Dec 172017

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Just three days after defeating (3-0) Verona in a Coppa Italia encounter Milan travel to Verona for a re-match. Serie A is a different proposition of course but Verona’s position in the table, 19th after week 16, should on paper make it one of the easier games of the season. Conversely Milan’s recent record against lowly teams is nothing to be happy about therefore this match is anything but easy.

After a very rough start with one point taken from Benevento in the league and Rijeka in the Europa League the team has looked better. Gattuso’s switch to 4-3-3 seems to have coincided with a more direct and more active game. Two wins vs Bologna and Verona have looked somewhat encouraging and there is some room for optimism.

Cutrone’s reputation grows everytime he plays and the 19 year old was one of the stars of the Coppa match vs Verona. It seems however that he will not start in the league. Whether this is a good rotation policy or not is debatable, Montella frustrated everybody by changing the team often and perhaps it is unwise for Gattuso to do the same. Time will tell.

The aforementioned front three is likely to feature Suso, Kalinic and Borini. The middle three is confirming Biglia’s poor form with Montolivo again the most likely player with Kessie and Bonaventura around him. The back four should consist of Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Calabria may be picked ahead of Abate. Musacchio seems confined to the bench, for much the same reasons as his Argentine compatriot in midfield.

Gigio Donnarumma was the subject of an ‘insulting’ banner vs Verona as the war of words between his agent and the management flared up again. There is word that Mino Raiola will try to find a destination for the goalkeeper especially since the team is struggling and may need to sell players, this has been denied of course but most fans are rightly frustrated that this is still an issue after a big contract was agreed upon mere months ago. Many rightly argue that Donnarumma should fire his agent as a statement of intent of his desire to stay and fully concentrate on the pitch.

Dec 142017

The Milan derby is of course one of the biggest in the world football. The rivalry is magnified at least partly because the stadium is shared. The San Siro, which opened in 1926 and now with a modern capacity of 80,000, has been the subject of several plans by one of Inter or Milan with the aim of being the sole owner, or the two teaming up and renovating it, meaning they will take control of it from the city of Milan. However it turns out in the future the fact that the two teams share it – and have their ultras in the curva nord and curva sud – has served to enhance the rivalry.

The Derby della Madonnina, named for the famous statue of Virgin Mary in the city of Milan, first started in 1908 not long after Inter had broken off and formed the new team. Milan won that first derby 2-1. The 1960s featured a few famous matches – the two teams led by with Gianni Rivera on one side and Sandro Mazzola on the other and coached by Nereo Rocco and Helenio Herrera – made the encounters more famous The 80’s brought more success for Milan and the Serie A was propelled into a major league attracting the biggest stars due in big part to the money of the likes of Berlusconi and Moratti family. Both teams signed and fielded star studded teams. Italy show casing itself with the 1990 World Cup further assisted.

The Milan teams and the league itself have faded in the 21st century and the stadium it is a matter of time one team moves out. Beyond the next few years the rivalry and status of the derby is unlikely to diminish but the history of it will always be the main highlight.

Some notable derby wins for Milan include the famous 6-0 win on May 11th 2001 with goals from Gianni Comandini (2) and Andriy Shevchenko (2), Federico Giunti and Serginho. Andriy Shevchenko is the all time Milan derby top scorer with 14 goals, one ahead of Giuseppe Meazza who, though mainly an Inter star, played and scored for both teams.

Below are the head to head statistics that highlight the Milan and Inter rivalry.

Total matches
Milan wins
Inter wins

In addition to the Milan derby an infographic that was produced by Betfair football odds is included. The infographic features various derbies that have current and past history in England.

(click for full size)
Football Derbies


Dec 102017

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Gattuso’s reign as Milan coach has started as poorly as it can. Points lost courtesy of a last minute goal conceded to Benevento and an abject loss to Rijeka in the Europa League game have served to add another air of crisis for Milan. The questions regarding the sale and ownership – including a rumour of Saudi billionaire involvement – and UEFA’s position regarding the Financial Fair Play and health of the team have made for another period of frustration for Milan and its fans.

Bologna visit the San Siro having not lost in 3 games and feature former Milan youth player, Simone Verdi, as the team’s leading scorer. The bigger issue however is if Gattuso can right the ship and use the best 11 at his disposal. The much talked about and used back three might be abandoned for this match at least. A return to a 4-3-3 is on the cards. One can hope that a stable line up can be found and the sometimes needless changes that Montella was guilty of can be left in the past.

