Week 30: Bologna – Milan

Bologna – Milan April 15 2023 15:00CET

Pioli made several changes vs Empoli in week 29 and the 0-0 home time undid some of the momentum and gains of the 4-0 rout at Napoli. Origi and Rebic came under further criticism and starting them pretty much backfired. Milan rebounded at beat Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals, courtesy of an improving Diaz.

With a top four spot still very much in play Pioli and – the almost healthy – Milan squad must find a balance between the Serie A and the Champions League. Word is that this week 30 match at Bologna will feature even more changes with all of Florenzi, Ballo-Toure, Pobega, Vranckx, Rebic, De Ketelaere and Origi possibly starting. It is a big gamble and if it fails Milan could find themselves in more danger of losing out of the top four places. The second leg of the quarter final versus Napoli is midweek and the next few days will dictate Milan’s season more than most.

Riccardo Orsolini is among the important absentees as he is suspended for this match. Marko Arnautovic and Andrea Cambiaso will miss this match as well. Lazio won their match day 30 by beating Spezia 3-0 and are putting some distance between themselves and the pack fighting for places behind league leaders Napoli. Finishing the season in second place is looking increasingly difficult.

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Champions League Quarterfinals: Milan – Napoli

Milan – Napoli April 12 2023 21:00CET

With the backdrop of the 4-0 rout of Napoli the two teams meet again, this time in the Champions League quarterfinals. Milan wasted the good surprise effort of beating Napoli away by tying Empoli at home. A top 4 spot remains very much uncertain. Managing to go deeper in the 2022-2023 Champions League would be a huge boost financially and football-wise but it will be tough task. At least Napoli are very beatable. The team will continue to miss Victor Osimhen and could also miss Giovanni Simeone and therefore the attacking reposnisblity will fall mainly on Giacomo Raspadori’s shoulders. Hirving Lozano and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will need to be subdued for Milan to stand a chance of winning this tie.

Pioli and Milan rested five players versus Empoli, to poor effect, but the players trusted for the 4-0 win at the Maradona should be back for this Champions League first leg. This means Krunic and Tonali as pivots with Bennacer further forward and Diaz pushed to the right. The back four should survive as well with Kjaer a likely starter with Tomori, Calabria and Theo. Leao and Giroud will hope to show good form. Recently sidelined Messias and Kalulu are ready for the bench.

The second leg of the tie will take place next week so neither team has much of chance to rest. The 4-0 win suggests that Milan have a chance to advance but a lot will depend on which teams show up and how the tactics adapt.

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Week 29: Milan – Empoli

Milan – Empoli April 7 2023 21:00CET

Milan shocked just about everyone by beating Napoli 4-0 away. The big win along with a return to form of Leao and a return to the back four was unexpected and, for Milan fans, a sigh of relief. Victor Osimhen’s absence had a part in Napoli’s loss but Milan got about everything right tactically with Pioli deserving of credit. Luciano Spalletti’s outburst after the game, aimed at Leao’s celebrations, was indicative of Milan’s dominance.

Before seeing if Milan can keep this new found confidence going versus Napoli in the Champions League quarter finals the rossoneri need to contend with Empoli. Kalulu and Ibra make up the injured list with the back four expected to survive. Maignan, Theo, Thiaw, Tomori and Calabria will likely keep their place. Bennacer and Tonali should make the pivot roles. The game versus Napoli featured Krunic in the pivot role pushing Bennacer sometimes more forward. Krunic, despite many critics, has showed his qualities but may sit this one out to reappear against Napoli in the middle of the week. Saelemaekers made a couple of Messi-esque runs and scored on one of them. His form was also jaw dropping and if he uses the confidence he showed last week Milan can benefit during these final weeks of the season. Leao scored twice and late in the week there is word that his contract extension may actually happen. Giroud should start up top and while his form is not exactly great he has surely shown more than Origi and the latter may even not have a future at Milan. Origi signed as a free agent last summer and, with a not so low salary, may be cut loose.

Empoli beat Lecce 1-0 last week. The win was their first since late January when they managed to beat Inter by the same score.

