may not be retained. Marco Sportiello may be signed from Atalanta but that is not likely to happen in this January transfer window. Milan are reportedly close to Colombian keeper Devis Vasquez from Guarani. An unknown player on the cheap is not the most promising transfer but it is hoped he will provide solid cover.

The back four will likely be more secure with Theo, Kalulu, Tomori and the recovered Calabria starters. Bennacer and Tonali could remain the middle two while evidence for a more solid middle three grows. Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere and Leao should be the starters behind one of the World Cup’s stars in Giroud.

Salernitana invested relatively heavily last summer and feature Krzysztof Piatek among others. The team sits in the middle of the table.

Post World Cup Milan

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.

Notes On Three Frustrating Points Versus Fiorentina

Milan 2-1 Fiorentina
Leao 2’ Milenkovic 90’+2 (OG) ~ Barak 28′

Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Brahim, Krunic, Leao; Giroud were the starters.

Game got off to an excellent start when Leao took on the ball from Giroud – from a Tomori pass – and beat Pietro Terracciano in the far corner with his right foot. Riccardo Saponara threatened to equalize soon after but his shot hit the post.

The game was uneventful until another poor defensive display had the visitors equalize, none of the Milan players defended the ball well and Tatarusanu while not faultless had to deal with a deflecting ball. Milan’s next best chance came just before half time when Diaz scrambled with the ball but was unable to get the ball into the next. It was also not the first instance where refereeing was head scratching.

The 1-1 half time score was one reflection of the lack of intensity and overall poor structure and display.

Milan came closes to taking the lead with Diaz freeing Kalulu on the right. The latter’s cross was almost diverted in by Giroud. Moments later Leao shot just wide from a Theo pass. Dest and Origi came on for Thiaw and Diaz.

Tomori could have given away a penalty on the hour mark, his tackle was somewhat questionable and VAR deemed it legal. The performance was lackluster with most attempts to enter Fiorentina’s box wasted by a wrong pass, poor cross or overall bad decision making. An attempted Giroud bicycle kick from a Leao cross was one example of the ball going awry when given a chance. Vranckx came on for the ineffective and invisible Krunic with 15 minutes to go. Leao’s next attempt was half blocked by Giroud in the box in a continuation of the theme of the game. Then Leao shot way high when almost free on goal when Fiorentina had seemingly decided to sit back for counters and take the tie. Rebic came on for Tonali for the final five minutes.

The drama was not over as a late goal arrived from a Vranckx cross. The goalkeeper came to collect the ball but hit the Milan player instead as the ball moved to the far side and it was diverted in with Origi on the doorstep, the goal was credited an Nikola Milenkovic own goal. Fiorentina protested but VAR, correctly, saw nothing.

It was a 2-1 win and three needed points in a game where Milan frustrated and was poor.

Week 15: Milan – Fiorentina

Pioli started all three of Thiaw, Kjaer and Tomori at Cremonese in a three man defense formation. With the absence of Theo and Giroud through suspension it was attempted to by pass the expected defensive block of the hosts with Leao resting on the bench. It did not work and the two points dropped in the 0-0 tie were a set back in a league being dominated by Napoli. The chasing pack of Lazio, Juventus and Inter are all close enough too. Further set back will see Milan fall out of the top four. Milan have surprised and overcome challenges well under Pioli’s reign but the team still features many misfiring members.

The back four, perhaps featuring Thiaw, will make a return with World Cup bound Theo and Giroud expected to return to the starting 11. Bennacer and Tonali should start too. The front four is, as always, in flux. Messias (if healthy), Leao, Krunic could start behind the aforementioned Giroud. The inconsistent and so far unrealized potential of Diaz and De Ketelaere is endangering the chances of the team. De Ketelaere was chosen for the Belgian World Cup team and it is hoped he will return to Serie A action a more ready player.

Fiorentina are recovering from a disappointing start and have won their last three Serie A games. Jack Bonaventura and Nikola Milenkovic have been a big part of their recent upturn.

There is always more about this match and others on the forums.

Week 14: Cremonese – Milan

Cremonese vs Milan November 8 2022 20:45CET

As the hectic schedule ahead of the World Cup break nears its end Milan sit second in the Serie A standings. Meeting 18th placed Cremonese in the Serie A for the first time in quarter of a century provides an opportunity to keep up with Napoli who have threatened to run way with the league.

There are two enforced changes for this match at the Giovanni Zini. Theo is suspended after accumulating yellows and Giroud is suspended for getting a second yellow for removing his shirt during his late goal celebrations versus Spezia. The starting 11 looks very likely to be Kalulu, Kjaer, Tomori and Balllo-Toure in front of Tatarusanu. Bennacer and Tonali both starting with Rebic, Diaz, Messias and Origi up front. It indeed looks like Leao might be given a day off.

One familiar name that is a likely starter will be Soualiho Meite who is at Cremonese on loan from Benfica. Another is Frank Tsadjout who left Milan in the summer. David Okereke is the hosts’ leading scorer with three goals.

There is always more about this match and others on the forums.