milanmania

Mar 172019
 

It is time for another edition of the Milan derby, aka Derby della Madonnina. This derby comes at a time when Milan are riding a somewhat unexpected winning streak. The team have won 5 in a row and last lost in the Serie A back in December. The wins have not been all high quality and neither was the 2-1 win away at bottom placed Chievo. The week 27 win was achieved by a strong performance and a nice free kick goal courtesy of Biglia. The Argentinian had recently returned from injury and was giving Bakayoko a night off. Piatek scored the winner after Perparim Hetemaj had equalized for the hosts. The win allowed Milan to stay ahead of Inter and get one week closer to a top four, or indeed top three, finish. 

The still Icardi less Inter come into the derby on a more losing note than earlier in the season. Their former captain was stripped of the armband back in February and is out of the team, officially due to knee issues, but the bigger issue is the drama that was triggered after he and his wife/agent criticized his teammates and team. This has handicapped Inter as they are dependent on Lautaro Martinez for goals. However, others like Perisic are capable of punishing teams and in a derby they are likely to step up with a bigger performances. On a further low point midweek saw Inter dumped out of the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt in what was a home loss and poor outing.

As mentioned Milan haven’t been firing on all cylinders. The recent record may suggest otherwise but players like Suso have been in poor form and need to do better if the team is to remain in the hunt for Champions League places. There is now a small cushion with fifth placed and now Claudio Ranieri coached Roma losing their week 28 game to SPAL.

Line up changes are not likely as Gattuso made minimal changes for Chievo and will revert to his regular 11 for the derby. The squad is healthy and the starting 11 is predictable with Calhanoglu and Piatek lining up with the aforementioned Spaniard. Bakayoko, Kessie and Paqueta will try to outshine Marcelo Brozovic, Matteo Politano and co in Inter’s midfield. Rodriguez returns from a one match suspension and replace Laxalt on the left of Romagnoli and Musacchio. Conti struggled vs Chievo so Calabria is the safer option on the right of defense. Donnarumma has raked up a solid number of clean sheets and has been reliable and some times spectacular this season. The goalkeeper might be in line for an even richer contract than his last.

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Mar 092019
 

Week 26’s 1-0 win against Sassuolo was far from impressive, the San Siro visitors controlled the midfield better than their midtable position and form (only two wins since the start of December) might indicate. Stefano Sensi in midfield and Jeremie Boga did well and pushed back Milan on numerous occasions. The goal was credited as a Pol Lirola own goal but Musacchio was closest and had a part in diverting the ball towards the goal. In the second half the Sassuolo goalie was red carded. Andrea Consigli misjudged the bounce of the ball and made light contact with Piatek just outside of the box as the Polish striker was about to run past him towards the wide open goal. Gattuso would be criticized for adapting a defensive mode despite being one man up and inviting pressure instead of going for a second goal. The three points mattered most and along with another Inter hiccup Milan found themselves third in the table.

Milan now visit last placed Chievo a week before the derby. The predicted lineup features a few changes perhaps in part due to the tougher tasks ahead. There is also an enforced absence because Rodriguez got a late yellow vs Sassuolo. Laxalt is expected to start in his place. Conti, Musacchio and Romagnoli will line up alongside the Uruguayan. In the middle Bakayoko is expected to give way to the returning from injury Biglia. Up front the underperforming Suso will retain his spot. By now Gattuso has shown that he will stick with players through rough patches. Borini or Castillejo could start in Calhanoglu’s usual spot on the left of Piatek as Cutrone find minutes hard to come by for now.

Chievo have a sole win this season and are led by another 23 years old Pole in Mariusz Stepinski. Sergio Pellissier, the long time leader of the team is out through injury.

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Mar 022019
 

While Suso was serving a one match ban for accumulated yellows Castillejo started in right wing and delivered a man of the match performance. The week 25 3-0 win vs Empoli featured a goal and an assist for the Spanish wide man. The assist was a good hard working play which led to a rare Kessie chipped ball good finish. Castillejo’s goal was another good play and was assisted by Conti who was starting in Calabria’s spot. Piatek had opened the scoring and the final score was Milan’s third game in a row  scoring three goals.

Midweek arrived and the Coppa Italia semis first leg was a mediocre performance with Suso, back in his usual spot, playing another poor game. The 0-0 tie could also be classified as a borefest. However, in the bigger context it is perhaps a good result and sets the stage for the return game in April at the San Siro.

The Coppa game had one other change with Borini giving Calhanoglu the night off. Calhanoglu is set to return to the starting line up for this game vs Sassuolo. There were whispers of a healthy Biglia grabbing a starting spot but it seems that Gattuso will stick to his preferred middle three and have Kessie with Bakayoko and Paqueta. Suso and the aforementioned Calhanoglu will partner Piatek for a chance to leapfrog Inter for third spot. The still Icardi-less Inter lost to Cagliari and have presented Milan with an opportunity to grab a more favorable Serie A position with two weeks to go to the derby.

