After picking up our first points of the season against Brescia, Milan will hope to build on that this weekend in a difficult trip to face Verona.
It’s been a slow start to the new Serie A campaign as coach Marco Giampaolo’s influence has yet to be seen in its entirety, and the break after just two league games for the internationals has added to the frustration.
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However, the return of domestic football is nearly upon us, and the Milan coaching staff will undoubtedly have been working relentlessly over the past week or so with the players who remained behind and in terms of identifying key tactical factors which could help us win the next game.
With that in mind, Giampaolo has some important, and yet difficult, decisions to make on his starting XI for the Bentegodi, with perhaps the four main ones below.
Calabria has been given the nod so far this season, but after Conti’s agent, Mario Giuffredi, insisted last week that they turned down opportunities to leave and are committed to forcing their way into Milan’s plans, as per MilanNews, there will be a battle at right-back this season.
While Calabria is arguably the more solid and safer option of the two, largely down to Conti’s injury troubles in recent times, the former Atalanta star will get a chance to stake his claim at some stage.
Whether that’s as soon as the Verona clash remains to be seen, but perhaps with Theo Hernandez on the opposite flank to provide balance and to lessen the responsibility of bombing forward to offer an attacking option, that could also suit Conti and help him settle into the line-up to prove his worth to Giampaolo.
Mateo Mussachio has been a regular presence in the starting XI for some time now, with Mattia Caldara sidelined by injury for the majority of his time at the club thus far.
However, Milan swooped for Leo Duarte this summer to offer quality and depth in central defence, and it’s possible that the Brazilian ace will get a shot in the coming weeks.
With the Derby della Madonnina to follow next weekend, if there is an ideal time to allow him to settle in and acclimatise to the demands of Serie A, it’s this weekend. However, if he doesn’t feature on Sunday night, then it’s fair to say we’ll be waiting a while until his debut as it’s unlikely Giampaolo will throw him straight in against Inter.
After such an impressive outing in pre-season, which was disappointingly cut short by injury, as soon as Theo Hernandez gets the green light to start, Giampaolo must bring him into the XI.
Ricardo Rodriguez continues to show a lack of intensity and urgency in a Milan shirt, and that not only results in a non-existent threat down the left flank, but it also puts pressure on himself by not showing enough positivity and inviting mistakes.
Vulnerable defensively too, Giampaolo has to give Hernandez the nod as soon as he’s cleared to start by the medical staff as with his key attributes both defensive and attacking in mind, he would appear to be an ideal fit for the way in which Milan want to play.
As per MilanNews, it’s been suggested that Giampaolo could stick with Samu Castillejo after the international break to play as part of the front three.
That’s despite the signings of Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic this summer, with both arguably offering more in the final third than the Spaniard.
The sensible choice would be Rebic given his experience at the highest level, and he’s not only capable of offering what Castillejo does off the ball, but he can match that with quality in possession, which is something that has been missing from the ex-Villarreal star.
In a game where we’ll look to dominate possession and try to break down a stubborn backline, Milan can’t afford to have any passengers not playing their part in what needs to be a top attacking performance.
Verona will pose a threat too of course, but the players in the final third need to show quality to break them open and a clinical edge to take our chances. Based on his pre-season form and his lack of influence in the first two games, doubts remain over Castillejo’s ability to provide that consistently to find a breakthrough.