GdS: ‘Battle-ready Milan’ – Pioli hopes new energy will start a revival

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan are back in action on Saturday after the international break as they welcome Fiorentina to San Siro, and Stefano Pioli – as he has done for most of the season – has some selection headaches.

La Gazzetta dello Sport (as seen in the photo below), Pioli will not have his key attacking men Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao for the game against Vincenzo Italiano’s side as the former is suspended and the latter is injured.

However, he will recover double the number in the other areas of the pitch. Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic will be able to play against Fiorentina and Borussia Dortmund in the next two games, which is a good base on which to try to build a comeback.

Calabria and Kjaer add some certainly to the defensive department, while Loftus-Cheek and Pulisic are among the best representatives of the summer transfer campaign in which 10 new players arrived.

The captain Calabria has experienced ups and downs; the joy of being called up to the national team again, the disappointment of giving up due to an overload in his left flexor, the relief from the injury now overcome and the probable availability already for the next league match.

Kjaer is the only one who can replace Giroud in leadership: he will be ready after a month of forced rest due to muscular problems. For Pioli he is a valid additional option with Kalulu in the treatment room and Pellegrino keeping him company.

Of the starting centre-backs, only Malick Thiaw remained at Milanello, while Fikayo Tomori will return today after the two games with England, one of which he started and came off at half-time.

Loftus-Cheek has made a big impact since his arrival in the summer and was utterly dominant against PSG, but he wasn’t there when Milan found themselves having to defend the two-goal advantage they had accumulated against Napoli and Lecce.

He was missing in Paris for the reverse game too, when a midfield dam could have stemmed the wave of the French champions. However, he has beaten the virus that weakened him during the week and has fully recovered his energy, so he will train with the team today.

Leao’s goal share for the season (four, three in Serie A, one in the Champions League) is matched by Pulisic. He came off after the first 45 minutes against Napoli due to a problem in his left thigh but now he is ready to start again.

Pioli expects Samuel Chukwueze and Noah Okafor to begin showing their worth too, the danger, dribbling and opportunities that made the club invest in them in the summer, while Luka Jovic needs a shot on target to get going.

Chukwueze is back after an injury that took him out during a crucial run of games, while Okafor and Jovic will be able to share the spaces left free in the area by Giroud’s two-game suspension in the league.

Pioli will be able to choose the more movement-based trident (Chukwueze-Okafor-Pulisic) or rely on a more muscular attack, with Jovic in the centre. It is possible that both ideas will then be put into practice.

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