Category: RG

Week 32: Sassuolo – Milan

Sassuolo – Milan Sunday April 14 2024 15:00CET

Following the 3-0 win versus Lecce the winning run was interrupted in the Europa League quarter finals first leg 0-1 loss to Roma. The Daniele De Rossi led visitors faced a mediocre looking Milan and the new Roma coach out managed Pioli. The team showed late urgency which featured a poor Giroud miss and of course a catalog of refereeing question marks. VAR and on the pitch decisions remain as controversial as ever.

Late in the week it has been announced that Maignan will miss this week 32 match due to fatigue and Sportiello will hop into the starting spot. Florenzi will allow Calabria some rest and start with Kjaer and Tomori. It is possible that there will be further rotation as Terracciano has a chance to start as well giving Theo a day off. Adli, Musah and Reijnders should start in the middle but further changes are expected on the wings and upfront. Jovic, Okafor and Chukwueze are set to make up a much changed starting 11. Previous heavy rotation games have not been produced the needed result and this may give some caution to Pioli. The coach’s future seems to be with Milan but rumours and reports are just that and it is hoped management will make a more objective analysis of the season overall in the summer.

Sassuolo have had a disappointing season sitting in the relegation spots and will miss two famous names for Milan fans. Both Domenico Berardi and Samu Castillejo are among the players missing this match.

Juventus has dropped a further two points leading up to this match. The Turin derby has ended in a scoreless tie and so a win versus the lowly Sassuolo further solidifies second spot, +8 from third place Juventus, heading into the derby della madonnina and the final weeks of the season.

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Week 31: Milan – Lecce

Milan – Lecce Saturday April 6 2024 15:00CET

Every win brings the team closer to keeping Pioli for next season. The coach’s fate seemed almost certain a few weeks ago but a winning run dating back to over a month has resurrected the idea of Pioli staying. While management may be being convinced the same can not be said of the fans, A MilanMania poll is less forgiving of the coach and the need for new ideas and tactics. Time will tell and the winning needs to continue.

In just over two week it is time for another derby and Inter fans are salivating over the idea of clinching the Scudetto at the derby. Inter are runaway leaders but the aforementioned winning run has Milan advancing towards second place. Lecce in the 13th spot and Sassuolo in 19th present two big chances for further points to increase the distance from the faltering Juventus.

Theoi returns from a one game suspension however Loftus-Cheek goes into the same. The latter’s absence has made for a rethink of the front line and it is likely that Pulisic moves to the attacking role bind the striker. His right wing spot will be taken by the seemingly improving Chukwueze. Leao will of course continue on the left. There were whispers of a Giroud rest, in favour of Jovic, but it seems that the Frenchman will start. A busy schedule including the Europa League quarter finals versus Roma await and rotation may be on the cards. Pioli will have to be cautious however as recent rotation or experiments have mostly backfired.

Adli and Reijnders will likely keep the pivot spots with Gabbia and Tomori the favorites for the middle of defense. Calabria, Theo and Maignan round out the starting 11.

Luca Gotti is now in charge of Lecce after Roberto D’Aversa was dismissed from his position after a headbutting incident last month in the game versus Verona.

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Week 30 Fiorentina – Milan

Fiorentina – Milan Saturday March 30 2024 20:45CET

As the March international break ends league campaigns enter the home stretch. Milan have grabbed the second spot from Juventus for now and can hope to finish the season on a relative high with perhaps a Europa League trophy too. The form has put into doubt Pioli’s presumed future as well. The coach is still thought to be on his way out in the summer but there may be a chance of things turning if this current form lasts into May.

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First stop on the aforementioned home stretch is Fiorentina. I Viola have not really delivered on any promise this season and are closer to midtable than the top spots. The hosts will be without Bonaventura for the same reason that Milan will be without Theo. Yellows accumulation suspension. The injury situation is relatively mild however with Kalulu and Pobega on the sidelines.

