GdS: ‘European size’ – why Loftus-Cheek’s return against Roma is crucial for Milan

By Oliver Fisher -

Christian Pulisic hardly put a foot wrong in the attacking midfielder role against Lecce, but now Ruben Loftus-Cheek is back and he will be taking his spot back too.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) write this morning, Pulisic offered a different interpretation of the playmaker role because he made the difference with his speed, intelligence, technique and surprise shots, not too dissimilar to Brahim Diaz last season.

On Thursday in the Europa League, however, Pioli will return to the original formula, patented in the summer and not changed for six months: Loftus-Cheek as an advanced midfielder, an inhabitant of the position with particular characteristics.

The Milan fans sometimes think back to Kevin-Prince Boateng, another atypical number 10, even if there are many differences between KPB and RLC.

Key return

Loftus-Cheek is back after the forced absence due to suspension in the league and Daniele De Rossi will not be happy: the Englishman is one of the big keys to Milan in 2023-24.

For years, Pioli dreamed of coaching Sergej Milinkovic-Savic again or a similar player, one of his favourite players during his time at Lazio due to a combination of technical and physical characteristics.

When he had the chance to have Loftus-Cheek in the dressing room – who has many points in common with SMS – he practically built the team around him.

Against Roma he will bring him back to the middle of the pitch, to ask him for the usual double, triple job: helping out in the defensive phase, making himself felt on high balls and doing damage in the opponent’s area with goals.

Red hot 2024

Loftus-Cheek has been devastating in 2024, one of the best players in Europe in January and also in excellent form across February and March too.

In January: a goal in Empoli, a goal in Udine, a brace against Bologna. February: a goal against Rennes in the Europa League. March: a goal against Slavia Praha in the first leg and also in the return leg, a goal against Fiorentina.

No opponent of Milan can afford to prepare for a match without taking into account his size, the way he appears unexpectedly behind Olivier Giroud, and the timing of his runs.

De Rossi has Cristante to try to withstand the physical impact and will probably ask Paredes to be careful tracking his movements, to help build a dam in front of the Giallorossi defence.

A European Milan

Pioli has players with European experience to push the team along. Olivier Giroud has won everything or almost everything, starting from the World Cup, the Champions League, the Europa League. In a blue shirt (France or Chelsea), he has always made the difference.

Christian Pulisic played and won a Champions League final and that’s enough to make him a potential protagonist, while of course he returned from the last international break with another CONCACAF Nations League winners medal.

Mike Maignan hasn’t lifted any cups at an international level, apart from a Nations League as Lloris’ reserve, but he has leadership to spare: when we talk about Milan’s European spirit, we can’t help but talk about him.

Big-game man

And Loftus-Cheek? He is part of the group, with his CV showing he is worthy of important matches. For example, in the season with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, he won the Europa League as a protagonist. In 2021 he lifted the European Super Cup, while as a younger player he won the UEFA Youth League.

Loftus-Cheek will return to the attacking midfield, moving Pulisic to the right, where he did very well. In defence, Pioli will inevitably rely on Simon Kjaer and Matteo Gabbia, who were together in the moment of the defensive emergency at the beginning of 2024.

The unknown will be the opponent, because his Milan have always played big matches against Jose Mourinho. In the last three seasons, the Rossoneri have racked up four victories and two draws against the team from the capital.

It is clear that Pioli knew how to measure Mourinho, how to bother him in transition or with the a deep block deployed. With De Rossi everything changes, so RLC must help his coach pick the lock.


Tags AC Milan Ruben Loftus-Cheek


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