How the winter World Cup in Qatar might affect AC Milan’s Scudetto defence

By SempreMilan -

AC Milan’s title defence is proving to be a tough challenge for Stefano Pioli’s men. Top betting site predictions ahead of the 2022-23 Serie A season hinted that Rossoneri’s title defense will not be easy.

Milan’s battle for a 20th Scudetto seems to have become more difficult because the team’s injuries. Most bettors on any popular UK betting site focus on each game at a time rather than backing Milan to go all the way.

Last season’s Serie A title challenge was a two-horse race for most of the campaign. However, more teams are throwing their heads into the challenge this season and trying to win the Serie A title.

The main competitors

With 11 games played so far in Serie A, Napoli leads the standings with 29 points and a 3-point gap over Milan, who are on 26 points. Napoli is so far unbeaten, but Milan, Lazio, and Atlanta, who follow Napoli in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, have lost one game each.

The Serie A title challenge seems open at the moment but is gradually taking shape. The current competition for the title and European places is a strong indication of the growth of Serie A and the quality of football coming out of the league.

None of these rivals are strange to Milan, and their challenge will only make winning the title worthwhile for the defending champions.

Understanding current challenges

Milan’s title defence is subject to different challenges, most of which are happening concurrently. Although the club announced a $1.3bn takeover by RedBird in August, the new owners have not had enough time to invest in the squad.

Some of Milan’s current challenges in their title defense bid include…

Lean squad: Milan’s lean squad features a real mix including a talented young core and also some veterans to compliment. With an average squad age of 26.2, Milan underwent another mini-evolution during the last transfer window.

Jens Petter Hauge, Franck Kessie, Alessio Romagnoli, and Samu Castillejo all left Milan. A couple of players made essential contributions to Milan’s title challenge last season, and there is the challenge to prove that the team are fine without them.

Injuries: Several important Milan players are on the treatment table, and their absence is affecting the team’s title defense.

Alessandro Florenzi, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Davide Calabria, Alexis Saelemaekers, Mike Maignan, and Ismael Bennacer are currently undergoing different levels of treatment and recovery from injuries.

More games: Milan are playing more games this season. As winners of the Serie A title, the Rossoneri are also competing in the Champions League. European matches have been challenging for the Italian champions as the level of intensity and quality rises while the fixture list congests.

The Serie A schedule is also jam-packed, with no rest in-between fixtures. Milan is playing more games in quick succession than they did last season.

The potential benefits

The World Cup coming up in a few weeks can positively boost Milan’s chances of retaining the Serie A title.

Only a few Milan players have the chance to be at the tournament, so for the majority who wouldn’t be in Qatar, the World Cup period will be crucial for resting and recharging. The period will also be a good time for Stefano Pioli and his backroom staff to analyse the team’s performances and spot areas that need improvement.

The World Cup break will allow the Diavolo’s recovering players to fully recover and raise their fitness levels ahead of the remaining matches in the season.

The possible negatives

The challenge for Milan is that some of their most important players are expected to make their national squads for the World Cup. As a player, nothing beats playing for your national team on the biggest stage, however playing more games raises the risk of fatigue and injuries.

Traveling, camping, training, and playing World Cup games may expose some players to situations that may negatively impact their fitness levels. Milan cannot afford more injuries if the club successfully wants to defend its Serie A title.

Here are some Milan players to watch at the FIFA World Cup…

Rafael Leao: Leao’s blistering Milan form has raised his stake as one of Portugal’s most important players heading into the World Cup. Leao’s brilliant dribbling abilities and his pace on the wings will be important assets for Portugal’s attack.

Olivier Giroud: Giroud led France’s attack to the World Cup title four years ago and still plays a vital role in the team’s attack. The veteran striker will also be hoping to grab a few goals at the tournament this year to compensate for his lack of goals in Russia 2018.

Events before and after the World Cup will determine Milan’s chances of retaining the Serie A title. But there is still a lot that Milan needs to do to sustain their good form and momentum in Serie A for the next couple of weeks before the World Cup.

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