Serie A Injury Report – Round 12

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Juventus: Sami Khedira (hamstring) and Mario Mandzukic (ankle) played in Champions League, while Douglas Costa was ruled out for another thigh problem, same for Moise Kean. They are unlikely to be available for the weekend. Federico Bernardeschi is questionable for the muscular ailment that has been bugging him for a while.

Inter:  Radja Nainggolan started against Barcelona, but he is still less than 100 percent because of the recent ankle sprain so he could be rested.

Napoli: Dries Mertens subbed off versus PSG because of a bruised shoulder, but he avoided further complications and should be good to go for the weekend. Continue reading

Romagnoli the hero again for AC Milan

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AC Milan and captain Alessio Romagnoli are beginning to make a habit of dramatic late winning goals in Serie A this season.

The latest, a 96th minute strike from the former Roma youngster, sealed a vital 1-0 win away at Udinese.

Gennaro Gauttso’s side have had to dig deep and show real resolve to pick up points in recent weeks, with three back to back wins moving them up into fourth place in Serie A.

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Serie A Game of the Round – Milan vs Atalanta

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The most enthralling game of the weekend was certainly Milan-Atalanta, which was hard fought until the final whistle. The Devil came into the game after a disappointing draw in Cagliari, where they did not play well and were lucky to come away with a point. Atalanta were eager to bounce back as well, since they were coming off two bitter losses to SPAL and Cagliari.

Gennaro Gattuso deployed his usual line-up, with Mateo Musacchio retaining his starting job because Mattia Caldara got hurt. Gian Piero Gasperini instead continued to tinker with his formation, sending out Mario Pasalic in the hole and Musa Barrow as centre-forward. Continue reading

Milan need to sort out their defensive issues

In the first half of last season, Milan were shambolic in defense, conceding ridiculous goals at the wrong place at the wrong time and struggled to make the difference at the other end of the field. Despite winning against AS Roma, there are a few pressing concerns in defense this season.

There were some mitigating factors in the previous year. The infusion of new players and the formation of a new defensive set up. Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival prompted the then manager Vincenzo Montella to opt for a three back because of the defender’s familiarity with that system. Effectively laying the platform for one man.Ricardo Rodríguez, Mateo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli had to adapt to this new organization and in most instances they wilted. Among some of the embarrassing displays were the two zero defeat to Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and the 4-1 debacle at the hands of Lazio at the Stadio Olympico.

But Milan did improve in the second half of the season after Gennaro Gattuso was installed as the head coach. Gattuso steadied the ship and change the structure of the team to a back four. The Rossoneri conceded 15 goals in 19 games before the end of May 2018. After such improve, you would expect that the Diavolo would demonstrate some level of resilience and reliability at the back, but it hasn’t been the case so far.

The season is just two games old, but there are worrying defensive weaknesses that must be addressed. Milan continue to bleed in defense after shipping in four goals in their first two matches. What is more frustrating is the systemic errors committed by players. The reckless concession of possession in Milan’s half and the inability of players to deal with shots from distance. In the two games against Napoli and AS Roma, we saw how Gattuso’s men struggled against their opponent during set pieces.

A bit of narration.

In the 2-1 win over Roma, the manner in which Milan reacted to Javier Pastore’s conner kick is very telling. Pastore sent the cross into the mixer, hoping to find the height of either Dzeko or Fazio, Gianluigi Donnarumma comes out to parry the ball out, it fall to Stephan El Shaarawy close to the edge of the 18yard box, the little Pharaoh sends in a pass which deflects off the foot of Daniele De Rossi, marked by Mateo Musacchio, the ball gets to Davide Calabria with his arms around Patrik Schick, the young Italian kicks the ball with his weaker foot to Federico Fazio, and the Argentine hits in the rebound to put Roma on level pegging.

Now let’s cast our mind back to the 3-2 defeat at the San Paolo against Napoli. The home side equalized the second goal from a corner kick. Jose Callejon hits the ball in from the left side flag, Tiémoué Bakayoko heads the ball out of the box, which fall to Piotr Zieliński, the Napoli midfielder shoots right from the edge of the 18yard and the ball finds its way into the back of the net.

