Slavia Praha 1-3 AC Milan: Five things we learned – the positives and the harsh reality

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan managed to navigate potentially choppy waters fairly easily in the end as they beat Slavia Praha 3-1 on the night away from home to secure a 7-3 aggregate win in their Europa League last 16 tie. 

It was a case of deja vu at the Fortuna Arena, as Slavia went down to ten men inside the opening half an hour when Holes was sent off following a VAR review after a stamp on Davide Calabria’s ankle.

Just like they did one week prior, Milan got three goals before half-time to effectively kill the contest. The first came from Christian Pulisic as he finished a feed from Rafael Leao, then Ruben Loftus-Cheek tapped home a Theo Hernandez cross and finally Leao scored the pick of the bunch.

Jurasék did get one back for the hosts late on but the Rossoneri were just happy for it to be a drama-free evening in the end, especially given all of the off-field matters surrounding the club. Below are five things we learned from the game…

1. Made in Chelsea

As mentioned above, Pulisic was the one who opened the scoring as he yet again got a very important goal for Milan, at least when it came to settling the nerves.

Them, Loftus-Cheek got his name on the scoresheet again with one of those deep runs into the box that are fast becoming his trademark, and he actually did something that hasn’t been done since Kaka 17 years ago.

Pulisic now has 19 goal contributions in 38 games this season, while Loftus-Cheek remains Milan’s top scorer this calendar year with eight goals. After Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori, it would be fair to say that this ‘sign Chelsea cast-offs’ thing is working out alright.

2. A bit of rust

It feels difficult to pull out tangible negatives from a game and a tie that were virtually almost in Milan’s control, but we must mention a couple of the more questionable notes.

Tomori and Malick Thiaw have spent a long time out, it needs to be said, and we saw from the latter in the game against Monza that there is as much mental fog to clear as there is physical.

However, when Tomori went through the back of his man about 50 yards from goal in the first half to earn a yellow card that means he will miss the first leg against Roma, it left us scratching out heads a bit.

Then, for Slavia’s only goal, it is useless to hide from the fact that Thiaw left a lot to be desired with his defending as Jurasek spun and fired with relative ease. A bit more sharpness will hopefully come with minutes, but it is definitely needed.

3. Swagger and screamers

Leao’s goal was jaw-dropping. The way he brought the ball under control, opened himself up and whipped it into the top corner was something only few players in the world can do. Genuinely.

However, there was something a bit more to his performance in the Czech capital, something that also extends beyond the assist that he gave to Pulisic when he must have been so tempted to shoot.

In 2024 he has already scored six goals and provided five assists. For some perspective, only Kylian Mbappé, Cole Palmer (Chelsea) and Benjamin Bourigeaud (Rennes) have reached 5+5.

It really might be the Spring of Leao, but it is worth mentioning the moment where the Portuguese winger interrupted the game to draw attention to the Slavia fans, who threw beer and bottles at Yacine Adli.

Would he have done that a year ago? Who knows. What we saw was a very dynamic performance though without a doubt, and a player willing to protect his team-mates. After the game he spoke about feeling ‘100%’ Milanista, and that in itself is very positive.

4. An avoidable farce

Milan can breathe a sigh of relief regarding the condition of goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who has avoided a serious injury, but the way that things played out was not good.

Maignan was forced off in the first half after a late tackle as he tried to get rid of the ball. After attempting to play on twice following the medical staff coming onto the field, the decision was made to bring him off.

Thankfully, optimism filtered after the game regarding his knee, and further tests that were conducted today confirmed that he has not suffered any ligament damage but has instead just got heavy bruising.

The signs suggest he will miss the next game and be back against Fiorentina after the break, but really he should have been brought off immediately after the initial collision to remove the risk of further damage.

It can be hard for the medical staff when players insist on playing on, yet common sense seemed to suggest that after such a nasty knee impact he should have made way. Who knows what it could have cost if he hadn’t eventually come off.

5. What did we learn?

Reverting back to the title of this very piece, what did we really learn about Milan’s hopes to get to Dublin in two months and hoist the Europa League for the first time?

It would be fair to remark that based on the first four games that the Rossoneri have played in the tournament, the signs are not very encouraging.

Beating Stade Rennais 3-0 in the first leg was the only truly complete performance that Stefano Pioli’s side have provided, where they were clinical at one end and relatively organised at the other. The other three didn’t boost the stock of either of those things.

Conceding three goals against ten-man Slavia over the two legs is something to be genuinely worried about. That isn’t to disrespect the opponent at all, but more a stark realisation of what is to come.

