The obstacles standing in Matteo Gabbia’s way to make an impression before the end of the season are diminishing, as the Milan youngster could start against Roma this weekend.
With the Rossoneri confirming this week that Mateo Musacchio underwent keyhole surgery on his ankle and is subsequently now sidelined for four months, Leo Duarte is also making his comeback from an injury setback while Simon Kjaer hobbled off in the win over Lecce on Monday night.
As noted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, that could present an opportunity for Gabbia to return to the starting XI on Sunday against the Giallorossi in what will be a crunch clash as we look to close the gap on our rivals in the battle for Europa League qualification.
While it was disappointing to see, there’s no doubt that Gabbia struggling at Lecce after replacing Kjaer, as he looked off the pace and lacking sharpness as he was dragged out of position on several occasions and gave away an, albeit pretty soft, penalty which saw the hosts drew level temporarily.
Given his lack of football in recent months and the circumstances in which he was thrown into the game late in the first half, in context there is perhaps reasoning behind his struggles.
Prior to that, the 20-year-old made a positive impact in pre-season and was given the nod by Stefano Pioli prior to the coronavirus lockdown, and there were plenty of positive signs from him as he looked to try and establish himself as Alessio Romagnoli’s long-term defensive partner in the heart of the backline.
Gabbia now has five appearances for the senior side under his belt, and he may well add to that tally this weekend as with the trio named above all sidelined or at least highly doubtful to feature, it suggests that the youngster is the sensible option given he’s fully fit.
In turn, it could be a big moment for him on Sunday.
Nine points still separate the two sides and while we’re still within striking distance of Napoli, it would certainly make a European berth more realistic if we had two teams in our sights with 10 games remaining after this weekend and a loss could derail Paulo Fonseca’s men or have some sort of negative impact at least.
Seventh place in Serie A may well be good enough after Napoli’s triumph in the Coppa Italia, but we could certainly do without having to navigate through any qualification rounds.
While we rediscovered our goalscoring touch at Lecce, it’s imperative that we put in another solid defensive shift against Roma and Gabbia will need to put in a top performance if he does indeed start, as it will not only be crucial in the short-term, but it could make a lasting impression on Pioli or whoever might be in charge ahead of next season when considering who starts next to Romagnoli in the longer-term picture.