With only Serie A to contend with, Milan can focus all their attention on challenging for the second or third spot in the league, which will automatically guarantee a spot in next year’s Champions League. Something like was unheard of just a few months back, but under Allegri and since the January transfer window, Milan have been a totally different team altogether and currently lie third in the league standings.
After facing off against Chievo this weekend, Milan embark in what will be the most important month in their
Serie A campaign. Milan may have only four matches in April, but those four matches will go on to decide the eventual fate of Milan once this season is over. First up will be Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi. After a wonderful start to the season, Fiorentina’s form dipped slightly over December and January, which entitled Milan and Inter to catch up to them. However, they are unbeaten in March and have won 4 out of their last 5 home matches, conceding on an average a goal per match.
Needless to say, Fiorentina’s form has risen in the recent months and they are in the hunt for the third spot in Serie A. Although they start every match on a high intensity and look to score in the first half itself, their second half performance portrays a different picture. During the 46th to 75th minute, Fiorentina has scored the least number of goals this season. Although Fiorentina are strong in creating chances, they are equally weak when it comes to defending the lead. Since the start of the season, they have used the three-man back-line quite effectively in 25 Serie A matches. The three-man defence has served them quite well as they have improved on attacking down the wings. Their left wing offers a more distinctive attacking threat with Valero and Pasqual leading the charge. Both of these players have been instrumental in Fiorentina’s attacking game and have 2 key passes per game. The only player with higher number of key passes in their line-up is Jovetic, who has been their best player this season with 12 goals to his name.
Next up for Milan will be Napoli at home. They have been one of the most consistent performers so far this season, although their away record has been poor. In 14 matches played so far, they have won 6 and lost 4. Since January, they have lost only 1 match but on the other hand, they have drawn 5 matches, which have affected their chase for the league title. Napoli lies 9 points adrift of the top spot but that gap would’ve been much closer had they not lost momentum midway through the season and drawn crucial matches both home and away. The previous encounter between Napoli and Milan ended on a 2-2 stalemate. After an Abbiati howler, it was El Shaarawy who shone on that night with a brace. His performance that night was an indication of things to come from the young Pharaoh and till now he has grown by leaps and bounds.
If stats are to be believed, Napoli are most likely to score goals during the second half, especially during the 61st to 90th minutes. On the other hand, they are most likely to concede during the last 15 minutes of a match. Napoli so far has used only 4 formations this season – all of them with a three-man defence. However, they have rarely rotated their squad and have kept a consistent first eleven so far. This has led to far improved performance against all teams – strong and weak. Although Cavani has been their leading light so far with a chart-topping 20 goals, it has been Hamsik who is a more dangerous customer. Averaging 2.7 key passes per game, Hamsik has been instrumental in providing 11 assists, which is the league highest so far, just one ahead of Totti. Napoli will be an extremely difficult opponent to score against and Milan might go out looking for a draw, should they overcome Fiorentina in their previous encounter. However, should they lose to Fiorentina, the pressure will be on Milan to perform and grab all three points on offer.
If back-to-back matches against Fiorentina and Napoli were not enough, Milan will finally have to deal with reigning champions and current league leaders, Juventus on April 21st at the Juventus Stadium. If everything goes according to plan, Juventus might have wrapped up the league by that time. The sight of the celebrating tifosi in the Juventus stadium might not delight Milan. Nonetheless, Juventus will be in a very strong position by that time, regardless of whether or not they’ve clinched the league title. Juventus have had an impeccable home record this season, winning 11 out of 15 matches played at home, while scoring 2 goals on an average. They haven’t lost a match at home in their last 5 encounters and come April 21st, might be on the lookout of closing the league table.
Juventus are most active during the second half of the match, especially during the last 15 minutes, where they have scored 13 goals so far. Many a times this season, Juventus have come back from behind during the last minutes of the game to snatch a point or a victory. However, Juventus might not be in the best of shape at that time, as they have to face Bayern Munich first and then Lazio before taking on Milan. After an undefeated season last time, Juventus has been tested thoroughly in this season; however, they are still unscratched and are still the league leaders with a healthy 9-point cushion. This goes to speak volumes of Juventus’ confidence and ability in retaining the league title which they won last year and finally put to rest the controversy regarding their 30th ‘official’ title.
Milan have a long month ahead of them and if they are to stake their claim as the team back from the dead, they need to perform in these three back-to-back matches. After a lot of slack from all around the club, Allegri has steadied the ship and Milan needs to build on that if they are to qualify automatically for Europe next season.