We should address the elephant in the room: to win the competition, Milan will almost certainly have to beat Liverpool. A Jurgen Klopp side that put 11 goals past Sparta Praha over two legs, who as it stands are set to beat Slavia to the title.

Improvements are needed. As tempting as it is to play gung-ho in Europe and embrace the chaotic nature of the tournaments, doing so against better opponents will leave Milan on the floor.


Tags AC Milan Slavia Praha Milan


  1. How tf 7-3 changed into 2-2……?

    But well, most of the points are correct.

    We need to be better if we really want to get past this resurgent Roma, let alone Liverpool.

  2. I’m not upset at all about the goals conceded to Slavia Praha. The first two were great shots, very hard to defend; it’s Praha’s merit rather than Milan’s failure; it happens. The third one was a garbage time goal when Milan had fully disengaged from the match, having secured a 5-goal lead with 5 minutes left. Who cares?

    I mean, Leverkusen are favorites to reach the final and they barely survived a humble team from Azerbaijan, needing two goals in injury time after the opponents had a man sent out, to survive by the minimum one-goal advantage. And we are complaining about our 7-3 aggregate score?

    Now, what I do agree is that we’re not likely to win the EL. Yes, it will be hard to survive a resurgent Roma (but feasible). If we advance, I’m a lot less optimistic about beating Leverkusen – they are enjoying a 37-game unbeaten run; and if underdogs West Ham beat them, it means they will be hard to beat, too. And then, beating Liverpool in the final if we do get there sounds utterly impossible. I mean, not completely impossible because sometimes (not often) heavy underdogs do win games, but it is very very very unlikely. Liverpool are too much for us.

    This said, Forza Milan; there is always hope although it’s so unlikely.

    1. Thank you!

      ‘Harsh reality’ my arse.

      More like ‘build a narrative to get Pioli sacked so we can write endless articles about it’!

      As for the fans, you’ve really got to wonder why people bother if they can’t enjoy a 7:2 win on aggregate.

      This whole ‘what about the next game’ and quaking in their boots about Liverpool and Leverkusen is just bizarre. Whatever happened to living in the moment, taking it one game at a time?

      We can’t predict the future. It’s a knock out tournament. In football. Anything can happen. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

      The thing that underlies all of this is the absolute certainty people have about things especially their future predictions. This drives a lot of the endless speculation and dissatisfaction because people imagine that their imaginary manager or players or whatever would reach amazing imaginary heights beyond our wildest imaginations.

      Reality is so much more boring. Grinding our results and winning can never match people’s imaginations.

      1. To your point about hope. The final presumably against Liverpool is one game and not a tie.

        We have a chance on any given day against anyone. The game against PSG shows it.

        I’d not call it a great chance but damn I’d love to watch LP v. ACM! We gotta get there first and that too will be a blast.

    2. I wouldn’t underestimate Atalanta don’t think Liverpool will have it easy either. Like Pep said:
      Playing Atlanta is like going to the dentist.

    3. You continue to contradict yourself.
      You continue to talk like it’s no big deal that Milan needed in both games to be a man up to beat Slavia Praha, conceding 3 goals in the process, but then you say that you agree that Milan is very unlikely to win the tournament, or beat Roma and you also call Leverkusen a favorite in case they play vs Milan.
      Why would Leverkusen be the favorite? Do they have better players than Milan? Nope. Their 2 wingbacks are their most productive players.
      Only Liverpool has a better squad than Milan left in the tournament. Why are you skeptical that Milan can beat Roma and then Leverkusen?
      The reason why most fans, including you, don’t think Milan can win it is because of what Oliver wrote, the way they played in both games vs. Slavia, the way they played in the 2nd leg vs Rennes and because of the way they play every week in serie A.
      Liverpool beat a team who is ahead of Slavia in the Czech league, they scored 11 goals vs them but they didn’t need to play 11 against 10 for most of those 2 games.

      1. It’s called having realistic expectations.

        And understanding that anything can happen in football.

        Now either enjoy the win or go and find something you do enjoy.

        1. It’s analysis of the game and what we learned from it, not a competition who is going to be the biggest Milan meat-head. You are the winner of that competition.
          How are low expectations realistic expectations when Milan has the 2nd best squad left in the tournament?
          If you don’t understand the purpose of this article maybe you should take your own advice and find something you are actually capable of understanding.

    4. Roma seem to be getting over that “New Manager Smell”. They lost their second leg to Brighton 0-1, winning only on aggregate, and in their most recent Serie A match with Fiorentina, they tied 2-2.
      So, I think with all the people coming back from injury, if Milan plays to its potential, it should win.
      And the way Maignan has been playing this season, Sportiello is not that much of a downgrade if Mike can’t make the match

  3. OK, let’s hope for some weird things to happen.

    First, we beat Roma. That is not the weirdest thing. Yes, they are better now as compared to last time we beat them. They have improved a lot after Mourinho left, but we do seem to have their number, so it’s feasible. Hard, but feasible.

