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.

Dec 222018
 

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Week 16 at Bologna offered another disappointing tie. 0-0 vs a team that is on the verge of firing its coach, Milan legend Pippo Inzaghi, does not inspire confidence. The injury crisis had one bit of good news with the return of captain Romagnoli but little positive else of note. Kessie as ineffective as ever along side Calhanoglu and Bakayoko added to the team’s woes by accumulating yellows. The Ivorian got a yellow to miss Fiorentina through suspension. The Frenchman got two yellow within three minutes to get his own suspension.

Therefore Milan has to face week 17 without either and of course Biglia is far away from a return. The other central midfielders on the team are Mauri, Bertolacci and Montolivo. The latter is frozen out completely with numerous whispers that he will leave in January. Whether or not Bertolacci gets minutes is questionable but Mauri hasn’t done poorly in recent relief appearances.

Word is that a new and reworked middle three of Calabria, Mauri and Calhanoglu will start in front of Abate, Zapata, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in another 4-3-3. The 4-3-3 could feature Higuain, Suso and Castillejo up front.

Calhanoglu’s almost shocking form continues to be a cause for concern and he may be off as early as January as Milan welcome Paqueta and possibly Fabregas or other midfield (Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic?) reinforcement. The Turkish international has been struggling with simple movement but he has not been the only one. Kessie, Cutrone and Higuain – just to name three more – have all seen their form dip. It says a lot about the state of Serie A’s opposition that Milan with one league win in the past five still retains the fourth spot in the table. Lazio, Roma and others are not exactly on fire and the fourth place is perhaps the only thing that is keeping Gattuso’s job safe, for now.

Fiorentina are five points behind Milan.

Dec 182018
 

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The disappointing 0-0 home tie vs Torino featured an encouraging performance by Donnarumma who maybe cutting down on his mistakes. Defensively the make shift Abate and Zapata central partnership has done better than most hoped. Most other aspects of the team were the disappointments however and none more so than Calhanoglu who at this point doesn’t deserve starts. Higuain’s future may lie away from the San Siro, perhaps at Chelsea and being reunited with Maurizio Sarri, and it is perhaps best because it is far from working out at Milan. At least at what is now almost one half of a season.

The perhaps mixed reaction to the Torino match was to turn much more sour in midweek with a 3-1 loss at Olympiacos. The exit from the Europa League at the group stage is perhaps as bad as any of the setbacks of the last few years. The Suso less Milan offered little, missed chances and gave too much space to the Greek team. At least now the team will have a less crowded fixture list in the winter and spring. Leonardo and Maldini have much to ponder and they will attempt to inject much needed creativity with Fabregas still on the radar.

For this unusual Tuesday Serie A match Suso is still missing and predictions that Calhanoglu is getting another start fly in the face of the shockingly poor form of the player. Castillejo, for one, showed more pace and work ethic in the last week and deserves to start in that spot but he will serve as a vice Suso instead. Cutrone and Higuain have both underwhelmed recently and need to find themselves quickly. In midfield Bakayoko has improved bit by bit but Kessie has been another to deserve question marks and the wrath of fans. The midfielder’s ball control and decision making have been below par. On defence Romagnoli and Musacchio should be ready for bench duty, but both may start in the upcoming three matches after this Bologna encounter and before the January break.

Bologna are led by Pippo Inzaghi at his first season as coach of the rossoblu, the team is struggling and sits in the relegation spots. The former Milan star may not be safe and could be fired if this match doesn’t go his team’s way.

Dec 092018
 

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A still injury ravaged team managed another solid outing and three points courtesy of Cutrone and Kessie.  Beating Parma 2-1 after falling behind early in the second had this team surpass expectations. How long can this continue? It will interesting to see how the team copes with the continuous injury situation. Having said that Romagnoli could be back as early as week 17 vs Fiorentina and Musacchio not long after.

Bakayoko has been steadily growing in the team and filling Biglia’s shoes better and better. Higuain has now served his two game ban after seeing red vs Juventus and this likely means that Milan will play a 4-4-2 again. The Argentine should line up with Cutrone in front of Bakayoko, and Kessie. The midfield will be flanked by Suso and Calhanoglu.

Parma didn’t pose much of an attacking threat last weekend but Abate was solid at the more central defensive role and he is set to keep that spot along side Zapata. Calabria and Rodriguez will be the full backs. Donnarumma has been less mistake prone too, which has helped the team but the goals allowed (18) is still high for 14 matches. At the end of it all Milan sit in 4th place and aided by lackluster forms of Lazio and Roma can solidify that position further and climb to within 1 point of third place Inter.

Torino are led by Andrea Belotti, the once 100 million man, and sit in 7th spot. The Turin team have yet to lose away in seven matches. The away unbeaten run is only matched by their neighbours, Juventus.

The more big picture news of the week was the official appointment of Ivan Gazidis as CEO, the ex- Arsenal man bring with him a costs control reputation. Heeding that the appointment of Geoffrey Moncada as chief of scouting is important. The ex-Monaco man is widely credited for finding players like Kylian Mbappe and will be tasked with finding future stars before they command multi-million dollar transfer fees.

