Week 16: Milan – Monza

Milan – Monza Sunday December 17 2023 12:30CET

Milan managed to squeeze out a Europa League spot by beating Newcastle. To some Milan fans that would count as an anticlimax of sorts. Champions League is what Milan is about and the prospect of somewhat meaningless Europa League midweek games doesn’t necessarily spark excitement. The extra revenue and coefficients are the obvious positives of course. The last minute loss to Atalanta last weekend had dampened the atmosphere and the continuing injuries and questionable tactics continue to define Pioli and the team overall. Perhaps Ibra’s return as a senior advisor to RedBird can ignite something within the team, time will tell what the Swede’s role higher up on the team’s echelon can have on the team itself.

Lorenzo Colombo and Matteo Pessina led Monza visit Milan in another Lombardy region matchup. Leading up to this week 16 match there have been various predictions for the lineup Pioli will choose. Will Theo continue to play a central role or move back to the left is probably the number one question. Bartesaghi can play on the left but will he? Calabria is suspended for this match and it makes the back line choices even less predictable. There has even been one report featuring Pobega as a defender. Up front Giroud as isolated as ever at Atalanta but managed to get on the scoresheet. Leao had several good moment but they were all wasted or misplayed in the end. Jovic scored again and perhaps deserves more minutes. The scudetto race is fading fast but a relatively light schedules needs to be taken advantage of. After meeting Galliani’s men Milan before traveling to Salernitana, hosting Sassuolo, meeting Cagliari in the Coppa Italia and then traveling to Empoli to finish the first half of the Serie A season.

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Week 15: Atalanta – Milan

Atalanta - Milan Saturday December 9 2023 18:00CET
Atalanta – Milan Saturday December 9 2023 18:00

Following a Champions League disappointment versus Borussia the Jovic first Milan goal led 3-1 win over Frosinone raised the collective moods a slight amount. Milan has managed to stay within striking distance of Serie A leaders Inter in this still young season but injuries, form and coaching have seen a decline that may require January reinforcement. Juan Miranda as Theo deputy and a striker seem to be the (obvious) priorities but Pioli’s coaching and the conditioning and the conditions of players are perhaps more worrisome.

Atalanta are not exactly the high flyers of recent seasons but the now eighth placed team can still further dampen Milan’s season. To face the Bergamo team a return to the semi abandoned 4-2-3-1 is predicted. Theo will once again play in the middle of the defence as the absentees and injuries remain on the sidelines. the two pivots are expected to be Musah and Reijnders with Loftus-Cheeks pushed up between Chukwueze and Pulisic. Giroud is set to return from suspension and needs to lead the offense well again. it is possible that Bennacer sees more minutes The Algerian saw a few minutes versus Frosinone returning from long term injury. With a more or less do or die Champions League match at Newcastle Adli is also another candidate for minutes.

Charles De Ketelaere’s loan move to Atalanta started well and there was early talk of Gasperini’s men redeeming his loan and sending €23+ million Milan’s way but the Belgian is now on the bench and may not feature much the rest of this season. Atalanta do feature Mario Pasalic as a starter however.

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Week 14: Milan – Frosinone

A limping and in crisis Milan face Frosinone trying to maintain or improve the distance between them Inter, the league leaders. The win against PSG in October revived some Champions League and form hopes but it has been followed by indifferent to poor form with the 3-1 loss to Dortmund adding to Pioli’s job security woes. Perhaps the biggest reason for this fall has been the growing number of injuries. Milan enter this week 14 match with all of the following missing. Sportiello, Kalulu, Kjaer, Caldara, Pellegrino , Leao , Okafor and Thiaw are all out short or long term. The latter limped off during the aforementioned Dortmund loss and forced Pioli into using Krunic as a center back.

There has been some thought that Krunic will retain the defense spot for the match against Frosinone but giving a chance to a defensive prospect Jan-Carlo Simic seems more sane. The 18 year primavera star might indeed get the chance with Tomori on his side. Calabria and Theo will complete the back four. Musa, Reijnder, Loftus-Cheek will play in the middle with the possibility of reverting to a 4-2-3-1. That has Pulisic, Chukwueze and Loftus-Cheek as the three. Giroud’s continuing suspension means Jovic is the only center forward option. The Serbian has been tagged a flop so far. At least this flop is coming at a relatively low cost.

Players’ forms have been worrying and the results have disappointed. To add to this a new Maldini interview has just been released. Speaking to the Repubblica newspaper the Milan legend has questioned RedBird and criticized many of their decisions before and after effectively firing him alongside Ricky Massara. Fan and public opinion has once again shifted against Gerry Cardinale and only a big turnaround will turn it around again. It might be with a new coach.