    Then, West Ham the underdogs manage to beat Leverkusen. If Qarabag almost did it, maybe West Ham can. Then we beat West Ham. Also hard, but less scary than facing Leverkusen.

    Meanwhile, Atalanta play the two games of their lives against Liverpool and beat them at home by one goal, and manage to draw away after a lot of luck and some spectacular saves. Or two draws, and they win the PK series. Hugely unlikely but let’s imagine it happens. Marseille then beat Benfica.

    An exhausted Atalanta then lose to Marseille.

    We play the final against Marseille and beat them. They are the one team left that we can say we’re likely comfortably better than they are.

    There you go, we are the champs. Haha.

    Odds of this happening: 0.001% but not 0.0% so we can’t say it’s impossible. LOL

    Other than the above happening, I’m afraid we’ll fall short. But like I said, it’s not impossible. Forza Milan.

  4. Who cares if we concede as long as we have the game under control and achieve the objective. Maintaining composure has its cost in fatigue, and sometimes injuries. We aren’t a European elite team with an elite bench consistently playing with ease and confidence. We played a smaller team, won both games, if we always did that we’d be winning the league.

    1. The expectations of Milan just because they sacked Maldini is through the roof

      has to be dominating every game and winning 4-0s regularly or it sucks, no paitence allowed

      1. Regarding Maldini and his mercato as opposed to the current mercato, there is a very interesting piece of information:

        The last Maldini mercato yielded 5 goals in total, for the full season, scored by the players he hired.

        The current summer mercato yielded 38 goals, and the season is not over yet.

        Pulisic: 11
        Loftus-Cheek: 9
        Jovic: 8
        Okafor: 5
        Reijnders: 3
        Chukwueze: 2

        Still, some people here continue to play down the fact that Maldini wasn’t really performing any longer, regarding the mercato. I love Paolo Maldini. He is a legend. One of the best defenders to ever play the game. I’m grateful for all that he did for Milan. But it did appear clear that he had lost his touch with his latest mercato, so, I do believe that sacking him was justified. It should have been handled in a more respectful way, sure, but just looking at the results achieved by his position (together with Massara), 5 goals for a full season versus 38 goals in a season that isn’t even over yet, does show a very telling story.

        1. The ‘mercato’…..

          Honestly it’s just gambling.

          We signed a ton of players last summer so of course a ton of players produced a few goals. That’s like having multiple hands at Black Jack!

          Maldini, like most directors signed too many players, but the players he did sign are still the foundations for this Milan. And he was also already going to sign some of the players listed above including RLC and Pulisic!

          What Maldini brought to this team was stability and the winning mentality that turned the team from a mid-table to Scudetto winners and regular champions league participants.

          The new management haven’t won anything yet and will likely never win anything because the club will be sold to Saudi’s!

          1. It’s not just that. 38 goals (not to forget the many assists) with the season not over yet, is already tied for ALL-TIME AC Milan goals scored by new players in a season, for the entire history of the club; this record, already matched, will easily be beaten given that these players will continue to score.

            And no, the number of players hired is consistent with the number M&M hired in their last mercato so your multiple hands at Black Jack analogy doesn’t fully explain it.

            It’s not just gambling. It has to do with scouting.

            And we don’t know if R L-C and Puli would indeed be hired by M&M. Until a player actually signs a contract including his agent being satisfied, one never knows. Just look at Taremi; it seemed like a done deal, then it fell apart.

            Sure, Maldini hired players who are still the foundation for this Milan. My point is not that he never knew how to do his job. My point is that he seemed to be losing his touch, given the massively unsuccessful mercato that was his last one. Arguably ALL players he hired were busts, maybe except Thiaw, and look, Thiaw hasn’t been doing great, lately. He was, still, the least bad one.

            And again, I love Paolo Maldini; I am not contesting the fact that he had a winning mentality, and players sure did love him, like we all did. Paolo is my son’s all-time idol. In my son’s bedroom, there are posters of Paolo Maldini and collages of newspaper articles about him. Paolo inspired my son, who also played soccer as a defender. I’m merely saying that for his last mercato, he seemed to be making hiring decisions that were not as good as the ones he made in the past.

            Merely gambling can’t explain such a HUGE difference. 5 against… I don’t know, by season end, 55? That would be 11 times more. It’s statistically utterly unlikely that such a difference can be explained by the luck of the draw. Scouting takes skills.