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Week 28: Napoli – Milan

Napoli – Milan April 2 2023 20:45CET

Milan entered the latest international break reverting into crisis mode. Losing 3-1 to Udinese meant more questions about all on the team, top to bottom. The summer 2022 transfer window remains in focus as the team – with newcomers like De Ketelaere – looking like a regressing group with Pioli’s job in danger too. The final stretch starts the day after April Fool’s day with a top four spot eagerly required. While talk of a new stadium seems to be moving ahead, at snail’s pace of course, upcoming and future transfer windows will define the intervening years until a new home is finally ready.

Milan can not remain without injuries and Ibra has re-joined the list. For some reason still on international duty at 41 Ibra is injured again. Messias and Kalulu are carrying injuries as well. There has been talk of a return to a back four after a few weeks of the back three resulting in some good and some more poor results. Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori and Theo are the likely starters versus the runaway Serie A leaders. Tonali, Bennacer should start as pivots with at least one source claiming Krunic starting in a more advanced role but supporting the pivots. Diaz, Leao and Giroud should take the other spots.

While many wait and hope for Leao’s contract extension saga to have a happy ending the team needs to focus in these final 10 games. Second to sixth place are separated by only six points and this is without counting Juve possibly winning back their 15 points deduction on appeal.

Late in the week brought news that Victor Osimhen will miss at least two weeks with an injury. Therefore a weakened Napoli host Milan this weekend and will remain handicapped for at least one leg of their upcoming Champions League quarterfinals meeting as well. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is arguably Napoli’s biggest danger man however.

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Week 27: Udinese – Milan

Udinese – Milan March 18 2023 20:45CET

While every other rival for the top spots was dropping points Milan threw away the chance to gain on them and only managed a tame 1-1 tie versus Salernitana. The top four spots and Champions League places are anything but the most secure. The last weeks of the 2022-2023 season will be hard fought to preserve the riches of European football. In the meanwhile Milan found their fate in this season’s UEFA competition. The quarter finals pair Milan with Napoli. Milan were drawn in the more manageable side of the draw – along side Napoli, Inter and Benfica – and if things fall into place anything is possible.

With Napoli matches coming in April Milan has Udinese to play before the international break. Few surprises are expected. Other than Messias being out and Theo being ruled out late in the week with the flu the team is available for selection. Maignan, Kalulu, Thiaw and Tomori are the backbone with Ballo-Toure expected to replace Theo. Bennacer, Tonali and Saelemaekers should be the other starters behind Diaz, Leao and Ibra. The latter looks to get a start since Giroud ruled himself out with a yellow last weekend.

Milan sit in fourth place with a possibility of falling further behind if Juventus’ 15 points deduction appeal succeeds. This being Serie A and Italy that is very much a possibility. Udinese sit in midtable but will miss a familiar name through long term injury. Gerard Deulofeu is out after knee surgery earlier in the calendar year.

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Week 26: Milan – Salernitana

Milan – Salernitana March 13 2023 20:45CET

With one eye on the Champions League second leg match at Tottenham it was Milan returning to tame losing ways at Fiorentina. The week 25 2-1 loss in Tuscany was an opportunity lost to further solidify a Serie A top four spot. After holding Tottenham to 0-0 tie and progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League Milan get another chance at making sure there is top European football next season. Roma, Lazio, Inter and Atalanta all dropped points so three points against Salernitana will prove even more valuable.

The injury list is still looks unfamiliar in its size. Only Messias is on the missing list with all others available to Pioli. Not that this makes the lineup very unpredictable with a few notable players always underused. Maignan is one of the stars of the team with his presence making a big impact. Kalulu, Thiaw and Tomori will hold the line at the back hoping to eliminate mistakes that allow the opposition score. Krunic and Tonali are the first names for the midfield even with Bennacer available. Krunic has done well in recent weeks and has earned the praise of some fans despite being dubbed – in a not so positive way- a Pioli favorite for much of his Milan career. Theo and Saelemaekers should be the two so called wing backs behind Diaz, Leao and Giroud.

Salernitana, featuring Krzysztof Piatek and his three Serie A goals so far, sit close to the relegation spots and are in the midst of a somewhat roller coaster season.

Week 25: Fiorentina – Milan

Fiorentina – Milan March 4 2023 20:45CET

Week 24’s 2-0 win versus Atalanta added to the resurgence after a disastrous start to the calendar year in January. Four shuts in a row playing with a back three has restored some of the hope of a good finish to the season and a Champions League place.

