Author: Reza

Week 21: Venezia – Milan

Venezia Milan

Milan impressed in beating Roma 3-1 in the first game of the calendar year. Despite five players out in COVID-19 isolation the team kept its shape and looked more dynamic and tactically impressive. Leao and Ibra’s return, as subs, aided the team to finish off the game with the former scoring an impressive goal and showing further signs of progressing to a genuine star.

This early afternoon week 21 match comes only three days after Mourinho’s men visited the San Siro. The short gap means little will change in terms of player availability. Maignan, and his impressive reflexes, will start in goal. The French man will be backed up by Mirante and possibly Lapo Nava again. The 17 years old latter was an emergency call up for the Roma match as none of Tatarusanu, Plizzari and Jungdal are available. Florenzi, Kalulu, Gabbia and Theo are pretty much the only options at the back. Conti will likely make another rare appearance in what is surely his final days in a Milan jersey. Tonali and Bakayoko or Krunic will be the pivots. Tonali is another player showing signs of rapid progress into stardom. The young Italian’s value is rising fast. Messias, Diaz and Leao are the first candidates to start behind Ibra. Rebic could be ready for his first taste of action since mid November.

Venezia’s return to Serie A might not have yet been a spectacular one but the team is making a name for itself in marketing and in particular its highly rated jersey designs. The team sits in 16th place and features Mattia Caldara. The Milan owned defender is suspended for this game, a suspension that was due to be served in the postponed/suspended match at Salernitana.

There is always more on the forum.

Milan 3-1 Roma Notes On Three Important Points On A Pandemic Ravaged Evening

Milan Roma

Milan was more short handed – five players missing due to COVID-19 protocols, three playing at Africa Cup Of Nations, plus Kjaer and Pellegri all out – than Roma but Ibra, Leao and Rebic were on the bench following injury absences.

The early minutes were advantage Milan and Theo almost beat Rui Patricio with a low shot from distance. Subsequently VAR intervened and with the aid of the pitch side monitor the ref handed Milan a penalty. Theo’s shot at goal had grazed Tammy Abraham’s arm. Giroud converted the penalty.

Milan doubled the lead when a back pass was weak and short, it was picked up by Giroud who beat Rui Patricio from an acute right angle and hit the post but the rebound was found by Messias who thumped the ball in the far corner.

The back wasn’t always the most secure looking. In one instance Nicolo Zaniolo broke through and was stopped by a good Maignan save. The opening originated from a missed midfield ball. Before the 30 minute mark Messias had another half chance from a Florenzi pass on the right.

Roma’s best chance so far came in the 40th minute where a shot was just diverted slightly by Abraham’s head and forced Maignan into an acrobatic, top level reflex diversion for a corner. In the resulting corner the ball was shot hard toward goal and diverted by Abraham into Milan’s goal.

Tensions were high in the latter minutes of the first half with more than one incident and more controversy as players came to shoves twice. A kick out at Krunic was not seemingly checked and very late in first half added time Zaniolo may have been fouled. 2-1 for Milan at the half it was.

The second started at a high pace with chances exchanged. A notable was a Brahim shot after eluding the defender. The long range shot hit the crossbar. In the 60th minute Maignan’s outstretched hand saved a low Abraham ball. Roma were crawling back into the match and Milan had the goalkeeper to thank. Bakayoko and Leao came on for Krunic and Saelemaekers. Later Diaz found himself with a good deal of space from a Giroud cross and missed his shot, moments later Messias shot high.

