Apr 132019
 

Week 31 was yet again eventful. Losing 2-1 at Juventus was not the biggest surprise but the manner of the loss was. For a good number of minutes Milan did well against the defending champions and took the lead via Piatek late in the first. However, VAR and its lack of usefulness were put on view when Alex Sandro’s arm made contact with the ball inside the box after a Milan cross. A long deliberation called it a no penalty despite replays – showing a hand ball by current standards and interpretation – on view for all to see including Michael Fabbri, the main referee. Once again Juventus got away with it. Later there were whispers of an apology being offered to Milan by Nicola Rizzoli, Serie A’s chief referee. That may not have been the case since Rizzoli did not publicly acknowledge anything and in fact defended Fabbri against the threat of not being assigned games for a few weeks.

The second half was not as good. Problems crept in and one such mistake was Musacchio misjudging a Dybala run and instead of perhaps letting the ball run put a leg in and brought down the Argentinian. The same player converted the penalty to tie the game. Later Juve sub – and alleged Milan fan – Moise Kean scored from the top of the box after a nice play and individual move. Milan lost to a Ronaldo-less Juventus but retained 4th spot for another week due to the lackluster chasing pack.

Week 32 has been offered up as another “final”. To stay in Champions League places after going without a win in four match days is lucky in itself but losing any more games is likely to end that.  Atalanta, Roma, Lazio and Torino are within 3 points of Milan and so ninth place is not far away. Borini got the start at Juventus and he is in line to get another, whether that’s the best way to approach to a so called final is questionable. As mentioned Musacchio was to blame for the Juventus goal and was generally below par. This had led to calls for Caldara getting a first Serie A start but it doesn’t looks like it will be happening. Gattuso’s now famous loyalty is likely to strike again as everybody including Rodriguez, Suso and Kessie are set to be starters. Paqueta is still out of course, the Brazilian midfielder will be out until early May. So is Donnarumma, although the young goalie is much closer to a return. Therefore Reina will start in goal and the 4-3-3 is here to stay.

Lazio are three points behind but have a game in hand. The 3-5-2 team are of course led by Ciro Immobile’s 14 Serie A goals.

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Apr 062019
 

Milan dropped points once again. The tie versus Udinese was a blow in the standings and the stated aim of reaching and staying in the Champions League spots. As it unfolded the rest of the pack are not in much better shape either with all of Lazio, Roma and Sampdoria dropping points. So Milan is still fourth. Piatek, opportunistic and with good reflexes, nodded the ball in just before half time to rescue a lackluster first 44 minutes. The first half had turned into a worrying debacle with both Donnarumma and Paqueta having to be subbed off due to thigh and ankle issues respectively. The 4-3-1-2 that was only practiced for a short time following the loss at Sampdoria three days earlier fell apart with Paqueta’s departure. The second half didn’t produce enough and right after a good chance to double the lead Udinese executed a near perfect counter that ended with Kevin Lasagna beating Reina in goal. The replay had made some fans wonder why the whole Milan 11 were playing so high on the pitch.

The injuries to Donnarumma and Paqueta will likely keep them out for a period measured in weeks. Donnarumma looks to be one who is out for a shorter time, perhaps only two weeks and the Brazilian four or five. The 4-3-1-2 is probably back in the archives and a 4-3-3 back on the pitch. Suso and Kessie whose poor form and minor knocks had kept them out of the Udinese game should be back for this game versus the reigning champions. Juventus are very close to clinching another title but have the additional burden of Champions League matches to come midweek. Will they be fully focused for Milan? The answer is likely yes. Gattuso, who has come under pressure again, may for unknown reasons use Borini on LW and push back Calhanoglu to the left midfield again. Suso and Piatek will join Borini up top and Kessie and Bakayoko will join the Turkish international in midfield. The back four versus Udinese featured Abate. The veteran failed to shine but his replacements haven’t done much better in the last two match days. Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez are to be the starters.

