The Rossoneri are two points clear of city rivals Inter with two Serie A rounds of action remaining as the race to lift the Scudetto looks set to go to the wire
Image: Francesco Scaccianoce/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
AC Milan are closing in on their first Serie A title since 2011 but city rivals Inter remain just two points off the summit with two matches remaining.
The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto in over a decade and are now just two victories away from clinching their 19 th league title – which would draw them level with their city rivals. Whatever the outcome of this year’s title race, it will indicate the power shift in Italian football away from Juventus – who won nine league titles in a row between 2012 and 2020 – and back to the city of Milan, after Inter’s triumph last season.
Milan have won Serie A only twice since the turn of the century, in 2004 and 2011, and their decline over the past decade has been one of European football’s mot notable developments. Outside of Real Madrid, no club has won the European Cup/ Champions League more times than Milan’s seven trophies.
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Yet under boss Stefano Pioli, the club have regained their domestic ascendancy against the odds; it was widely anticipated that this season’s trophy would be contested between champions Inter and Juventus, while the early season resurgence of Napoli brought suggestions that the Naples-based club would win their first ever league title without Diego Maradona.
Milan’s ambitions this year were to secure a top four finish and Champions League football once more, having returned to the tournament this year after a painful seven-season absence. A series of stars have left in recent times including Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu, who both left as free agents, with the latter controversially heading across the city to the Nerazzurri less than a year ago.
Pioli’s squad is not full of stars and the exits of key players is largely down to the club’s refusal to pay excessive wages and remain within their budgets. Perhaps this is in part due to the club’s recent struggles and fall from prominence, with officials now wary of the importance of sensible management and a sustainable approach for running their club.
Claudio Villa/AC Milan via Getty Images)
Mike Maignan was signed from Lille and has arguably proved even more dependable than Donnarumma, reflective of the smart recruitment across the squad. Certainly, he is better with his feet. Fikayo Tomori has starred since joining from Chelsea, with Theo Hernandez – a bit-part player at Real Madrid – and France Under-21 international Pierre Kalulu, who joined from Lyon in 2020, also hugely impressive.
All those outfield players are 24 or younger while arguably the two standout players from this season’s campaign are both aged 22. Sandro Tonali has starred at the base of the three-man midfield while Rafael Leao is the only player to get into double figures in goals this campaign and has earned rave reviews from Fabio Capello.
Indeed, Milan are only the fifth highest scorers in Serie A and have scored just three more league goals than Sassuolo, who are in the bottom half. If they are to win this season’s title it will be down to their defence – which has conceded just three goals in their last 10 matches.
Yet the pressure remains on Milan, who may have to win each of their remaining two matches to seal the crown. They have two tricky fixtures to see out the campaign, at home to Atalanta – who have endured a disappointing campaign for their remarkable standards of recent campaigns – and a final day trip to Sassuolo.
On paper, Inter’s run-in is slightly kinder as they travel to Cagliari and conclude their campaign at home to Sampdoria. However, both of those sides are battling relegation and are likely to have no shortage of motivation. Simone Inzaghi’s side did secure the Coppa Italia trophy this week – securing a memorable extra-time triumph against Juventus – and could yet secure a dramatic domestic double.
If they can’t then this will be a painful league title for Inter to concede. The destination of the Scudetto was in their hands until a recent defeat at Bologna as stand-in goalkeeper Ianu Radu – making his first league appearance of the campaign and who had spoken about wanting to play more regularly- made a high-profile blunder for Nicola Sansone to score a dramatic winner.
Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Milan’s success would have no shortage of stories – none less so than the redemption story for the club itself. But for the players, 35-year-old Olivier Giroud has scored crucial late goals while Zlatan Ibrahimovic, aged 40, is closing in on another medal. The Swede has been a bit-part player on the field, but his knowledge, nous and unbridled confidence have been huge in the dressing room.
The destination of the Serie A title remains up in the air with two matches remaining but whether it is the red-and-black or blue-and-black half of Milan to be celebrating later this month, the one sure-fire outcome is plenty of drama.