It has been a Christmas not spent entirely at peace for Stefano Pioli, who has one eye on the game against Sassuolo knowing that he must get his team to perform.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) reports this morning, the draw against Salernitana forced the management to reflect on Pioli’s position as head coach but after evaluating, they decided to give him more time. The next matches will be decisive, starting with Saturday’s game against Sassuolo .
Sassuolo are a team that have in the past proven to be a tough nut to crack for Milan. The last encounter was a 5-2 defeat for the Rossoneri at San Siro in January: a humiliating result and one of the lowest points of last season.
Even in the very first match there were fireworks: a 4-3 victory for the Neroverde and Max Allegri was sacked the next day. Between these two games there is one constant: Domenico Berardi. When he faces Milan, he seems to spring into life.
The paper identifies four ingredients which, mixed together, could put Pioli back on the right path. First of all, the right motivations must be given to the top players, above all Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez who appeared listless against Salernitana.
Then there are Pioli’s loyalists, those who are playing as much or more than the others: from Mike Maignan to Davide Calabria, in addition to the new signings Christian Pulisic and Tijjani Reijnders as well. Above all this applies to Olivier Giroud, who in the past has proven to be the man who has stepped up in the moments where Milan needed him most.
Then, a lot will come depend on the defence. For the umpteenth time, due to injury, the rearguard will change structure. Against Sassuolo it is likely to be a pairing of Simon Kjaer and Jan-Carlo Simic, players with nearly a generational between them.
Lastly, Pioli’s great mantra is needed: work. In past seasons, amidst many difficulties, Milan emerged like this: this year the crises have not led to rebirths and with Sassuolo it feels like a last resort in this sense too.