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Week 13: Milan – Fiorentina

Milan – Fiorentina Saturday November 25 2023 20:45CET

An international break ends with a Milan in crisis mode and Milan Lab as busy as ever. While Pioli’s training methods are under severe scrutiny for the number of (muscular) injuries it should also be noted that Milan’s injury troubles predate Pioli. However, as it stands Milan are on the verge of trouble with Champions League spot is still at risk despite the win against PSG. Pioli’s job is under threat as well and wins are needed.

As mentioned Milan are in an injury crisis with all of Sportiello, Kalulu, Kjaer, Pellegrino, Bennacer, Leao and Okafor out short or long term. Leao and Okafor returned injured from international duty to add yet more pressure on Pioli and Milan and severely test any offensive depth Milan have. Add to that Giroud’s suspension and it falls on Jovic to start in attack. The Serbian has featured little so far and done even less. Chukwueze has some fans uttering the flop word and Pulisic has cooled off from his strong start. Loftus-Cheek struggling with illness means the unimpressive Pobega will start. Back in defense the only options available are Thiaw and Tomori with Kjaer, Pellegrino and Kalulu out in order of short to long term. as one other illustration of the personnel problems facing the team highly rated 15 year old forward Francesco Camarda has been called up for the bench and has some fans calling for the player to get minutes.

Giacomo Bonaventura’s Fiorentina are somehow in sixth place despite losing three of the last four in the Serie A. As much as ever the fight for the top four spot is a hard one and of course Milan can not afford to lose to Vincenzo Italiano’s men nor can they afford to lose three days later to Dortmund.

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Week 11: Milan – Udinese

Milan – Udinese Saturday November 4 2023 20:45CET

A 2-2 tie at Napoli felt like a loss. Giroud had finished two headed goals but Napoli were allowed back into the game. The hosts’ two second half goals extended Milan’s winless streak. As is seemingly customary a number of injuries were added to the list for Milan Lab.

Kalulu will be out for four month after rupturing tendon and going under the knife. Pellegrino who had come on as Kalulu’s sub also left the game and will miss many weeks. Add to the Pulisic was subbed out at half time but should be out only a few days. However, Kjaer could be ready for the bench after missing time.

Romero, or possibly Okafor, will start in Pulisic’s spot. The subpar Leao will need to follow Giroud and snap out of his goal scoring drought. In the middle Krunic will, as often the case, be preferred and start with Musah and Reijnders. At the back the options are even more limited. Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori and Theo will start with Maignan in goal. The January market will have Milan searching for a left back and central defender. For the former spot Real Betis’ Juan Miranda continues to be linked.

The struggling Udinese have rehired Gabriele Cioffi for a second stint as coach after sacking Andrea Sottil.

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Week 10: Napoli – Milan

Napoli – Milan Sunday October 29 2023 20:45CET

A battered Milan on the precipice of a crisis will travel to the Maradona to visit the reigning Serie A champions Napoli. Losing 3-0 to PSG in Paris exposed the team’s limitation and heightened pressure on Pioli especially when it comes to the tactics that allowed the likes of Kylian Mbappe plenty of room to run into. Milan looked second best all over the pitch and have now scored zero goals in three Champions League matches. Giroud looks closer to retirement and Leao huffs and puffs tamely. Injuries limit options even more with Okafor and Jovic unavailable or just simply ineffective.

Napoli will be missing Victor Osimhen and not exactly impressed so far this but Khvicha Kvaratskhelia seems to be regaining form. Facing Rudi Garcia’s men will be Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori and Theo. Thiaw is suspended following a poor red last weekend. Adli is set to keep a starting place as Krunic’s post injury return has been mediocre and worse. Reijnders and Mush should start alongside the Frenchman. With Okafor and Jovic uncertain for the weekend Giroud will likely get another chance to get going. Just weeks ago the French forward was looking ok but has declined and voices for a young forward as early as January are getting louder. Lille’s Canadian Jonathan David is a favoured but expensive option. Pulisic and Leao should play on the wings with little other healthy options available for the team.

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Champions League Matchday 3: PSG – Milan

PSG – Milan Wednesday October 25 2023 21:00CET

An unimpressive Juventus managed to beat Milan 1-0 via a Manuel Locatelli deflected goal. The result was disappointing and while injuries, as is typical for a Milan team, played a part the game was winnable on paper. Maignan and Theo’s suspensions didn’t help wither but Mirante, deputizing for the injured Sportiello, did well when called up on.

Travelling to PSG is not an easy task. The French capital team have not exactly set Europe, of France for that matter, ablaze but in players like Kylian Mbappe have game winners of course.

