UEFA Youth League Final and Milan-Inter Derby Preview: Pleasure and Pain

Milan fans have been on an intense emotional ride this past week. On Thursday, Milan was knocked out of the Europa League by Roma in a match that can only be described as watching a trainwreck while your dentist gives you a root canal and your significant other breaks up with you. And carrying that trauma, also the dread of knowing the Derby was coming on Monday. But then, on Friday, our Primavera side knocked Porto U19 out of the UEFA Youth League Semifinal on penalties, becoming the first Italian team to ever qualify for the UEFA Youth League Final. Which is also coming on Monday. So, basically all of the opposite feelings as the previous night. And, most likely, this was a preview of what our Monday will be like... a mixture of exquisite pleasure and pain.

One man to ruin it all? Or in their darkness bind them?

The UEFA Youth League Final • Olympiacos FC U19 vs AC Milan Primavera: Pleasure

No one encompasses the ride this week more than our Primavera captain, Kevin Zeroli. Having been called up for the first team, he was in Rome for the debacle, being forced to stand in shame in front of a Curva Sud who chanted that our lads needed to 'grow some balls.' Immediately after the match, he flew to Nyon, Switzerland, to join his Primavera teammates very late at night in preparation to play the UEFA Youth League Semifinal vs. Porto FC. This was Milan's second consecutive semifinal, they were also the first Italian team to reach the semifinal, but it will be their first final.

Primavera Captain Zeroli, who also signed a contract extension through 2028 just last week.

Friday evening's match in Nyon was intense, with Milan going up in just the 12th minute with a great goal from Pippo Scotti. However, Porto were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute and equalized, 1-1. Up until that point, Milan had played well, but as the match continued, Porto created more chances, but were less clinical. Unfortunately, they went up in the 65th minute with a goal by Gabriel Brás, 2-1 Porto. They literally only had two shots on target. Milan did not give up, though. Abate made some important subs, and one of them, Simmelhack, finally got an equalizer from a Zeroli assist in the 93rd minute to take the match to penalties.

Milan had won their last two UEFA Youth League matches vs. Braga and Real Madrid on penalties, as well. Raveyre is a fantastic goalkeeper, and the guys are all very cool under pressure. Raveyre saved the very first Porto penalty, then the Porto keeper saved Simić's penalty, Milan's second. But their third player sent his penalty well over and missed altogether. The tension came down to Zeroli, who had taken the final penalty in the two previous matches as well. And even though he should have been exhausted from the previous night, he was cool as ice and nailed his penalty once again.

Milan Primavera were going to the Final.

UEFA Youth League Finalists.

One might think that it would be a reaction to the previous night's bitter loss, but I don't think my exquisite joy in seeing their victory had much to do with that. First of all, I am a rare original fan of Abate when he was a player at Milan, and his father was a goalkeeping coach at Milan for many years as well, so watching him succeed as a manager brings me particular satisfaction. Secondly, the Primavera made history with this win, for both Milan and Italy. And then there is the fact that a larger number of these players than usual have been called up or even featured for the first team this year due to our injury armageddon, so I am even more emotionally invested in their success than usual. But honestly, I am just really excited about this group of players. They play very entertaining football, and there is a lot of hope and promise. This win also made me believe that perhaps Milan's DNA still exists.

Monday evening, they will face Olympiacos U19, who are also playing in their first final. My favorite thing about Olympiacos is that they knocked out Inter's Primavera in the playoffs on penalties. They also have a player, Isidoros Koutsidis, who was an unused substitute for Olympiacos' first team Thursday night in their Conference League Quarterfinal, but he got to witness a penalty victory for his team before flying to Nyon. Not only did Olympiacos U19 defeat Inter on penalties, but they also won their semifinal match against Nantes on Friday on penalties as well, so if this match goes to penalties, both teams are well prepared.

Manager and Captain – what it means to be in the Final.

Obviously, lifting the trophy would be incredible for our Primavera, for Abate, and for Milan. However, this is literally a situation where I am just so happy and proud that they are in the final, that I will enjoy watching this one no matter the outcome. This team is united, they fight to the end, and they seem to enjoy their football, too. They understand what it means to wear the Milan shirt, and they make me proud every time they play. I will be absolutely ecstatic for them should they win, but simply watching them play will be a pleasure.

Traumatic memories.

Milan vs Inter: Pain

If losing to Roma in the Europa League was tough, losing to Inter again is going to be worse. More like having brain surgery without anesthesia while your body is being slowly eaten by rodents and you simultaneously learn that everyone you love has died... but perhaps you could have stopped it. At the beginning of the season, Inter destroyed our souls with a 5-1 defeat to our clueless cugini. That followed up losing not just once, but twice in the Champions League Semifinal to those slithering slimebuckets last season, after having lost the second league Derby of the season in February, and also missing out on becoming the Champions of Arabia in the Supercoppa in January. An unprecedented five Derbies in a calendar year, and Milan lost all of them.

Five consecutive Derby losses. But Theo knows how it feels to win and to lose a Derby.

As if that wasn't painful enough, Inter have enjoyed a season filled with unprecedented help from referees – both in calls that went their way, and calls that cost their opponents plenty of points as well. Literally, they have won the most matches due to the AIA admitted referee errors. They have had zero red cards shown to them all season long, and have enjoyed the most penalty calls against. After literally assigning themselves a Scudetto in the Calcipoli scandal, which they both orchestrated and hid the evidence of their own participation in, and having so many seasons where the referee calls "magically" all go their way, is it any wonder that opposition fans have called Serie A the "Marotta League" this year? 