The 4-3-3 – if it indeed happens – is likely to feature Abate, Mussachio, Bonucci and Rodriguez at the back. The midfield will probably feature Montolivo in the middle as Biglia has often disappointed this season. Kessie and Bonaventura are the other likely starters. Andre Silva and Cutrone were ineffective midweek vs Rijeka and Andre Silva was specifically singled out by Gattuso and as of this point it seems just as unlikely as ever that he will picked ahead of Kalinic. Suso, Kalinic and Borini are therefore the more likely candidates for the front three.

Dec 032017

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The season of disappointment continued with more points dropped in the 0-0 tie vs Torino at the San Siro. Starting both Andre Silva and Kalinic did not produce any improvements and Montella was rightfully and expectedly fired. Rino Gattuso, he of the primavera, was swiftly appointed in his place. Interim or otherwise appointing another ex-player with limited experience is risky. At least the expectation will be low, based on recent history at least.

Milan travel to Benevento for match day 15, the promoted team has zero wins and zero ties in the first 14 games of the season and has scored 6 goals total in the Serie A. Needless to say anything but a win is a deep disappointment and embarrassment.

A lot has been written in the few day since Gattuso’s appointment. Besides the aforementioned limited experience and little success as a coach the issue at hand is the formation and tactics. It is pretty clear that character and grit, conveyed through the coach’s own history and temperament, are not enough to push Milan into the top 4. In his introduction Gattuso was quick to point out that he has coaching credentials (of course) and won’t rely on character alone.

Team observers have been trying to get a feel of the coach’s preferred tactics. In these early days the line up is predicted to be a 3-4-3 with the players that get to start more or less the same 11 as the week(s) before. Various sources point to a back three of Bonucci, Romagnoli and Musacchio or Zapata. In the middle Borini or Abate with Montolivo, Kessie and Rodriguez. Up front Suso, Kalinic and Bonaventura. If this is indeed the starting 11 then Gattuso needs to impart his own stamp on it because a very similar line up had looked decidedly average during Montella’s reign.

Nov 282017

Regression is one word thrown around – in recent days – to describe the 2017-2018 Milan. Indeed the 200 million plus spent in the summer hasn’t improved the team. It is normal to blame the coach and in Montella’s case he did seem devoid of ideas and tactical know how. His number one fatal flaw is and will be best remembered as the coach unable to settle on a starting 11 or not using what seemed his best players all the time.

No one can be sure from the outside looking in but there legitimate questions to be asked. Why didn’t Andre Silva and Cutrone start more games, just to ask one. It is also normal to ask why the starting 11 changed so much and at the very least Montella didn’t find a working formation if not a constant starting one.

photo courtesy

The choices made in the transfer market, presumably in consultation with Montella, can be seen, with hindsight, as one source of the problem. Sending Carlos Bacca out, not even for money but only on loan, for Kalinic seems at best to be a sideways move. More generally why not build a team that keeps Suso’s, the star of the 2016-2107 team, spot on the team secure. Paying big money for Andre Silva, Calhanoglu, and Kalinic with the view of letting them be starters (surely when the three cost almost 90 million) limits the formations where Suso also fits. A lot had also been seen and said about Milan’s poor midfield. Was enough done to provide a good and steady stream of supply for the ever changing forwards. Conti’s long term injury has hurt the team but even in the era of offensive and crossing-mad full backs any offence shouldn’t be built on a full back or two (Rodriguez being the other of course).

The deed is done however and it is now almost December and in a move that sounds too much like the Berlusconi/Galliani modus operandi a former player has been given the reins. He of the primavera team after poor to average and sometimes turbulent spells at Palermo, Sion, Pisa and OFI Crete. Can Rino Gattuso, with little experience or success as a coach, relaunch the season? Expectation are low, but not based on his playing time or character. The optimist might say that Gattuso’s no nonsense ways might rub off on the players. Is that enough? That is doubtful without strong tactical ideas to go along with it. In his unveiling press conference he has indicated that he will play a three man defense and four man midfield but that the offence will be worked out, he doesn’t have much time to decide and will need to be flexible yet with ideas.

Milan meet Benevento next. Benevento have exactly zero wins and ties in 14 Serie A games. Gattuso’s time can not start with giving the Campania based team a point.