Theo’s absence forces Florenzi back into the line up. Calabria being the other trusted full back means that the center back spots are the uncertain ones with Tomori and Gabbia perhaps ahead of Thiaw and the not 100% ready Kjaer. A similar situation is set for midfield with Reijnders lining up with Adli but Bennacer could be available fit to start in place of the latter. The front four seem more certain with Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Leao all on good form with Giroud as the center forward. The latter is all but certain to be playing his final games for Milan as he heads to Major League Soccer and the bright lights of Los Angeles in the summer. The 37 year old has so far contributed 46 goals for the Milan cause as a number 9 since his arrival in 2021.

Whilst without the suspended Bonaventura Fiorentina do feature one somewhat forgotten long time Milan target Andrea Belotti. The forward’s name would be all over the papers as a Giroud replacement but as he enters his 30s Milan have moved on to younger targets. Perhaps Lille’s Jonathan David? Perhaps Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee? What about RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Sesko or Sporting’s surely now very expensive Victor Gyokeres? As always Milan will be linked to a multitude of realistic and not so realistic names.

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Match Report: Verona 1-3 Milan

Verona 1-3 Milan

Rotation hasn’t always made for good Milan outcomes and despite some need for it – with more European and domestic matches coming after the international break – Pioli opted to sit Giroud for Okafor and keep the rest of the team intact. Kalulu did get a post injury start however. Maignan’s midweek injury scare was not and he started as well.

Milan’s oft dominant left side caused the most trouble early on and Verona could have been behind early on. An Okafor volley was saved well by Lorenzo Montipo’s fingertips as Milan threatened more with Verona rarely able to venture forward.

Pulisic’s hard shot surprised the Verona keeper but hit the crossbar as the quarter point of the match still had Milan with the bulk of the ball with 70% possession stats. As the 30 minute mark was approaching Verona managed to threaten the Milan goal and see more of the ball. Tomori got a yellow for stopping the on rushing Tijjani Noslin. The Dutch winger, who arrived to the Serie A this past January, showcasing his speed.

Milan missed chances with Okafor and Reijnders shooting wide and high with theirs but Verona made more forays into the Milan zone and Maignan became busier as half time approached. The breakthrough arrived courtesy of Theo as he did all from a Leao pass and beat two defenders and the keeper. In the aftermath he received a yellow to miss the next match, for reasons mostly known to the referee.

Gabbia replaced Kalulu at half time. The latter may have hurt his knee in a collision earlier in the first half. Dani Silva replaced Suat Serdar for the hosts. Pawel Dawidowicz’s mistake allowed Okafor to run on the goal, his shot was punched out to the feet of Pulisic who made it to 2-0.

Signs of Milan letting off a bit started to creep in and Verona proceeded to make a triple sub. Stefan Mitrovic replaced Darko Lazovic, Karol Swiderski replaced Michael Folorunsho and Giangiacomo Magnani replaced Pawel Dawidowicz. The aforementioned Noslin opened the scoring with a hard shot for Verona not from the wings but the top of the box into the left corner.

Giroud and Musah came on for Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek right after that goal. At the 70th minutefed in by Giroud it was Leao who missed wide left one on one with the Verona keeper. Chukwueze replaced Okafor for the final 16 minutes of regular time. Soon afterRuben Vinagre replaced Juan David Cabal for Verona.

Milan made it 3-1 when a Bennacer corner was headed on and volleyed into the far corner by Chukwueze. The latter scored his first Serie A goal of the season. The final sub has Kjaer coming on for Tomori. Noslin made another attempt from far but it was wide, the 24 years old could be one to watch. As the 90th minute approached Chukwueze had a half chance but shot low and just wide and Swiderski had a hard shot stopped by Maignan. The latter seemed uncomfortable after that stop.

The game ended 3-1. Juventus had dropped points earlier in the day. Milan now had a three point cushion in the fight for second place.

Milan’s Summer 2024

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Gerry Cardinale says he wants changes

As always a lot has been rumoured already about what Milan needs and can do to strengthen during the upcoming 2024 summer transfer window.

