STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) – With the news of the potential return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominating local and national radio, and the hostile atmosphere generated to welcome Gianluigi Donnarumma back to his former home, it could be argued that AC Milan‘s game against Paris Saint-Germain couldn’t have come at a worse time, in what was already a decisive match for their Champions League destiny.

Coming off the back of two consecutive Serie A home defeats, as well as three winless games in their Champions League group, the Rossoneri certainly didn’t need further distractions As well, the club’s decision not to play their usual “Pioli‘s on fire” song before the match for the first time in years suggested a shift of sorts.

AC Milan rewarded for their bravery against PSG

In such a scenario, Milan Skiniar‘s opener for PSG after nine minutes could have definitively slashed their hopes of forming a comeback, but by the end it proved to be the turning point of the game, with Milan remembering that they are a side capable of rising from near ruin under Stefano Pioli.

Conceding early didn’t seem to affect the trust they had in their bold gameplan, and that was the first, massive sign. They were willing to take risks, and they were confident that they knew the best way to open up gaps to exploit and to really take advantage of, unlike in the previous fixture in Paris.

AC Milan’s Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic celebrate in the Champions League. [@acmilan]

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s role in AC Milan’s midfield

AC Milan‘s bravery was personified by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who put in an incredible all-round performance playing a key role in the hosts’ first European victory of the season. Loftus-Cheek‘s physicality and ability to break and carry the ball all over pitch are qualities that the Rossoneri simply can’t do without. The former Chelsea midfielder is essential to the team’s capacity to quickly go from back to front.

Against PSG, Loftus-Cheek was the main, constant reference point as Milan worked their way out of their box and up the pitch; his strength and runs proved decisive in breaking the visitors’ first line of pressure and opening massive spaces that had the Rossoneri shoot on target as many as eight times, five of them in the opening 45 minutes.

PSG’s Warren Zaire-Emery and AC Milan’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the Champions League. [@acmilan]

Is Milan’s win over PSG a turning point for the season?

But besides the Englishman’s individual display, the way Milan‘s midfield trio behaved was also worth a mention – while Tijjani Reijnders and Yunus Musah provided the coverage that was needed to shield the defence from PSG‘s attacking ventures. As well as ensuring good ball circulation, Loftus-Cheek had the freedom of sprinting forward to support the hosts’ attacks.

Such a balance in midfield allowed the Rossoneri to keep the sections well-connected and took their need to keep their backline very high, which could’ve proved lethal against the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele.

While Tuesday night’s game against PSG presented the perfect tactical situation for AC Milan to thrive, further tests are needed to properly assess their progression. Pioli again has proof of his team’s resilience and of the quality his players have, and if the coach can make the most of the ingredients he has at his disposal then there is still plenty of time for the Rossoneri to get their season back on track.