Nov 112018
 

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Without Bonaventura, Biglia and Musacchio and most of the game without Higuain Milan needed another last minute Romagnoli goal to beat Udinese. As the injuries piled up every body involved with Milan feared the worst when in the first half Higuain asked to be subbed after a getting a knock in his back. As it turned out the game became chaotic and back and forth and after a prolonged counter and passing play Romagnoli beat Juan Musso in the Udinese goal right at the end. The defender and captain solidified his reputation in Milan fans’ hearts for doing the same in the second game in a row.

With that feeling Milan traveled to Betis for match day 4 of the Europa League. Without all of the aforementioned player (except Musacchio), a 3-5-2 and with Romagnoli starting on the bench Milan struggled to play a good game, suffered more injury hits and were lucky to escape with a tie.

As it stands the injury list includes Strinic (heart issue, return unknown), Caldara (at least until February), Biglia (at least until March) and Musacchio (at least until January after he was almost knocked unconscious after colliding with Kessie at Betis). The list also includes Calhanoglu and Bonaventura as not 100% match fit.

The formation starting versus the league leaders will very likely be Abate, Zapata, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in front of Donnarumma. Suso, Kessie, Bakayoko and Calhanoglu behind Castillejo and Higuain. The latter is probably also not 100% match fit but will push to play against his old team. Cutrone’s expected omission is not fully explained.

Ronaldo has not scored at the San Siro in the five games he has played at the stadium, three of which have been against Milan. Despite a midweek loss to Manchester United beating Juventus will require a form defying performance. The task is to not only stop the Portuguese but Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and the whole of Juventus team who only have Emre Can on their injury list.

Nov 042018
 

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Two wins vs the Genoa based teams has propelled Milan to the top 4, before week 11 matches start. The 2-1 win vs Genoa midweek and 3-2 win vs Sampdoria last weekend both required winning goals that may have seen unlikely at times during the match. Neither game featured a team impressive in movement, shape or tactics. One featured a departure from Gattuso’s preferred 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2  – with both Cutrone and Higuain starting vs Sampdoria. The other looked more like a 3-5-2 that reverted to a 4-4-2 when Abate replaced the wing back/winger Laxalt. The three at the back is very unfamiliar to the players and it showed.

Biglia’s injury that will keep him out for over a month has added to the injury list with news that Caldara will miss three months with a calf problem. The midfield lacks the most depth and it seems likely that Bakayoko will be getting more minutes . The French midfielder has to cut down on his mistakes, one of which was partially responsible for Genoa’s deflected goal midweek.

Despite question marks a back three could make another appearance with Rodriguez lining up with Musacchio and Romagnoli. The midfield will still miss Bonaventura who is out with a knock therefore Laxalt, Calhanoglu, Bakayoko, Kessie and Suso could feature behind Higuain and Cutrone. The latter scored the opener vs Sampdoria and has one of the best goals to minutes ratios in the top leagues . The 20 years old has scored five goals (in all competitions) so far this season in 327 minutes.

There is also more news of an Ibra return, an 18 months deal starting in January 2019 could be in the works.

Udinese sit just above the relegation zone in 17th place with Rodrigo De Paul having scored fully half of their 10 goals so far this season.

Oct 282018
 

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A defensive, lackluster game in the derby culminated in a last minute loss courtesy of a Mauro Icardi goal. The manner of the game, especially the tame second half and even worse subs, added questions marks for the team right after a few wins in the weeks preceding it had alleviated the pressure. Amid calls for Gattuso’s dismissal and rumblings of a rift between Leonardo and the coach the team hosted Real Betis for Europa League’s third matchday.

The Spanish team almost embarrassed Milan in the first half and the visitor’s Antonio Sanabria could have had more than the lone goal in the first 45 minutes. The subs came at half time and Cutrone and Suso’s arrival in place of Borini and Bakayoko had some but not enough effect. Betis scored again before Cutrone further solidified his claim for a starting spot by scoring the consolation.

With all that has happened in the last week the team is seeking tangible change and it seems Gattuso has realized he should attempt a different formation. The 4-3-3 that isolated and has recently frustrated Higuain looks to be out for week 10 vs Sampdoria. Cutrone seems certain to start with Higuain up front. The midfield will therefore look different. Suso, Kessie, Biglia and Laxalt lead the starting odds. At the back Caldara is still missing in action so Musacchio, Romagnoli, Calabria and Rodriguez will keep their spots.

Sampdoria led by Gregoire Defrel and Fabio Quagliarella sit in the 6th spot with only four goals allowed after nine weeks. The busy fixture list continues unabated as Gattuso and Milan will make up the week 1 postponed game on Halloween. These next two games vs the Genoa teams may decide Gattuso’s fate, but who may come next? Conte? Stay tuned.

