Three crucial decisions Pioli must make as Milan prepare to face Inter

Pioli Milan

Milan face city rivals Inter in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday night as we look to claim bragging rights and three crucial points.

The Rossoneri must put a disappointing draw with Verona behind us as we look to get back to winning ways, but it certainly won’t be easy against our Scudetto-chasing rivals.

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What Milan simply can’t afford to do is to start as slow as we did last weekend, and Stefano Pioli has to get his decision-making spot on to put us in the best possible position to win.

Who starts next to Romagnoli?

Mateo Musacchio returned against Verona as Simon Kjaer was ruled out after suffering with flu, and while the expectation is that the Dane will be back in contention this weekend, it remains to be seen if he walks straight back into the starting XI.

Now Musacchio has been far from a formidable wall in our backline, but his recovery pace and all-round mobility could make him the right man for the job this weekend to complement what Alessio Romagnoli brings to the defence.

That said, the physical battle with Romelu Lukaku could warrant Kjaer getting the nod but given his lack of pace, it’s an area of weakness in our defence that Antonio Conte will no doubt look to expose with a well thought-out plan as Inter are capable of countering with real speed.

Time will tell who is preferred, but it’s a key decision that Pioli has to get right as we must remain tight and well organised at the back to give ourselves the platform to go out and win the game.

Calabria or Conti at right back?

As per MilanNews.it, via Sky Sport Italia, it’s suggested that Andrea Conti remains a doubt for the showdown and so this decision could be made pretty easy for Pioli by the time he has to announce his match-day squad.

In the event that he is available for selection though, the right-back position continues to prove to be problematic for Milan as neither Conti nor Davide Calabria can show enough solidity in the defensive phase of the game to suggest that they are the outright first choice in that department.

Calabria improved against Verona in the second half, but he was caught out on countless occasions in the opening 45 minutes and the San Siro faithful began to let him know about it.

Pioli must take some degree of blame for it too as he didn’t react and make an adjustment to help Calabria in a difficult spot, but we can’t afford to be left exposed like that again on Sunday as Inter have the quality to make the most of it.

La Gazzetta dello Sport have Conti as a starter at this early stage of the week along with Musacchio, but it remains to be seen just how accurate that is as the days go by.

Who partners Ibrahimovic up front?

As noted in the MilanNews.it report above, there is optimism that Ibrahimovic will recover in time to feature after he missed the Verona draw, and so the main decision will be who partners him up front.

The popular answer will perhaps be Rafael Leao as the potential he has shown thus far makes him an exciting prospect who can cause Inter plenty of problems with his pace and direct running.

However, he hasn’t shown enough as ultimately his positive play comes in short bursts and isn’t sustained across the full 90 minutes.

While he’ll undoubtedly benefit from playing alongside Ibrahimovic rather than trying to lead the line for Milan, it’s questionable as to whether he’s the right man up top for this particular game.

Ante Rebic has shown his threat in front of goal in recent weeks and importantly his work ethic, pace and urgency on and off the ball arguably make him a sensible bet to start on Sunday as he puts in a shift for the team whereas Leao doesn’t work hard enough off the ball.

This game could be played at a ferocious pace at times and emotions will be high, and it’s Rebic’s harassing and harrying which could be fundamental to set the tempo from the front.

Especially if Ibrahimovic starts too, we can’t afford to have two forwards not tracking back and going a job to help the midfield, and so Leao could be a much better solution off the bench if we need him later on in the game to give us a lift and test any tired legs in the Inter backline.