Milan’s recent 1-0 win over Torino was a sigh of relief for many of the rossoneri faithful. Stefano Pioli’s men got back to winning ways, following a disappointing 4-2 defeat to Inter in the previous game. It comes as a big boost of confidence when anyone’s morale can hit rock-bottom after a derby defeat.
It isn’t just the Torino win that came at the right time. The club’s decent run over the last few weeks comes at the perfect point in the season. It gives them a realistic chance of qualifying for Europe for next season.
The season otherwise hasn’t exactly been too impressive for the club. It started off with the debacle of seeing Marco Giampaolo leave after just three wins in the first seven Serie A games. The former Sampdoria manager was axed just when he was looking to implement his philosophy of playing a possession-based style of football.
Stefano Pioli was hardly seen as a high-profile replacement. He isn’t someone who has shown the capability to get his teams to play European football on a consistent basis. More than that, the club was undergoing a transition and the transition broke when Giampaolo was gone. Under Pioli, it was time for another transition.
With underperforming attacking players, the rossoneri couldn’t score enough goals in the 4-3-3 shape. The year ended on a humiliating note, as Atalanta hammered them 5-0. They were also held to draws by Sassuolo and Sampdoria.
The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was meant to aid that lack of goals as Pioli changed the formation to a 4-4-2 on the Swede’s arrival. Suso and Krzysztof Piatek left, while Simon Kjaer, Alexis Saelemaekers came in. And since that change in shape against Cagliari, things have been looking bright once again.
In fact, Milan’s form since then has seen them lose just one game. That too was the Milan derby loss, in which Pioli’s men had gone 2-0 up in the first half. They’ve won four of their last six games, drawing one. And all these points have come against lesser sides- Cagliari, Udinese, Brescia and Il Toro.
On paper, it might seem like child’s play. But it gives them huge confidence for the bigger games coming up in the season.
The trip to Fiorentina will be crucial. La Viola had handed Milan a painful 3-1 loss early in the season under Vincenzo Montella and will head into the game at the back of a 5-1 win over Sampdoria. Like the previous game, Milan will head into this game with much more confidence and assurance.
They do have games against Lecce and Genoa after that- games that they should win now. But against the rossoblu under Giampaolo, they had relied on a stoppage-time penalty save from Pepe Reina to win the game. Lecce had bagged a late equaliser to pick up a 2-2 draw in Pioli’s first game as well. But the team has undergone a makeover now.
After that, Pioli’s men have Roma, Lazio, Juventus and Napoli in the space of four games. And that will define their season. Not just that, there is a game against Parma between that. Considering Roberto D’Aversa’s men are also in the European race, it could be a huge game too.
Milan have to make sure that they make the most out of those five games. Verona and Parma might just fall off the race as the season wears on. But Napoli could climb up and Roma are still at fifth.
The partenopei have been inconsistent in the league, but are yet to concede in the Coppa Italia. While Roma are on a humiliating run of form. They’ve lost to Atalanta, Sassuolo and Bologna, losing ground on the top-four. Milan’s form is contrasting to theirs and that could prove key.