The team has gotten healthier too. For a brief moment every single player on the roster was available for selection but Diaz is out pending further tests. Milan enter this week 25 match at Fiorentina with a near full squad and just in time before the Champions League return at Tottenham too. Maignan’s return has furthered the confidence of the team or so it seems. He will of course whenever healthy and the back three will likely continue to feature the youthful Kalulu, Tomori and Thaiw trio. While Pioli has more to select he and Milan will be missing Leao and Krunic due to suspension (yellows accumulation). This could mean that De Ketelaere gets more minutes, or not. Rebic will most likely replace Leao on the left. Giroud will get another start with a possibility of Ibra getting more sub minutes. Calabria could get the start after a few weeks out. Tonali and Bennacer will play in the middle.

Vincenzo Italiano’s Fiorentina could be considered one of the underachievers of the season as 12th place is not what some expected of the Viola. Riccardo Saponara and co will try to extend their 4 game unbeaten streak after going.

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Week 24: Milan – Atalanta

Milan – Atalanta February 26 2023 20:45CET

Milan have returned to winning ways, narrow 1-0 wins and not the most impressive but the shut outs have been encouraging. Even Tatarusanu has shown improved form. Now the injury numbers are easing with most notably Maignan back in the squad and getting the start.

The back three remains with hopes of another shut out. Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori is youthful and with somewhat different characteristics. It is hoped that they will keep up the recent form. In the middle problems remain as always. Messias is getting the start representing more of a goal scoring threat than Saelemaekers. Bennacer’s continued absence mean Pioli will keep his trust in Krunic besides Tonali and Theo. Up front hold little surprise again with Diaz, Leao with Giroud representing the best Milan can offer for now. None of the three are in sparkling form and Leao’s much needed contract extensions remains in limbo but Pioli has little else to work with. Ibra is an option off the bench however.

Atalanta sit three points behind Milan and with Napoli’s run away form only the top four spots are very much up for grabs in a tight race. The visitors are missing Hans Hateboer, Duvan Zapata and Mario Pasalic and have Merih Demiral suspended.

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Week 23: Monza – Milan

Monza – Milan February 18 2023 18:00CET

Milan face Berlusconi and Galliani’s Monza with hopes slightly raised. Two 1-0 versus Torino and Tottenham with three at the back has the team looking at being solid again. The very poor 2023 form could be left behind but Monza are defeated in Serie A in this calendar year and are surprisingly middle of the table.

The injury situation is heading in a positive direction with Tomori back and a possible back three starter. Maignan and Bennacer are still missed as are Calabria and Florenzi. Messias and Giroud could provide relief and rest for Saelemaekers and Giroud otherwise the team is somewhat predictable.

Monza feature familiar names on the pitch as well with Matteo Pessina and Andrea Petagna on loan from Atalanta and Napoli respectively plus the likes of Stefano Sensi there as well.

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Champions League Round Of 16: Milan – Tottenham

Milan – Tottenham February 14 2023 21:00CET

Milan halted or perhaps paused the crisis level form of 2023 with a 1-0 win versus Torino. Concerns remain and weeks and months old questions about the state of the team are still valid. For now however, the team is back in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in nearly a decade. Tottenham are the opponents with the first leg at the San Siro.

The injury situation is somewhat alleviated with Tomori back in the squad but Ibra is not registered for the Champions League squad even though he is nearing a return to the pitch. Florenzi, Bennacer and Maignan remain out. The expected lineup will again feature a back three as in the Torino match. Thiaw, Tomori and Kalulu are set to be the starters. Facing Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min their shape and form will go a long way in deciding this tie. In the middle it looks like Saelemaekers will start with Krunic, Tonali and Theo to his left. Tottenham will miss Rodrigo Bentancur through long term injury and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to suspension. Therefore the battle for the middle has both teams missing important players. Upfront Milan will continue to rely on Giroud with Leao and likely Diaz as the support in a predicted 3-4-2-1. The two teams share another commonality as Hugo Lloris is out of action for the visitors and this tie has been dubbed as the battle of the number 2s with Tatarusanu facing another veteran in Fraser Forster.

Both teams sit in 5th place in the Serie A and English Premier League with Tottenham suffering a poor 4-1 loss at Leicester on Friday.

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