AC Milan’s Matchday 23 trip to Monza was never likely to be easy. Raffaele Palladino had his side coming into the mid-February weekend on the longest unbeaten run in Serie A, with four wins and four draws allowing them to put together an eight-match run without a defeat, and they’ve looked good in all areas of the pitch of late.
Not only have Palladino’s Monza managed to improve on their early-season struggles, but they’ve been performing at a level that only Italy’s elite have been able to match. With 28 points from 16 games before MD23, only Napoli, Juventus and Inter had been able to outperform them. Even AC Milan had picked up one point fewer than them in that timeframe prior to their meeting at the U-Power Stadium.
Monza players aim for revenge
With Andrea Petagna and Matteo Pessina both being formerly of Milan, there was plenty of motivation for the hosts to spring a surprise and upset their big-name neighbours, seeking to perform again after a big Champions League win over Tottenham in midweek.
It wasn’t to be, though, as Milan continued their revival with what was on the whole an impressive performance at Monza. The Brianzoli certainly created chances and did not roll over for their opposition, but Milan did well to not let their Champions League exploits have an effect on proceedings.
AC Milan finding old form?
Having made it three victories in a row in all competitions, fans of the Rossoneri could be forgiven for thinking that the crisis is over. Stefano Pioli’s switch to a back three, especially with Tomori back in the fold, seems to be paying dividends.
Recent wins over Spurs and Torino both saw the Rossoneri’s new-look backline keep clean sheets, which had become a huge concern for Pioli’s side. Their shift from a back four to a back three didn’t work in their Derby della Madonnina loss to Inter, but it has shored things up since, even without Fikayo Tomori who only returned to the XI to join Pierre Kalulu and Malick Thiaw against the Biancorossi.
Even in that Milan Derby loss, though, Milan showed improvements in the second half after teething problems with their new setup plagued the opening 45 minutes. Half time in that Inter game might just be viewed as a turning point by the end of the season.
Now, with Mike Maignan finally on his way back from his prolonged injury-enforced absence, AC Milan fans can be quietly confident of a better – or at least more solid – second half of the season. Although their title hopes were dead before they ever even threatened to contend with Napoli, they should, having beaten Monza, be confident of claiming a top-four finish now.