Milan entered its game against Bologna off the back of two consecutive defeats, most recently losing to fierce rivals Inter in the Coppa Italia. With the Nerazzurri breathing down their necks, Stefano Pioli’s men needed a result on Saturday – and did just that. The Italian giants emerged comfortable 2-1 winners over Bologna, maintaining their narrow lead atop the table for another weekend.
The win could not have come at a better time for the Rossoneri ahead of a crucial stretch in the season. With morale low after a humbling defeat against Atalanta, as well as a disappointing exit in the Coppa Italia, Milan was in dire need of a result this weekend. Stefano Pioli’s side has a favourable run of games coming up before their schedule gets difficult.
Up next for Milan are two relegation candidates in Spezia and Crotone. Much like it was the case in the first half of the season, the Rossoneri cannot afford anything less than six points from these two games – especially as Inter and Juventus have difficult schedules of their own coming up. Inter takes on Fiorentina and Lazio over the next two matchdays, while Juventus locks horns with Roma and Napoli. In many ways, the upcoming weeks can help Milan extend their lead at the top before the next instalment of the Derby della Madonnina set for February 21.
As of right now, Milan holds a two-point lead over Inter with 18 games to go. With yet another derby on the cards, the Rossoneri will be hoping to cut Inter’s momentum short with a crucial three points. Milan’s games against Spezia and Crotone are good opportunities to blend in the side’s new signings, as well as build up their own confidence.
Milan is also in action in the Europa League Round of 32 against Red Star Belgrade later this month, taking on the Serbian outfit on February 18. Factor in the Rossoneri’s winnable league affairs, as well as this two-legged tie with Red Star, and they can enter the derby extremely high on confidence.
Fikayo Tomori has looked good in his first two appearances in black-and-red and will have ample opportunity to stake his claim for more regular minutes. The Englishman offers some much-needed depth at the back and could use the next run of games to adapt to Serie A. Fellow January arrival – Mario Mandzukic - has featured sparingly since making the move, but as an intriguing second half of the season approaches, expect the Croatian hitman to play a more significant role. Manduzkic has regularly proven to be up to the challenge in big games and makes for an interesting partner to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
They may have been reluctant to say it in the early goings of the season, but one thing has been made clear since the turn of the new year: Milan is a legit title contender. The Rossoneri have largely downplayed this type of talk in an effort to take the pressure off themselves but can simply no longer avoid the contender tag.
Inter and Juventus are in it with a shot themselves but have been nowhere near as consistent as Milan this season. Barring their defeats to Juventus and Atalanta, Milan has impressed and taken care of business against the league’s mid-table sides. Stefano Pioli’s men will need much of the same heading into February – which is undoubtedly the side’s most important run of games.
Milan’s clash with Inter can potentially define the title race and could just swing the momentum in their favour. Talk about winning a Scudetto has largely been silenced in Casa Milan, but with only 18 games remaining – Milan is in the driver’s seat heading into a crucial month.
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