Three takeaways from AC Milan 1-0 Napoli: Europa League impact, San Siro curse lifted and Napoli out of Champions League race

AC Milan continued their fine form and finally overcame Napoli at the Stadio San Siro and end the Neapolitans hopes of qualifying for the Champions League this term, but could it now harm their own Europa League chances?

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AC Milan continued their stunning form with a 1-0 win over reigning champions Napoli on Matchday 24 of the 2023/24 Serie A campaign at the Stadio San Siro and landed another blow to the visitors Champions League qualification hopes.

A Theo Hernandez goal on 25 minutes handed the Rossoneri their seventh win during a run of nine games unbeaten, but the Partenopei have now suffered eight defeats so far this term, as the defence of the Serie A title has crumbled since the season started.

AC Milan’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek. [@acmilan]

Will Serie A form impact Milan’s Europa League chances?

While Milan remain eight points behind Serie A leaders Inter, their recent form has taken them within touching distance of second place Juventus and sparked talk of an, albeit unlikely, challenge for the Scudetto. With coach Stefano Pioli quick to play down their chances when speaking to the media post-game.

The veteran tactician has a decision to make when the Rossoneri welcome Ligue 1 side Rennes to the Stadio San Siro for the Europa League Round of 32 first-leg, if he feels that fielding a full strength side in Europe might ultimately provide a risk to where they finish in Serie A at the end of the season.

With the Milan defence depleted through injuries, Pioli can only really freshen up his attacking areas, but while Luka Jovic has had a resurgence of late from the bench, the Serbian has rarely impressed when starting. And fellow attackers Samuel Chukwueze and Noah Okafor have looked far from the required quality to step in and not impact performances.

AC Milan can beat Napoli at the Stadio San Siro

Home advantage is always important, yet it had been almost 10 years since Milan had triumphed over Napoli at the Stadio San Siro in Serie A, when recording a 2-0 win in December 2014.

Unitl Hernandez broke the deadlock on 25 minutes, when finishing a wonderful passing move, it was difficult to see the 17 point gap between the two sides in the standings, as the Partenopei played with a confidence that belied their form this term.

The Rossoneri have drawn 26 of their 75 top flight encounters with the Neapolitans, only drawing more times against Juventus, but despite Napoli controlling possession for large parts of the contest, stood firm to take a rare three points from their visitors.

AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez celebrates. [@acmilan]

Can Napoli still qualify for the Champions League?

This was probably the last chance for Napoli to give themselves and their supporters confidence that they could discover the form that would help propel them into the top four, but failed to concern an injury-hit Milan defence that also lost captain Davide Calabria on 35 minutes.

The Partenopei have not recorded consecutive wins since September 2023 and averaged just 1.5 points per game in this campaign, which suggests they have no chance of achieving Champions League qualification via their league position.

In the last five years, an average of 73 points has secured a fourth place finish in Serie A, but for Napoli to achieve this they would need to average 2.7 points across their final 14 fixtures, form on a par with leaders Inter and opponents Milan currently.

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