AC Milan will officially draw the curtains on the 2022-23 campaign on Sunday night at around 23:00 CEST after their home game against Hellas Verona.
Milan have already effectively achieved what they needed to thanks to the 1-0 victory against Juventus at the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Sunday night, with Olivier Giroud’s goal decisive in securing a spot in the 2023-24 edition of the Champions League.
It looked for some time like the Rossoneri would have something much bigger to play for in the final game of the season, with Stefano Pioli even admitting that he expected the top four race to go down to the final game prior to the 1-1 draw away against Roma last month.
However, as it turns out it will be a rather stress-free night for Milan, who will debut their new kit for next season and might even get a chance to bid farewell to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The opponents Verona meanwhile are fighting for their Serie A lives. The Gialloblue are currently inside the bottom three and they need to better the result of Spezia – who are away against Roma – if they are to jump above them and preserve their status in the top flight.
The notion that Milan will simply play out this weekend’s game as though it were a training exercise should be wide of the mark though, as there are three good reasons why the Diaolo wants to do well and beat Marco Zaffaroni’s side.
A chance to jump
Firstly, there is the possibility that Milan could yet finish in third place. It is only possible if they win and Inter lose away from home against Torino, something which is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility given the Nerazzurri will have an eye on the Champions League final.
Not only would a third-placed finish give some bragging rights after four straight derby defeats, but it would also bring in some extra prize money given the breakdown rewards third place more than fourth.
Not only that, but it would also remove any notion that the Rossoneri only qualified for the Champions League because of Juve’s points deduction, given that accusation would then shift to Inter .
A round number
Milan finished with 86 points last season and won the league on the final day with a 3-0 victory against Sassuolo, but it has been obviously since the collapse in January that a Scudetto defence would not be possible.
However, there is the opportunity to finish on 70 points with a victory against the Venetian side which would mark only the third time in the last 10 seasons that Milan had eclipsed that particular point total.
It would mean that Milan end up 16 points off their total from lat season and nine from the season prior, which still constitutes a regression but psychologically it is to a lesser extent.
A score to settle
Milan have history against Hellas Verona when it comes to important games towards the end of the season, and not all of it is positive.
Stefano Pioli’s side came from a goal down in the second half of last season to beat Verona 3-1 and take a big step towards the Scudetto, but previous title bids have fallen apart at Verona’s hands.
The one that is the most painful in the memory is the game in 1973 when a 5-3 defeat at the Stadio MarcAntonio Bentegodi cost Milan the league, while in 1990 they also suffered a very damaging defeat.
With a win against Verona on Sunday they would be relegated, and that might be enough in the eyes of some to settle the score.