Champions League Quarterfinal • AC Milan vs. SSC Napoli: Una Serata a Teatro

The San Siro stadium is often referred to as "La Scala del Calcio," kind of a theater of football, named after the world famous opera house in Milano, La Scala. This all-Italian Champions League quarterfinal has plenty of drama, from Milan's inconsistent form, to Napoli's recent injuries, and the astonishing 4-0 smackdown Milan gave to Napoli at the Maradona less than ten days ago. This match is shaping up to be the football equivalent of a night at the theater - una serata a teatro.

La Scala del Calcio will be ready for all of the drama of an all-Italian quarterfinal.

When we drew Napoli in the Champions League quarterfinals, there was a lot of discussion about who had the advantage. On the one hand, Milan have seven Champions League trophies, and have Milan DNA. This is Napoli's very first time competing in the quarterfinals. However, Napoli's Champions League run this season has been nothing short of incredible. They have won five of their six matches, won Group A in the group stage, and have scored an amazing 20 goals, while only conceding six. The stage was set.

Then came our second league matchup. After the first one in September ended in a 1-2 heartbreak loss for Milan at the San Siro, the Milan decimation in Naples surprised everyone, perhaps even the Milan players themselves. However, the team were motivated and played like they know how to in the Champions League, which makes this match even more intriguing, despite the scoreless draw with Empoli on Friday.

The drama of last year's Scudetto winner vs. this year's projected Scudetto winner.

Spalletti's side struggled against lower table Lecce on Friday, but managed a 2-1 win thanks to an own goal gifted them to take all three points. For that match, he lined up: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Kim Min-Jae, Mário Rui; Anguissa, Lobotka, Elmas; Lozano, Raspadori, and Kvaratskhelia. There were three changes from the squad that started against Milan: Zieliński in left midfield, Politano on the right wing, and Simeone in the center up front. 

Spalletti is still missing Osimhen, who, while fighting to return for this match, looks increasingly likely to miss out, having trained separately on Monday. Raspadori also trained separately on Monday, while Simeone received therapy after sustaining an injury in Friday's match. All three players could miss this one, ravaging their normally lethal attack.

Milan have played some of their best matches in the Champions League this season...

In an alternate universe, Milan may have our complete Champions League squad available. Kalulu has been injured, but completed half of training with the team on Monday, and could possibly be fit for Wednesday. That would leave Ibrahimović as our only current injured player, and he is not on our roster for Europe anyway. I don't even know what to do with zero injuries. Or even just the one. All year long, we have never had a complete squad, the perfect cast.

There is still drama surrounding Pioli's choices in lineups, although I do not think he would take any chances in a Champions League match with so much on the line. I expect he will stick with the 4-2-3-1 and start a similar lineup as he did vs. Napoli last week: Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Theo Hernández; Bennacer, Tonali; Brahim Díaz, Krunić, Leão; and Giroud. Although Pioli did imply a possible change in tactics, and he could swap out Kjaer for Thiaw, or possibly even include Kalulu if he felt he was 100% fit. Mr. Champions League, Saelemaekers, has also been in excellent form lately, and could get a start, especially with concerns about Brahim Díaz's fitness.

The football iteration of the tragedy and comedy masks.

Then there is the mystery of Milan's mentality, and whether or not it will show up. Neapolitans are supposed to be superstitious, but Milan have taken the phrase "Break a leg" all too literally the past few years. We know the fans will be there to support, I believe the match is sold out. The club took measures to try to ensure tickets went to Milan fans, not Napoli supporters, and the Curva Sud have been preparing a special coreo presentation for this one, as well.

The only questions, then, surround the supporters themselves. Will Milan fans avoid territorial discriminatory chants and other poor behavior? Will the traveling Napoli fans be violent? Or will they break their form this season and actually not injure others or each other? Or will they avoid earning themselves another travel ban? When the curtains rise on Wednesday, there will be plenty of drama both on and off the pitch in this, una serata a teatro.

This post inspired by the music of Luciano Pavarotti's "Nessun Dorma"

Our next match is 
Champions League Quarterfinals
AC Milan vs. SSC Napoli
Wednesday, April 8, 2023 • 21:00 CET (3pm EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Champions League Quarterfinal • AC Milan vs. SSC Napoli: Una Serata a Teatro Champions League Quarterfinal • AC Milan vs. SSC Napoli: Una Serata a Teatro Reviewed by Elaine on 11:58 PM Rating: 5
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