Reza

Apr 212021
 

Ibra, Hernendez and Bennacer missed this game with knocks and muscle fatigue.
Sassuolo had the first best chance when Jeremie Boga’s shot was pushed into corner.
Neither team dominated and most balls were wasted or lost before the final shot. As Milan seemed to get more of the ball the goal finally arrived.
On one of the many attempts to get into Sassuolo’s box Hakan found himself with some space and curled the ball into the very far corner, the ball just made into the goal. The hard working Saelemaekers provided the assist.
Dalot made a crucial block to stop Milan killer Domenico Berardi from equalizing as the game headed into half time. The Portuguese had a good half on the left side.
Right after half time another counter attack chance was unconverted. Sassuolo were certainly not shy of pushing forward.
The play was mostly open with both teams making unsuccessful attempts on goal. Saelemaekers forced a Andrea Consigli punching save from one such attempt. Calhanoglu did the same.
Rebic and Calhanoglu came off for Mandzukic and Krunic but Sassuolo scored soon after. The ball found a wide open Jeremy Toljan on Milan’s left side, his speculative shot found Giacomo Raspadori deep in the busy Milan box. The player was open and diverted the ball into goal from close range.
Milan seemed to collapse and the same player scored again, question marks further up the pitch and inside the box as well.
A triple sub followed with Castillejo, Kalulu and Diaz coming on from Saelemaekers, Calabria and Meite.
A back pass handled by Consigli gave Milan a freekick inside the Sassuolo box but it was not converted.
The game ended 1-2 in the Milan rain and with it the chances of a top 4 finish were endangered.

 Posted by on April 21, 2021
Apr 212021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
23
Tomori
5
Dalot
79
Kessié
18
Meïté
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
17
Leão
Substitutes

Amid big news overshadowing the events of the past three days there is a midweek match to play with big repercussions for the top 4 spots in the Serie A. The European Super League was suspended within 48 hours of being announced. The exclusive competition that its members wanted to kick off as early as this fall would have made the top 4 fight and indeed the Serie A standings meaningless. The threat of such a thing happening has died, for now.

The long injury list was on the verge of being reduced to only one player, Maldini, but it has grown again. Calabria returned to training and with him the squad was healthy but suddenly Bennacer, Ibra and Hernandez are back on the sidelines. There are also questions about Calhanoglu’s status. None of the players look to be out for a long stretch but with seven games left in a very tight season every game is important.

Romagnoli returned to the team last week but Pioli seems rightly hesitant to break up the Kjaer Tomori partnership. The latter was somewhat responsible for Genoa’s goal during the weekend but both defenders were solid otherwise, including a double goal line clearance near the end of the match. Dalot and Calabria will be the full ack starters. Reports indicate Pioli prefers Meite to Tonali to replace Bennacer. Further up the pitch Saelemaekers will partner Calhanoglu and Rebic. Krunic is on standby for a start. Leao is likely the only option up front. The Portuguese hasn’t yet elevated his game to the point of being trusted but, publicly at least, retains Pioli’s trust.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on April 21, 2021
Apr 212021
 
12 clubs, including Milan, plan(ed) a breakaway European super league

To much dismay Milan is among 12 initial clubs forming the European Super League. The plans call for 15 permanent members and 5 invitees to compete in two groups of 10 teams with top 4 each going to a quarter final. The matches will be played midweek thereby effectively downgrading the UEFA Champions League.

Initial signatories: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter Milan, Juventus, Milan, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid

The financial side of the deal has been allegedly brokered by JP Morgan

The 15 founder clubs sharing an initial 3.5billion (£3.1billion) euro “infrastructure grant” ranging from £310million to £89million per club which can be spent on stadiums, training facilities or “to replace lost stadium-related revenues due to Covid-19”

Income from TV and sponsorship would favour the founding clubs: 32.5% of the pot would be shared equally between the 15 clubs, and another 32.5% between all Super League clubs including the five qualifiers

20% of the pot would be merit money “distributed in the same manner as the current English Premier League merit-based system” according to where clubs finish in the competition or group if they don’t make the knock-out stage

The remaining 15% would get a “commercial share based on club awareness”

A cap of 55% of revenues permitted to be spent on salaries and transfers (net)

The controversial nature of this is of course permanent membership of some hand picked big clubs and the breakaway nature of it. As has been noted by many, taking away the incentive to win would be a by product of a league with no relegation for its permanent members. This would go against the spirit of football competition and devalue what has been a hallmark of football as the beautiful game where any team can dream to win any trophy available.

