Week 35’s 2-1 at Sassuolo was overshadowed by big news off the pitch. On the night the match was being played it was revealed that the idea or deal to have Ralf Rangnick take over was off, this was immediately confirmed and Pioli’s good work immediately rewarded with an extension. The news was surprising and time will tell if it is correct to keep the status quo in Pioli. Certainly the team is a different one since the lockdown was lifted but Milan needs more than just a good 10 or so games span. The quality of the matches have improved and the 4-2-3-1 has suited many of the 11 and perhaps more importantly the team is stronger mentally (Ibra effect?) but fundamental changes are still needed to shape the team beyond match days and beyond 2020.
The more immediate concern after Ibra’s week 35 brace is who will play in the remaining three matches of this season. The three matches will take place in a nine day span and Romagnoli won’t take part in them. The captain limped off early at Sassuolo and won’t be ready before the season is done. Conti was injured too and will miss an unknown number of days. Hernandez and Bennacer got yellows to get themselves suspended for week 36. This handicaps the team, at least for the Atalanta game. The defense might not even have Kjaer because the veteran Dane is not 100% with muscle fatigue. This leaves Calabria, Gabbia and Laxalt as the only fit members of the back line. Biglia will likely start in Bennacer’s spot to play along side Kessie and the front four will be Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibra. Castillejo is very close to a return however. Donnarumma – still only 21 – played his 200th game at Sassuolo and wore the armband after Romagnoli left the pitch. A contract extension is near and the goalie looks to stay at Milan for at least another two seasons.
Atalanta are Serie A’s high flying team. Gian Piero Gasperini has become a much celebrated coach in getting his team to the latter stages of the Champions League and having them sitting in second place and just six points behind Juventus. The Bergamo team have scored 21 goals more than any other team so far this season.
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