Nov 262017

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The Europa League win, beating Austria Wien 5-1 for the second time this season, provided a lift but a cautious one. Are Austria Wien too weak or Milan too strong. The evidence on the pitch was not all that conclusive. Borini put on a strong, hard working performance, all from a wing back position. Cutrone and Silva each with two goals and Rodriguez with one came out of the game with enhanced standings but the rest weren’t outstanding. Bonucci’s almost comical attempt to prevent Wien’s goal put yet more spotlight on his recent struggles just to name one player. Biglia didn’t have a good game, neither did Calhanoglu.

All that may matter little because this week 14 game vs Torino will feature a changed line up, yet again. Montella seems intent on leaving Silva and Cutrone on the bench again. The coach indicated that this is ‘necessary’ win game but his rotation, if one can call it that, doesn’t bode well with Kalinic having provided little when starting. Montolivo may get a start  – in Biglia’s place – Suso and Bonaventura too. Kessie keeps his place despite being less than good midweek. The back three looks to feature Zapata with Bonucci and Romagnoli with Musacchio a victim of the coaches changes.

Mihajlovic’s team may be slowly gaining form and come to the San Siro with no losses in their last three games.

Nov 192017

by Stelios Karakasis

Welcome to another episode of ‘’In the Realms of the Unreal’’ with Vincenzo Montella. This time around we will be focusing on the positives of the defeat in San Paolo. A defeat that came as no surprise to anyone slightly following Italian football, a defeat in the hands of a much, much, much better team.

Losing to this Napoli side away by a one goal margin is not a disgrace, nor an illogical outcome. They are the undefeated leaders of Serie A, a team appreciated throughout Europe for their attractive strain of football, with a lethal front three of Insigne, Callejon and Mertens and Marek Hamsik behind them. So, one has to ask, what was Montella thinking on that Saturday night, playing a defensive line of three so high up the pitch? If that wasn’t his planning, it only makes it worse for him, and so does insisting on playing Fabio Borini as a right wing-back. It is clear by now that Borini lacks the requirements to play the specific role. Up front he tries to make things happen, he’s dedicated and hard-working but defensively he’s the equivalent of the Bay of Pigs, an experiment destined to fail. Yesterday, he was slaughtered by Lorenzo Insigne.

But that’s not Borini’s fault and in general it was another bad performance. Simply put, the notion that Milan should be pleased with the fact that they merely lost and didn’t get blown out of the San Paolo pitch, must surely trouble the whole organization. By the way, here’s what Milan have achieved so far in this season when faced with the teams that are placed above them on the table:

Lazio – Milan 4-1, Sampdoria – Milan 2-0, Milan – Roma 0-2, Inter – Milan 3-2, Milan – Juventus 0-2, Napoli – Milan 2-1. Lost all six games, scored four times, allowed fifteen goals, with a really good keeper protecting their goal.

Montella said after the game that patience is needed to reach even Inter’s level. That’s not a convincing defence, considering the nerazzurri finished below his team last season and Milan spent over two hundred million for players in the summer. It’s almost December, experimenting at will simply can’t pass as rotation, and if you are willing to get puzzled on this fine Sunday afternoon, revisit his substitutions in San Paolo.

Montella stated that there is visible improvement in the way the squad plays, they way it reacts, the way it fights. Well, either he’s really bad at reading what happens on the pitch, or he is not aware that the games are being broadcasted on television. He also feels optimistic. Says the worst part is over. Now, is it? We are about to find out. Come Christmas, Milan would have played against Torino, Benevento, Bologna, Hellas Verona and Atalanta, five games that are not unmanageable to win. Fail to gather at least twelve points from these fixtures and even qualification for European football next year might seem like a struggle. Not quite what was expected at the start of the season. Montella is in a difficult situation and, while not the only culprit, he has to take the blame for what his team is presenting on the pitch. Actions and words regarded, the man has taken off his jacket and painted himself a glowing target on the back.

There is a single moment in the match against Napoli, that pretty much sums up the sorry state of affairs Milan are in: It’s stoppage time and Alessio Romagnoli’s wonder strike has put the rossoneri on the scoreboard. 2-1. Moments later, and luckily enough, they win a free-kick not far from Pepe Reina’s goal. With the very last kick of the game, they have a chance to salvage two points, to unexpectedly avoid defeat with a spirited comeback out of nowhere. Even Gigi Donnarumma comes up. You need faith and decisiveness and a decent delivery in the box, so you can turn this thing over. It’s what mentally strong teams do. Is there hope? Well, evidently, not. Lucas Biglia kick is as bad and hopeless as it gets; it floats high and wide, it’s amateurish and bewildering and disheartening and all these bad, bad things and symbolic enough and it is game over, Napoli have won.

