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Europa League • CS U Craiova vs. AC Milan: The Final Countdown


Thursday sees Milan finally return to Europe. Not to the Champions League, where we have seven trophies. But rather to the Europa League, the only major competition we’ve never won. And we are not going into the group stage, either. We will have to play two qualifying rounds just to get there. While I am still not convinced that this is a good idea for Milan right now, as it would be better to focus on getting a top four spot in the league, it’s off to Romania we go. For Milan’s return to Europe, it’s the final countdown.

It could be their Gustavo vs. our Gustavo

Clobul Sportiv Universitatea Craiova, also known as Universitatea Craiova or CS U Craiova, is a Romanian top flight club whose claim to fame is reaching the UEFA Cup League semifinal in the 1982-83 season. Currently, they are coached by former Italy U21 coach Devis Mangia. While he is accustomed to coaching Serie B teams or getting sacked by Zamparini in Serie A, he’s got a Romanian Liga 1 side now that actually placed fifth last year and are facing AC Milan in the third round qualifying for the Europa League.

The Romanian League already started in mid-July, so Universitatea Craiova already have two matches under their belts. They have a win and a draw so far, with the 1-1 draw against Concordia this past weekend. For that match, Mangia lined up Calancea; Demitrov, Spahija, Kelic, Briceag; Vagenin, Screciu, Zlatinski, Bancu, Baluta; and Roman. Their stadium of 20,000 is sold out, I believe, for our match, and their team website is filled with news about “the game of the year.”

Coach Devis Eat is familiar with Italian tactics

Before you start getting all condescending about a Romanian Liga 1 team, you should know that the official Milan Twitter account has been bragging about selling 30,000 tickets in just four days for the return leg. Like it or not, this game is “the game of the year” for both teams, and there is even more pressure on Montella than Mangia to make a good showing.

Bonucci and Biglia will not be allowed to play in this match, as they were not registered with UEFA in time. Which changes so much. Montella had indicated that with Bonucci, he was considering switching to a 3-5-2. Without Bonucci starting on Saturday vs. Bayern, he lined up a 4-3-3: G. Donnarumma; Abate, Musacchio, Zapata, Rodriguez;  Kessie Montolivo, Bonaventura; Niang, Cutrone, and Borini. But that was just a friendly. We have to think that he will take this more seriously.


"No pictures, please, this match is everything."

Being the team that has seven Champions League trophies does not give us the right to be presumptuous here. This match is important to both teams. Perhaps even more important to Milan than Craiova, actually, having invested so much in new players. With the news of China cracking down on spending on football, Milan is really going to have to do well in all three competitions to get some return on the investment. Plus, as David said on the last podcast, with this squad, we actually have a chance of winning the Europa League. So this match is also our “game of the year.” And these hours leading up to it are the Final Countdown for our return to Europe.


This match inspired by the music of Europe’s “The Final Countdown”


The Serie A draw for the 2017-18 schedule is Wednesday at 19:00 CET (1pm EDT)


Our next match is
Europa League Third Round Qualifier
CS U Craiova vs. AC Milan
Thursday, July 27 • 8:00pm CET (2pm EDT)

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