The season has highlighted some more obvious weaknesses.

A young striker is always desirable especially with Giroud older and a possible departure in the cards, possibly to the MLS, any way. Jovic has deputized well, sometimes, but a team like Milan needs more, to play on several fronts especially.

Many fans and commentators alike believe a Kessie type midfielder is missing from the current Milan. A strong player that can carry the ball between zones would help against weaker and stronger opposition and tactics. Loftus-Cheek, Reijnders, Bennacer, Musah, Adli anbd Pobega have shown varied form and not exactly used consistently by Pioli. The team should look to make an improvement in the middle.

Kjaer is aging, Gabbia, Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori and even Hernandez have also shown differing form during the current season playing in the back. The team as a whole has conceded a far too high number of 32 goals (after 28 matches at time of writing). Injuries have disrupted enough to provide needed clarity but depth and more are needed in the back too.

The full back position is intriuguing. The team has Hernandez and little more in the left back back spot but various rumours and moves have pointed at the right back spot. Neither Calabria nor Florenzi are world beaters but for example but at least they are available bodies, yet when the chance arrived Milan moved swiftly for Terracciano. The young Verona born and player is versatile but his main position is right back.

Cardinale, sitting along side senior advisor Ibra, has recently again claimed that he wants changes and wants Milan to challenge more and sooner. The summer will be one indicator at the possible ambitions. A possible and likely new coach will be another pointer too.

Week 25: Monza – Milan

Monza – Milan Sunday February 18 2024 20:45CET

Fifty two points after 24 rounds is a very good return yet Milan sit in third place with a poor defensive record and questionable tactics from a coach who might not survive beyond the summer. Beating Napoli 1-0 propelled Milan to within striking distance of second place, and with Juventus’ week 25 tie versus Verona a chance to jump one place higher. A convincing European win albeit in the less respected and not as highly viewed Europa League also highlighted the week before travelling to Monza.

Thiaw returned from injury versus Rennes and is a candidate to start. Kjaer had stepped in the last few week but the aging Dane should not be risked with too many games and had momentarily lapses in his recent starts. There are some indications that with another European night coming four days after meeting Monza there might be a small rotation in the squad with Okafor and Jovic getting starts. The latter certainly deserves the chance as the unofficial Giroud backup has done well. Bennacer could hop back to a starting position as well. Gabbia has impressed since his loan return and will keep playing while Tomori (and Kalulu) are out. Calabria came off with a knock versus Napoli with Florenzi ready to step in.

Monza have hovered midtable and have just one win in last five.

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Week 24: Milan – Napoli

Milan – Napoli Sunday February 11 2024 20:45CET

Milan fell behind but with Jovic’s help won at Frosinone. The hold on the top three spot is stronger and with it assurances of Champions League money, with a new expended and confusing format and all. Milan continue to not struggle in the goal scoring aspect despite the need for offence being on top of most minds and rumours. The summer will bring more changes in that and other departments and hopefully a more solid defensive record for next season. Rumours of ownership, management and a coaching change swirl around too.

Napoli are not the Napoli of last season and on their second coach of the season are closer to midtable than the top of the Serie A standing. Walter Mazzarri didn’t start well after Rudy Garcia’s brief time at the helm but more recent results might be promising. Milan host Gli Azzurri on an undefeated run and along with the injury absences this has pushed Pioli to use the same line up. One forced change will see Bennacer start in place of Reijnders because of the latter’s yellow cards suspension. Thiaw, Tomori and Kalulu are getting closer to returns but remain out and this means Kjaer and Gabbia will be the starting central defenders. Calabria and Theo are the full backs. Adli will line up beside the aforementioned Algerian. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Leao will try to keep the run going with Giroud in front of them.

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Week 23: Frosinone – Milan

Frosinone – Milan Saturday February 3 2024 18:00CET

Two missed penalties by Giroud and Theo threw away two points versus Bologna. Joshua Zirkzee’s almost audition like setting was deemed a success but it is not going to be easy to get the striker in the summer as Bayern Munich have some (buy back) control over the Bologna player.

