Three takeaways from AC Milan 0-0 Newcastle United: Tonali is still adored, injury concerns grow for Pioli

Stefano Pioli's tactical changes against Newcastle led to an improved performance from AC Milan even if they couldn't get three points in the Champions League. There are also fresh injury worries for the Rossoneri.

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AC Milan began their 2023/24 Champions League campaign with a disappointing 0-0 draw against English Premier League side Newcastle United

The Rossoneri will be frustrated not to have won the game considering the number of chances they created, with Rafael Leao missing two key opportunities. Aside from that, there are several positives for Stefano Pioli to look back at, none more so than the improvement in performance compared to the 5-1 defeat against Inter last weekend. 

There are few positives from a Newcastle United perspective, something which Eddie Howe will be extremely frustrated by. Earning a point at the San Siro is no easy feat but to only have brief moments of promise in the game may be seen as unacceptable. 

Tijjani Reijnders on the ball for AC Milan against Newcastle. [Photo: acmilan.com]

Sandro Tonali – Adored by both sides 

Sandro Tonali’s departure this summer was met with serious disappointment from Milan fans, but it seems that his relationship with the fanbase has remained intact after a series of interviews in which he has consistently kept the peace.

The 23-year-old spoke about his love for the club in the build-up to Tuesday night’s fixture, ensuring throughout not to insult his current club, something which Newcastle fans have greatly appreciated. 

From before the game to the finish, Tonali was welcomed with open arms backing Milan. When announced in the lineups, his name was greeted by cheers, as opposed to the boos which rang around the San Siro when his teammates’ names were read aloud. 

If there were doubts about the Milan fans not supporting him in his new endeavours, they have been put firmly to bed. The relationship remains the same. Tonali loves them and the club and they still adore their former midfielder. 

Stefano Pioli experimenting with the 4-4-2

It has been well-documented that Pioli has organised his side in a 4-3-3 formation this season. However, in the game against the Magpies, he instead opted to line his side up in a 4-4-2 for most of the game. 

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli. [Photo: acmilan.com]

Tommaso Pobega replaced Tijjani Reijnders in order to compete with Newcastle’s more physical midfield, which opened the option for a change in formation. Pobega often drifted to the left of a midfield four, with Samuel Chukwueze playing as a right-midfielder. 

This change helped the Diavolo massively, as Newcastle struggled to break down the midfield. This meant that the English outfit couldn’t get the ball into their attackers, limiting their threat almost entirely. 

Are AC Milan already facing an injury problem?

Before the game, Milan were already facing a few injury issues. Pierre Kalulu was absent from the Derby della Madonnina and also missed out here. Also, Ismael Bennacer remains absent  

Fast-forward to full-time, Milan now look like they could be missing two more key players to injury, in the form of Mike Maignan and Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Loftus-Cheek began to limp in the 70th minute and was substituted a few minutes later. Things only worsened when Maignan also hit the deck, going to the ground clutching his leg. 

It’s unknown how bad the injuries for both are but the fact that neither injury came after contact suggests it may be muscle issues for both, which is a massively worrying prospect for two of Milan’s vital players. 

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