Milan will be missing Sportiello, Loftus- Cheek and Chukwueze, in addition to Bennacer. Calabria might be on the bench and be spared the duty of defending Mbappe. Krunic, back from injury and often criticized as a Pioli favorite, will likely start ahead of Adli.

The Bosnian did not have good minutes in the sub appearance against Juventus. Giroud and Leao need to get going again in the goal scoring department. Milan’s young, two game Champions League season so far has produced exactly zero goals. Dropping more points will deepen the dent of this European season.

Gianluigi Donnarumma will continue to be the focus of Milan fans’ ire as the goalkeeper’s agent repeated claims that he never wanted to leave Milan. This, more or less, doesn’t match with the reality of the contract offers that were forwarded to the player for more than a year before he left Milan on a free transfer.

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Week 9: Milan – Juventus

Milan – Juventus Sunday October 22 2023 20:45CET

Milan entered the international break after an eventful win in Genoa. The week 8 match ended 1-0 in Milan’s favour via a late Pulisic goal but the much needed win was overshadowed by what happened even later in the match. Maignan was shown a red for a knee to Caleb Ekuban’s head. As Milan had exhausted all subs Giroud put on the goalkeeper’s gloves and proceeded to make a (closed eye) save to rescue the win.

As is now normal the international break has produced new injuries. Chukwueze has returned from international duty with Nigeria with hamstring issues. Late in the week it has been revealed that Sportiello, due to play because of the aforementioned Maignan red, has calf issues and will miss some days. This means Mirante will start in goal versus Juventus. Theo is also missing this match due to yellow cards accumulation. Florenzi and Calabria are going to be the full backs lining up with Thiaw and Tomori in the back. Loftus-Cheeks, Kalulu and Krunic are still unlikely to feature in this game but should all be close to return. The midfield will therefore be Musah, Adli and Reijnders. Up front Pulisic, Giroud and Leo should get another start together.

Juventus are four points and two places behind league leaders Milan. Mattia De Sciglio, Alex Sandro and Danilo are Bianconeri’s missing players.

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Week 8: Genoa – Milan

Genoa – Milan Saturday October 7 2023 20:45CET

Another stalemate with poor finishing being the most talked about aspect left Milan’s Champions League hopes dented. The inability to convert chances in Dortmund increased the pressure on the likes of Giroud and Pioli as well. With no goals scored in the two Champions League games so far Milan will head to PSG later in October in hopes of doing more. Somewhat conversely the Serie A fortunes have improved since the derby drubbing but the busy schedule allows for little recuperation.

The above mentioned whirlwind of games means that Giroud for example is line for another rest. Okafor will deputize. Pulisic could be getting a day off with Chukwueze starting in his place, Leao should retain his spot however. There are little options in midfield with Loftus-Cheek and Krunic out at least until after the upcoming international break. With Pobega, at best, struggling Musah, Adli and Reijnders should be the three starting in the middle. Calabria is not in great form either and Florenzi will be the one taking his place. Thiaw, Tomori and the just turned 26 Theo will complement the back line and start in front of Maignan.

Genoa feature Messias and are now coached by former Milan player Alberto Gilardino. Il Grifone sit in 14th spot as of this weekend but have perhaps looked better than their position indicates.

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Champions League Matchday 2: Borussia Dortmund – Milan

Borussia Dortmund – Milan Wednesday October 4 2023 21:00CET

The derby rout has been followed by mostly positive results. Milan played well and beat Lazio 2-0 in their latest match. Injuries, inevitably, are on the rise however. The good news has been that Maignan was able to return and not remain out long term, even though Sportiello deputized well in the Frenchman’s absence.

The goal now is to reverse the 0-0 stalemate versus Newcastle in the Champions League opener. With two PSG matches ahead Dortmund need to be beaten for Milan to have a chance for the knockout stage of the 2023-2024 Champions League.

The midfield will be missing Krunic, Loftus-Cheek and of course Bennacer. Loftus-Cheek’s limped off on the weekend but his injury is thought to be short term and his presence will be missed. Pioli has only four options with three of them set to start in the 4-3-3. Adli looks to be the odd man out with Musah, Reijnders and Pobega likely starters. Giroud will return to the starting line up and needs to be more effective contributor throughout the whole match. Okafor has done well in relief. Pulisic and Leao are in good form and provide good threat on the wings. Calabria is predicted to start with Florenzi on the bench. Thiaw, Tomori and Theo will complete the back four.

The now Jude Bellingham-less Dortmund feature Marcel Sabitzer, although he is out injured. The perennial second best to Bayern team could opt to play a midfield heavy 3-5-2.

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