AC Milan - 2021 in review
19.12 || webmaster
It's been a decade of suffering for one of the most prominent football clubs on the planet, but AC Milan look to be clawing their way back to Europe's elite.
Since Milan's last Champions League campaign back in 2013/14, the Rossoneri have gone from being sure bets for a title challenge to failing to qualify for Europe's most prestigious competition seven years in a row. The bookmakers have rarely given them a chance in recent years but this season could be different for Milan fans daring to dream and bettors looking for a value bet.
The 18-time Serie A champions were descending since the iconic ex-president Silvio Berlusconi sold the club to a Chinese-led consortium in 2017.
However, the appointment of Stefano Pioli in October 2019, coupled with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's blockbuster return in January 2020, has shaped up a new era at San Siro.
Milan have turned into a force to be reckoned with in Serie A since football returned to action in the post-Covid 19 period, establishing themselves as a permanent top-four fixture in Italy's top-flight.
Under Pioli's stewardship and guided by on-field leader Ibrahimovic, the Rossoneri earned a runner-up finish in the 2020/21 Serie A season, finishing 12 points adrift of bitter rivals Inter Milan.
The character and unity showed by Zlatan and co down the final stretch of last season were off the charts in the club's recent history.
Milan went five Serie A matches without conceding a goal in the final stage of the 2020/21 campaign (W4, D1), beating the likes of Juventus and Atalanta by multi-goal margins in the process.
A long-awaited top-four finish gained Milan their first Champions League promotion in eight years, giving the San Siro faithful hope that the Rossoneri could be back to their former heights.
Unfortunately, 2021/22 Champions League Group B has been too much to handle for Pioli's side.
They finished bottom of the so-called 'Group of Death,' behind the likes of Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Porto.
But a stunning 1-0 triumph at the Wanda Metropolitano on Matchday 5 came as further confirmation of Pioli's impressive work at San Siro, laying the foundations for future endeavors.
Without the distraction of European football for the remainder of the season, the Rossoneri's attention could turn back to domestic affairs, where they are hot title candidates.
It's been one hell of a start for Milan this Serie A season, as they racked up an eye-catching 12-match unbeaten, going toe-to-toe with fellow title-bidders Napoli.
But the seven-time European champions suffered back-to-back league defeats in late November, with recent Serie A news raising concerns over this team's ability to cope with the pressure of being favourites.
December has offered the Rossoneri a clean slate, as they won consecutive top-flight fixtures without conceding to get their stuttering Serie A campaign back on track.
A 1-1 draw at Udinese last time out left them hovering one point adrift of pacesetters Inter, though the pursuit of their first league crown since 2010/11 is still very much on.
The upcoming mouth-watering home clash against Luciano Spalletti's underperforming Napoli side should provide an insight into Milan's title credentials.
It's fair to say that the Rossoneri have defied the expectations so far, especially considering an ever-growing injury crisis at San Siro.
Pioli has rarely had his entire squad fit and ready, which could've changed Milan's fortunes in some high-octane affairs, such as a 4-3 loss at Fiorentina in November and possibly kept them top of the Serie A table.
The Rossoneri are a work in progress and there's still plenty of room for improvement in this exciting young team, but they are on a seemingly right path.
Pioli's formula of mixing super-talented youngsters with experienced senior stars, such as Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud, has been a resounding success so far.
There's a feeling that we have yet to see the best of this team.
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