          2. @ Luigi I have no idea where you’re getting your stats from or why anyone would even bother trying to work out those stats!

            I mean what’s the base line here?

            For most of football’s history teams didn’t sign hundreds of players every few months.

            Then for the past 15 years Milan embraced the full madness of the modern transfer market as we spent billions on thousands of players.

            RLC and Pulisic were all but done by the time Maldini was sacked.

            And most of the signings haven’t worked out.

            Chuk has been terrible, our midfield lacks a DM and is our biggest weakness, and we’ve strengthened our direct rivals by lending them our players!

            The squad is a mess. We have about 50 players on our books and need to sell about 25 just to get it down to a manageable level.

            But none of this matters because the Saudi’s are coming so get ready for another revolution!

          3. Most of the signings haven’t worked out? Are you actually watching the games and looking at the stats? The signings scored 38 goals. All of them worked out except Chuk. He’s the only one who may be a bust. You don’t know where I’m getting the stats from??? Just add the numbers yourself, man.

            Our midfielders R L-C and Reijnders are both excellent.

            Yes, we lack a proper DM; I agree, and I don’t understand why we have never properly replaced Kessie. And you know, Kessie left, for free, under Maldini’s watch. So Maldini is just as guilty of not having replaced Kessie, as the current management.

            Pulisic: 11
            Loftus-Cheek: 9
            Jovic: 8
            Okafor: 5
            Reijnders: 3
            Chukwueze: 2

            11+9 = 20. 20 + 8 = 28. 28 + 5 = 33. 33 + 3 = 36. 36 + 2 = 38.

            So, 38 goals. Do you actually doubt these stats???

            The Saudis will purchase 41% of the shares. Gerry Cardinale / RedBird will keep the majority of shares and will continue to own Milan. Nothing will change just because the Saudis will help Gerry repay the vendor’s loan to Elliott. The Saudis will be investors, not controlling owners. If you don’t know that, you’re misinformed. Go get informed, will you?

          4. Maldini kept players? He lost Donnarumma, Calhanoglu, and Kessie in free transfers. Three great players, all gone for free. We didn’t get a dime for them, so that we’d be able to replace them. We’re lucky that we got Mike for 15M. We never replaced Kessie.

          5. “We signed a ton of players last summer so of course a ton of players produced a few goals.”

            Nope. Doesn’t work like that though. Of course? If that were the case, wouldn’t all teams buy ton of players as that would result automatic goals for the team?

            And also… “A few goals”? Last year’s total was “a few goals”. This season it’s more like “sh*tloads of goals”.

          6. “For most of football’s history teams didn’t sign hundreds of players every few months.”

            LOL. Sure. Milan bought 135 new players last summer, right? Exaggerate much?

          7. “and we’ve strengthened our direct rivals by lending them our players!”

            Remind me again who are the Milan-players currently playing for Inter & Juve. I can see CDK @ Atalanta. That’s one. One could in theory argue that Bologna were a direct rival but saying Saelemaekers was strengthening their team is far-fetched.

        2. Maldini was obsessed with his signings he showed he will rather lose players for free than sell them as if selling players is some sort of big crime

          Our sales revenue is ridiculously small and given how weak our commercial sector is thats unacceptable. But people like to imagine that money grows on trees and Milan should be able to outspend EPL clubs/Bayern/Madrid through the power of friendship.

          Till we build stadium and have atleast 3 more consecutive years as a CL club we wont be able to compete with the financial giants and thats the reality, not even Saudi can save you from that. Just look at Newcastle if you find that unbelievable. They have to sell players soon.

          1. Maldini’s stance with agents was fundamental to our resurgence because he made the club bigger than the players and their agents!

            Who cares about revenue, it just gets pissed away on more signings.

            He kept players and they helped us win. End of.

            Fans shouldn’t side with mercenary players and agents.

          2. Maldini’s stance with agents was fundamental to our resurgence because he made the club bigger than the players and their agents!

            Who cares about revenue, it just gets pi##ed away on more signings.

            He kept players and they helped us win. End of.

            Fans shouldn’t side with mercenary players and agents.

          3. Maldinis Heir, Maldini lost control of the mercatos and had no clue how to sell players. We lost 150 million worth of players on free transfers. Perhaps even more. All because of his incompetence.

          4. “Who cares about revenue”

            Pretty much everyone who wants their team to still be competing at the highest level in the future too.

            “Fans shouldn’t side with mercenary players and agents.”
            Yeah, they should b*tch and complain about every the management does like you do. Right?