Roma made a triple sub in the 71st minute with two of them being familiar names, coming on were Stephan El-Shaarawy and Bryan Cristante plus Felix Afena-Gyan. Moments later Rick Karsdorp got another yellow for a 50-50 foul on Theo. Roma went a man down and the ensuing freekick was almost shot in by Florenzi. The former Roma player hit the corner of the far post and crossbar. He was substituted soon after for a very rare Conti – probably the most likely player to depart this January – appearance. Ibra came on for Giroud at the same time. Leao widened Milan’s lead minutes later. A long ball came to Ibra who chested it back into Leao’s path, the Portuguese burst through the Roma defense at top speed and finished well. Roma had a penalty shout in the 84th minute but it would have been very harsh and certainly not anywhere close to the foul on Krunic earlier in the first half. As added time was approaching Gianluca Mancini prevented possible fourth Milan goal. Deep in the four added minutes Mancini brought Leao down making no real attempt at the ball. Ibra’s penalty was stopped by Rui Patricio.

The game ended an eventful 3-1.

Week 20: Milan – Roma

Milan Roma

Update January 6: A makeshift, or at least a B, defense of sorts starts for Milan:
Maignan; Florenzi, Kalulu, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Messias, Diaz, Saelemaekers; Giroud
Bench: Mirante, Nava Lapo, Ibra, Rebic, Conti, Leao, Maldini, Bakayoko, Stanga
Update January 6: Four Serie A matches have been ‘postponed’ due to the inability of the teams to travel. The local health authorities over ruling the Serie A’s preference to go ahead if a team has 13 players available, those 13 needs to include at least one goalkeeper. This has led to team with less positive cases to have postponed matches than those with more. This Milan versus Roma game is going ahead with Milan 5 positives and Roma 3 positives (reportedly).
Update January 5: Five Milan players are now in COVID-19 isolation, though not all confirmed the names are thought to be Tomori, Romagnoli and Calabria with Tatarusanu and Castillejo. As Lega Serie A is apparently unwilling to postpone games and with cases spreading wide and health authorities forbidding travel there might be games that are forfeited.

The second half of the 2021-2022 Serie A and a new year start versus Roma with some question marks but cautious optimism that at least the injury crisis is waning.

Calabria and Ibra are said to be ready and Rebic and Leao very close to being ready. The pandemic lurks as an ever present threat and Tatarusanu is the latest player to be stricken. The Africa Cup of Nations has depleted Milan’s depth with Kessie, Bennacer and Ballo-Toure away for the Ivory Coast, Algeria and Senegal respectively.

The line up will be altered most in midfield of course with Tonali and Bakayoko the only obvious options although Krunic has a good chance of playing instead of the underperforming latter.

Roma are missing Borja Mayoral due to COVID protocols, El Shaarawy not fully fit and have Amadou Diawara away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

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Empoli 2-4 Milan Notes On A Night When A Win Seemed Unlikely

Empoli Milan

A surprise was using Kessie in a nominal number 10 role behind the center forward. Diaz’s poor form and likely fatigue plus a lack of real options – neither of Messias nor Krunic truly suited for the role – made for a risky change at the mid point of the season. The early minutes had Kessie slightly more advanced as the lineup suggested.

Messias had the earliest Milan chance as his acrobatic turn was straight at Guglielmo Vicario in Empoli’s goal. The same Kessie opened the scoring, a patient build up play involving Theo and Saelemaekers found its way to Giroud who with his back to goal played the ball to Kessie who shot low and beat Vicario.

The equalizer arrived not long after. A narrow defensive shape and poor defending or clearing were the culprits. The ball found it way to Nedim Bajrami with space on Milan’s right, his low shot just beat Maignan on the far side, the keeper did get a hand on it but was unable to stop the goal.

Empoli were better on the ball as Milan fumbled a freekick just before half hour mark. Milan slowly climbed in the possession stat but it was Maignan who made a good save from a Pinamonti 37th minute chance. Further questions for the defense however.

Kessie scored again. An exchange with Saelemaekers was finished off when the Ivorian’s low shot nutmegged Vicario. Saelemaekers had a half chance late and the resulting corner should have been converted with first Giroud and then Romagnoli missing the chance closeup.

The second half started at a faster pace but Milan had a lucky escape when Pinamonti, while evading several defenders, hit the post. The pace didn’t stay up for long.

