Despite the strong presence of Italian teams in European football, only a few have won the Champions League and AC Milan are one of them, having won it seven times. The big question, however, is when they can do it again.
Milan, Inter and Juventus are the only Italian teams that have won the prestigious competition, while the likes of Lazio, AS Roma and Napoli have all tried but failed. Of the three that have succeeded, the Rossoneri have been the most successful. In fact, their second trophies make them the second most successful side in Champions League history.
Soon, Europe’s football giants will be on the hunt for Champions League glory again. That includes four Italian sides: Lazio, Napoli, AC Milan and Inter, who have all qualified. Could 2023/24 be the season that Lazio or Napoli upsets the apple cart? Or will AC Milan win it for the eighth time? Below is a look at the Rossoneri’s chances of winning the Champions League, the team’s strengths and weaknesses and key players who could help them win the title.
If you’ve been checking the soccer odds, you may see sportsbooks haven’t placed the greatest confidence in the Rossoneri achieving Champions League glory. They make Manchester City the favourites at 2/1, whereas Milan have odds of around 40/1. US sportsbooks place them at around +4000 on the betting lines.
But none of that means you should write the Rossoneri off. The team have more than proven their ability to go all the way in the tournament and have some strengths that could help them do it again this season.
One of their main strengths is their ability to put their opponents under pressure. They’re
simply relentless. If they lose the ball, they just ramp up the pressure until they win it back again. Then they counterattack. Being able to apply such a high level of pressure in an intensely fought tournament will be indispensable.
Another big strength is the level of organisation at the back. Last season, the back four that turned into a back three were able to gel at just the right time. The team’s defence was impenetrable against Londoners Tottenham Hotspur over the two games of last season’s Champions League last 16 tie. AC Milan won 1-0 on aggregate and went through to the next round.
Similarly, in the games against Napoli, they were able to defend well and then hurt the Partenopei on the counters with Rafael Leao leading the line. The attack has been improved compared to last season, with the addition of Christian Pulisic and others, which could further elevate this strength.
The boys from Milan may produce tremendous creative, attacking play, but for the past few seasons, lack of goals has been a cause of concern. They have relied heavily on Rafael Leao and whilst most Rossoneri fans believe this might have come to an add, given many attacking signings this summer, it’s still a cause for concern.
Above all, however, the defensive strength in the midfield has been heavily questioned over the summer. Ismael Bennacer will be out for the rest of the year with an injury and that means Rade Krunic is the only defensive midfielder currently in the squad, set to alternate with Yacine Adli in the No.6 role.
This is something Stefano Pioli will have to think about when choosing the tactics for the games. So far, it has worked for Milan but they are yet to face a big side, which could further expose the gaps at the back. Certainly, they cannot afford to give anything away in the Champions League.
Rafael Leao isn’t the only player who will play an important part in Milan’s Champions
League chase. Here are a couple more who could be decisive in whether they lift the title or not.
Mike Maignan: The Frenchman “Magic” Mike Maignan stands between the sticks for AC Milan and for his national side and has become hot property, with rumours of several Premier League sides being interested in him.
The Rossoneri paid just €14m for their keeper, who has produced some wonder saves and made the purchase look like a bargain. Less than a month after he arrived at the club, he saved a penalty from Mo Salah (vs. Liverpool) in the Champions League. When he’s not on the pitch, the club miss him terribly.
Oliver Giroud: Giroud has been criticised for not scoring enough, but although he may
not be smashing the ball into the back of the net as much as fans would like, he has other
attributes that make him a menace in the box.
His physicality, his positioning, his awareness and his ability to create space for his teammates all allow him to create goals without even touching the ball. His goal assisting is another important attribute in those goals he has helped to set up with the ball.
The Champions League is a tough tournament and giants such as Manchester City,
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris
Saint-Germain will all be contesting for the trophy. AC Milan have their work cut out, but they’ve proven in the past they can go all the way. Will they do so this season? Time will tell.