Milan management have moved swiftly to sign a goalkeeper. A day after the season ended Mike Maignan arrived in Milan to complete his medical and sign his contract and today he has been officially announced as the future Milan goalkeeper. Donnarumma and his agent did not reply or accept Milan last offer worth somewhere between €7 to 8 million per season and Maldini decided not to wait any longer. Maignan has now become a Milan player. He was offered and accepted a relatively long term contract with it being 5 years in length. Milan paid Lille around €13 million for the services of the player, it could rise to €15 million with bonuses. The salary of the player will be a substantial savings compared to Donnarumma’s. The reported numbers are €2.8 rising to €3 million with bonuses.
The French goalkeeper arrives after a very successful season in France where he and Lille won the Ligue 1 championship, beating PSG to first place. After signing his contract he departed Milan to join the French national team preparing for the postponed Euro 2020. For now he will be the second or third string goalkeeper there behind Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda.
Milan started without the injured and unfit Ibra and Rebic. Atalanta had Josip Ilicic and Luis Muriel on the bench.
The first few minutes featured little, the game was flowing well but Atalanta enjoyed a small advantage in play without really threatening Donnarumma’s goal. The hosts seemed to grow into the game as Milan were pinned in the zone as the game approached the 20 minute mark. Milan looked the more nervous and incapable of launching attacks.
A rare foray into the Atalanta box and Theo was half impeded, half fell down and a penalty was awarded. Kessie converted with Pierluigi Gollini barely moving in the Atalanta goal. Milan looked to be playing safe and long balls to Leao tactic that may work better if the Portuguese attacker uses his speed more to chase down the balls.
Milan led 1-0 at half time.
Luis Muriel came on for Matteo Pessina for the second as the hosts made an attacking sub. Atalanta controlled the ball and Milan were either unable or just plain unwilling to play attacking football and had reverted to a counter game. In the 57th minute Atalanta’s best chance of the game so far just missed the far post. Duvan Zapata’s low shot was inches away.
In response Meite and Krunic came on Bennacer and Diaz, to the dismay of many fans. Milan’s best chance came closest for Milan so far as he hit the post in the 68th minute.
Possession continued to heavily favour Atalanta. Muriel was Atalanta’s final ball man.
Further changes came as the game continued to remain one sided possession wise,. Mandzukic and Dalot replaced Leao and Saelemaekers.
A second penalty was awarded to Milan for a hand ball and Kessie converted it to confirm a 2-0 win and a return to Champions League football.
Milan made it hard for themselves but the season can be considered success.
Milan threw away the chance to put more than one foot in the Champions League by managing only a draw versus Cagliari. The team lacked intensity and was unable to break down a very well organized Cagliari team and it is now left to the final match of the season to, hopefully, qualify for Europe’s premier competition. As nit happens the week 38 opponent is Atalanta, Milan’s bogey team of recent season.
The approach to this game has seen Milan claiming to be rested and ready but the absence of Ibra will be felt. The Swede has travelled to Bergamo with the players and will be on the sidelines. Late in the week news arrived that Rebic is likely missing the game too due to a calf issue. It is left to Leao to be the player up front. The Portuguese has often looked lackluster if not lazy but has shown some flashes of his talent. He, and all his team mates, can add their name to the history books if a positive result is achieved at Atalanta. Behind the striker the recent Calhanoglu pushed to left by Diaz experiment is set to continue. Saelemaekers will play on the right. Kessie and Bennacer will the midfield pivots. At the back the Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori and Hernandez quartet are set for another start in front of Donnarumma.
Atalanta remain a free scoring team with 90 goals scored in their 37 Serie games. Closing the spaces and being tight at the back will be crucial to stop Duvan Zapata, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Luis Muriel and co. Josip Ilicic looks to start on the bench for Atalanta but his smart attacking play will need to be contained when and if he comes on the pitch. Milan with Hernandez and any left winger have often been exposed on the left and it will be important to be tighter and mark the dynamic opponents well. Unlike most other opponents the chances up front will come and the finishing and opportunism need to be at their peak.
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Ibra was the only player missing for Milan.
Rebic had an early half chance with the weak shot missing the far side but overall Milan had more of the ball while Cagliari looked organized. Saelemaekers forced a good Alessio Cragno save from long range as Milan continued the upper hand without too much threat.
Cagliari grew as the half went on but Milan attempted dangerous balls and had two chances to open the scoring from a freekick. Donnarumma didn’t look very secure when the ball found its way to the Milan box.
The 0-0 half time score was frustrating but also an indication that Leonardo Semplici had his team well organized.
leao came on for Saelemaekers for the second half. The team seemed nervous and clumsy with the ball.
The best chance of the game fell to Cagliari. Leonardo Pavoletti had a close range header saved well by Donnarumma. The defending was lackluster. Cagliari were now dominating possession.