Another goal from perhaps an unexpected source. A freekick – Simone Romagnoli impeded Saelemaekers – was awarded to Milan and Florenzi shot in beating the poor Empoli wall. A fourth arrived as well when Theo shot in a high cross. If the Frenchman had not scored a penalty for hand ball would have been called on the Empoli player. Kalulu and Bakayoko had come on moments earlier for Florenzi and Tonali. Krunic and Diaz followed for Bennacer and Messias.

Empoli got one back when VAR and pitch side monitor were used to confirm the ball had hit Bakayoko’s arm from a corner. Pinamonti converted the penalty. The pace had slowed and even Empoli didn’t really seem up to upping the urgency.

Romagnoli came close just as the game was about to end. The Kessie as a nominal attacking weapon paid off for now and Milan end the calendar year with a win and second in the table at the midway point of the 2021-2022 Serie A season.

Week 19: Empoli – Milan

Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
16
Maignan
25
Florenzi
23
Tomori
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
8
Tonali
79
Kessié
30
Messias
10
Díaz
33
Krunić
9
Giroud
Substitutes

Injury and VAR controversy can now be compared to death and taxes. Inevitable. Milan played poorly versus Napoli and lost by one goal from an early set piece defensive lapse. Late in the game the referees did their part to overshadow the poor play by coming up with a bizarre offside call. Kessie had taken advantage of a panicked defensive scramble and beaten David Ospina but the referee consulted the pitch side monitor and decided that Giroud was offside. The French forward had fallen on the ground behind Juan Jesus and to call him active or influencing the play was absurd and another strike against refereeing.

On the injury front Ibra is yet another addition to the list. His knee is troubling him and he will miss this Empoli game. Leao, Rebic, Calabria, Pellegri and Kjaer remain missing. The calendar year is ending with Milan in danger of losing their once safe top four spot. At least Theo should be back. He, alongside Romagnoli, Tomori and Florenzi, will play in front of Maignan. Choosing two of Kessie, Tonali and Bennacer is probably the only spots that Pioli and the team have a not easy decision to make. Although the three behind the center forward do provide some choice as well. Will it be Messias or Saelemaekers. Will it be Krunic or Diaz or both. Giroud is the only option to play up front.

The last game of the calendar year is also the midpoint of the season. Soon the winter transfer window will open and as usual the team needs help but probably will be limited in options. Help to cover Kjaer, the long term absentee, looks to be first on the agenda.

A young Empoli team led by Inter owned Andrea Pinamonti, Samuele Ricci and the familiar Patrick Cutrone are one of the hottest Serie A teams and haven’t lost in over a month.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Milan 0-1 Napoli Notes On A Night When Late Controversy Overshadowed A Poor Game

Milan Napoli

Two teams in the midst of injury issues faced off at the San Siro. Milan missed Rebic, Leao, Calabria, Pellegri and Kjaer while Napoli were without Lorenzo Insigne, Victor Osimhen, Mario Rui, Fabian Ruiz and Kalidou Koulibaly.

Napoli started brighter while Milan looked like an unorganized team at the back. Napoli took advantage and Elif Elmas scored a header from a corner. Tonali gave the player too much room.

As Milan showed a few signs of life Ibra wasn’t far in the 18th minute, his header from a Ballo-Toure cross missed the far side. Still the team found itself in offside positions more often than creating good chances. The rest of the first half was a struggle to create and trouble Napoli. The 0-1 half time score was a good indicator of two handicapped teams.

Ibra tested Ospina early in the second but the unchanged team looked as ineffective up front as ever. Diaz and Messias were not having a productive game. The team was incapable of winning and keeping possession. With the game going nowhere for Milan Giroud and Saelemaekers came on for Diaz and Krunic. Diaz in particular had been poor and one of the reasons Milan hadn’t created through the middle. The game remained mostly eventless and poor. In the 78th minute Bennacer came on for Tonali followed by Castillejo for Messias. Probably the best looking play of the second half so far was a one two between Ibra and Giroud that was diverted into a corner. Ibra tried but failed as a sense of urgency took over. The last roll of the dice was bringing on Kalulu for Florenzi, a move that wasn’t likely to be consequential.