The 12 clubs accuse UEFA of not maximizing revenue and the ESL clubs claim that they have a deal in place that will provide them with millions even billions of Euros and include money for infrastructure, annual moneys and solidarity payments to non participating teams.

UEFA’s (and FIFA’s) response to any kind of break away has been that the teams and players participating in such practices will be excluded from FIFA, UEFA and even domestic competitions. Whether the governing bodies have the legal right to exclude players is somewhat questionable but domestic federations and associations are almost certainly able to kick out teams from competitions.

Interestingly Bayern Munich and PSG have rejected the invite and remain on the outside claiming they are working with UEFA on Champions League expansion and rework coming in 2024. One may remember that Bayern were one of the earlier participants of the now defunct G-14 group which sought to get more from European competition, UEFA and FIFA. One of its main achievements was that club teams would get compensation for use of their players by national teams. Furthermore, it was indeed Milan’s Berlusconi who had some of the earliest proposals and mentions of maximizing income and reworking how football generates revenue within a European competition. The G-14 eventually morphed into the European Club Association (ECA) with more demands but the relationship with UEFA was not always completely at odds and work was being done to get more concessions and power within the current system. Bayern’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said as much after this European Super League was announced a mere 48 hours ago.

The reaction and backlash from fans, players and even managers like Pep Guardiola immediately reached explosive levels and while Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez went on TV to claim the agreement between the signees is binding the deal risked falling through under immense pressure from others that include some excluded teams, domestic associations and even the Boris Johnson government in the UK.

On merely it’s second full day of existence casualties appeared as Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward announced his resignation – under the guise that he planned to leave late in 2021 any way. All English teams withdrew – with rumoured UEFA payments as an incentive. While the English teams succumbed to all around accusations of greed the others seemed to be falling on way side as well. Inter Milan and reportedly Milan followed but it seemed the Spanish teams would hesitate. Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli and Real’s Perez seems the most invested in this league and may continue to push for it, if they survive the deluge of criticism. There are spinning this collapse by claiming the idea might return after a ‘reshape’.

So for now the teams look to return to regular programming without the immediate shadow of controversy. Milan will not face threats of expulsion from the Serie A and the other villains will fight for their titles as well.

Neither FIFA nor UEFA are able to lay claim to being clean organizations and as the super league may not be dead and buried troubles and problems lay ahead. UEFA has at least won this round of the public relations exercise and may be able to push their Champions League expansion and plans more forcefully but the rich are sure to return with more demands.


		
 Posted by on April 21, 2021
Apr 172021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
20
Kalulu
24
Kjær
23
Tomori
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
17
Leão
Substitutes

A more normal schedule and the shrinking injury list provide hope for the final stretch and the very tight competition for the second to fourth Champions League places in the table. Inter have almost certainly captured the scudetto but Milan in second place is 1 point ahead of Juventus, 2 ahead of Atalanta, 4 ahead of Napoli and 8 ahead of Lazio who have a game in hand. Week 31 matches up Atalanta vs Juventus and Napoli vs Inter. Getting three points versus Genoa adds just a bit of breathing space, however an early afternoon game at the San Siro invokes bad memories.

The relatively healthy squad is only missing Calabria and Maldini. This allows Pioli to field a near optimum starting 11 but of course Ibra’s inexplicable red at Parma has put a damper on the chance to do so. The Swede was given a straight red for what was thought to be an insult directed at the referee – Fabio Maresca – but he apparently did not but the one game suspension was nevertheless confirmed late in the week. This was yet another bizarre refereeing episode that defies logic. Leao is the prime candidate for his spot up front. The three players behind him look to stay as planned with Rebic, Calhanoglu and Saelemaekers hoping to continue the slow march towards the better form seen at Parma.

Kessie and Bennacer are near automatic starters for the remaining games of the season. The defense could see more turnover as there is some indecision between which of Dalot or Kalulu are better choices. Romagnoli is back from both injury and losing his spot to Tomori. The captain will likely remain on the bench for now. Kjaer will partner Tomori and Hernandez will be on their left. The Donnarumma saga is no nearer a conclusion and it is not out of the question that he will be playing one of his final games for Milan.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on April 17, 2021
Apr 102021
 