Dissecting the problem.

Milan are failing to pick up these players who patrol outside the 18yard box. And they are mostly players with the ability to provide an incisive pass to create goal scoring opportunities. In the two instances narrated above, there was no sense of closing down both El shaawary and Zielinski when they received the ball.

The positioning of the defenders when a cross is sent in the box. Given Patrick Schick’s height and strength, it’s quite perplexing to see Calabria trying to put a brake on the Czech International. This should have been the job of Kessie or Bonaventura. Calabria invested his strength in his arm around the Roma forward, weakening his position to attack the ball as precisely as he should.

It must also be noted that Steven Nzonzi’s VAR disallowed goal also resulted from a corner kick.

Milan have a relatively youthful defense with a 19year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma in the post so the lack of experience almost always bites them. It will take time and patience for them to grow strong and mature together.  Gattuso still needs to sort out the best center back partnership for Alesio Romagnoli. Mateo Musacchio is not the most popular in defense whiles Caldara is yet to start a game this season, but could be crucial in redefining the Rossoneri’s defensive identity. He may be the lynchpin in the defense.

Conceding four goals in two games is not the best way to kick start a campaign, It gives opponents confidence when anytime they are on the offensive and set jitters among the defenders. Milan must get the basic rules of defending right.

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Serie A Match of the Week – Milan vs Roma

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Milan-Roma had the most buzz approaching the round and ended up being a pretty entertaining game. Another candidate could have been Sassuolo-Genoa, but, even though it was extremely high scoring, it was one-sided after the Rossoblù first goal. On the other hand, the San Siro clash was up for grabs until literally the final second.

Milan approached the fixture trying to shake off a disappointing final half an hour in Naples, where they squandered a two-nothing lead. La Lupa garnered four points so far, thanks to a clutch Edin Dzeko goal against Torino and then a spirited comeback versus Atalanta, where they had allowed three goals. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round: Napoli vs Milan

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There were more than a few compelling games this week, but Napoli-Milan had the most prestige. The Partenopei came into the game looking to build on their comeback win against Lazio and to down another top team, while Milan were making their seasonal debut because the previous game against Genoa was postponed.

No surprise in Carlo Ancelotti’s choices as he mostly confirmed the starting XI, again with Arek Milik spearheading the trident and Dries Mertens as super sub, while David Ospina was selected over Orestis Karnezis on goal. Continue reading

Gennaro Gattuso has got a huge job on hands

Money does not always correlate with success, and that was the story of AC Milan last season when they went on a spending spree adding nine new players to instigate a revolution. The headliner, was the signing of Leonardo Bonucci from rivals Juventus. However, after a year with the Rossoneri as captain, Bonucci is back with the Old Lady while Milan received promising defender Mattia Caldara in exchange. 

Despite a less than a year experience as a coach in Serie A, there is residual believe that Gattuso can restore the Diavolo back to its past glory days. And with Leonardo Araújo and Paulo Maldini play key roles at management level, the Gattuso can only be confident that his job is safe for now.

Last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Napoli at the San Paolo was evidence of how far the Rossoneri were behind last season’s top four teams. It revealed a team with startling defensive flaws, lack authority in midfield and devoid of character. The very qualities that, Napoli showed to come from behind to score three goals.

The Diavolo addressed a key position of need in the transfer window by signing Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus as the team struggled for goals last season with Nicola Kalinic as their top marksman. Higuain is a proven goal scorer with not less than 15 goals in each of the four season he has spent in serie A .However, his efficiency will largely depend on the understanding he develops with the likes of Hakan Çalhanoğlu , Jack Bonaventura and Suso. Most significantly the quality of services from his supporting cast.

One thing is apparent in this Milan side, there are some rough edges that, individually, Gattuso needs to smooth out, particularly the young players. The decision making of Davide Calabria, Franck Kessié wayward shots, Suso’s crosses, Donnarumma’s lack of confidence playing from the back, Bonaventura’s hesitations in key moments in games, Mateo Musacchio’s reading of the game, Ricardo Rodriquez’s poor offensive participation and Lucas Biglia’s lack of ball progression. The lack of leadership and personalities in this team is very glare. Likewise the issue of immaturity and mental toughness.

