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Week 25: Monza – Milan

Monza – Milan Sunday February 18 2024 20:45CET

Fifty two points after 24 rounds is a very good return yet Milan sit in third place with a poor defensive record and questionable tactics from a coach who might not survive beyond the summer. Beating Napoli 1-0 propelled Milan to within striking distance of second place, and with Juventus’ week 25 tie versus Verona a chance to jump one place higher. A convincing European win albeit in the less respected and not as highly viewed Europa League also highlighted the week before travelling to Monza.

Thiaw returned from injury versus Rennes and is a candidate to start. Kjaer had stepped in the last few week but the aging Dane should not be risked with too many games and had momentarily lapses in his recent starts. There are some indications that with another European night coming four days after meeting Monza there might be a small rotation in the squad with Okafor and Jovic getting starts. The latter certainly deserves the chance as the unofficial Giroud backup has done well. Bennacer could hop back to a starting position as well. Gabbia has impressed since his loan return and will keep playing while Tomori (and Kalulu) are out. Calabria came off with a knock versus Napoli with Florenzi ready to step in.

Monza have hovered midtable and have just one win in last five.

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Week 24: Milan – Napoli

Milan – Napoli Sunday February 11 2024 20:45CET

Milan fell behind but with Jovic’s help won at Frosinone. The hold on the top three spot is stronger and with it assurances of Champions League money, with a new expended and confusing format and all. Milan continue to not struggle in the goal scoring aspect despite the need for offence being on top of most minds and rumours. The summer will bring more changes in that and other departments and hopefully a more solid defensive record for next season. Rumours of ownership, management and a coaching change swirl around too.

Napoli are not the Napoli of last season and on their second coach of the season are closer to midtable than the top of the Serie A standing. Walter Mazzarri didn’t start well after Rudy Garcia’s brief time at the helm but more recent results might be promising. Milan host Gli Azzurri on an undefeated run and along with the injury absences this has pushed Pioli to use the same line up. One forced change will see Bennacer start in place of Reijnders because of the latter’s yellow cards suspension. Thiaw, Tomori and Kalulu are getting closer to returns but remain out and this means Kjaer and Gabbia will be the starting central defenders. Calabria and Theo are the full backs. Adli will line up beside the aforementioned Algerian. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Leao will try to keep the run going with Giroud in front of them.

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Week 23: Frosinone – Milan

Frosinone – Milan Saturday February 3 2024 18:00CET

Two missed penalties by Giroud and Theo threw away two points versus Bologna. Joshua Zirkzee’s almost audition like setting was deemed a success but it is not going to be easy to get the striker in the summer as Bayern Munich have some (buy back) control over the Bologna player.

The January window highlighted Milan’s limited hand in transfers. Whether it be a pure money issue or otherwise the window was very quiet and it also hinted that Pioli might be gone in the summer. The coach got very little in reinforcements with Filippo Terracciano the sole arrival. Rumours of Ibra contact with Antonio Conte may or may not be true or based in reality but the team seems to be gearing up with another summer of change that may include changes at management and even ownership level as well. More on this later.

Milan hold on to a relatively comfortable third spot in the Serie A and can solidify it even further. The recent undefeated streak is helping Pioli keep a constant starting 11. Maignan will line up behind Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo. Adli and Reijnders have managed to make the pivot positions work for now. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Leao have formed a solid line behind Giroud. Each of the aforementioned can and should contribute more offense and goal with only Loftus-Cheek able to claim to be doing enough. Any possible summer change could mean the 4-2-3-1 is either gone or drastically different next season. Leao has to be more involved and it is not impossible that he is sold to a PSG for example.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s Frosinone attempting to save their season and distance themselves from the relegation zone will provide another test for a Milan that can slip up at the wrong time and against the wrong teams.

