AC Milan face two crucial upcoming games which will be big indicators of their domestic and European ambitions, and Stefano Pioli has a plan for the games against Atalanta and Newcastle United.
This morning’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes how Stefano Pioli has 87 goals, 69 key passes and 84 tackles won in his hands, and between Atalanta and Newcastle he will deploy them on the pitch to strengthen the engine of his Milan, who now want to push hard.
It’s not possible to field them all together, 87 goals scored by the Leao-Giroud duo for the Rossoneri will bring certainties back in attack, Bennacer’s 69 key passes will restore geometry and verticality to the midfield, while the 84 tackles won by Kjaer will be able to strengthen a defence that had to make do in an emergency.
Milan will be created around the four pillars for five days: keeping pace with the leaders in the Scudetto race and trying to perform a miracle in the Champions League group.
In attack, Giroud will start on Saturday against Atalanta and the Leao will join him in Newcastle. Pulisic scored again with the great goal against Frosinone. In that match it was Maignan who assisted him, in the next one it is likely that the American will get to work to create space for his friend Giroud, and the feeling born during his time at Chelsea ages very well.
The French striker was left to watch the Fiorentina and Frosinone games because he was disqualified, then in between against Borussia Dortmund he missed a penalty after six minutes and had one of his more forgettable evenings.
It goes without saying how hungry he will be when facing Atalanta, one of the five teams in the current Serie A against whom he has not yet scored. Giroud will try build on his tally which was last added to with the goal against Lecce, preceded by the brace from Napoli and then the goals from Roma and Bologna.
In his first 6 away appearances of the current league season Giroud has scored 5 goals: never has he had such a fast start away from San Siro. The objective is obvious: keep that going in Bergamo and then in Newcastle.
Where does Leao come into the picture? The winger has now recovered from the injury to the hamstring of his right thigh and he wants to at least try to be on the bench against Atalanta, and then return from the start in Newcastle.
Samuel Chukwueze will have yet another opportunity to demonstrate that the goal against Dortmund was not a flash in the pan as he will get the nod in Bergamo, presumably on the right wing with Pulisic on the left.
Simon Kjaer also worked individually yesterday, but his return is approaching and for Milan it is very good news. Theo Hernandez’s move from the wing to the centre was convincing and will also be repeated against La Dea, but in the Champions League Kjaer’s experience could be very useful. Condition permitting, the relay between him and Theo becomes a possible option.
Speaking of options, there are plenty in midfield where Pioli will be able to count on all seven midfielders. The count drops to six in the Champions League, a competition in which Bennacer cannot set foot until possible round of 16 because his recovery blew away the early season predictions and he wasn’t named in the squad.
The trio in Newcastle will almost certainly be Musah, Reijnders and Loftus-Cheek but the one to face Gasperini’s side needs few more hours of reflection. Bennacer still doesn’t have 90 minutes in his legs and so his playing time will progressively increase, starting from Saturday.
Alongside Reijnders will be one of Adli, Pobega or Musah himself (Krunic, increasingly attracted by the Turkish interest ahead of January, has slipped back in the hierarchy). Now that the department has shaken off the latest injury, Pioli wants to manage the resources with rotations.