Oct 212018
 

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There isn’t much in terms of breaking news as far as on the pitch and injuries go, both teams meeting once again for the derby are relatively healthy with coach’s preferred lineups more or less easy guesses. Of course a Milan derby is anything but predictable and as the cliche goes will throw up the unexpected regardless of form. The 222nd derby will go a long way in setting the mood of the rest of the season as Milan try to get back into the top 4.

Milan’s disappointing start to the season may be behind us, at least we hope. Goal laden wins before the international break vs Chievo, Sassuolo and AEK Athens lifted the optimism, if only somewhat. The additional good news for Milan fans is the capture of Lucas Paqueta, the 21 years old Flamengo midfielder for around €35 million. The player is one of the better Brazilian prospects and his January 2019 arrival is all but official. Leonardo’s Brazilian connections have surely helped in this transfer but the team is still very much under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play watch and will be limited and will require creative accounting moving forward for years to come. There are also whispers about a new stadium but if that indeed happens, as opposed to a very possible prolonged stay at the San Siro, it will not be in the near future.

Back to the game at hand. Milan’s 4-3-3 will be challenged by the 4-2-3-1 often preferred by Inter’s Luciano Spalletti. The Nerazzurri with Mauro Icardi, Radja Nainggolan et al will create problems for Musacchio and Romagnoli and Higuain. Milan need the opportunism of the Argentine forward to beat Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Inter. Milan is still struggling in terms of midfield creativity so Suso and Calhanoglu’s movement between the wings and middle of the pitch will go a long way in dictating the outcome of this game. Biglia’s relative good form will of course be as crucial in the middle of the pitch.

 

 

Oct 072018
 

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With whispers that Gattuso’s job is on the line after several lackluster games and points dropped the team responded with two important wins in beating formerly high flying Sassuolo 4-1 away and coming from behind to beat Olympiacos at home 3-1. The manner of the two wins were not overly convincing but provide a glimmer of hope for a team despeprate to make the Champions league places.

The game versus Olympiacos proved that Cutrone is still a very exciting prospect, the injured 20 years old returned and scored twice in less than a half of play. It is rather ironic that a team that features only two real center forwards – Higuain and Cutrone – has no space for the young Italian. The 4-3-3 doesn’t include a place for both, at least on paper. The team also has little quality in the midfield area and 4-3-3 doesn’t always convince.

In somewhat related news to the aforementioned formation and number of center forwards rumours of an Ibra loan return have surfaced. Could the 37 years old make a difference in a six month stint at the San Siro? The answer is probably yes…partly depending on the formation.

For now however the team will remain familiar. Caldara carries an injury and is not available, Calabria is likely to be rested so Donnarumma, Abate, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Laxalt or Rodriguez will be the back line. Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura will be the middle three with no space for the so far disappointing Bakayoko. Calhanoglu, Higuain and Suso will start while Cutrone and Castillejo battle for time from the bench.

Chievo sit 20th with -1 point and only two ties in seven games and a 3 point deduction for false accounting to create fake profits.

Sep 302018
 

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Week 6’s result was even more underwhelming than the week 5 1-1 tie vs Cagliari. A team without the injured Higuain managed to strike early via a Biglia strike, deflected and awarded as an Leonardo Capezzi own goal. However the team faded soon after and allowed the promoted team to tie it in the second. Borini replacing the aforementioned Argentine was mostly invisible. A not fully fit Cutrone came in and unsurprisingly was unable to drag the team out of another tie. Perhaps just as disappointing was  that a Romagnoli giveaway and mistake led to Empoli’s goal.

To make matters worse and pile on even more pressure on the deservedly criticized Gattuso, the team is still handcuffed by the lack of depth at center forward. Higuain is still not available and neither Cutrone nor Borini is fully fit. Winger Castillejo seems set to play up front as the cliched false 9.

The back will feature more or less the same four with the alternating Abate or Calabria the only unknowns. Laxalt may play in Rodriguez’s spot too but that seems less likely at Sassuolo. The mid three are very predictable at this point and barring a relatively big change of heart Gattuso is proving himself stubborn.

Calhanoglu’s poor form has been one factor in the poor start. Suso has shown flashes but the offensive unit as a whole is not functioning at all. Gattuso may not lead the team for too much longer if immediate improvements don’t come. Facing Sassuolo – led by Kevin Prince Boateng – who are a surprising third before week 7’s matches will present one other challenge for this fragile Milan.

Sep 272018
 

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Another slew of missed chances and another two points dropped. Twice leading but getting only one point against Atalanata at home is a poor and costly result. Fingers are starting to point at Gattuso and whether or not that is fair where the players were the ones missing chances is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the team still lacks in many areas and the coach does have responsilbilty in trying to change things up and find solutions.

