Milan-Empoli Preview: Times Have Changed

After a surprisingly unsatisfying 4-2 win over Slavia Praha in the Europa League on Thursday, Milan host 14th place Empoli at San Siro on Sunday evening. When Milan faced Empoli just two short months ago in their house, they were in 19th place, they had a different manager, and even had some differences in their squad. And Milan won that match, part of a strong run of form since the turn of the year. But everything is different now. And Milan played a tough match less than 72 hours before kickoff of this match. This clash will be completely different, because times have changed.

A job well done in January, but it will take a concerted team effort to win again on Sunday.

The reason for Empoli's change from 19th to 14th on the table is the appointment of relegation rescue specialist, Davide Nicola. His track record of taking on relegation-threatened teams in the second half of the season and taking points off of plenty of big teams is impressive. For example, in the first 20 matches of the season, between his two predecessors, Empoli had 13 points when Nicola was hired. Since then, in seven matches, he has nearly doubled their points total, earning 12 points with three wins, three draws, and only one loss.

Niang is back, still getting in car accidents, just driving his own car now.

That loss was last week, a 1-0 loss to Cagliari. For that loss, Nicola lined up: Caprile; Ismajli, Walukiewicz, Luperto, Cacace; Kovalenko, Marin, Maleh; Cambiaghi, Cancellieri; and former Milan  cameo player, Mattia Destro. Ironically, Milan son Daniel Maldini transferred away from Empoli since we last faced Empoli, but former Milan promising star, M'baye Niang signed for Empoli and already has three goals and an assist in only four substitute appearances. Nicola only has one player out injured as of this writing, Alberto Grassi.

Pioli also only has one player out injured, Pobega, which is still like a foreign concept to me after this season with such an increase in injuries. However, he also has two important players suspended for this match due to card accumulation – Leão and Florenzi. Additionally, he has plenty of exhausted players who are still recovering from Thursday night's match, a huge disadvantage going into a match like this. 

When our veterans haven't played a starring role, our newer players have shone this year.

While Milan have not had a problem scoring goals since the turn of the calendar year, conceding goals is still a huge problem. And while Pioli technically has all of his starting defenders back from injury, they are far from full match fitness. On the last podcast, I was uncharacteristically optimistic about the second half of the season because of the contributions of the new players. Certainly, they are contributing to the goal tally. However, with not enough invested last summer defensively, Milan are still struggling to keep clean sheets.

With Empoli determined to gain points to prevent relegation, and Milan weary from a tougher than expected match on Thursday night, this match could truly put a wrench in Milan's plans to safeguard a top four spot. With several other teams coming into form just behind us, that is a risk we cannot afford. Although we just played Empoli eight short weeks ago and dominated them, this one proves to be an entirely different match, even with the support of our fans. Pioli, endorsed by Ibrahimović on Friday, will need to get the lineups and squad rotation just right, and the team will need to have perfect mentality and focus, because times have changed.

This post inspired by the music of Portishead's "Sour Times"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 28
Milan vs. Empoli
Sunday, March 10, 2024 • 15:00 CET (10am EDT*)
*note the time difference due to Daylight Savings Time in the U.S.
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)

Milan-Empoli Preview: Times Have Changed Milan-Empoli Preview: Times Have Changed Reviewed by Elaine on 12:00 AM Rating: 5
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