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Milan’s Quest for Champions League Football

Gattuso’s time at the head of Milan might be coming to an end whether or not the former AC Milan star turned manager can get his side into the next season of UEFA Champions League. While it’s been widely reported that Gattuso has had the support of management this season, with the upper management allowing Gattuso to dig himself out of holes in the past, this time it might be different. Gattuso was brought in last season after Vincenzo Montella proved to be ineffective as manager, and the club went on a tear that ended up earning Gattuso an extension. However, this season has been inconsistent, at best with Milan often imploding whenever expectations and pressure mount on.

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Milan moved into fifth place after narrowly getting past Bologna 2-1 on Monday; three points below Atalanta and the final Champions League berth. There are three rounds remaining in this seasons Serie A race, and whilst the top 3 spots have all been decided, the tightest race is for the final Champions League spot with Atalanta, Milan, Roma, Torino and Lazio all within touching distance depending on how results go.

Now this brings me to the article itself, how have Milan and Roma found themselves in this situation with both sides expecting to have sealed that spot going into the season. As Roma collapsed early on in the season, it all seemed a foregone conclusion that Milan would be the 4th team representing Serie A but after a bad run which began with a loss to Inter Milan in the derby has seen them barely holding on for dear life with Atalanta now gaining the advantage. Milan will be looking to regain the form they had prior to being beaten by Inter Milan. Milan on paper have really winnable game’s and they have the head to head advantage on both Roma and Atalanta, but with the situation going on with Bakayoko and Gattuso, and the suspension to Paquetá they will really have to dig deep.

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Inter the most valuable of the contenders at £501m – Inter sit in 3rd place having a 1pt advantage on Atalanta. Although on paper they still could possibly miss out on Champions League football, however I highly doubt that with their remaining games against Chievo, Napoli and Empoli that this will happen.

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Milan’s squad worth £477m – Milan’s remaining games are against Fiorentina, SPAL and Frosinone. In which they should, in theory pick up 9 points but, in all honesty, I would see them picking up 6 of the 9. The first hurdle being the out of form side Fiorentina. A side that last tasted victory almost three months ago with a 4-0 victory over SPAL, a 13 game winless streak. Milan’s schedule isn’t as daunting as the other contenders in terms of head-to-heads against top competition, but they will need some favors from Juventus and their fellow top 4 contenders. The fact that Milan are still in contention for fourth is something of a minor miracle given how ravaged the team has been by injures and the poor form of Gonzalo Higuain earlier on in the season before the arrivals of Lucas Paquetá & Krzysztof Piątek. The form of Bakayoko himself also playing a part as he seemed to have recovered somewhat of his Monaco form up until the off-field issues with Gattuso popped up as well as Donnarumma putting a year of turmoil last year behind him. This trio has transformed opinions of Leonardo’s first two transfer windows from negative to positive.

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Atalanta come in at a £174m valuation – Atalanta on the other hand face Genoa, Juventus and Sassuolo with a Coppa Italia final against Lazio sandwiched in-between the Genoa and Juventus ties. There is perhaps no side that plays more up to its competition in Serie A than Atalanta. Atalanta fully in the driving seat against the other contenders.

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Roma valued at £382m – Roma face up against Juventus, Sassuolo and Parma. Roma, as we all know, is a bit of a mess right now. Claudio Ranieri has been tasked with righting the ship of an injury riddled team after EDF was thrown overboard and Monchi jumped ship after him. However, one wonders just how much Ranieri can milk out of a wounded team with Roma often dropping meaningless points every time their top 4 rivals slip up so one wouldn’t be shocked if somehow Roma find a way to shoot themselves in the foot as they did for example by drawing against Genoa this past gameweek.

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Lazio valued at £272m – Torino and Lazio the two outsiders face up against Sassuolo, Empoli and Lazio and then Cagliari, Bologna and Torino respectively. Simone Inzaghi’s side may have one of the more favorable schedules on this list, too but that head to head clash against each other won’t do either team any favors. Torino, the most surprising team still in contention, and a long shot at best, will probably find it a step too far.

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Gattuso was a Milan legend as a player, but perhaps not as a manager, and that’s okay. managing Milan is one of the hardest jobs in world football, and for Gattuso to have lasted as long speaks to his passion for the Rossoneri. There’s something very “simpatico” about Gattuso, a likability that makes it hard not to root for him. So it would be hard for any Milanisti or any neutral at that to want to see him gone from the Milan bench. However, at no point during Gattuso’s tenure has the Milan team performed beyond the sum of its parts. Throughout the season belief in ending a five-year wait for Champions League football was growing when Milan had put themselves in the driving seat for Champions League contention, but a poor run of form following the derby has led to this situation they are in now. Skepticism having endured in patches throughout and, Gattuso is never more than one bad result or lackluster performance away from the usual grumbles about whether Milan are really sure they can’t do better.

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The critics put it down to the view of Gattuso as all passion and no philosophy. We will have to wait and see what happens after the season ends, but it looks like Gattuso has 3 games to make Milan’s season count which has otherwise been a drama-filled affair. Winning often disguises problems, but with Milan’s recent skid and the distractions becoming public, more fuel was added to the fire of Gattuso’s burning seat. The signs are positive… Milan have a head of steam to take into the remaining games. If Milan end up missing out in the end which I think will happen, they will surely rue the missed opportunities of dropped points to Sampdoria, Udinese and Parma as the 3 games that effectively made them miss out on next seasons Champions League competition. A team that has finished 8th, 10th, 7th, 6th and 6th in the last five years finds itself in a decent position to bring back Champions League football to the San Siro. But CAUTION is still very much necessary. Touch wood and Milan will be listening to the Champions League anthem next season.

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Written by Tapiwa Muza you agree or disagree with him? Go chat shit on twitter @TheOnlyTaps

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