Monthly Archive: April 2018

Week 34: Milan – Benevento

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Recent results have been underwhelming or perhaps disappointing. The progress seen in earlier weeks of Gattuso’s Milan seems to have stalled. The week 33 1-1 tie at Torino featured the same cast not achieving much. Kalinic, Suso and Bonaventura featured in another listless performance. To frustrate fans slightly more Gattuso decided to use Borini in place of the injured Calhanoglu. The Turkish international has a swollen knee that will have him miss this week 34 match up with the last placed team as well.

There were whispers that week 33’s game was Kalinic’s last chance to prove something. The Croat couldn’t add to his goal tally. The goal he scored vs Sassuolo earlier in April was not the start of something better. The number of Milan goals scored (44) after 33 weeks is the lowest tally for the team in decades. Clearly the new era is on the verge of derailing once again.

Therefore and according to various sources this Benevento game will be played with a 4-4-2 formation and with Cutrone and Silva up front. It may not even feature Suso in midfield. Borini and Bonaventura will play as wide midfield players around Biglia and Kessie. Romagnoli is still missing so Zapata is expected to play along side Bonucci once again. Abate was at fault in Torino’s goal and it is believed Calabria will start at right back again.

There is no excuse, beating the last placed team is a must. Benevento have 1 away point so far this season, out of a possible 48!

Week 33: Torino – Milan

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Week 32’s 0-0 tie vs Napoli was salvaged by a late great Donnarumma save. Arkadiusz Milik had time to do better alone on the open goal but nevertheless Donnarumma helped Milan get one point. However the solitary point is probably not going to be too meaningful at the end of the season.

A visit to Torino is next in the last midweek Serie A game of the season. Kalinic started vs Napoli and yet again had most fans and observers questioning why. The Croatian may start again, one is entitled to ask why Cutrone is not starting more games. Suso and Calhanoglu will start on the wings as it is normal. The midfield continues to misfire but as options are not exactly plentiful or reliable the Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura trio get more games even when Kessie can’t complete simple passes, Biglia gives balls away and Bonaventura just shoots high and off target. Having said all that the biggest concern before the Napoli match was the missing Bonucci and Romagnoli. The duo missed the match due to suspension and injury respectively but Musacchio and Zapata were better than expected in keeping the clean sheet. Bonucci is back from suspension for week 33 but Romagnoli is set to miss at least another 2 weeks, if not more.

Donnarumma’s post match comments regarding letting his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola, see what happens in the summer have added to the feeling that he will be sold. His opponent in the Napoli match, Pepe Reina, is the rumoured replacement. The Spaniard is 16 years older than the teenager and if signed won’t be a long term replacement.

Walter Mazzarri’s Torino have been doing well in recent weeks with three wins in last five games. Andrea Belotti’s form has improved slowly throughout an injury hit season. The much talked about Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is out however.

Week 32: Milan – Napoli

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Week 31 was to give Milan only one point. Dropping two points vs Sassuolo effectively ended the Champions Leagues hopes. A top four finish was always unlikely but the run of results in the 2018 calendar year had provided hope. After the inability to win much needed points vs Juventus and Inter three points against Sassuolo would have restored a little hope. In the end the one point seemed unlikely as well.
Matteo Politano had given the visitors the lead and it required a late Kalinic goal, who had been subbed in for Cutrone, salvaged a tie. Earlier Gattuso had been brave (or “wrong” to some fans) by bringing in Silva for Abate and going for a back three. That had backfired because Musacchio, himself a sub for the injured Romagnoli, played the Sassuolo attacker onside for the visitor’s goal.

The aforementioned Romagnoli is set to miss this week 32 game vs Napoli and to add to worries Bonucci got a needless yellow to rule himself out as well. Milan will therefore face the second placed team with a central defence of Musacchio and Zapata. The rest of the 11 is unlikely to be different and the only question is the usual Kalinic, Silva or Cutrone one. The Portuguese seems favorite to start but that can change by game time.

Previous weeks have featured a very disappointing Bonaventura and arguably the midfield has been the team’s biggest weakness once again. This week there has been more talk of what will happen in the summer transfer window and most of the names mentioned have been free or Bosman players. Despite continuing questions about the ownership, funds and Financial Fair Play sanctions Fassone continues to insist that there will be incoming players but he also concedes some may leave. One such player could be Suso, whose apparent €40 million release is to be triggered by a set of teams, including Milan’s week 32 opponent.