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Week 22: Milan – Bologna

Milan – Bologna Saturday January 27 2024 20:45CET

Milan have managed a winning streak that continues to solidify a possible top three finish. It needed a last minute Okafor goal to get the three points at Udinese but he and other sub Jovic extended the 2024 winning run. The game was marred by racist gestures aimed at Maignan however. Such so called fans continue to defy logic because supposedly they are fans of teams who obviously include players of all colours.

Alexis Saelemaekers is not 100% and may not start for Bologna but the Milan loanee has done relatively well for Bologna. Bologna’s star player is Joshua Zirkzee who is somewhat randomly linked to Milan in the team’s continued search for a younger forward. Notwithstanding the fact that Bayern Munich have a buy back option the Dutch player will not come cheap. Observers claim that Milan will monitor the player in this game, it is somehow implied that many, including Milan’s management, hope he does well against Milan. This obviously would defy common sense.

The winning run will push Pioli to start the same 11 as the last weeks. This mean Maignan, Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo form the back line with Adli and Reijnders as pivots in the 4-2-3-1. Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao and Giroud will start up front. Despite being in relative good form the latter has an outside chance of leaving Milan this summer and perhaps head to the MLS in North America. The French forward certainly needs more rest and it is debatable if Milan should continue with both Okafor and Jovic next season. This January transfer window has not unexpectedly been quiet but expect another busy summer. Perhaps with slightly more certainty about a future stadium.

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Week 21: Udinese – Milan

Udinese – Milan Saturday January 20 2024 20:45CET

Three points hosting Roma solidified a possible top three spot in the Serie A. Roma’s 3-1 loss was to be Mourinho’s last in charge of the capital team and he was watching it from the stands as he was suspended from the touchline.

The win has relieved some pressure off the team and Pioli. The coach might not at the helm come September nevertheless. For now another stretch of winnable games start with a travel to Udinese. This game is followed by hosting Bologna and then travelling to Frosinone before games against Napoli and Rennes.

The Roma win was good enough that a rare lineup repeat is very likely. The same 11 should start with the hope of repeat score, or more. Maignan and Theo who may be subject to summer transfer bids will line up with Calabria, Kjaer and Gabbia at the back. The latter was give n the start due to ongoing injury situation and did well against Lukaku and co. Adli and Reijnders may not be the first names that come to mind for pivot positions but Pioli has his ideas. Leao, Loftus-CHeek and Pulisic will be the three in the 4-2-3-1. The American has been the recipient in both Serie A and American national team departments and should be considered a relative transfer success.

Udinese are flirting with the relegation spots and that is usually not the best team for Milan to face. Giroud up front could add to his now double digit goals to prevent another anticlimax versus a weaker team.

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Week 20: Milan – Roma

Milan – Roma Sunday January 14 2024 20:45CET

A relatively comfortable away win at Empoli was followed by an uninspired Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Atalanta. With the January transfer window open Gabbia cut short his Villarreal loan to add a much needed body with the treatment room as full as ever. Terracciano arrived from Verona to pretty much do the same, with the bonus that he is a versatile player capable of playing from right midfield or left back. Pioli’s tactics were under scrutiny again, the coach flirted with a back 3 in the Coppa game with a poor return. All in al it seems the coach’s fate is all but sealed and Milan will hire another this summer. Conte’s name will keep popping up but is probably not the most likely name.

The second half of the season starts hosting Roma. Mourinho’s men remain inconsistent at best and lie midtable. Like Milan their absent list is not small and they also have to manage with three players – Houssem Aouar, Evan Ndicka and Sardar Azmoun – off on national duty at the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup. Milan have two such absentees in Bennacer and Chukwueze.

Milan’s injury list has limited player options for seemingly forever therefore the back four may feature Gabbia and Kjaer with Calabria and Theo. The latter has shown signs of improved form and will be crucial of course. Opting for a 4-2-3-1 instead of a 4-3-3 may mean Adli and Reijnders as pivots which is probably not the best position for Adli. Pulisic, fresh off a player of the month award for December 2023, will line up with Loftus-Cheek and Leao behind Giroud.