Sassuolo sit at midtable and of course feature Manuel Locatelli. The once highly touted Milan midfielder has spoken of his time at Milan and frustrations at being something like a Messi when scoring but criticized as soon as not. Many Milan fans fondly recall his goal vs Juventus in 2016 and his departure is still a question mark to some, but the team have almost certainly moved on.

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Feb 222019
 

Week 24 was all about opportunism and form. Three shots on target got Milan three goals. The form and skills of Piatek earned him two of those. The Polish striker got his and Milan’s first at the very end of the first half with the team trailing 0-1 to Remo Freuler’s good finish. Rodriguez’s cross was side legged into the far corner ala Ibra. The new striker’s second – after a much needed Calhanoglu hard and long shot goal – was a header from a corner. The latter two goals were of the rare variety firstly because Calhanoglu’s near abysmal form has produced very little of note and Milan had forgotten how to score from a corner. It was the first headed goal from set piece this season!

Being mostly outplayed, especially in the first half, but getting three points away at Atalanta has lifted the mood of the team considerably and there is much talk of growth and confidence. Empoli, a lowly team, will test the new found optimism as best as they can and Milan will need all the points possible to remain in the top 4.

Suso got a yellow and has accumulated enough to be suspended for week 25. It is thought that Castillejo will fill at right wing. With a Coppa semifinal at Lazio four days away and Sassuolo traveling to Milan next weekend some rest and change is probably in order, and on that note, late in the week news emerged that Conti is due for a start in Calabria’s spot. The other nine players are expected to be the same as the Atalanta week 24 3-1 win.

Empoli feature Francesco Caputo, the scorer of 11 2018-2019 goals. Luca Antonelli, the former Milan left back, is out injured. They have yet to win away this season.

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Feb 182019
 

Name: Krzysztof Piątek
Number: 19
Birthplace: Dzierżoniów, Poland
Position: Center Forward
Nickname: Pistolero
Date of birth: July 1st 1995
Contract: Signed January 23rd 2019, till June 30th 2023. Transfer fee paid to Genoa 35 million Euros. Salary approximately 2 million Euros per season.

Needed 310 minutes to score 6 goals (4 in Serie A and 2 in Coppa Italia) to start his Milan career, fastest ever start in Milan’s history. Beating Nordahl, Balotelli, Ostromann and Bierhoff.

Feb 162019
 

Milan retained the 4th spot in the Serie A table after a relatively comfortable 3-0 win vs Cagliari. The week 23 match up had gotten into gear courtesy of an own goal by Cagliari’s Luca Ceppitelli. The two January newcomers, Paqueta and Piatek, scored the other two goals later in the game. The Brazilian scored his first Milan goal and continues to get deserved starts. The Polish striker has now started his Milan career by scoring 4 in 4 matches.

A game at Bergamo is a home coming of sorts for Conti and Kessie. The former, however is unlikely to get a start with Calabria somewhat secure in the right back role. Milan feature two other ex Atalanta players in Caldara and Bonaventura but both are absent through injury with only Caldara close to a return.

Every game continues to be very important because clinching the last Champions League spot is important, if not crucial. Paolo Scaroni has claimed that participation in next season’s Champions League is not a must but the season after that and later it becomes a requirement.

The lineup is expected to be stable with all of Donnarumma, Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez starting at the back with Kessie, Bakayoko, Paqueta behind Suso, Piatek and Calhanoglu. The injury list has eased with Biglia back on the bench and others including Caldara and Zapata close to returning. Strinic and Reina should be available very soon too.

Atalanta have only lost twice in the last 11 matches they have played, with a relatively healthy squad sit a single point behind Milan and are very much in the running for European places and in the Coppa semifinals too.

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Feb 102019
 

Milan scraped a 1-1 draw at crisis team Roma on week 22. Having taken the lead courtesy of Piatek the team lost the advantage right the break with Nicolo Zaniolo finishing well. Milan struggled most of the second half and came off with some questions regarding the form of Suso and Calhanoglu, the latter still supported by his coach all the while evidence pointing to struggles. Gattuso further made his point in the lead up to this week 23 match at the San Siro. He claims that no player is given a free ride and those starting are doing the job and those not – perhaps most notably Conti – need to show more and be given more time.

Biglia is back from injury and will start on the bench. Bakayoko’s recent form entitles him to another start and Paqueta has done enough to remain a starter. Kessie, on the other hand, keeps getting start despite many questions, particularly in the attacking and counter attacking phase. The back four is more or less certain with Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in front of the Roma match star Donnarumma. Zapata is still on the injured list and will likely need another week or two. The front three is very predictable as well with Suso, Piatek and Calhanoglu now preferred in almost every game.

The fight for the final Champions League spot is definitely on with Roma, Lazio the prime opponents, the table is tight and the remaining matches will see many shifts in the standings.

Cagliari sit in 15th spot and carry a relatively long injury list with the likes of Valter Birsa and Cyril Thereau out of action, they are however led by Leonardo Pavoletti and Joao Pedro.