        3. Still bringing up Maldini. Now look the other way around and see how many goals we’ve let in this season after an overhaul? All time high record for Milan. Maldini bought CdK who unfortunately did not find peace of mind here, while he’s performing in Atalanta. These guys brought 60 million midfield that’s leaking all time high and a 28 million bust from La Liga dubbed the “Leao of RW”.

          That’s 88 millions down the drain.

          But now it’s Pioli’s fault. And Calabria’s. And Kjaer’s.

          1. Lmao Pulisic was brought as a primary RW and Chukwueze was the only real flop. This team is miles better than it was under Maldini. 88 million down the drain lmao? You sure about that?

            If we kept Maldini, we would have been stuck with Tonali and then his gambling would have been brought to light. Because we know Maldini is incapable in selling any player.

            Nah our team is miles better now. Pulisic is way better than Saelesmaekers and Messias. But to figure that would have been happy with the team last season.

            We are better offensively and defensively now.

            But yeah keep defending Maldini and his incompetence. We lost 150 million (maybe even more) worth of players on a free transfer because of his absolute incompetence.

          2. yeah 88m down the drain thats why Milan is 3rd while they were 6th at this point last year lmao

            you wish Milan was 10th dont you?

        4. There is plenty of context missing in order to make that comparison.
          In summer 2022, Maldini brought CDK, Vranckx, Dest, Thiaw, Origi, Adli and Pobega (not counting Florezni since he was already playing with us in 2021/22). Excluding Thiaw who was largely succesfull, none of the others was a starter in any position during the 2022/23 season during which we kept pretty much the same starting as 2021/22 minus Kessie.
          Also guys like Vranckx, Dest and Adli played a combined 1097 minutes which is about 100 minutes more than Chukwueze who isn’t a starter and missed games because of injuries and AFCON !
          In contrast, this current squad is made in big parts by players brought during the 2023 summer window. None of the former right wings remained so ANY goal from the right wing was always gonna be from a player purchased in 2023. Also aside from Bennacer who was injured till december and Krunic who lost his starting position and left, all of our midfielders are also from the 2023 summer window.
          We also have to remember in 2022 this whole episode of Maldini renewing or not till the end of June and the fact that he had to work with 50M (most of which were spend on CDK). Last summer we had an earlier start, and thanks (or because) to Tonali’s sale, we had much more money to work with.
          My point is, there is no context that the current squad is better than the 2022/23 one, at least in the offensive department, but given what I mentioned, I think some points of comparisons are a bit unfair to the players and especially to Maldini.

  5. All the comments about maldini mercato and total goals comparison…are you serious?? Did you not count how many we concede?? Count goals and not count defensive aspect like tackle, duel etc?? If its as simple as that ancelotti will never put gattuso on the field. Just put rui costa, kaka, pirlo together and we will score many goals…whats funny is how many we will concede goals because there is no defefensive filters like gattuso LOL

    1. Exactly, 60 million midfield that’s leaking all time high goals and 28 million bust from La Liga dubbed the “the Leao of RW”.

      But that’s Pioli’s fault now not boywonder Moncada, who in fact also proposed CdK.

      1. You’re clueless and out of your mind. This team is way better now then it was under Maldini. All time high goals lmao. 28 million bust. What about Pulisic who is scoring nonstop as a RW?

        Maldini was incompetent and we lost 150 million (perhaps more) in players because he couldn’t sell anyone.

        Our team is miles better now. Glad we sold Tonali… if we kept him we would have toast.

        1. Better defensively? Only Frosinone (30), Cagliari (30) and Sassuolo (29) have conceded more goals than Milan (24) in away Serie A games so far in 2023-24, which puts the Rossoneri in fourth-last place together with Salernitana.

          And those are just away games Nancy. Really nice after spending 130 millions in summer.

          1. its much nicer than the horror show of last season when your best mate Maldini bought flop after flop

            imagine if he actually signed Renato Sanches, we’d have another Bakayoko on the books on even higher wages

      2. We were down to Theo at CB and kids coming off the bench for a defense.

        Hell we even went 343!

        The time to judge our defense starts this week forward. And by defense I mean all 11.

        Hell I expect to see Puli track back _less_ in the coming weeks! I expect to see RLC look like a striker more.

        Why? Tomorri, Thiaw and Kalulu are back. CB choices 1, 2 and 3. And we early improved with Gabbias return.

    2. yeah your Paldini is the one who lost Kessie and brought Vranckx as a replacement and had a huge hard on for Renato Sanches who SUCKS

  6. In an alternate reality where Tomori doesn’t get hurt, Milan very well might be challenging Inter in a runaway two horse title race. Trust me, no one wants to play a fully healthy Milan. After Roma I want to see Leverkusen and then Liverpool and win this tournament by playing the best opponents possible.

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