The season is still embryonic though, but it’s hard to deny that the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. Having said that, there is still cause to be optimistic as the season wears on.

In defense, the return of Andrea Conti  should solve the problem at right back as the former Atalanta defender shows better judgement in his passes and attacks the flanks with more purpose and precision. This could free Suso to provide more support to Higuain in attack and supplementary interplay from the right channel. Then there is the issue of the center back pairing. Gattuso opted for a partnership between Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio in their first Serie A game, but it’s difficult to envisage this coupling in a long term.

It is the vision of many Milanisti to see a partnership of Caldara and Romagnoli, based on the idea that these two could lead the Azzurris defence in the not too distant future. The departure of Leonardo Bonucci means there is a vacuum of leadership at the back, as both Caldara and Romagnoli lack a bit in stature and experience. However Pepe Reina’s know-how and leadership qualities could be key in the dressing room whiles mentoring Donnarumma.

One key area that Milan have been suffering from in the past couple of years is the midfield. For a club that had the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini, Kaka, Rui Costa and the warrior, Genaro Gattuso, it’s a big disappointment watching the current crop. Milan lack presence and expertise in midfield. Lucas Biglia should be more imaginative with his passes and tactful on the ball. Kessie is a burst of energy and athleticism, but very limited technical wise. His energy can be more useful if he stays close to Biglia to break down opponents’ attacks rather than waste opportunities in support of the attack.

Milan inability to stock their midfield with A list players could bite them for the second time in a roll as Tiémoué Bakayoko, Andrea Bertolacci, Riccardo Montolivo may not offer much. Milan, just don’t have enough quality to play themselves out of situations when they are under pressure.

This Friday, Hakan Çalhanoğlu returns to action against AS Roma. And the Gialorrosi will be looking to exact revenge after the Rossoneri inflicted a two nil defeat on them at the stadio Olimpico last season.  The Turkish international’s creativity alongside Bonaventura should give Milan confidence in attack.

Genaro Gatusso has got a huge job on his hands as his team needs to massively improve if they have any aspirations of making the top four. It’s not enough for him to be taking the blame for the poor performance of his players, there must be evidence of progress on the pitch.

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Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 28

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The injury bug is running through few teams, also most of last week’s suspensions have carried over to this round. Here are the updates.

Napoli:  Vlad Chiriches could return from a hamstring strain, while Faouzi Ghoulam is in the rehab phase of a fractured fibula. Arek Milik played few minutes against Roma.

Juventus: Alex Sandro and Stephan Lichtsteiner are suspended. Mario Mandzukic missed the last game due to some adductor pain, but he might recover in time for Sunday. Gonzalo Higuain played at Wembley, so he got past an ankle sprain. Mattia De Sciglio is expected back from a hamstring strain. Medhi Benatia rolled an ankle against Tottenham and is questionable. Juan Cuadrado should resumed practicing fully next week after undergoing sports hernia surgery, while in the coming days Federico Bernardeschi will take the tests on his knee to determine his rest-of-the-season outlook.

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Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 27

<> at Appiano Gentile on February 27, 2018 in Como, Italy.

Once again some key players risk missing the next Serie A round due to injuries. Here are the latest news: you can find the updates compared to the original version in italic.

Napoli:  Marek Hamsik was under the weather late in the week, but he will try to shake it off by Saturday night. Elseid Hysaj was subbed off on Monday, but it was only precautionary. Vlad Chiriches is out with a hamstring strain, Faouzi Ghoulam with a fractured fibula. Arek Milik should make the squad list this time.

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Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 26

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Few top players are in danger of missing the next Serie A weekend, let’s take a look at the status updates.

Napoli:  Dries Mertens rolled an ankle in practice, but he played against Leipzig, so it was nothing severe. Arek Milik could be inserted the squad list this weekend or the next, but he will be obviously brought along slowly, while Faouzi Ghoulam’s return is up in the air, but it will not be before 30 days from now. Vlad Chiriches is out with a hamstring issue. Mario Rui was subbed off midweek for some plantar fascia pain and he is questionable.

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