After earning their biggest victory of the season, a 4-1 result against Sampdoria at the San Siro, Milan now must look forward to a Coppa Italia match against Serie B side Crotone.
Milan overcame Perugia 2-0 back in August to reach the Coppa Italia fourth round. Crotone sit just a point off the top of the Serie B table, so to say this will be an easy match for the Rossoneri would be foolish. Of course, the reward for winning the Coppa Italia is not only the coveted TIM Cup, but also a spot in the following season’s UEFA Europa League. This competition needs to be taken seriously by Milan coach, Siniša Mihajlović, as it could be a possible way for his side to return to European competition if they were to end up out of the top five of the Serie A table come the end of the season.
Mihajlović had the following to say after the victory against Sampdoria, via Football Italia:
“I am happy, as we did well this evening. It is a pity that we conceded that goal late on and we could’ve had a fifth with Carlos Bacca. If we play like this, then we can beat anybody. The objective is to win all the next games leading up to the Christmas break. I am convinced we’ll do better in the second half of the season, especially as we face the big teams on our own turf.”
For the match against Crotone, the former Sampdoria boss is expected to stick with his new 4-4-2 formation, which saw the Rossoneri have arguably their best performance of the season against Sampdoria. The inclusion of M’Baye Niang into the starting XI, in particular, seems to be the one decision that worked out extremely well for the Milan coach. The returning Frenchman scored a brace and was the main highlight of the match. He’s been sent away on loan the past two seasons to teams including Montpellier and Genoa.
Adriano Galliani had the following to say about Niang, via Football Italia:
“I want to particularly praise Niang, as let’s not forget he is 20 years old. He was playing for Caen and I went to get him because he seemed a great talent. The only credit I will take is resisting Genoa, as Enrico Preziosi wanted him on loan with an option to buy. In any case, I thank Genoa for their contribution in helping Niang grow.”
The goals scored against Sampdoria would be his first official goals for Milan, which is absurd for a player who has been at the club since the summer of 2012. It illustrates how many of Milan’s younger players just haven’t been given the opportunities they deserve. Most of the time, the younger Milan players are seen on the bench and not included in the coach’s plans.
We all know how Riccardo Saponara was ignored and has now become one of the most consistent players in Italy. A player like Josè Mauri is no different in this regard. He hasn’t featured for Milan much since pre-season and as a result there are already talks of him leaving Milan on loan in January or being outright sold. It’s a very similar theme to how Saponara’s Milan career could be summed up.
If Mihajlović can often include a youngster like Niang and another youngster in Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has been nothing short of excellent for Milan since his debut a few weeks ago, then he should take it a step further and allow his other younger players to showcase themselves in Milan’s upcoming match against Crotone. Players like Suso and Davide Calabria are two more youngsters Milan has in its roster just waiting to get a chance to show Mihajlović what they can offer for the team.
Not only will Milan’s upcoming match against Crotone be a chance for Milan to reach their objective this season and return to European competition for next season, but it’s also a chance to showcase a few of the younger players who haven’t been featuring much.
Instead of giving Andrea Poli playing time, who hasn’t been too impressive lately, why not give Josè Mauri a chance to show what he can do? The same goes for Suso and Calabria, who both will be wanting to make Mihajlović’s starting lineup choice that much more difficult.
Milan face a tough task against an in-form Crotone side, but are also met with the opportunity to give the younger players a chance to prove their worth and honor the shirt they are meant to wear.