A visit to Empoli for a mid week game provides an opportunity for a changed 11. A number of injuries are not helping but changes have and need to be made to get back to winning ways.  For this game however, Milan’s star and best player is being kept at home as a precaution. Higuain is back in Milan and Cutrone is still not 100% fit so it seems we are left with Borini as a starter, in an advanced or more withdrawn so called false 9 role. The other anticipated change is the use of Abate in Calabria’s place. This change is not a positive one as Abate showed when he came as a sub vs Atalanta. As there is no word that Calabria is unable to start or play this rotation might be a negative one.

Elsewhere on the pitch the usual starters are very likely to keep their place. Empoli have 1 win in 5 games, three points are a must.

Sep 232018
 

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Week four away at Cagliari was an underwhelming match, Milan started very poorly and the team was punished as early as the 4th minute. The team gradually improved but a second half Higuain goal was to be a consolation only. Dropping points like this will soon add up and a top 4 and Champions League place can fade quickly.

Atalanta provide the second home opposition of the season and the Bergamo club have had an indifferent start to the season as well.

The line ups used this season, except for the Europa League opener midweek, have been too close to last season’s and this seems to be norm for now. Higuain and either one of Caldara or Musacchio remain the only changes from the regular 2017-2018 team. Big changes didn’t provide a big spark vs Dudelange and it was left to a partially deflected Higuain goal to get the three points. These two matches were further evidence that Gattuso still has a lot of work to do to create a new team or gel the players into a top Serie A or Europa League team.

Cutrone will still miss this game and the short term knock is taking a few more days than expected. Mauri and Bertolacci underwhelmed versus the Luxembourg team and do not look like players capable of adding quality depth for the midfield. The team will require the best from the starters. Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura and perhaps even more so Bakayoko need to have great seasons. Suso and Calhanoglu need to be pushed by Halilovic and Castillejo and perform as well and better than last season.

Caldara is set to miss week five with what is described as a muscular issue so the defense pairing with Musacchio and Romagnoli is again predictable.

Sep 162018
 

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The last minute Cutrone goal vs Roma for the 2-1 win enhanced the team’s outlook somewhat and the team entered the international break with some more optimism. The new new era is moving along with more financial stability and the hope is that results on the pitch will follow the same trajectory of the 2017-2018 season and Gattuso’s time as coach in particular.

There are reasons to question the state of the team and to be cautious. The biggest of those reasons are that, at least for now, the team is barely changed. Of the eight summer arrivals only Higuain has a regular spot. As mentioned, the team did well under Gattuso last season but does one change, as important as it is, make a whole lot of difference? No one would compare Kalinic to Higuain but the rest of the new comers must be integrated into the starting 11 sooner rather than later.

The back four will likely be Calabria, Romagnoli, Musacchio and Rodriguez with Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura in the middle, Suso, Calhanoglu and Higuain will complete the 4-3-3. Cutrone is out with a knock but it is thought to  be very short term and he could be available as early as the midweek Europa League opener at F91 Dudelange in Luxembourg.

Aug 252018
 

Gennaro Gattuso will need to inject new blood into the squad.

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The first game of the 2018-2019 season vs Genoa was postponed following the Genoa bridge collapse tragedy. Milan’s season gets underway at Napoli and the week 1 match is to be played on October 31st.

It has been yet another summer of change at Milan with new ownership, Elliott management, bringing in a semblance of stability and recruiting and convincing former legends to join in leading roles. The long hard work that Leonardo and Maldini have on their hands is now fully Gattuso’s too. There were eight new arrivals but at least initially only three of them are close to being starters. The early weeks might feature fewer new starters than many might hope or expect. Gonzalo Higuian will need to continue his goal scoring exploits because not only goal scoring was a weakness last season but the new season brings in less alternatives for the center forward spot. Andre Silva and Kalinic exited Milan and Bacca converted his loan away to a full exit – in the Samu Castillejo deal with Villarreal – so Cutrone is the sole real alternative to the Argentinian. Tiemoue Bakayoko will be an option in the middle of the park as a central or right midfielder and Mattia Caldara will likely feature when Mateo Musacchio does not. The other five arrivals, Castillejo, Laxalt, Halilovic, Reina and Strinic will have to fight for spots and gain Gattuso’s trust. Strinic is on the sidelines for an indefinite period with a recently discovered heart issue, so the left back spots will be contested between Rodriguez and Laxalt for now.

As before, other than the aforementioned goalscoring woes, the midfield will be under scrutiny to see if a more creative, direct squad can be found. The start will be mostly a feeling of deja vu with Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura the more likely starters in the 4-3-3. Although he was due to be suspended for the first game vs Genoa Calhanoglu is suspended for this game and the question for the left wing or the left front player is still unanswered, a familiar face might increase the deja vu feel as Borini is a possibility.

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