GdS: Pioli has first choice defence back in search to recover solidity

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will have what many consider to be their first choice back four today against Udinese and anything other than a clean sheet will be deemed a failure.

La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) write that Pioli’s ideal defence is the one that has Davide Calabria on the right, Fikayo Tomori and Malick Thiaw as a central pairing and Theo Hernandez (preferably in his best form) as the left-back.

It is useless to deny that everyone has an eye on the rematch against PSG next Tuesday where defensive attention must be at a maximum, while keeping a clean sheet should in theory be easier to do tonight against Udinese, who have scored just six goals in 10 league games.

Considering today’s match as training for PSG is perhaps not accurate, but for the starting back four who meet again after four matches it will be an excellent test.

In the meantime Pioli has had to make do. Against Juventus, with Theo disqualified, he played Alessandro Florenzi at left-back and he was not free from blame for Thiaw’s red card, given he was left alone in the duel with Kean.

In Paris, Pierre Kalulu was given a start on the right with Calabria on the bench and was recalled at the start of the second half to replace Thiaw, who was booked. Against Napoli, Kalulu was centre-back given Thiaw was disqualified after the red card and Kjaer was injured

When Kalulu also went off, Marco Pellegrino made his debut and he was all at sea for the goal scored by Matteo Politano to make it 1-2.

The simultaneous presence of the four ‘starters’ of the defensive line brings solidity and consequently the results grow. Since Thiaw made his Serie A debut (16 October 2022), the pairing with Tomori has allowed the Rossoneri to average 2.3 points per game and 0.7 goals conceded.

In matches without the pair only 1.3 points per game and double the goals conceded, an average of 1.8 goals every 90 minutes. The recovery of Loftus-Cheek, who should start on the bench tonight, will also be useful to protect the defence.

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