Five key talking points as Milan dig deep to grind out important win over Sassuolo

Despite the relentless fixture schedule, Milan continue to find ways to win as we secured a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo on Tuesday night to seal Europa League qualification.

Ideally, we must still finish above Roma which in turn will ensure we go straight to the group stage of the competition and skip the preliminary rounds, but our excellent form goes on since the restart.

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That’s now seven wins and two draws in our last nine outings, and although it doesn’t get any easier as we prepare to face Atalanta on Friday night, this has been a superb effort from all concerned in recent weeks.

Great character, resolve shown by players

Not only have the quick turnarounds between games been brutal since the restart, but the fixture schedule and the teams that we have faced ensured that the odds were stacked against us.

Since the return of football, we’ve beaten Lecce, Roma, Lazio, Juventus, Parma, Bologna and Sassuolo, while picking up draws against SPAL and Napoli.

With the exception of Lecce and SPAL, those are all top-half-of-the-table sides and in some cases teams that we’re in direct competition with. It has taken a huge effort from the players to battle fatigue and the quality on the other side of the pitch and still come out the other side after a exceptional run of results.

Calhanoglu in brilliant form

Hakan Calhanoglu has rightly been criticised in the past for not having a bigger influence for us as his position and role demands it while he has the quality to do more.

In the last three Serie A games, he’s now scored two goals and provided five assists and so while it’s right he’s scrutinised when he doesn’t deliver, he deserves credit when he does.

It’s hoped that this is now a breakthrough period for the Turkish playmaker as his two assists for the two goals against Sassuolo were brilliant and it’s vital that he doesn’t let up and continues to pull the strings for us as he’s shown he’s capable of doing so.

Ibrahimovic shows his class

As noted in an analysis piece earlier this week, the 38-year-old’s influence goes beyond just scoring goals. However, it certainly helps when he gets on the scoresheet as it makes life easier for all concerned.

From his first which displayed good movement in the box and a fine header to his second as he showed great composure and quality to round the goalkeeper and find the back of the net, he was decisive in midweek and it was further proof that he still has plenty left in the tank.

His mere presence in leading the line is a problem for many defences, but as his fitness continues to improve following that calf injury setback, he’s becoming more and more influential for us.

Suspensions, injuries sour win

As per MilanNews, Stefano Pioli noted after the game that captain Alessio Romagnoli may now miss the rest of the season after going off with a muscle injury in the second half.

It looked bad at the time and the subsequent update is a major blow given the Italian international has been an ever-present for us this season and has been a pillar of the side.

Further, both Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer will miss the game against Atalanta through suspension, and so it’s going to be another big test of the quality and depth in the squad to prove we can cope with such blows.

Big night for Donnarumma

Despite still only being 21 years of age, the shot-stopper made his 200th appearance for the Rossoneri on Tuesday night, celebrating an impressive landmark with three points.

Given the maturity and consistency that he has displayed, it’s still unbelievable at times that he’s still so young, but it’s hoped that he can go on and reach many more important milestones in a Milan shirt in the years ahead.

Sentiment aside though, he was handed the captain’s armband after Romagnoli went off, and having heard him marshal his backline, encourage substitute Matteo Gabbia and show leadership skills, it’s great to see him continue to blossom and flourish for us.