On the subject of coaching a new name started circulating as a possible summer change. Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, often linked to Real Madrid and Manchester United, is now linked to Milan as the two mentioned teams have decided to move ahead with Zinedine Zidane (again) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Is he a realistic target? Never say never but it is unlikely.

Juan Cuadrado, Andrea Barzagli, Douglas Costa and Ronaldo remain out for Juventus. The latter’s absence is likely the only reason for optimism about this match.

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Apr 022019
 

Week 29 produced a howler and an abysmal performance. The game got off to a disastrous start when, within the first minute, Donnarumma gifted a goal to Gregoire Defrel. The goalie simply returned a back pass to the French footballer who rebounded the ball back into goal. Milan never recovered.

The rest of the game and once again especially the first half were at best poor and at worst painful to watch. Sampdoria’s midfield dominated and Milan players were unable to connect passes. Fabio Quagliarella didn’t make it easy for the defense. The veteran and his team threatened more goals. The tactic of playing from the back and using square passes were very much ineffective and Piatek remained disconnected and isolated. Suso and Calhanoglu offered little and Rodriguez missed cross after cross. The Swiss international was replaced at half time but Conti wasn’t to be a solution. The introduction of Paqueta, presumably rested after returning from a scoring performance for the selecao, in the second somewhat connected the midfield to attack to create some positive vertical movement but it was not good enough.

The second loss in a row has apparently become a catalyst for Gattuso to try something different. This midweek match comes very soon after the defeat in Genoa but the 4-3-3 may be modified to a 4-3-1-2 with Paqueta playing further up and behind two center forwards. Cutrone hasn’t impressed in sub roles this season but looks to get a start along side Piatek. Indications are that the massively underperforming Suso will sit this one out and a Kessie, Bakayoko, Calhanoglu middle three will start. The defense and goalkeeper starters are likely to remain unchanged.

Udinese sit at a lowly 16th and are lead by Rodrigo De Paul and Kevin Lasagna.

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Mar 302019
 

The international break following the 2-3 derby loss was dominated by stadium talk and the Kessie – Biglia incident on the bench during the derby. The two players had to be held apart for something that is not fully explained. Gattuso talked of it as a second defeat – besides the derby loss itself of course.  Squad unity and discipline is highly regarded by Gattuso, perhaps even too much, and he has since talked to the players and the team has fined Kessie for the incident. The team needs to move forward, improve and fight the “10 finals” to the end of the season.

The stadium issue seems to have shifted focus to a shared solution, a new shared stadium and not the San Siro itself. A fully and solely owned stadium is likely beyond the financial means of most owners but it is surely a better solution if the team is to maximize its value and revenue. Elliott and future owners must attempt to build and not share. However, there are still many (municipal) hurdles to jump over before a final decision.

The derby itself was disappointing. Inter broke out of their recent woes and were far more dynamic and quick in possession. Perisic and co still without Icardi attacked Milan on numerous occasions, Matias Vecino attacked between the lines while Paqueta, Kessie and the whole defense looked on and soon Milan buckled. Bakayoko scored his first Milan goal and gave hope in the second half. Later a handful of close chances were missed and near the final whistle an unlikely tie was one or two yards away.

Sampdoria, five places behind Milan, host this week 29 encounter. The Liguria team has scored and conceded many goals this season. Fabio Quagliarella is leading the Serie A top scorers list and at 36 earned a return to the Azzurri line up.

Milan are expected to use a somewhat predictable starting 11 but Kessie is likely to give way to Biglia. Bakayoko’s much improved form has made the calls for a permanent transfer from Chelsea louder and lining up with Biglia and Paqueta has the makings of a more solid middle three. The latter scored his debut selecao goal during the international break, vs Panama and may be rested for this match. Suso will need to break out of his slump as he is retaining his up front spot alongside Piatek and either of Calhanoglu or Castillejo despite a very poor run of form, but then again Gattuso is a loyal to a fault kind of coach.

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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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