Liverpool are set for a challenging few days as Jurgen Klopp prepares to balance the demands of a later meeting with Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa with a visit to the San Siro and the prospect of securing a 100% record in the Champions League group stages.
Changes will be made to the first-XI that ran out against Wolves at the weekend, though the question remains as to how far the German will go to preserve legs ahead of the return of the former skipper.
Ahead of what looks to be a pivotal fixture for Il Rossoneri, football journalist and head of media at FIRST, Pietro Balzano Prota, spoke to Empire of the Kop to share his thoughts.
1) This is a difficult one to prepare for for both sides. Pioli’s men need a win to have any hope of progressing through and Klopp must motivate his men having already secured qualification… how do you see this one playing out?
Let’s face it clearly: Liverpool are an exceptional team. I have rarely seen a club play with such quality and intensity.
Having said that, Milan will try to play its cards, despite the injuries (the last one of Rafael Leao).
Milan can hurt the Reds and they proved it at Anfield, but a lot of attention and a lot of cynicism and above all a performance at 200% will be needed… and who knows if that will be enough.
2) AC Milan are impressing in the Serie A this season and find themselves top of the table… what factors have contributed to this?
Milan have a young team, with some talents but above all thanks to Mister Pioli they have a clear game identity.
Milan enters the field and knows exactly what they want to try to propose at the game level. Maybe they don’t always succeed but the principle is always to try to impose their game. And in today’s football, teams with an identity go far.
3) Is Stefano Pioli massively underrated outside of Italy? And how has he helped turn Milan’s fortunes around?
Pioli was also underestimated in Italy.
Do you know how he turned it all upside down? With hard work, with seriousness, with great commitment and getting into the minds of the players.
The players are with him, he gave the team an identity, he brought out the best in everyone. For example – Krunic when he enters the field becomes an important pawn, the same goes for Kalulu or many others. When they have their chance, they all give their best.
4) Who are the main men Liverpool will need to watch out for at the San Siro who could cause them a lot of problems?
I would have told you Rafa Leao, but he will also be out due to injury. So I tell you Theo Hernandez and Brahim Diaz. And obviously, in front of them, there is always a Mr. Ibrahimovic who, despite his age, continues to score.
5) Could you see any AC Milan players attracting a lot of interest in the summer given the form you’re in? And who would be a good fit for the Premier League?
I believe that the real step that Milan want to do is to go back to being that club in which all the players want to play for, as in the days of Kaka, Shevchenko, Nesta, Maldini.
But the message that Milan sent this summer is clear: everyone is useful, no one is indispensable. We have seen this both with Donnarumma and with Calhanoglu, so it is always possible that there are departures.
Let’s see what will happen with Kessie who is about to expire… but I’m sure that with the work of Maldini, Massara and Moncada, for every player who starts, the right replacement will be found.