Following the Coppa Italia exit, Milan are now gearing up to take on Lecce away from home this Monday. It will be the Rossoneri’s first league game since early March – as a result of the Coronavirus crisis – and inevitably, a lot of pressure is on the players to do well and start things off right.
As things stand, Stefano Pioli’s are in need of just three points for a Europa League spot thanks to Napoli’s win over Juventus in the Coppa Italia final. As the competition guarantees direct qualification to the European second tier, 7th place is now a ticket to the playoffs granted that Napoli finish above.
Milan, however, aren’t interested in facing several low-level teams to secure a spot in the group stage, especially considering how the tight schedule already is. Of course, this also means that the second phase of the season will be very important, to the point where they will need every win they can get – with as few lost points as possible.
The clash against Lecce, therefore, suddenly has a very different meaning although the Rossoneri are clear favourites to grab all three points. This perhaps wasn’t the case last time out, when the Via Del Mare side managed to snatch one point at San Siro, spoiling Pioli’s first game in charge after replacing Marco Giampaolo.
The manager, as well as the team, will surely be out for revenge and taking the performance against Juventus into consideration, there shouldn’t be too many struggles. Furthermore, the return of Theo Hernandez, Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic is absolutely crucial, with all three being potential game-winners.
By the looks of it, Pioli will continue with the successful 4-2-3-1 formation, though changing the balance of his team. Instead of composing the attacking trio with midfielders, managing to crowd out Juventus last time out, the right flank will be occupied by Castillejo – adding pace and flair to the tactics.
Given that Lecce don’t have as many quality players as the champions, increasing the attacking abilities on the loss of some defensive one seems like the right call by the manager. That being said, the pressure is on Milan to do well and the home side certainly shouldn’t be underestimated, perhaps fueled by the first-leg draw.
Likely Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Castillejo, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu; Rebic.
Likely Lecce XI (4-3-2-1): Gabriel; Rispoli, Rossettini, Lucioni, Calderoni; Majer, Tachtsidis, Mancosu; Falco, Saponara; Lapadula.
Most likely, the game will be dictated by the physical status of the teams. Lecce have had more rest but on the other hand, Milan’s clash against Juventus gave Pioli an opportunity to analyze his team. Furthermore, managing a draw despite being one man down isn’t easy and the Rossoneri’s preparation was put to the test – and passed.
In addition to getting revenge on Lecce, there are also some personal incentives within the Milan squad, above all for Rebic. The Croatian was sent off early on against Juventus, ruining the game for his teammates with a reckless high boot. Predicted to lead the attack on Monday, he will want to get on the scoresheet.
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