The January window highlighted Milan’s limited hand in transfers. Whether it be a pure money issue or otherwise the window was very quiet and it also hinted that Pioli might be gone in the summer. The coach got very little in reinforcements with Filippo Terracciano the sole arrival. Rumours of Ibra contact with Antonio Conte may or may not be true or based in reality but the team seems to be gearing up with another summer of change that may include changes at management and even ownership level as well. More on this later.

Milan hold on to a relatively comfortable third spot in the Serie A and can solidify it even further. The recent undefeated streak is helping Pioli keep a constant starting 11. Maignan will line up behind Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo. Adli and Reijnders have managed to make the pivot positions work for now. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Leao have formed a solid line behind Giroud. Each of the aforementioned can and should contribute more offense and goal with only Loftus-Cheek able to claim to be doing enough. Any possible summer change could mean the 4-2-3-1 is either gone or drastically different next season. Leao has to be more involved and it is not impossible that he is sold to a PSG for example.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s Frosinone attempting to save their season and distance themselves from the relegation zone will provide another test for a Milan that can slip up at the wrong time and against the wrong teams.

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Week 22: Milan – Bologna

Milan – Bologna Saturday January 27 2024 20:45CET

Milan have managed a winning streak that continues to solidify a possible top three finish. It needed a last minute Okafor goal to get the three points at Udinese but he and other sub Jovic extended the 2024 winning run. The game was marred by racist gestures aimed at Maignan however. Such so called fans continue to defy logic because supposedly they are fans of teams who obviously include players of all colours.

Alexis Saelemaekers is not 100% and may not start for Bologna but the Milan loanee has done relatively well for Bologna. Bologna’s star player is Joshua Zirkzee who is somewhat randomly linked to Milan in the team’s continued search for a younger forward. Notwithstanding the fact that Bayern Munich have a buy back option the Dutch player will not come cheap. Observers claim that Milan will monitor the player in this game, it is somehow implied that many, including Milan’s management, hope he does well against Milan. This obviously would defy common sense.

The winning run will push Pioli to start the same 11 as the last weeks. This mean Maignan, Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo form the back line with Adli and Reijnders as pivots in the 4-2-3-1. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao and Giroud will start up front. Despite being in relative good form the latter has an outside chance of leaving Milan this summer and perhaps head to the MLS in North America. The French forward certainly needs more rest and it is debatable if Milan should continue with both Okafor and Jovic next season. This January transfer window has not unexpectedly been quiet but expect another busy summer. Perhaps with slightly more certainty about a future stadium.

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Week 21: Udinese – Milan

Udinese – Milan Saturday January 20 2024 20:45CET

Three points hosting Roma solidified a possible top three spot in the Serie A. Roma’s 3-1 loss was to be Mourinho’s last in charge of the capital team and he was watching it from the stands as he was suspended from the touchline.

The win has relieved some pressure off the team and Pioli. The coach might not at the helm come September nevertheless. For now another stretch of winnable games start with a travel to Udinese. This game is followed by hosting Bologna and then travelling to Frosinone before games against Napoli and Rennes.

The Roma win was good enough that a rare lineup repeat is very likely. The same 11 should start with the hope of repeat score, or more. Maignan and Theo who may be subject to summer transfer bids will line up with Calabria, Kjaer and Gabbia at the back. The latter was give n the start due to ongoing injury situation and did well against Lukaku and co. Adli and Reijnders may not be the first names that come to mind for pivot positions but Pioli has his ideas. Leao, Loftus-CHeek and Pulisic will be the three in the 4-2-3-1. The American has been the recipient in both Serie A and American national team departments and should be considered a relative transfer success.

Udinese are flirting with the relegation spots and that is usually not the best team for Milan to face. Giroud up front could add to his now double digit goals to prevent another anticlimax versus a weaker team.

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