A near first 11 started the game, that in itself a positive in this crazy season.
An excellent team goal arrived early with Calhanoglu passing to Bennacer who in turn found Ibra who controlled the ball well and delivered it to Rebic who shot well to beat Luigi Sepe in Parma goal in midst of a crowd of defenders.
The game settled into a stand off of sorts although Milan looked more fluid and fresh without being able to find the final pass.
Kessie converted another team goal near the end of the half to give a more comfortable 2-0 lead heading into the half. Theo provided the assist to the Ivorian.
The second followed a similar pattern with any final pass missing. The something strange happened. Ibra got a straight red for what was not clear to most watching. If he said something to the ref it would be very ill-advised and pointless with Milan leading by two.
Parma got on the score sheet soon after. Donnarumma complained of being fouled by the goal scorer who had perhaps deserved a second yellow minutes earlier.
Meite and Dalot came on for Bennacer and Saelemaekers. As Milan looked to be losing grip of the game further subs were made as Gabbia and Krunic came on for Kalulu and Calhanoglu. Leao relived Rebic as well late in the game.
The lead had turned into a holding on for a lucky escape type game.
In the final minutes of added time a counter had Dalot taking on the ball, running up and finding an all alone Leao, the latter coolly scored. Parma had pushed forward. And so the full time score was 3-1.

 Posted by on April 10, 2021
Apr 102021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
20
Kalulu
24
Kjær
23
Tomori
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

The busy run of games has settled into an almost once a week match, of course after exiting Coppa Italia and European competition. This is allowing for some healing on the injury front and more time to duel on the upcoming summer transfer window. Contract negotiations and extensions remain the main point of interest outside of the pitch but with nine matches left and a tight race for the Champions League places each match remain the most important.

Pioli surprised some by fielding Saelemaekers as a right back versus Sampdoria. The Belgian had played that role back in his native land but this was nevertheless an odd decision considering Kalulu and Dalot’s availability. The match ended a poor 1-1 with the rarely seen Hauge scoring late. It was perhaps a lesson for the manager.

The starters for this match at Parma will likely remain more or less the same as week 29, although the aforementioned right back gamble is likely dead. More players are available, to make it to the bench at least. Leao, Diaz and Mandzukic return to the squad and provide depth at least. Kalulu or Dalot will start with Kjaer, Tomori and Hernandez. The latter was responsible for the goal conceded last weekend and needs to return to his 2020 form. Kessie and Bennacer should start in midfield. The latter seemed rusty but will hopefully regain his form as well. Saelemaekers looks to return to his more familiar right wing role with Calhanoglu and Rebic behind Ibra.

Parma are 19th in the Serie A standings. They have a won a league worst 3 games so far. The team features Conti who seems likely to return to Milan from his loan spell unless Parma stave off relegation somehow.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on April 10, 2021
Apr 032021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
56
Saelemaekers
24
Kjær
23
Tomori
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
7
Castillejo
10
Çalhanoğlu
12
Rebić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

The 2022 World Cup qualifying got underway in the international break. Fourteen Milan players were involved including some for their respective U21 teams. The list included Ibra who returned to the Swedish national team and played 67 and 84 games in two Sweden wins at Kosovo and versus Georgia providing 2 assists.

The team returns to Serie A action still missing several player and a tired Ibra. Calabria, Romagnoli, Mandzukic, Diaz and Leao out. Leao is to be closest to a return and Diaz picked up a knock while away for the Spain U21 team.

The final 10 games will of course define the standings and Milan is still has to win many of the 10 to certify a top 4 spot. Sampdoria kicks off this sprint.

Donnarumma and his controversial contract issue will start in goal. Hernandez, Kjaer and Tomori look to play with Dalot at the back. Late in the week the usual news outlets reported that Saelemaekers will play as a right back. The Belgian will apparently bypass not only Dalot but also Kalulu for the spot. Kessie and Bennacer renew their pairing in the middle behind Castillejo, Calhanoglu and Rebic. Rebic won the appeal of his two game suspension for the red he received versus Napoli and has of course already served the one game at Fiorentina. Calhanoglu was one of the starts of the international break (for Turkey) and if he carries that form can be a catalyst for this final sprint. The aforementioned tired Ibra will start up front.

Sampdoria are led by Fabio Quagliarella with Antonio Candreva also a veteran on the team. Ranieri’s men have 1 win in the last 6 and 3 in the last 10 sitting right at midtable.