Napoli sit four points behind Juventus for first place and they themselves have almost thrown away their chance at catching the Turin team. Last week Napoli needed two late goals to beat Chievo at home and the week before Sassuolo held them to a 1-1 tie.

Week 31: Milan – Sassuolo

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Amid the tough schedule that featured a loss to Juventus, a tie in the rescheduled derby and an up coming match against Napoli there is this home game against Sassuolo. The midweek tie vs Inter had some element of luck as Mauro Icardi could have won it for the cross city rivals. The Argentinian missed two open chances. The end result of the last two matches lowered the chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which were small to begin with.

However, Gattuso’s work of turning around the team and providing that glimmer of a top 4 finish has been rewarded. He signed an extension to remain coach until 2021. It is a risk to extend any such contract midseason but the management of the team did what many others have done before them and gave the coach a big raise as well.

Midweek also brought news that sufficient money has been deposited to cover costs until the end of the season. The fact that a team like Milan is facing such deadlines or dates show that ownership questions are going to overshadow all other summer activity. Transfer activity and pursuit of big names may not only depend on Champions League qualification but also on the future of the team’s ownership.

As for the game at hand not many changes are expected, though there is always a question whether Cutrone will start up front or sit on the bench, in favor of Andre Silva or Kalinic of course. The midfield three, having not impressed in recent weeks, can be tweaked as well. Biglia, Montolivo, Bonaventura and to some extent Kessie have all been below par. The back four is as settled as it can get but with Rodriguez struggling, especially defensively, and Calabria being inconsistent the full back situation is hardly satisfactory.

Sassuolo have one solitary Serie A win in this calendar year and are missing Claud Adjapong and Francesco Magnanelli after both were red carded vs Chievo in midweek.

Week 27: The Postponed Derby

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The derby that was due to be played on March 4, 2018 was of course postponed due to the sudden death of Davide Astori. The April 4th date became available after Milan exited the Europa League at the hands of Arsenal. The home and away defeats to the Londoners and the week 30 loss to Juventus are the only three losses of the 2018 calendar year. Such has been the form under Gattuo that the loss to the reigning champions was not wholly expected. However a loss did happen and the shortcomings of the team were exposed, to some extent.

Paulo Dybala found enough room between the defensive and midfield lines and beat Donnarumma from long range to open the scoring in the 3-1 loss. Juan Cuadrado found room on the far side from a cross to score Juventus’ second and Sami Khedira did the same more centrally. Juventus’ introduction of Cuadrado and Douglas Costa highlighted that the midfield and defensive shape of the team is not without its flaws and the Gattuso’s sub choices, bringing on Kalinic and Montolivo, showed both the squad’s lack of depth and the limits of the coach himself. Kalinic, as usual, contributed little. Andre Silva starting was a mid surprise and he should have been replaced by Cutrone and not the Croatian.

After going through a very poor phase late in 2017 and early in 2018 Inter’s form has picked in recent weeks as the team recently tied against Napoli and beat Sampdoria away 5-0. This derby is fraught with risks and with the outside chance of Kalinic being involved the chances don’t look too good. Cutrone, only a late sub vs Juventus, should start and with Calhanoglu and Suso around him form the front three. Of course there is evidence that a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 featuring both Cutrone and Silva can be very effective. Bonaventura’s poor form can and perhaps should make Gattuso ponder using Calhanoglu further back and let Silva start as a defacto left winger or support striker.

Biglia is suspended for this derby after picking up a yellow in Turin. Montolivo seems the only option, however there is a case to be made for Locatelli starting but he has rarely featured this season and seems to have regressed or has he? fans or observers can’t be sure as some players seem to drop off the map.

The back four and goalie will be the usual but neither Rodriguez nor Calabria had good games at the weekend. Bonucci did score against his old team and Romagnoli was mostly solid. The two central defenders have grown and improved compared to early in the season and will be tested against Inter and then Napoli in 11 days time. In between there is also a Sassuolo match. Any remaining chance at a top four and Champions League place will hinge on getting the majority of the points in the next week and a half.