 

 

Dec 022018
 

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Week 13 at Lazio’s starting 11 could only be described as an experimental line up. The injury crisis demanded some imagination and Gattuso and his staff had to come up with a line up that could compete with one of the rivals for the top 4 and Champions League spots. It is somewhat impressive that Milan is still in contention for a European spot with the long term injuries having made the management scrambling for incoming players in January or even free agents earlier. Lucas Paqueta looks certain to arrive from Flamengo and talks with Ibra, Christensen and Cesc – the latter two from Chelsea of course – seem to be on going. In the end Milan took a lead courtesy off a Kessie deflected shot and were good value for the 1–1 tie, if not a win. Joaquin Correa – on as a sub – equalized for the hosts late after several questionable and plain odd refereeing shenanigans. Having the lead very late Gattuso invited more pressure by not using any subs and specifically not using them late to delay the game a bit and perhaps disrupt Lazio’s rhythm and late goal.

Hosting Dudelange in Europa League’s match day 5 was perhaps a chance to give minutes to those who have barely been mentioned or featured. Injuries and rest for those still standing meant Bertolacci, Halilovic and Simic started in a 4-4-2. The first half was a massive disappointment and it continued into the second as the Luxembourg team took a 2-1 lead. Changes had to be made and Bertolacci and Halilovic exited and justified their lack of playing time. Two own goals and the additions of Suso and Mauri reshaped the game and visitors collapsed to a 5-2 loss.

Week 14 is still missing Higuain who is serving the second of his two game ban. The injuries are of course still the big story. The 11 once again requires hard work and experimentation. It is set to feature a back four of Calabria, Abate, Zapata and Rodriguez. It may however be time to put more trust in the young and play Simic again. The Czech international did well midweek. Mauri showed enough to perhaps get a start with Bakayoko and Kessie. Suso and Calhaoglu will start with the recently somewhat disappointing Cutrone.

Parma, led by Gervinho and Roberto Inglese,  are only two points behind Milan and sit at a surprising 6th spot.

 

Nov 252018
 

 

Before the international break a meeting with Juventus were to provide a confidence boost, even if it was unlikely a positive result were to be had. Injuries had been mounting and the team was without Musacchio, Biglia and Bonaventura. All three are to be out in times measured in months and in Bonaventura’s case, after knee surgery, the player is almost certainly out for the season. The game therefore featured a handicapped Milan and as it transpired the frustration grew within the game. First Higuain missed a VAR awarded penalty and then lost his cool and got himself sent off in what was to be a 0-2 loss. The Argentinian earned himself a two game ban for screaming at the referee, a ban not reduced on appeal. To add to the crisis level injury misery captain and defensive leader left the Azzurri camp and is set to miss a month.

The battle of 4th vs 5th is of course very important and Milan would do well to emerge from this and next weeks relatively unscathed.

All the above leave the team with only Zapata as a recognized central defender – plus Stefan Simic who is officially on the squad. The team is therefore not only short on bodies it is also in search of a formation to fit the available players. It had been suggested that Gattuso will use something resembling a 3-4-3 and make use of wing backs in search of a balance in defense and attack. As it happened Abate, Zapata and Rodriguez started with fears of a defensively porous game seemingly being realized in the first few minutes as Lazio started well.

It might have been expected that the back three will be aided by Laxalt and Calabria acting as full back and wingers in one to not only move up but also to help stop the likes of Senad Lulic and Adam Marusic. However the much maligned Borini started in place of the Uruguayan.  In the middle the only players that are in some form are Bakayoko and Kessie. The likes of Montolivo and Bertolacci do not inspire any confidence at all. Up front Cutrone got the first of his two deserved starts now that Higuian is suspended. Suso and Calhanoglu were, as expected, the first options for the other spots. The game settled as Calhanoglu missed a chance and Lazio had a goal ruled offside. Borini came close in the second. Lazio made two subs as the game reached the last quarter still tied. The expensive but under performing Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was one of the players withdrawn. Donnarumma did well when tested. As the game stalled into a stalemate Suso found Calabria onside in the final third, the Italian ran and pulled back for Kessie whose shot was deflected by Wallace and in. As the game entered added time and the ref had made several perplexing decisions Correa shot through a crowd and tied it for Lazio. Simone Inzaghi still had the time to have himself sent off from the touch line before the final whistle sounded. Gattuso had not used a single sub, not even to kill time in added time. He would invite post match criticism as Milan dropped two points.

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Nov 112018
 

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Without Bonaventura, Biglia and Musacchio and most of the game without Higuain Milan needed another last minute Romagnoli goal to beat Udinese. As the injuries piled up every body involved with Milan feared the worst when in the first half Higuain asked to be subbed after a getting a knock in his back. As it turned out the game became chaotic and back and forth and after a prolonged counter and passing play Romagnoli beat Juan Musso in the Udinese goal right at the end. The defender and captain solidified his reputation in Milan fans’ hearts for doing the same in the second game in a row.

With that feeling Milan traveled to Betis for match day 4 of the Europa League. Without all of the aforementioned player (except Musacchio), a 3-5-2 and with Romagnoli starting on the bench Milan struggled to play a good game, suffered more injury hits and were lucky to escape with a tie.

As it stands the injury list includes Strinic (heart issue, return unknown), Caldara (at least until February), Biglia (at least until March) and Musacchio (at least until January after he was almost knocked unconscious after colliding with Kessie at Betis). The list also includes Calhanoglu and Bonaventura as not 100% match fit.

The formation starting versus the league leaders will very likely be Abate, Zapata, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in front of Donnarumma. Suso, Kessie, Bakayoko and Calhanoglu behind Castillejo and Higuain. The latter is probably also not 100% match fit but will push to play against his old team. Cutrone’s expected omission is not fully explained.

Ronaldo has not scored at the San Siro in the five games he has played at the stadium, three of which have been against Milan. Despite a midweek loss to Manchester United beating Juventus will require a form defying performance. The task is to not only stop the Portuguese but Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and the whole of Juventus team who only have Emre Can on their injury list.

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