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Feb 032019
 

The January transfer window ended with money spent bringing in Piatek from Genoa. The Polish striker was to replace Higuian. Of course Paqueta had arrived much earlier. However the search for other positions – in particular a natural left winger – failed. The team is handcuffed by UEFA’s financial fair play and this made players like Yannick Carrasco out of reach. Minus Higuain’s departure to Chelsea – his loan from Juve was dissolved and he was loaned to Chelsea – there was only one outgoing transfer when Halilovic left on an 18 month loan to Standard Liege. More departures were rumoured but the likes of Borini, Calhanoglu, Montolivo and Bertolacci will remain, at least until the summer.

It is of course up to the existing and two new comers to make the push for fourth spot and Champions League football. Piatek did his part in great style by scoring two Coppa goals versus Napoli on his starting debut. Days after tying Napoli 0-0 in the league the team moved on to the Coppa Italia semi finals and a meeting with Lazio. The Coppa win came after recovering some league form in beating Genoa 2-0 but losing to Juventus in the Supercoppa. In part due to others’ poor form Milan still sits in 4th spot so the fight for the final Champions League spot is very much alive.

Piatek is expected to retain his center forward spot with Cutrone on the bench. Suso returns to the front three that continues to feature Calhanoglu. Midfield will feature the much improved Bakayoko with the impressive Paqueta but the disappointing Kessie is not expected to be dropped. Calabria and Rodriguez have shown good form and so have Romagnoli and Musacchio. The defensive line including Donnarumma have been in good form and deserve credit for keeping six clean sheets since mid December.

Roma are days away from losing 7-1 to Fiorentina in the Coppa and are amidst their own crisis. Eusebio Di Francesco is in danger of losing his job if Milan win. The team are also missing Nzonzi and Cristante due to suspension and will be short in midfield.

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Dec 292018
 

Week 18 only offered a 0-0 tie at 19th placed Frosinone. The impotence in attack and creativity is at its height, or is that at its depth? Calhanoglu getting starts and even be declared crucial by Gattuso only adds to the frustration of fans, observers and it should to management. Higuain – in the midst of early departure rumours – misfiring at personal records and not being helped by the service adds further more. Late in the week Leonardo seemed to give a vote of confidence to Gattuso but whispers of a dismissal are swirling and this SPAL game might prove the final nail in the coffin. But who are the possible successors? Conte and Leonardo Jardim (ex-Monaco) are possibly the only two realistic and exciting names, at least until the summer.

Suso missed the midweek encounter and as this game comes so quickly after that encounter he was to be at risk but returns to start. The rest of the 11 are more or less predictable and the midfield of Kessie, Bakayoko and Calhanoglu have not helped the cause of the team but will need to do so if 2019-2020 Champions League football is to be in the team’s future.

The team needs the cash injection of the big European competition to have any chance of escaping future UEFA sanctions. The team might be forced to make even fuller use of chief scout Moncada’s skills to unearth emerging stars.

For now the defense is likely to feature Zapata instead of Musacchio. At least Donnarumma has been one of the bright(er) spots this season.

SPAL sit in 15th place with a solid 3-5-2 and are led by none other than Andrea Petagna.

The winter break begins after this match. The break will be interrupted by a Coppa Italia match at Sampdoria on January 12th and the Supercoppa vs Juventus in Saudi Arabia on the 16th. Serie A returns on January 21st at Genoa.

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Dec 262018
 

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Milan’s slide accelerated with the week 17 0-1 home loss to Fiorentina. Gattuso’s position as head coach is at a breaking point with no goals scored for the third consecutive Serie A game and ceding 4th place to Lazio. The first half versus Fiorentina proved somewhat unlucky but the second was a shambles and a well taken shot by Federico Chiesa was more than enough to beat Milan at the San Siro. The injury situation has certainly hindered this team but many of the available players continue to perform way below par and the primary names remain the same. Calhanoglu should probably be thrown off the ship and sold, Bundesliga’s RB Leipzig seem interested. There is also the issue of Higuain going to Chelsea and Milan bringing back Morata. Morata is not exactly a world beater nor is he cheap but it is one idea worth considering. One way or another Leonardo and the rest of management need to sort out the lack of creativity and goal scoring before long.

Milan have launched an appeal to UEFA’s recent fine, squad reduction and break even requirement. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will take on the case of giving Elliott more time to break even.

Back to the Serie A, Frosinone host Milan while sitting in 19th place and without a home win. On paper this is an easy assignment but Milan’s recent record against lowly teams says very much otherwise. Not to mention the record in early afternoon games, as this game is being played at 12:30PM.

A 4-3-3 remains likely with Musacchio back from injury and getting a start in Zapata’s place. The schedule makers have bunched in three match days between December 22nd and December 29th and the Colombian has been busy recently and needs a rest. Suso is a late absentee with a knock, his compatriot, Castillejo, will take his spot. Bakayoko and Kessie are back after serving one game suspensions.

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