Atalanta-Milan Preview: Dichotomy

Milan have a recent history with Atalanta of matches that are either a massive failure or an important success. For some reason, it seems like there are fewer matches in between. For Pioli, the Christmas Massacre of 2019 in Bergamo, when Milan lost 5-0 to Atalanta, was the failure that helped unify his team and fueled his successful run to the Scudetto. While wins like the 2-0 win away in May of 2021 secured our return to the Champions League, and a 2-0 win at San Siro a year later was our penultimate victory when we won our first league title in 11 years. So, which Milan team shows up in Bergamo Saturday evening? Will it be the unified, focused Pioli side that does what it takes to win? Or will they fall apart again, creating yet another disaster in December? Facing Atalanta almost always seems to be a dichotomy between failure and success.

Which Milan and which Pioli will show up against Atalanta?

One team's trash is another team's treasure. Gasperini had Kjaer on loan in 2019, and decided to dump him. That Viking defender became integral to Milan in our Scudetto run and since then, providing leadership, experience, and even a goal and a few assists. However, he is currently out injured, and has struggled with fitness recently.

Milan had purchased the young De Ketelaere upon Moncada's recommendation last summer, but he struggled in his first year at the club. So Atalanta were happy to take him on loan with an option to purchase. Sure enough, he almost immediately came good, with two goals and two assists so far, despite some injury issues for him as well. Atalanta to Milan, Milan to Atalanta. Experienced defender, young attacker. Dichotomy.

De Ketelaere is getting more comfortable in Bergamo... maybe it's the familiar colors?

Atalanta come into this match nine points behind us in eighth place on the table. They have suffered back-to-back losses in the league since the break. Their most recent loss was a 3-0 defeat to Torino on Monday. For that match, Gasperini lined up: Musso; Scalvini, de Roon, Djimsiti; Hateboer, Éderson, Koopmeiners, Ruggeri; Miranchuk, Lookman; and Milan-owned De Ketelaere. Atalanta have some important players out injured for this match. Djimsiti, Palomino, Toloi, El Bilal Touré, and most recently, Scamacca are all out with injuries.

Pioli will have Giroud back from his two league match vacation suspension. Rafa Leão returned to training this week, but it is unknown as of this writing whether he will be available, and if so, if he would start. Kjaer finally made it back to the pitch as well this week, but is not likely to be fit for this match. Definitely out injured are: Sportiello, Thiaw, Kalulu, Pellegrino, Caldara, and Okafor. That means six to eight players out as of this point. Milan are solidly in third place, but desperately need points for a top four finish to qualify for Champions League next year.

Will Leão make an appearance in this one?

With five center backs out injured, Theo Hernández is likely to play at center back once again. I understand the thinking, but playing Simić or Bartesaghi there is just safer injury-wise, especially with our final Champions League group stage match coming up on Wednesday. Just imagine if Florenzi or any of the other healthy defenders get injured in this match... we would then be starting one of those young players in a do-or-die UCL match.

Maldini's interview provided distraction from the media last week, and the team were able to produce a positive performance and get the win against Frosinone. However, Atalanta are different. Not just because of their manager, squad, or higher place on the table. They also live rent-free in Pioli's head. With all of the pressure at the club right now to win after this summer's big shopping spree, Milan's mentality will need to be one of inspiration, not desperation. Facing Atalanta is never boring, but rather a dichotomy between epic failure and important wins.

This post inspired by the music of Muse's "Sing for Absolution"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 15
Atalanta vs. Milan
Saturday, December 9, 2023 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)
In the U.S., you can use a VPN to access a Serie A provider elsewhere
For example, sign up for BeIN Sports in Australia or SuperSport in South Africa,
they both use the World Feed commentary for Serie A, which is fantastic
(*and they also do not sponsor Inter's kits)

Atalanta-Milan Preview: Dichotomy Atalanta-Milan Preview: Dichotomy Reviewed by Elaine on 12:35 AM Rating: 5
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