Lorenzo Insigne was right after the game, Napoli played with heart and grit. A stock phrase after a derby win, but totally true on this particular Saturday night. Milan, on the other hand, are still collectively searching for both of those much-needed traits among many other things, while Montella looks unable to motivate the players to even get off the team bus. Will things change for the better? Probably yes but it’s too early to say. Good sides are built according to plan, not bought in a single transfer window. It takes time, even if you are able to buy all the expensive materials at once. Does the future look bright? Again, it’s early to say. Just don’t bring your sunglasses with yet.

Nov 182017

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The international took the focus off of Milan somewhat. The Azzurri’s failure to qualify for World Cup 2018 remains the big story around Italy and much of the world too.  That is not to say the international break has been ‘Milan free’. There have been more stories casting doubts on the Chinese ownership situation with Li Yonghong being mentioned and investigated as far as the New York Times.

Montella’s tactics and failure have also been on the lips of many fans. With the table topping Napoli the next game there is little optimism that the season can be put back on track this weekend.

News of the formation is likely to disappoint again. Indications are that Montella experimented with a few different line ups but that Suso will start behind Kalinic. This didn’t work earlier in the season and it is questionable that it will now. The midfield is missing Biglia, who is not fully recovered but available on the bench, but welcomes back Bonaventura. The aforementioned is likely to line up with Montolivo, Kessie, Borini and either one of Rodriguez or Locatelli in a crowded midfield hoping to stop the dynamic 4-3-3 of Maurizio Sarri’s team.

The back three should be the familiar Bonucci, Romagnoli and Musacchio but it is also possible that Zapata will start in place of the Argentinian, again.

Napoli have a big absentee in Faouzi Ghoulam but of course represent a very tough test hosting Milan.

Oct 152017

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The season has been derailed to the point of questioning the coach and formations. The international break meant that Montella perhaps has time to restart the season and put the team back on the better path with which the season started. The week 7 0-2 loss to Roma wasn’t the worst performance seen by Milan fans by any stretch but far more is expected than 7th spot in the Serie A standings.

Inter have had a more reassuring start to their season and under Luciano Spalletti have performed well enough for their fans. Led by Mauro Icardi the team sit second.

The aforementioned formations and tinkering has settled on a 3-5-1-1 for week 8 and this is at least in part due to Kalinic’s injury. The Croat has an injury that is expected to be short term and misses the derby. Suso and in front of him Andre Silva should start. The latter has performed well and is very deserving to lead the attacking line. The middle five is expected to remain predictable and will be Rodriguez, Bonaventura, Biglia, Kessie and Borini. The back three has to remain the best three available as there are little other options. Romagnoli, Bonucci and Musacchio haven’t played mistake free but will of course start.


Oct 012017

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Week six’s loss to Sampdoria is already threatening to unravel a season with high expectations. The 2-0 away loss increased the pressure on the team to the point of putting Montella’s job in question. This game vs Roma and the next vs Inter after the international break are to be crucial for the team and perhaps the coach’s position. Why has it reached to this point this early in the season?

The back three looked and has looked mistake prone in most games this season. Starting Zapata vs Sampdoria was also adding to the likelihood of disaster and so it came to be as his poor header or clearance gave the ball away for Sampdoria’s first. The midfield hasn’t looked great and the forwards are somewhat under-performing. Montella’s rotation of attacking players is not allowing for continuity either. Suso has struggled and has seen on and off action in place of pure strikers like Kalinic and Andre Silva. The 3-5-1-1 has not helped and should not be used. Suso should arguably be a starter every week but not in that formation behind a sole striker.

The midweek game vs a supposedly weak HNK Rijeka team has added to the air of crisis. That game which some hoped would provide a retrieve from the slump was only rescued by a last kick Cutrone goal after Milan had thrown away a 2-0 lead courtesy of Bonucci and Romagnoli mistakes.

Roma have their injury worries with but have more than enough to provide a tougher test of course and the likes of Edin Dzeko and El Shaarawy can very easily take advantage of mistakes at the back. The 3-5-2 persists for now as the options and time are too short for any possible change. Kalinic and Andre Siva could start together up front and the midfield is probably the best it can be with Rodriguez, Bonaventura, Biglia, Kessie and Abate in front of the back three. The back three must include Musacchio as the team can surely not afford another Zapata trademark costly mistake. Bonucci and Romagnoli must be at their best and perhaps this is the time to draw back the high defensive line a bit. Neither of the three have shown the ability to keep up with an attacker that beats the offside line and runs by them.

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