AC Milan are playing with confidence and a swagger: With Chelsea next, how far can that take them?

Winning Serie A last season has AC Milan playing with a swagger and self-assuredness that is getting them through games. Will it be enough in back-to-back games against Chelsea?

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STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan): AC Milan just keep on getting jobs done. The Italian champions’ win over Dinamo Zagreb in Champions League Matchday 2 showed a more mature version of the Rossoneri side that we saw in Europe last season, and it’s clearer with each passing game that the confidence they have developed from winning Serie A is going a long way to seeing them through potentially-tricky obstacles. 

In Dinamo, they were faced with exactly that. The Croatian side returned to the San Siro three years later, having faced Atalanta in the 2019/20 edition of the Champions League, and they made this most recent trip fresh off the back of a big bloodied nose in the form of Chelsea, having beaten the Premier League side 1-0 in Matchday 1 to end Thomas Tuchel’s reign in West London.

But Milan, for the most part, never looked fazed. Just as they have done in each of their Serie A games so far this season, they played with a swagger and self-assuredness that should, but doesn’t necessarily, come with being domestic champions.

AC Milan have learned lessons, and they’re well placed in the Champions League

Alexis Saelemaekers celebrates a Champions League goal for AC Milan. (REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo)

With four points from two Champions League games this season, AC Milan are well placed in Group E. Top on four points, Stefano Pioli’s side are one point ahead of Dinamo, two clear of RB Salzburg and three above bottom-placed Chelsea.

Next up they face a trip to Stamford Bridge on October 5 before welcoming Chelsea to the San Siro on October 11. These back-to-back games against the Blues will go a long way to deciding their Champions League fate, and at the moment it’s hard to back against them getting a positive result – even in London.

Confidence is going a long way for AC Milan

Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring for AC Milan in the Champions League. (REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo)

Even when Milan aren’t playing all that well, there’s a belief that things will happen and chances will come. With Rafael Leao they’ve got a player who, while being imperfect, can create something from nothing and is never far away from the action when the Rossoneri score or are at their best. Olivier Giroud seems to score more chances than he misses, and at the back they’ve got a defence and goalkeeper that don’t give much away.

Compared to how Inter dealt with being Italian champions in an attempted defence of their throne last year, the Rossoneri are doing very well. Inter lost a handful of important title-winning players which of course shaped their subsequent campaign, whereas Milan have kept hold of their group and brought in a couple of fresh faces to reinforce.

That appears to be serving them well, and their own belief that they are Italy’s best team is now aiding them in Europe as well. 

Chelsea will be another kind of test for Pioli and his Milan, who are still relatively inexperienced in these games, but they are growing into a side that increasingly believe in their ability to beat anybody.

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