AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has got some tough decisions to make in the first few weeks of the season if the displays from Brahim Diaz and Ante Rebic against Udinese are anything to go by.
The Rossoneri kicked off their Serie A campaign by beating Udinese 4-2 in a packed Stadio San Siro on Saturday evening. There were no new signings in the starting line-up for the fans to get excited about though.
Instead, it was two players who have got increased competition for their places that made the difference against the Friuliani in the season opener.
AC Milan’s new signings
There were two players on the Milan bench against Udinese on Saturday who many fans may quite rightly think will be starters when they have settled in and gotten up to the necessary fitness level.
Charles De Ketelaere is expected to play a lot of minutes in the central attacking midfield position this season although he is capable of playing anywhere across the front four.
For this reason, Diaz had a hell of a lot to prove on Saturday. His form dipped last season quite dramatically and given Yacine Adli has also come back to the club and been very impressive in pre-season, there is a big chance that Diaz could be seeing a lot fewer minutes on the pitch than he’d like.
The other player who wasn’t fit enough to start was Divock Origi. He is going to be fighting with Olivier Giroud for the striker position but the Frenchman was not fit to start either. That meant there was space for Rebic but after his lack of goals last season, you can envisage him being at the bottom of the pecking order in that area.
Brahim and Rebic take their chance
Both Diaz and Rebic seem to be very aware of all of the above. They were the figureheads of this opening day victory for Milan as they got three of the goals between them.
Milan actually fell behind inside two minutes after Rodrigo Becao headed in a corner. Shortly after though, some tight control in the box allowed Diaz to get a shot away which was fumbled by the goalkeeper and led to Davide Calabria being fouled.
The subsequent penalty was converted by Theo Hernandez and the Rossoneri were back on track. Then the style got turned on.
Diaz picked up the ball in the midfield and after working some space, he spotted the run of Calabria down the right. He slipped the Italian in who swung the ball into the middle where Rebic was waiting to sweep the ball in with a very composed finish.
It was a really impressive goal that showed the best of both players. They struggled to build on it though and went into the break at 2-2 after Adam Masina’s header.
Just 45 seconds into the second half though, it was Diaz who got on the scoresheet. Udinese made a mess of a cross at the back post and it was the Spaniard who acted quickest to poke the ball into the roof of the net.
To secure the points, Diaz stole the ball from Roberto Pereyra in the box and played a teasing ball back to the six-yard line. It was Rebic waiting there to put it in the top corner and cap off an excellent display from the pair. Rebic had his brace and Diaz had played a part in all four goals for the champions.
Pioli’s selection headache at AC Milan
Pioli has got a couple of tough calls to make ahead of next Sunday’s match away at Atalanta. It would be harsh to drop either Diaz or Rebic but he should have fitter versions of De Ketelaere, Origi, and Giroud on his hands.
Milan fans will be absolutely thrilled with the fact that Pioli was able to send De Ketelaere and Origi onto the pitch in the 71st and 84th minutes respectively. Those are dangerous options from the bench that he did not have the luxury of last season.
Milan’s transfer window may not have grabbed the headlines quite as much as Inter and Juventus, but they have addressed a problem area very well in attack it seems.
If they can get some more depth in defence and midfield, as the club are working to do, there will be a lot of confidence that they can defend their crown.