After a scramble and Napoli defensive mess Kessie thought to have scored. VAR and a pitch side monitor came to Napoli’s aid as the ref called back the goal. Giroud was judged to have been offside after falling on the ground in a collision with a Napoli player. The decision to award an offside was as confusing as any recent decision and any recent football rule.

The game thus ended 0-1 but the late controversy partially overshadowed Milan’s poor game.

Week 18: Milan – Napoli

Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
16
Maignan
25
Florenzi
23
Tomori
13
Romagnoli
5
Ballo-Touré
79
Kessié
8
Tonali
30
Messias
10
Díaz
33
Krunić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan have managed to hang around the top of the table both in the standings and in terms of goals scored. Considering the number of injuries and matches missed by basically every team member this is an achievement in itself and Pioli deserves a great deal of credit. Milan Lab however needs to be questioned more. The busy schedule has certainly not helped either. Now Milan got a rare eight days between matches – since the 1-1 tie at Udinese – and will face a Napoli team that have fallen to fourth place after a blistering and undefeated start. Luciano Spalletti’s men have now only won one Serie A match since Halloween and have reached the end of the year with an almost as bad injury situation as Milan. Napoli are likely to be without all of Mario Rui, Lorenzo Insigne, Fabian Ruiz, Victor Osimhen and Kalidou Koulibaly. Milan meanwhile remain without Rebic, Leao, Kjaer, Calabria and Pellegri. Hernandez and Romagnoli are not 100% and may miss the game while battling the flu.

As has been the case it is difficult to pick a starting 11 as injuries have come regularly. Giroud returns to ease the pressure on Ibra but the French striker will almost certainly start on the bench. Three of Messias, Diaz, Krunic, Saelemaekers and possibly Castillejo will start behind the certainly exhausted 40 years old Ibra. Kessie and Tonali are the best candidates for the midfield pivot two. Bakayoko and Bennacer have struggled when getting minutes. Florenzi will start in Calabria’s spot and if Hernandez is still ill Ballo-Toure is likely to get the nod. Romagnoli and Tomori will be the center backs unless the former is not fully ready. Maignan will of course be the goalkeeper.

Empoli comes next in midweek but Milan’s fixture list will be lighter in the new year. The fast spreading Omicron variant is affecting many sports leagues around the world, most notably England, and if the situation worsens it is anybody’s guess if the schedule will remain as is.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Week 17: Udinese – Milan

Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
16
Maignan
25
Florenzi
23
Tomori
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
41
Bakayoko
8
Tonali
56
Saelemaekers
10
Díaz
33
Krunić
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

The Champions League season ended in a tame match versus a partial Liverpool B team. Inexperience and an injury crisis within the very busy schedule made sure that Milan will have to concentrate on the Scudetto. That is not necessarily a bad thing for this young team. Sitting in first place despite the aforementioned injury toll is a positive. Sustaining the top spot remains a big challenge as the absent list remains long.

Giroud, Rebic, Kjaer, Pellegri, Calabria and Leao remain out for this week 17 visit to Udinese. The coach himself is said to be battling the flu.

The back line will feature Florenzi, Tomori, Romagnoli and Henandez playing in front of Maigana. Hernandez’s form remains poor and his play will have a say in how the season moves ahead. The double pivots have been a rotating saga, whether due to injury or coach’s decisions the same two have not always played together. Tonali and Bakayoko could start here but Bennacer is a possibility too with the struggling Kessie seemingly in need of a rest.

The front four players have been even more difficult to organize. The coach has few options and the only real question is whether to use Messias or Saelemaekers. The latter looks to have an advantage despite the former showing more promise and goals. Diaz, Krunic and Ibra will fill out the remaining spots.