Follow this early afternoon match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on April 3, 2021
Mar 212021
 

The much talked about injury issue had the team starting with missing players.
Benevento had just beaten Juventus 1-0 and made three points here even more valuable.
Fiorentina controlled more of the ball in the early minutes but Milan opened the scoring. Kjaer’s almost looping pass found Ibra who just evaded the offside trap and beat Bartlomiej Dragowski in the Fiorentina goal with a bouncing shot.
Clumsy balls had Fiorentina having an edge in possession after the goal too. On Milan’s right side Dalot committed a foul and the resulting free kick was well converted and just beat Donnarumma on the near side. Erick Pulgar had made it 1-1. It wouldn’t be the last time Dalot struggled as a right back and gifted a good chance to the hosts.
In the 34th Ibra hit the crossbar on one of few Milan chances.
The game slowed down and was further delayed as Dragowski was replaced by Pietro Terracciano in Fiorentina goal after the Polish starter seemed to twist his ankle taking a goal kick.
The half time 1-1 score was no more than the game deserved.
The second half started poorly, again. Franck Ribery gave the hosts the lead soring easily from top center of the box. A crowd of Milan players were ball watching and Kessie for example facing goal not even realizing Ribery behind him.
Milan equalized soon after. A second corner in a row was tapped in by Diaz.
Castillejo and Bennacer came on for Saelemaekers and Tonali right after the goal.
The midfield improved with the arrival of the Algerian and Milan manged to take the lead again. A good anticipation by Tomori found Kessie who moved forward and the ball found Calhanoglu who scored with low shot that went in at the very far corner.
Krunic replaced Diaz for the final 11 minutes as Milan improved on the possession stats.
Fiorentina tried to push Milan back and Pioli decided to bring on Meite for Calhanoglu as the game was going into added time.
Ibra played the whole 90 and three very valuable points were added to the season tally.

 Posted by on March 21, 2021
Mar 212021
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
5
Dalot
24
Kjær
23
Tomori
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
8
Tonali
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
21
Díaz
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

A pair of 0-1 losses at home (to Napoli and Manchester United) added to the air of crisis and the very poor (home) form, not to mention an offense that has been non existent. In the case of the missing goals the injury problems point to the source directly. The team hasn’t been able to field a team with a proper forward due to the long injury list. As that list seemed to be diminishing it has grown again. Ibra is back, hopefully to stay healthy while accepting an invitation back to the Swedish national team squad, but the list now looks like:

Davide Calabria – knee surgery, out at least a month
Alessio Romagnoli – leg muscles
Daniel Maldini – leg muscles
Rafael Leao – leg muscles
Mario Mandzukic – leg muscles

Add to that Rebic’s two game suspension for his dissent red card at the end of the Napoli match and the team remains handicapped.

Most of the remaining problems are not in best form and this doubles the problems facing Pioli.

Donnarumma will of course start in goal. In front of him there is a question of either Kalulu or Dalot as right back. The former hasn’t really shone when given recent minutes. It is likely then that the latter will start with Kjaer, Tomori and Hernandez. The two pivots in from the back four is like to be Tonali and Kessie. Both Bennacer and Meite are available but the former needs to be brought back to action with care and the latter was at least partly responsible for Manchester’s scrambled goal during the midweek Europa League match.

The front four remains the most fluid. Diaz, Calhanoglu and Saelemaekers should be the likely starters but calls for Hauge to get a start circulate while Pioli might prefer to use Krunic. Ibra is the only true center forward available and this why the match day squad includes primavera’s Riccardo Tonin.

Fiorentina are relatively healthy but their 3 wins in last 10 matches have been over Spezia, Crotone and Benevento. This explains their 14th position in the Serie A table.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on March 21, 2021
Mar 192021
 
0-1 loss & tame Europa League exit

Milan exited the often disliked Europa League by losing to Manchester United at home.

The 0-1 loss was not fully deserved nor was it fully mourned. Milan deserved better of the first leg 1-1 in Manchester but didn’t play better at home. The now familiar injury riddled mode was bound to hurt the team and having had to resort to Castillejo as a nominal forward was unlikely to end well. The whole 11 didn’t do much and were facing a team that while stronger physically was hurting as well.

The first half was somewhat even with almost half chances exchanged and the second half didn’t see much change but a change made at half time immediately paid dividends for the visitors. Paul Pogba came on and showed the greater concentration and physicality to score the opener and only goal. While Milan’s defenders and midfielder were scrambling and falling in the box Pogba gained possession and had time to pick his spot to beat Donnarumma from close range.

Ibra was introduced to try to change the attacking look but other than offside 0 some of which were wrong – things didn’t change much.

The game ended and the aftermath was more focused on the possible length of Calabria’s absence than the defeat itself. The right back is to go under knee surgery and will be out at the very least a month but likely more.

 Posted by on March 19, 2021