Donnarumma made another excellent save from a Diego Godin header while Castillejo, Meite and Dalot replaced Diaz, Bennacer and Calabria.
Castillejo missed the goal with a close shot from a cross and Calhanoglu wasted more than one chance. More shots and chances were wasted or missed. Milan huffed and puffed. Madzukic, a useful tall forward, was brought with only 2 minutes of regular time left.
Samu worked hard at least but nothing came of the final minutes of possession.
The 0-0 was a very big chance thrown out to for all intents and purposes get back to the Champions League. It was now left to the final week meeting with Atalanta.
Milan conquered the city of Turin. After beating a mediocre Juventus 3-0 the task was completed by demolishing Torino 7-0. The result was one of Milan’s biggest ever and took the team a giant step towards Champions League participation. A win versus Cagliari in this week 37 match will all but confirm the top 4 finish. By beating Cagliari only a complicated scenario can see Milan finishing 5th and it involves a four way tie between Milan, Juventus, Atalanta and Napoli.
For now however Milan have to just continue their recent form and get 3 points from a team that has just confirmed its Serie A survival on the same day of this match. Benevento’s tie with Crotone has assured Cagliari’s Serie A spot for the 2021-2022 season.
Milan are missing Ibra who not only misses the rest of the season but the Euros as well. The Swede’s return to his national team has been short lived. The rest of the squad is relatively healthy. The line up is set to be the same as the 7-0 win but with the return of Saelemaekers from suspension he should reclaim his spot from Castillejo. Calabria, a player of the season candidate, will line up in front of Donnarumma with Kjaer and Tomori. Romagnoli is set to remain on the bench and perhaps get a game next week if there is less to play for. Hernandez showed flashes of his old form in the last week and will of course be the left back. Kessie and Bennacer have not been at their best but have done well. The ever present former must be battling fatigue and the latter has been somewhat slow in regaining his old form. Using Diaz as a central attacking midfielder and pushing Calhanoglu left has worked very well in the past week and despite reservations based on earlier performances Pioli deserves a lot of credit for using it to good effect again. The Spaniard has scored twice in 2 games and the talk has now reached a point where Milan will attempt to keep Diaz for next season and perhaps beyond. Rebic scored a second half hat trick at Torino and will start again.
The aforementioned now safe Cagliari are led by Joao Pedro’s 16 Serie A goals. Leonardo Semplici has revived the team since he took over in February and they haven’t lost any of their last six Serie A matches.
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Rebic started in place of the once again injured Ibra. Castillejo got the start in place of suspended Saelemaekers. Surprisingly Andrea Belotti was left on the bench for this one.
A tentative start seeing Milan with a slight advantage was interrupted by a Theo goal, his hard shot from just inside the box found the far side for the lead. Diaz assisted.
Moments later the second goal almost arrived. Kessie’s header from a cross was saved very well by Salvatore Sirigu and the rebound was hit off the post by Castillejo. The latter had no time to take a good shot.
It didn’t take long for Milan to double their lead. Rebic found Samu in the box and the Spaniard was impeded by Lyanco. Kessie didn’t miss the penalty.
It could have been 3-0 were not for a very tight offside as Calabria burst through Torino’s central defense, replays showed he was barely off.
Meanwhile Torino came close twice and a third time when a Calhanoglu give away found Gleison Bremer in the Milan box. His shot was saved by Donnarumma.
Meite came on for Bennacer at the half. The Algerian had gotten a yellow in the first.
It took less than 5 minutes to increase the lead to 3-0. Kessie gained possession in the final third, ran inside the box and found Diaz who finished well for his second goal in as many games.
Kessie missed an easy chance to make it 4 when he hit Rebic’s cross poorly. The 4th did arrive later, a counter saw Hernandez exchange passes with Rebic and run into Torino’s box. Rebic’s return pass was chipped over the rushing Sirigu.
Krunic replaced Diaz and one of his first touches assisted for Milan’s 5th. Rebic got on the score sheet.
Leao and Dalot came on for Calhanoglu and Hernandez.
An embarrassing Torino conceded a 6th when Kessie easily took on the ball and found Leao with lots of space. A selfless Leao passed to Rebic for an easy tap in. Rebic got his second half hat trick following a corner when Milan players were roaming in the Torino box and the bouncing ball found its way to the Croatian. Rebic was then replaced by his compatriot, Mandzukic.
The game ended 7-0 and it was Milan’s biggest margin of victory!
Milan surprised and shocked the world and its fans in particular by beating Juventus by 3 goals away. The week 35 win increased the chances of a top 4 finish and perhaps confined Juventus to a season outside of the Champions League. Pirlo’s team seemed uninterested and disorganized and Milan opportunistic and more motivated. The inclusion of Diaz in the starting 11 – thus moving Calhanoglu to a more left sided position – was met with pessimism but the Spaniard scored the opening goal with an excellent curling effort to gain extra fans. Rebic and Tomori added to the euphoria by beating Wojciech Szczesny and co. Kessie could even afford to miss a poorly taken penalty.