The January transfer window does require enforcements but whether attacking and central defensive help is affordable or possible remains to be seen. As expected rumours link a whole set of players to Milan with defenders more often mentioned due to Kjaer’s season ending injury. Lille’s Sven Botman, Torino’s Gleison Bremer and Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic are just three names mentioned.

Follow the game as it happens, on the forum.

Milan – Liverpool Can Milan Progress In the Champions League?

Milan Liverpool

The first year back in the Champions League after a long absence has been a learning experience. It took until match day 5 for Milan to find a win. Beating Atletico in Madrid was a good sign of growth in a Champions League season where inexperience has been a detriment and the short comings have been amplified with the help of refs and the never ending injuries.

Milan arrives at match day 6 needing points and almost certainly a home win against Liverpool. A win does not guarantee progress either as Porto beating Atletico renders any result against the Merseyside side moot. The presumed and hoped for bright side is that Liverpool will almost certainly start a B side. Liverpool lead the group comfortably with 5 wins out of 5 and face a grueling domestic fixture list that has them playing 7 games before the end of December, all after this game. Unfortunately the Milan side is very handicapped and while it has been able to maintain some form in the Serie A that has not translated to the European stage.

Joining Giroud, Rebic, Kjaer, Calabria and Castillejo (not registered for Europe in any case) on the sidelines are Leao and Pellegri. The Portuguese is thought to be out short term but the latter could miss a longer time and may even return to Monaco in January. News reports indicate that Theo is not 100% either and is battling the cold.

All this leaves a very thin squad for Pioli. And a nonexistent bench. Maignan should start behind Kalulu, Romagnoli, Tomori and Hernandez, with Florenzi a possible option in Kalulu’s spot. Kessie and Tonali are the first candidates for the midfield pivot roles and up front there is little choice other than Messias, Diaz and Krunic behind Ibra. Saelemaekers and Maldini will provide the back up options.

As mentioned Liverpool may rest the likes of Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold and this may make them a less dangerous side attacking wise.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Week 16: Milan – Salernitana

Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
16
Maignan
20
Kalulu
23
Tomori
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
41
Bakayoko
30
Messias
10
Díaz
17
Leão
11
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan beat Shevchenko’s Genoa 3-0 to calm the concerns after two losses in a row vs Fiorentina and Sassuolo, in which the team allowed seven goals. Tomori’s return was a defensive boost and so it showed. There was however almost immediate bad news. Within two minutes of the start Kjaer went down and had to be stretchered off. It is now confirmed that the Danish defender will miss six months after undergoing left knee ligament surgery. Romagnoli, suspended for the Genoa clash, will deputise and it also almost certainly means that the January transfer window will require an incoming central defender.

Playing the last placed team has not always been a safe bet for Milan and of course the three points will be crucial in trying to keep pace with Npaoli, Inter et al.

The injury situation makes it near impossible to pick a team and even less so predict it from the outside. Maignan will start in goal with Kalulu (or Florenzi), Tomori, Romagnoli and Hernandez in the back four. Bennacer is not fully fit therefore the midfield options are two of Kessie, Tonali and Bakayoko. With an eye on the upcoming midweek Champions League match vs Liverpool the tough choices will have be made by Pioli. Rebic, Castillejo and Giroud are out and Ibra has played a lot of minutes. This could mean the red hot Messias gets another start with Diaz and Leao forming the three behind the center forward. The latter had a day off midweek at Genoa and will be fresher. Saelemaekers is an option too of course.

There have been whispers that Pellegri is not very happy with the minutes he is getting but injured, unfit or otherwise he has recently played a part in games. He might be in line for more minutes as the aforementioned Ibra must be reaching his limits in minutes he can play, especially with the two matches a week fixtures.

Salernitana is now Franck Ribery’s home. He is however not a certain starter. The Campania region team have won two of the 15 games so far in their return to the Serie A for the first time in 23 years.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.