Milan’s season hangs in the balance ahead of their Champions League clash with Tottenham

MILAN: After suffering a devastating defeat over the weekend, AC Milan’s season is once again in jeopardy as they travel to Tottenham Hotspur with a small lead to defend.

The goal scored by Brahim Diaz separated the two teams in their scrappy first encounter at the San Siro, giving Stefano Pioli’s team a one-goal advantage heading into Wednesday’s second leg of the last 16 matchup in London.

In their 2-1 defeat at Fiorentina, a mid-table team that had never beaten a team in the top half of Serie A before Saturday, the seven-time European champions were completely outplayed.

After that defeat and Roma’s victory over Juventus on Sunday, Milan fell out of the top four in Italy based on goal difference, and their once-solid defensive foundation was suddenly shattered.

Although Pioli insisted that his players were unaffected by the significance of Wednesday’s match, they lacked the composure of the team that defeated Atalanta comfortably last weekend.

Before Saturday’s match, Milan had won four straight matches without conceding a goal, including the first leg against Spurs.

However, the three-man defense that Pioli revamped after a disastrous January that ended their attempt to win the league title fell apart in Florence, with Fikayo Tomori especially having a terrible night.

Pioli stated on Saturday that he “more or less has an idea on who to play” and that he will bring back star attacker Rafael Leao following his suspension for the match on Saturday.


The Portugal winger, hasn’t been the same player since the World Cup, but his presence will give the toothless attack at the Stadio Artemio Franchi more threat.

Leao is crucial to a new system that has closed gaps but also dulled creativity. Milan has only scored more than one goal twice in their last nine games, one of which was a 5-2 home defeat to Sassuolo.

Ante Rebic and Charles De Ketelaere, Pioli’s summer signing, did little in his absence. Belgian attacker De Ketelaere is a real problem for Pioli because of his terrible debut season in Italy, which saw more yellow cards than goals or assists.

Leao believes in De Ketelaere, whose prediction powers were shown on Saturday when he posted on Instagram, “Cdk will score today, u saw here first.”

Milan will almost definitely be back on the bench in London as they aim to make this year’s Champions League run their finest since 2012, when they were convincingly eliminated in the last eight by then-European champions Barcelona.

If they are to remain in the competition, which they have won more times than any other club save Real Madrid, they must maintain the stability that gave them an edge in the first leg.

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