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Europa League • AC Milan-PFC Ludogorets Razgrad Preview: Redemption

 After worrying ahead of the away leg to Bulgaria, three away goals and no answer from the Bulgarians could give us a false sense of security going into our match on Thursday. Certainly, they will be coming to the San Siro looking for at least some redemption. For them, it is win or go home, so they could be very motivated to change our fortunes. For us, it’s more a matter of keeping our eyes on the prize amidst a couple of very big games coming up in Serie A. And in doing so, it would be a kind of redemption for us, too.

I could get used to images like this one

After being humiliated by Milan in Razgrad, Ludogorets came back from their 2 month break to beat Slavia Sofia 4-1 on Sunday. For that match, Dimitrov rested a number of players who faced us last Thursday. He started Broun; Cicinho, Terziev, Forster, Campanharo, Sasha, Andrianantenaina, Wanderson, Goralski, Keseru, and Misidjan. Dimitrov is still missing his goalkeeper, Stoyanov, to injury, but should be bringing an otherwise full squad to the San Siro to fight for their Europa League lives.

Gattuso is facing plenty of distractions off the pitch, as well as too many compliments for his comfort about the performances on the pitch. He is also under pressure to change his starting 11, something he is not fond of doing much of. He needs his players rested for Sunday’s big clash in Rome, but he also needs to keep enough consistency to ensure we go through to the next round. Being unbeaten in ten matches is one thing, but certainly Milan would find redemption in qualifying for the next round of the Europa League in the midst of such a dream string of results.

If given another penalty this week, he won't settle for less than a goal

Conti is likely to be out longer rather than shorter, based on last week’s injury report for Milan’s doctor. Although he is starting to warmup and do some light work with the team, he is nowhere near match fit. And you know Gattuso is demanding about his fitness levels. Storari will still be out another couple of weeks, I think, and it is uncertain as of this writing whether or not Kalinic will be fit in time for Thursday. Also a troubling report that Bonucci was having adductor troubles on Sunday, with Gattuso keeping Musacchio warming up the entire match as a precaution. It would probably be wise to rest Bonucci for this one, but hard to know how stubborn he and Gattuso are about such things.

Bench? What the hell is a bench?

No matter who starts for Milan, we cannot take our lead for granted. I would be thrilled if we showed no mercy and scored at least one more, while keeping a clean sheet. We don’t need any ghosts of Milan’s European past, and we do definitely need even more confidence for the matches ahead. I’ve said it dozens of times, I don’t care about the Europa League, but I do care about redemption, and winning this and qualifying for the next round would give us a nice serving of said redemption. Sorry, Ludogorets.


This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Mercy”


Europa League Round of 32
AC Milan vs. PFC Ludogorets Razgrad
Thursday, February 22 • 21:05 CET (3:05pm EST)
This match will be shown LIVE on Fox Soccer Plus in the U.S.

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