We are way past conspiracies, here. There is far too much evidence to ignore. Inter have been conditioning the referees, the media, and the public, claiming to be victims, for well over 25 years. Not only that, but they have made sure they have "friends in high places" – government, the media, law enforcement – to help them succeed in their agenda. This includes somehow finding favor with UEFA, who literally have given them preferential treatment and allowed them to continue participating in European competitions despite a staggering debt load that is equal to about two-thirds the value of their club. And even now, as they are scrambling to refinance a €375 million loan that is due in less than 30 days or lose the club, part of their €800 million debt, and their club owner cannot even come to Milano for the Scudetto celebrations because of his €300 million in personal debt, they have found a way to try to deflect from all of this by launching a ridiculous investigation into Milan's ownership.

Inter's financial indiscretions are absurd. How are they even allowed to compete?

Many people look at the points gap and Inter's playing style and insist they deserve to win. However, knowing how many points Milan lost this year due to unfavorable referee calls and player suspensions, as well as the number of matches Inter received help from the referees to take all three points, the race would have at least been much tighter, or the outcome might have been different altogether. Milan are so much better than they have been given credit for by the Inter-owned media.

Inter come into this match with 83 points, while Milan are fourteen points below them, with 69 points. That is truly painful. More so when you consider that Inter have financially been cheating for years, buying players they could not afford (or even afford to pay at one point,) and then selling them off one by one for profit to finance their transfer purchases. Their entire business model has been to run their club on credit, without ever paying anyone back. Why are they still even allowed to compete? For some clubs, there is a price for winning, for Inter, there is simply no winning in the first place.

A tale of two managers.

But I digress. This is a preview of what you can expect to see on the pitch. Or something. Inter's last match was a 2-2 draw vs. Cagliari in which they actually were on the receiving end of a controversial call for once. I guess someone did the math and realized that they could drop at least two points in a match this season and still win the whole thing.

For that match, the Other Inzaghi lined up: Sommer; Bisseck, the "I'm not a racist" Acerbi, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, the Turkish Traitor™, Mikhitaryan, Dimarco; Sanchez, and the "I grab opponents' genitals" Thuram. (Inter has always attracted players of only the finest character, but they hit a new low this season.) Not only have Inter had the entire week to rest, the Other Inzaghi should have all of his players available to him for this one. 

Giroud taking the "No to Racism" campaign very literally.

Pioli, on the other hand, is missing his dignity, the team's mentality, as well as a few players. After watching whatever it was that Milan did vs. Roma in two legs of the Europa League Quarterfinals, as well as only being able to come up with a draw vs. relegation zone Sassuolo (despite two goals ruled offside,) the whole world seems to have come to terms with the fact that Pioli's cycle at Milan is done, even if he will likely remain to manage the last few matches of this season. 

Pioli bravely faced the press on Sunday ahead of the Derby, reminding the voracious media of all of the toxicity and lack of support Milan has received from them this year. He was too humble to point it out, but he himself has been the victim of unwarranted contempt since before signing his contract with Milan. However, it does seem like now it is time to part ways. Which seems even more evident with the rumors of his panic button lineups and possible tactics for the Derby.

Reijnders is a player who can make a difference in this Derby.

He will be missing Kalulu and Pobega to injury, while Thiaw is suspended for this match. Additionally, Kjaer still trained separately on Sunday, so is very unlikely to make fitness for even the bench. As the Primavera players are all in Nyon for their final, Pioli will likely only have Gabbia and Tomori available as center backs.

As for the mentality, Pioli's comments have been unusually pessimistic, even he is not aware of the changes in his language. The players reportedly did not even greet the fans who gathered at Milanello to greet the team on Sunday, so it seems like they are not exactly pumped, either. As Pioli pointed out in his interview, too often this year, too many people have not supported Milan. Even though the Curva Sud have officially called for his sacking, he said he is not worried about that, and I believe him. However, the constant criticism of him does impact the team, and I fear that, combined with three poor results in a row, they are going into this Derby with a season low mentality.

Mister, we need more Chukwueze in our lives.

If it were just a matter of potentially losing this match to those worthless, writhing vermin, it would be a bad day. The possibility of the referees those worthless lowlifes clinching their title at our home Derby makes it almost unbearable to consider. But, having that paper Scudetto and the ones that falsely came afterward to make this season their "20th" Scudetto for their cardboard star is just too much to bear. Better that we should suffer a thousand painful deaths than to witness such an occasion. At the end of the day, though, this Derby day will be a combination of pleasure and pain.

This post inspired by the music of Jane Siberry's "It Can't Rain All the Time"

UEFA Youth League Final
Olympiacos FC U19 vs. AC Milan Primavera
Monday, April 22, 2024 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)
watch on the Milan app or on UEFA.tv

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 33
Milan vs. Inter
Monday, April 22, 2024 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
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)

UEFA Youth League Final and Milan-Inter Derby Preview: Pleasure and Pain UEFA Youth League Final and Milan-Inter Derby Preview: Pleasure and Pain Reviewed by Elaine on 11:55 PM Rating: 5
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