Following another defeat in Europe, Scudetto-holders AC Milan will travel to Hellas Verona on Sunday to resume their Serie A title defense.
The Rossoneri, who were defeated by Chelsea for the second time in less than a week, must first defeat teams that are now in the bottom three and have a new manager if they are to advance further in the Champions League.
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Milan lost a man early in their attempt to avenge last week’s defeat to Chelsea in London as defensive stalwart Fikayo Tomori was sent to the stands after only 18 minutes against his former team at San Siro.
With only two games left, the Rossoneri currently sit third in Group E of the Champions League after conceding twice just before the halftime break.
The dreams of the seven-time European champions reaching the knockout stage for the first time since 2014 hang by a thread, but before they restart their continental quest, they have a pair of seemingly uncomplicated home matches to play.
Milan must travel to Veneto before playing local underdogs Monza the following week in an effort to build on recent victories against Empoli and Juventus, the latter of which came at San Siro last Saturday courtesy to a close-range goal from Tomori and Brahim Diaz’s lone wonder.
The reigning champions have the most shots from high turnovers (20), the most goals from such turnovers (4), and the most direct attacks (28) of any team in Serie A this season. However, they are only fifth in the table, three points behind the leaders Napoli.
By won nine of 13 games away from home this season, Stefano Pioli’s club is still the only one without a loss in 2022. In addition, victory over Verona would mark the first time in club history that they had won at least seven of their opening 10 games in three straight seasons.
The fact that Hellas has dropped five of their last seven Serie A games against Milan, including the last three, is almost the least of their issues right now as they linger in the bottom half of the competition.
The club’s board lost patience with Gabriele Cioffi after his dismal performance in just five points from nine league games under his leadership, with their lone victory coming against winless Sampdoria. The coach was only hired in the summer after Igor Tudor left for Marseille.
Verona had dropped each of Cioffi’s final four games before being defeated by a stoppage-time goal against Salernitana, and the last time they had dropped five straight Serie A games, they were relegated at the end of the season in 2018.
Salvatore Bocchetti, a former defender, was named the team’s new manager earlier this week, indicating that the Hellas administration wasted no time in filling the vacant position in the dugout.
Bocchetti, a 35-year-old rookie, has worked briefly as Tudor’s assistant and as Primavera coach for the Gialloblu, but he has now accelerated to the top position at a challenging time: After hosting powerful Milan the previous week, Verona will play an improving Sassuolo team the following week. Verona is giving up goals at a rate of almost two per game.
Verona and Milan last drew in Serie A at the Bentegodi in December 2000, and that streak is expected to continue as the champions win once more.
The Rossoneri should score at least twice despite their absence because to their superior pace and cunning, which is too much for their opponents to handle.