Sunday will be a real test of where both Inter Milan and AC Milan are at this point of the Serie A season with the Derby della Madonnina.
With that, we sat down with Pete Schlenker, site manager for AC Milan: The Offside, to talk about where the Rossoneri are now and his thoughts on Sunday’s derby (you can see my answers to his questions here).
1. How are the new players settling in?
Gonzalo Higuain is starting to build some chemistry with his teammates and the results are starting to come around, as he’s starting to score goals. Samu Castillejo was brilliant against Sassuolo and will likely start to command more playing time. Tiémoué Bakayoko has only really looked good against Dudelange in the Europa League, but otherwise has struggled. Diego Laxalt has been good in the few times he’s been in for Ricardo Rodriguez, but he’s likely not going to be a regular starter anytime soon. Mattia Caldara hasn’t played in a single Serie A match, so it’s impossible to judge him at this point.
2. Is the team about where you would have expected them to be in the table at this point in the season?
Milan started slow, and it’s not just because of the first game against Genoa needing to be postponed. Milan got a great win against Roma at the San Siro, but dropped a few points by drawing against Empoli, Atalanta, and Cagliari, all matches that could have seen Milan win if they finishing was better. Hopefully after the come-from-behind win over Olympiacos in the Europa League and the wins over Sassuolo and Chievo Verona, Milan can rebound and start moving up the table.
3. It seemed that Gianluigi Donnarumma was all but out the door during much of last year, but he stayed at the club and doesn’t look to be leaving anymore. What gives?
Well, Mino Raiola is much happier now that Leonardo and Maldini are in charge, and that’s certainly helped. The previous director of football, Massimo Mirabelli is gone along with the previous ownership group, and everything seems to be fine on the Donnarumma front. Milan are also no longer in crazy debt thanks to Elliott Management basically taking equity in the club in lieu of payment, and so there isn’t a need to sell him to raise cash, which rumor had it was the reason that he was going to leave.
4. How is Milan doing in the Europa League, and will they face any problems in their group?
Milan took care of business in Dudelange, but were not convincing doing so. Things were a lot better against Olympiacos. The team was down at half-time, but the introduction of Patrick Cutrone and Hakan Calhanoglu in the second half electrified the team and they played pretty brilliantly and got a great win at home against a team that really shouldn’t be challenging Milan at the San Siro. The real test begins when Milan will be facing Real Betis, but their Mexico international star, Andres Guardado, is currently out injured. If Guardado is out for any of the Europa League matches, they will get a lot easier for Milan.
5. Predict the score
I’ll go 2-1 Milan with Higuain scoring an opening goal and with Cutrone scoring the winner late in the match, which will send the red and black half of Milan into celebration.
What do you think? Post your comments below!