The Milan is at a crossroads: on the one hand the possibility of flying to the quarterfinals of Champions League and, through the championship, obtain qualification for the top European competition for next season as well, on the other hand the fear that everything could crumble in the coming weeks. In short, the feeling is that tomorrow’s away game in London against Tottenham, for the second leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League after the victorious 1-0 in the first leg at San Siro, you represent an insider or outsider for the entire Rossoneri season. Because if Stephen Pegs were to bring the Diavolo among the best eight in Europe and hit the first four places in the Serie A standings, the AC Milan season would be considered excellent, even if not at the level of last year’s, with the Scudetto celebrated on 22 May in Reggio Emilia (but with this Naples there was little to do…).
But in the event that Milan were to be eliminated by Antonio Conte’s Spurs (who will be back on the bench just tomorrow evening after the forced rest period in Italy to recover from surgery for a gallbladder problem), only the championship would remain, where currently the team is fifth and terribly struggling to find continuity, to save a season that would risk taking a bankruptcy turn. Without considering, then, the economic side, which has a primary importance for the property presided over by the number one of RedBird Gerry Cardinal. After all, reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League would guarantee a step forward from a commercial point of view, attracting new sponsors or potential investors. In addition, obviously, to guaranteeing revenues from UEFA that should not be underestimated.
Milan has already collected around nine and a half million euros for qualifying for the round of 16 and would ensure another ten and a half in the event of another round going through (and the figure is more than doubled, considering the box office collection – against Tottenham was even over nine million the increase in the market pool, marketing and any prizes from sponsors). Meanwhile, Pioli’s hope is to find Brahim Diaz, author of the only goal of the first leg, for the London trip. The Spanish attacking midfielder missed the last day against Fiorentina due to a sprain, but he also worked separately at Milanello yesterday. The last doubts will be resolved during the finishing touches this morning around noon (before the departure for the English capital, scheduled for 4pm from Malpensa), but it now seems obvious that the Real Madrid-owned player will be able to start from the bench at most. Playing for the starting shirt are, therefore, Charles DeKetelaeremore offensive, and Rade Krunic (he is the favourite), to guarantee more substance, with the midfielder which will be made up of the untouchables Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer (and the Algerian midfielder believes it: «Go all the way? We are here to play for it – his words – and, even if we know it will be very difficult, nothing is impossible. Certainly the Champions League is something big, but there is nothing too big in what we do. We must aim for these objectives, for us it must be normal”).
Up front, the hope of the AC Milan fans is that they can make a difference again Rafael Leao, without nine consecutive matches in all competitions (the last one hitting on 14 January against Lecce in the league) and scoring only once in the Champions League, in the 0-4 draw on 25 October at Dinamo Zagreb in the group. Meanwhile, yesterday Mike Maignan was included in the UEFA list, in place of Ciprian Tatarusanu, a formality after the French goalkeeper had been ruled out due to a long-lasting calf injury. The others not on the list are Vranckx, Adli, Dest and Bakayoko and Ibra. Which is of no small weight, also because the Giroud alarm sounded yesterday: he has a fever and hasn’t trained, Pioli counts on having him available anyway, but it’s certainly not the best news of the eve. Referee the French Turpin.