Monthly Archive: April 2019

Week 34: Torino – Milan

Coppa semi home elimination by Lazio, dropping points at Parma and the late season nose dive continues unabated. The near miracle of hanging on to 4th place and the final Champions League spot is about to come crashing down.

Despite 1 win in 6 Milan somehow remained in 4th place at the start of week 34. This is about to end unless Torino – 1 loss since January – can be beaten away. Milan’s mediocre form and Gattuso’s continued insistence on using the likes of Suso and Borini are putting the coach’s position under more scrutiny and the much talked about “Finish 4th and he stays” is now under threat as well. Maurizio Sarri or another coach could be on his way no matter how the season ends.

Racist trouble hit Italian football, again. Bakayoko was the subject of chants via the famous right wing elements at Lazio. After the Serie A win vs Lazio on April 13 the aforementioned and Kessie created their own pseudo controversy by holding up an Francesco Acerbi jersey jokingly (or mockingly) at the end of the game, but this half silly half bad judgement gesture paled in comparison to the fascism that is part of Lazio lore.

Torino themselves could catch Milan as they lie only 3 points behind the rossoneri. This makes the game even more important. Gattuso’s baffling and stubborn choices are set for more head scratchers as Cutrone is set to start ahead of Piatek while the short lived 3-4-3 used in the coppa game will be dumped for a return to the predictable 4-3-3. Conti could be getting a start as Calabria injured himself midweek and will miss the rest of the season. The team is otherwise healthy and Paqueta makes a return to the starting lineup. The Brazilian will line up with Bakayoko and Kessie behind Suso, Calhanoglu and Cutrone. The aforementioned Bakayoko may sour on Italian football after the racist abuse and lower the chances of a Milan stay. Whether Milan have the cash to make his loan permanent may become irrelevant.

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Week 32: Milan – Lazio

Week 31 was yet again eventful. Losing 2-1 at Juventus was not the biggest surprise but the manner of the loss was. For a good number of minutes Milan did well against the defending champions and took the lead via Piatek late in the first. However, VAR and its lack of usefulness were put on view when Alex Sandro’s arm made contact with the ball inside the box after a Milan cross. A long deliberation called it a no penalty despite replays – showing a hand ball by current standards and interpretation – on view for all to see including Michael Fabbri, the main referee. Once again Juventus got away with it. Later there were whispers of an apology being offered to Milan by Nicola Rizzoli, Serie A’s chief referee. That may not have been the case since Rizzoli did not publicly acknowledge anything and in fact defended Fabbri against the threat of not being assigned games for a few weeks.

The second half was not as good. Problems crept in and one such mistake was Musacchio misjudging a Dybala run and instead of perhaps letting the ball run put a leg in and brought down the Argentinian. The same player converted the penalty to tie the game. Later Juve sub – and alleged Milan fan – Moise Kean scored from the top of the box after a nice play and individual move. Milan lost to a Ronaldo-less Juventus but retained 4th spot for another week due to the lackluster chasing pack.

Week 32 has been offered up as another “final”. To stay in Champions League places after going without a win in four match days is lucky in itself but losing any more games is likely to end that.  Atalanta, Roma, Lazio and Torino are within 3 points of Milan and so ninth place is not far away. Borini got the start at Juventus and he is in line to get another, whether that’s the best way to approach to a so called final is questionable. As mentioned Musacchio was to blame for the Juventus goal and was generally below par. This had led to calls for Caldara getting a first Serie A start but it doesn’t looks like it will be happening. Gattuso’s now famous loyalty is likely to strike again as everybody including Rodriguez, Suso and Kessie are set to be starters. Paqueta is still out of course, the Brazilian midfielder will be out until early May. So is Donnarumma, although the young goalie is much closer to a return. Therefore Reina will start in goal and the 4-3-3 is here to stay.

Lazio are three points behind but have a game in hand. The 3-5-2 team are of course led by Ciro Immobile’s 14 Serie A goals.

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Week 31: Juventus – Milan

Milan dropped points once again. The tie versus Udinese was a blow in the standings and the stated aim of reaching and staying in the Champions League spots. As it unfolded the rest of the pack are not in much better shape either with all of Lazio, Roma and Sampdoria dropping points. So Milan is still fourth. Piatek, opportunistic and with good reflexes, nodded the ball in just before half time to rescue a lackluster first 44 minutes. The first half had turned into a worrying debacle with both Donnarumma and Paqueta having to be subbed off due to thigh and ankle issues respectively. The 4-3-1-2 that was only practiced for a short time following the loss at Sampdoria three days earlier fell apart with Paqueta’s departure. The second half didn’t produce enough and right after a good chance to double the lead Udinese executed a near perfect counter that ended with Kevin Lasagna beating Reina in goal. The replay had made some fans wonder why the whole Milan 11 were playing so high on the pitch.

The injuries to Donnarumma and Paqueta will likely keep them out for a period measured in weeks. Donnarumma looks to be one who is out for a shorter time, perhaps only two weeks and the Brazilian four or five. The 4-3-1-2 is probably back in the archives and a 4-3-3 back on the pitch. Suso and Kessie whose poor form and minor knocks had kept them out of the Udinese game should be back for this game versus the reigning champions. Juventus are very close to clinching another title but have the additional burden of Champions League matches to come midweek. Will they be fully focused for Milan? The answer is likely yes. Gattuso, who has come under pressure again, may for unknown reasons use Borini on LW and push back Calhanoglu to the left midfield again. Suso and Piatek will join Borini up top and Kessie and Bakayoko will join the Turkish international in midfield. The back four versus Udinese featured Abate. The veteran failed to shine but his replacements haven’t done much better in the last two match days. Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez are to be the starters.

On the subject of coaching a new name started circulating as a possible summer change. Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, often linked to Real Madrid and Manchester United, is now linked to Milan as the two mentioned teams have decided to move ahead with Zinedine Zidane (again) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Is he a realistic target? Never say never but it is unlikely.

Juan Cuadrado, Andrea Barzagli, Douglas Costa and Ronaldo remain out for Juventus. The latter’s absence is likely the only reason for optimism about this match.

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Week 30: Milan – Udinese

Week 29 produced a howler and an abysmal performance. The game got off to a disastrous start when, within the first minute, Donnarumma gifted a goal to Gregoire Defrel. The goalie simply returned a back pass to the French footballer who rebounded the ball back into goal. Milan never recovered.

The rest of the game and once again especially the first half were at best poor and at worst painful to watch. Sampdoria’s midfield dominated and Milan players were unable to connect passes. Fabio Quagliarella didn’t make it easy for the defense. The veteran and his team threatened more goals. The tactic of playing from the back and using square passes were very much ineffective and Piatek remained disconnected and isolated. Suso and Calhanoglu offered little and Rodriguez missed cross after cross. The Swiss international was replaced at half time but Conti wasn’t to be a solution. The introduction of Paqueta, presumably rested after returning from a scoring performance for the selecao, in the second somewhat connected the midfield to attack to create some positive vertical movement but it was not good enough.

The second loss in a row has apparently become a catalyst for Gattuso to try something different. This midweek match comes very soon after the defeat in Genoa but the 4-3-3 may be modified to a 4-3-1-2 with Paqueta playing further up and behind two center forwards. Cutrone hasn’t impressed in sub roles this season but looks to get a start along side Piatek. Indications are that the massively underperforming Suso will sit this one out and a Kessie, Bakayoko, Calhanoglu middle three will start. The defense and goalkeeper starters are likely to remain unchanged.

Udinese sit at a lowly 16th and are lead by Rodrigo De Paul and Kevin Lasagna.

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