Milan return to action in Serie A on Monday evening as we head to Lecce looking to make a winning comeback after the coronavirus lockdown.
While fourth place and Champions League qualification is arguably out of reach at this stage given the 12-point gap and Atalanta’s game in hand, there is still plenty to play for in the next 12 games as we look to qualify for the Europa League at least.
Although we battled hard in Turin last week in a goalless draw against Juventus, it wasn’t enough to secure a place in the Coppa Italia final, but there were positives to take from that game and Stefano Pioli will be handed a crucial double boost with Theo Hernandez and Samu Castillejo back at his disposal after missing that encounter due to suspension.
Along with Ante Rebic, that trio will arguably be fundamental to our hopes of returning home with all three points. As noted by MilanNews, all three are being tipped to start, and Pioli will hope that they can make a decisive impact.
There’s no doubt that Milan missed his presence against Juve, as the 22-year-old has provided a crucial new dynamic to our attack so far this season, even if his defensive work needs to improve still.
Hernandez has six goals and three assists in 25 appearances this year, and that’s following a bad injury he sustained in pre-season. Coupled with the energy, directness and work rate he offers down the left flank, he has been a stand-out player for us.
His return to the side on Monday will be a major boost, and given our blunt attack has struggled to produce goals consistently this season with just 28 in 26 league games, the Frenchman will be hugely important in making us a threat to Lecce with Giulio Donati potentially having his hands full and needing some assistance which could create space for others.
The Spaniard still needs to be more decisive as one goal and four assists in 19 games this year isn’t good enough, especially if he wants to make that position on the right wing his own moving forward.
Nevertheless, his work ethic, commitment and energy are all crucial to how Pioli wants to play and how he wishes to see his team press from the front, and so that will give us a lift in itself.
Capable of producing quality in the final third too and having established himself as a key figure for Pioli since January, it will be a welcome boost to have him back available with his match-up with Marco Calderoni another key battle to keep an eye on.
His big night leading the line against Juventus went terribly wrong after he was sent off in just the 17th minute. In turn, he has a point to prove and a job to do to make it up to his teammates and show Pioli that he can deliver up top.
Rebic enjoyed a great run of form after the turn of the year as he produced important goals, but that came in a support role playing off the frontman in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
If he does get another chance to impress on Monday as the lone striker, he’ll have to take on new responsibility and pressure, but with his pace, movement, trickery and eye for goal, he has the attributes needed to not only make himself a goal threat even in a more advanced position, but to also create space for his teammates to make an impact in the final third too.
If these three are on form, Milan will certainly be a strong position to secure all three points.