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Game Preview: AC Milan

The first derby of the season is here

Hellas Verona v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Team Overview

What’s the one word that best sums up AC Milan’s current state? Meh. The team is a cut above Serie A’s middle class. Milan, however, doesn’t have enough to challenge Napoli, Juventus, and Inter for a top three spot.

Milan comes off an average Serie A campaign. The club finished fifth in the table last year with 68 points. This qualified them for Europe, but of course there was that pesky UEFA ban.

Things don’t look that much different for AC Milan this year. Milan had an aggressive summer transfer market. The club spent over $90 million on the likes of Franck Kessié, Theo Hernandez, and Rafael Leão. These players are good, but not good enough to move the needle.

Milan also welcomed a new manager, Marco Giampaolo. Most see Giampaolo as an upgrade over Gennaro Gattuso. Early results show otherwise.

Milan’s talent is in the forward group. Krzysztof Piątek returns for his first full season as Milan’s main striker. Piątek joined the team last winter and scored nine goals in 18 league appearances.

Suso is back after an impressive 2018-2019 season. He had seven goals in 35 appearances as a winger.

Milan features a capable set of attackers and some decent players in midfield and defense. Plus, Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of Serie A’s best young goaltenders. There just isn’t enough firepower to bring back Milan’s glory days.

Key Man

Suso remains Milan’s most important player. He’s technically skilled and plays best with the ball at his feet. Suso sees the field well, and this vision fosters creativity on the pitch.

Although he’s a playmaker, Suso picks his spots with a deadly left foot. He scored at least six goals in each of his last three seasons.

Suso featured on the wing last season. He led Milan’s attack in this role and emerged as one of the best playmakers in Serie A. Suso’s play was a big reason why Piątek made such an impact on the scoresheet last year.

This year, however, started off with some hiccups. Giampaolo moved Suso from the wing to a trequartista role in a 4-3-1-2. This transition didn’t go smoothly for Suso. After only game, Giampaolo even admitted Suso might not fit in this role.

Suso’s tough start is one of the main reasons why Milan stumbled out of the gate. If he can’t adapt to a new position, Milan will struggle all season. Suso is too important to the team’s success.

Player to Watch

Milan acquired Lucas Paquetá from Flamengo last October for $38.5 million. He played 11 games for Milan last season, but he looks to make a bigger impact this year.

Paquetá is an incredibly skilled player who has more upside than anybody else with Milan. He’s a great dribbler who draws a lot of fouls. He also has a strong shot, and he’s not afraid to shoot from outside the box.

Paquetá featured as a central midfielder last year and early this season. He moved to a more trequartista-type role in Milan’s last game against Hellas Verona. Paquetá said this is the role in which he feels the most comfortable.

This move, however, sparked some controversy. After the game, Giampaolo said that Paquetá needs to play less Brazilian. He doesn’t want Paquetá to play such a creative style. Reports out of Milan said that Paquetá and Giampaolo had a meeting at practice to discuss this further.

Paquetá can be a game-changer if Giampaolo gives him the freedom. He’s one of the few Milan players who can take over a game on his own.

Manager

Marco Giampaolo enters his first season as Milan’s manager. He joins the club after a run with Sampdoria.

Giampaolo finished with a 49-26-48 record with Sampdoria. This is impressive for a small-market club. Giampaolo nearly perfected his 4-3-1-2 formation with Sampdoria.

The formation is flexible because of the diamond-shaped midfield. The outside midfielders form triangles with the fullbacks and forwards to create openings in the penalty area. Also, the center backs form a triangle with the defensive midfielder to control the middle of the field.

Giampaolo brought his 4-3-1-2 formation to Milan, but the early results weren’t positive. Milan do not have the right players to fit formation. After the opening week loss, Giampaolo contemplated a total formation change. He started with a 4-3-2-1 formation in last week’s game.

Giampaolo needs to finalize a system for Milan to have any success this year. He can’t expect players to develop if they play somewhere new every week.

Run of Form

Loss | Win | Win

Milan started the season with a surprising 1-0 loss against Udinese. Piątek and Suso struggled in new roles, and the rest of the team followed suit. Milan finished the game with zero shots on goal.

Milan won the next two matches against Brescia and Hellas Verona. Nevertheless, both games featured uninspired play and 1-0 scorelines. Milan’s players can dominate possession, but they lack that finishing touch.

Head to Head

Saturday marks the season’s first Derby della Madonnina. This is the 224th official match between Inter Milan and AC Milan. Inter’s record is 80-67-76.

170 of the 223 games were Serie A matches. Inter won 72 of these games.

Inter won both matches with Milan last season. Mauro Icardi finished the first game for Inter with a stoppage time goal. Inter came out on top in round two with a 3-2 victory.