The match was not all good news as Ibra left the pitch with an injured knee and Saelemaekers got a yellow. The former will miss at least a week and perhaps the rest of the soon to end season and the latter is suspended for this match at Torino.
Pioli is once again forced into line up juggling mode. Castillejo is the natural but not the popular replacement for Saelemaekers. Rebic is the likeliest to replace Ibra. Leao could be excluded from the starting 11 as Diaz and Calhanoglu reprise their roles upfront. Kessie and Bennacer will likely get the nod again in midfield and it is hoped that Bennacer can move closer to regaining his full form. Calabria and Theo were solid at Juventus and will look to start again. The same applies to Kjaer and Tomori. The latter scored his first Milan goal with a well taken header and he is now one step closer to becoming a full Milan player.
Donnarumma has still not made his future team choice and the rumours linking him to Juventus may cool if the old lady is unable to compete in the Champions League. Their fate could be sealed before the final game of the season which is only in 10 days.
Torino’s form has somewhat improved in recent weeks and their relegation fears have faded somewhat. Andrea Belotti could yet be on the move in the summer with any of Roma, Napoli and Milan ready to pay a relatively discounted fee for the striker.
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The season is nearing its end and the once dream of Champions League places, never mind the Scudetto, are in tatters. Despite the 2-0 win vs Benevento last wekk Milan is in danger of missing a top 4 spot. There is currently a three way tie between Milan, Juventus and Atalanta with Napoli lurking around. Milan is yet to play Atalanta away as well this week 35 match. These last games are all make or break.
Juventus are not exactly in great form but then neither is Milan. The Milan squad is at least healthy and it needs to be because Juventus is too with Chiesa and Morata back and ready. In the home leg of this tie earlier in the season Chiesa starred and totally dominated Romagnoli and Theo on Milan’s left. Further up on the left side Hauge was of little help in that match and the Norwegian has rarely featured this season.
It is possible and seems likely that Tomori will get a start again in Romagnoli’s palce and partner with Kjaer. Theo and Calabria will be the full backs and will need to keep defensive discipline. Bennacer and Kessie will remain the pivots. There is some questions up front. News of the week said that Pioli will try a 4-4-2 with Ibra up top and Diaz as a pseudo or false forward. Whether that will materialize in game play or not it is some what controversial to prefer Diaz to Rebic and even Leao. It is looking like an experiment of sorts to play both Diaz and Calhanoglu (with Saelemaekers). The two playmakers together on the pitch has been tried before with questionable results.
As mentioned, the Juventus squad is relatively healthy as well and Pirlo will make a case for remaining the Old lady’s coach if his team manages to grab a Champions League spot at Milan’s expense. Perhaps his team will snap up Donnarumma from Milan as well. At least now that Inter have clinched the Scudetto the Juventus era in Serie A is indeed over.
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Romagnoli got a start in Kjaer’s place, after weeks on the bench. Dalot started for Calabria who like Kjaer was feeling under the weather.
A tentative start changed when a true passing built from the back passage led to Calhanoglu opening the score. Saelemaekers provided the assist.
Minutes later Gianluca Lapadula broke the central defense but was unable to get a shot on goal. Dalot diverted the ball for a a corner just before the former Milan player could.
Not for the first time Leao missed a half chance on a counter as the team looked more fluid but Benevento grew into the game.
Ibra was very vocal, especially with Calhanoglu and Leao. A frustrating half at times could have been 2-0 when Lorenzo Montipo saved a Ibra chance with his right leg.
Bennacer got a questionable yellow for a foul on Lapadula and was in danger of a expulsion after a second foul late. He was replaced by Tonali at half time.
Montipo was tested by Ibra again very early in the second.
Half chances were exchanged early in the second half. This included a a one two between Ibra and Saelemaekers. The goalkeeper did well to stop Ibra’s close range attempt. Another chance was missed when Saelemaekers couldn’t control the ball from Leao.
The second goal arrived, an on side Ibra collected the ball just inside the Benevento box but was denied yet again. The long rebound fell to Theo who shot the ball in.
Lapadula came close soon after to open the scoring for the visitors. Roberto Insigne had another.
A triple sub followed bringing on Castillejo, Rebic and Calabria for Saelemaekers, Leao and Theo. Two of the subs were one yellow away from missing the next match at Juventus. Somewhat inexplicably Hauge was not getting minutes. Brahim was next, for Calhanoglu.
Some close chances and were not finished by either team and into added time Castillejo got a yellow to get himself suspended for the week 35 match.
The 2-0 win was very much needed.