AC Milan face a crucial match versus Juventus on Sunday. The Rossoneri have won three straight games domestically, finally allowing them to claw their way into the top four and dream about a Champions League spot once again. Luck has not been on their side, however, as injury after injury has begun to plague the team. Impact players from all positions have been dropping like flies, and this does not bode well for a team with little depth.
AC Milan’s Injury Crisis
Milan’s defence has not been a strong suit of their’s for years. With some of the squad’s best defenders unavailable, things might only get worse.
Davide Calabria has been Milan’s first-choice right-back for most of last season and this season. The youngster has been improving game by game, but a recent injury has slowed down his progress. He isn’t a star yet, but his statistics speak for his efforts on the field. So far in Italy this season he has averaged 3.4 tackles, 1.8 clearances, and 1.5 interceptions per game. In addition to this, he has a great passing completion percentage of 86.7%. Calabria bleeds red and black as a graduate of Milan’s Primavera side, and shows this game in and game out. He recently returned to training but his status for Sunday’s game is still under question.
Andrea Conti, who has been suffering with injuries since the start of last season, would normally be the first choice right-back. Back-to-back knee injuries have unfortunately derailed his career. After a very successful stint at Atalanta, Conti was in tears when he completed his dream move to the Rossoneri. Conti is a tenacious defender, but his attacking aspect adds another dimension to this Milan side. Not only is he the best crossing right-back on the team, but he has managed to evolve his game to be a goal-scoring threat as well. His recovery has gone smoothly, however, as he recently played a match with Milan’s Primavera side. A disagreement with a referee, however, has just landed him a three-match suspension. Conti is healthy but lacking time on the pitch will derail his process to returning to match fitness.
Milan pulled off what was thought to be a massive coup when they acquired Mattia Caldara from Juventus. With Alessio Romagnoli, Caldara would form one of the most promising central defensive pairings in Italy. Caldara, however, has only managed one appearance this season, coming in the Europa League. On October 30th, Milan announced that Caldara had suffered another calf injury. This will see him sidelined for several weeks and possibly until 2019.
Matteo Musacchio has played decently in Caldara’s absence. Musacchio is a solid defending option, but he has yet to create strong chemistry with Romagnoli. With this being said, Musacchio is a better option than Cristian Zapata. In Milan’s most recent match versus Real Betis, Musacchio was knocked unconscious and stretchered off the field after a collision with teammate Franck Kessié. Musacchio was conscious upon his return to the changing rooms, but Antonio Vitiello, director of MilanNews.it, reported today that Musacchio suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury as well versus Real Betis. The Argentinian will be sidelined for six to eight weeks. Besides captain Romagnoli, this injury leaves the shaky Zapata and inexperienced Stefan Simić as the two other true centre-backs available to play.
Milan has more depth in their midfield compared to their defence, but four regular starters have been sidelined.
The ageing Lucas Biglia is not a star. He is a capable ‘regista’ however, and the only true one in Milan’s thin squad. Biglia is an integral part of the team, as his abilities allow him to dictate play and he puts in a solid effort in his defensive duties. He has been known to be injury prone and spent a portion of last season unavailable. A couple of days ago, however, it was announced that he would be out for up to four months after a successful surgery on his calf. Tiemoue Bakayoko can play in Biglia’s absence, but Bakayoko lacks much of the passing and handling qualities that Biglia has. Bakayoko’s performances have improved over the last few games, but he has yet to win over the fans.
Giacomo Bonaventura is arguably Milan’s biggest game changer behind Gonzalo Higuain and Suso. He brings flair to the team’s midfield and also has the capability to play as a winger. In limited matches in Serie A, Bonaventura has accumulated three goals, one assist, and an 88.7% pass completion percentage. He’s been unavailable for a couple of matches now and is almost certainly primed to miss the Juventus match. His absence from the midfield three has also called for a formation change. Instead of a conventional 4-3-3, Milan have switched to a 4-4-2. This change added an additional striker, but also only calls for two central midfielders. Bonaventura is active in every one of Milan’s attacks, so they need him to be healthy soon.
Kessie is Milan’s midfield tank. He’s extremely active in both defense and attack and seems to never run out of energy. He makes mistakes, such as rushing shots or misplacing passes from time to time, but his status as a starter has never been under question. Due to this, Kessie starts almost every match and almost never gets subbed out. Opposing players fear his strength and his pitbull mentality, making him an absolute necessity for the Juventus match. Kessie was helped off the field versus Real Betis as well, but looks to be able to go this weekend. There’s no doubt that Milan will need Kessie at full fitness.
Hakan Calhanoglu was also out for a couple matches, but returned for the recent Real Betis showdown. He was helped off the field towards the end of the match, however, and is questionable for this weekend’s match. Calhanoglu’s performances have been subpar this season to be truthful, but that doesn’t take away from the talent many know he has. The Turkish international is one of the top set-piece specialists in all of football due to his rocket of a right foot. His crosses tend to be accurate and he tracks back to defense very well for an attacking-minded player. Milan have been forced to use Diego Laxalt in Calhanoglu’s absence. Laxalt is as tenacious of a player as it gets, but he’s not necessarily a game changer.
Milan’s star and, arguably, most important player is Higuain. The striker has torn apart Serie A for years and Milan need him to achieve their goal of Champions League. In 12 appearances in all competitions, Higuain has seven goals. This makes him Milan’s top scorer even though he has been sidelined for over a week.
His absence clearly affected Milan going forward as he is the focal point of every attack. Reports, however, say that Higuain will start this weekend. The Juventus match will be a special one for Higuain, as he was forced out of their squad this summer after the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo. Higuain will be looking for redemption and his return could not come at a better time.
The Last Word
After more ownership and front office turnover, Milan look to be more stable. They’ve specifically struggled versus Real Betis in the Europa League but are on pace to secure Champions League in Italy. The season is still young, however, so they will need a healthy squad to make their return. Milan are the second most successful club in Champions League history behind Real Madrid, and as many have said, the tournament is not the same without the Italian giant.