After the damaging defeat against Inter, AC Milan have the chance to rise again in the competition that feels most like ‘theirs’.
Stefano Pioli’s team will play the first match of their 2023-24 Champions League campaign this evening and it will be against Sandro Tonali’s Newcastle United. La Gazzetta dello Sport takes stock of this evening’s match.
Milan got a tough draw in the group stages, with away trips to Borussia Dortmund and PSG to come after the game against Newcastle, meaning that a defeat tonight would already be very dangerous in terms of progressing to the final 16.
The 5-1 defeat against Inter was not taken well, and Pioli spent Sunday at Milanello watching back old games. Against Tottenham last season, the Rossoneri were fresh from a derby loss when Pioli had chosen to use a three-man defence, and they responded with a win and a clean sheet.
Critics hammered the new signings after the game on Saturday, but Pioli was more disappointed by the established stars. Theo Hernandez was supposed to be the experienced guide and instead he went wild at the end.
In those games against Tottenham, the Frenchman – wearing the armband – was the best, creating Brahim Diaz’s decisive goal at San Siro. Milan need that Theo from there, and also for him to link up with Leao again.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at Milanello yesterday, and he has previously spoken about trying to channel Leao in the right way: “Leao was the only one I couldn’t find the keys to communicating with. Then he decided to wake up alone.”
Tonight Rafa must wake up and become decisive again. Newcastle are strong, but not like Inter. The Premier League side are perhaps lacking in the tactical maturity to interpret the different periods of the match, to slow down and speed up, like the Nerazzurri do.