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Week 19: Empoli – Milan

Empoli – Milan Sunday January 7 2024 12:30CET

Milan’s injury crisis continues to handicap the team. January 2024 brings added pressure to the squad options with Chukwueze and Bennacer off to play for their national teams – Nigeria and Algeria respectively – at the Africa Cup Of Nations. Pioli’s (lack of) tactics continue to be a source of problems and criticism with word that the most he will last is until the summer.

In the meanwhile the 2024 January transfer market has opened. Gabbia was immediately recalled from Villarreal loan to cover for missing bodies at the back. Verona’s versatile 20 year old Filippo Terracciano is on the verge of joining as well for around €5 million. The back four will likely remain as it was in last week’s narrow 1-0 win over Sassuolo. Maignan in goal with Calabria, Kjaer, Theo and Florenzi in front of him. Bennacer’s aforementioned absence will give Adli a chance to play with Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek with Pulisic, Giroud and Leao starting up front. Jovic’s five goals in last seven games is not likely to earn him a starting spot ahead of Giroud, to the ire of some.

Milan are hanging on to third spot but any further dip in form will only accelerate Pioli’s exit. Playing 19th placed Empoli is not a guarantee of full points as any Milan observer can testify. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men have not won since mid November. The coach is once again in charge of Empoli with the very familiar Mattia Destro at his disposal.

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Week 18: Milan – Sassuolo

Milan – Sassuolo Saturday December 30 2023 18:00CET

Milan in the midst of an incredibly perplexing and continuing injury crisis have reached the point where Pioli’s job is on the line. The scudetto race is all but beyond the team and the European places – is it even still the Serie A top four with the upcoming new Champion League format? – is in threat.

The underperforming team is searching for bodies as soon as the January window opens. Gabbia’s Villarreal loan could be shortened to alleviate the defensive issues but what else could be done to slow the decline? A forward ready for Serie A in January? As much as the defensive options are depleted Giroud needs a backup, a long term one. Jovic has scored recently but can’s be more than short term option so can ready made player(s) be brought in in the next month?

Beating Berardi and Sassuolo might go a small way into reassuring all that the team has not lost it all this season. Theo is forced to return to the middle with only the aging and slowing Kjaer available as a partner. Calabria and Florenzi will complete the back four. Reijnders, Bennacer and Loftus-Cheek will line up in a relatively stable middle. Giroud, Pulisic and Leao need to show much more commitment, interest and finish up front to help the team. Francesco Camarda – along with seemingly the whole primavera squad – should be on the bench for further support and to fill the need subs numbers. The likes of Jan-Carlo Simic, Alex Jimenez and Davide Bartesaghi could be at the San Siro.

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Week 17: Salernitana – Milan

Salernitana – Milan Friday December 22 2023 20:45CET

A relatively easy week 16 3-0 win against Monza was a positive and arguably the Europa League match up vs Rennes is too. Before Milan faces off against the struggling French team in February there are Serie A and, soon, Coppa Italia matches to take care of.

Finding a fix for the injury struggles would aid Milan even more than the rumoured January reinforcements. Several names like Jonathan David, Juan Miranda and Serhou Guirassy are mentioned, many likely not very realistic but that’s for later. For now however, Milan are without Kalulu, Thiaw and Pobega until well into the new year with Okafor and Musah hoping to be back soon. Kjaer is slated for a return to the center of defense leaving Theo to return to return to his natural left back spot. Tomori and a returning from suspension Calabria will complete the back four. Bennacer will start in a middle three with Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek around him. The more regular Pulisic, Giroud, Leo forward three should be the for this pre-Christmas Friday match.

Pippo took over the Salernitana team and they remain bottom of the Serie A table having lost their latest three match. Despite this Milan would be wise to watch out for one the team’s old foes in Antonio Candreva.

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