AC Milan aims to secure Champions League spot as their season’s saving grace

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20th May 2023 – (Milan) AC Milan will aim to recover from their Champions League exit at the hands of city rivals Inter by defeating Sampdoria this Saturday and keeping their hopes alive of qualifying for next season’s competition. While Inter has led the way, with Roma and Fiorentina to feature in the Europa League and Europa Conference League finals in June, Milan’s performance has been dismal this season. The team’s lacklustre display against Inter in what was their first Champions League semi-final since 2007 reflected the crisis of confidence that has hit last year’s champions. Stefano Pioli’s team has won only three times in their last 11 league matches, including a loss to relegation-threatened Spezia.

The Spezia loss was Milan’s tenth of the season, and their league title defence was all but over by February. Currently in fifth place, they trail Lazio, who is in the fourth and final Champions League place by four points with three games to play. Milan’s technical director Paolo Maldini is relaxed about the direction he and Pioli have decided to take the club, mixing experienced players like Olivier Giroud with younger ones with potential like Belgian Charles De Ketelaere.

De Ketelaere, in particular, has struggled to make an impact this season, but Maldini believes the player will come right. Maldini says that unlike other clubs, Milan’s policy is to be patient and not offload players if they fail to perform immediately. “It is risky to sign young players,” he said. “But this is our idea of football, our idea of investment. It’s a shared view with the owners. If I wanted a stronger lineup, I would have made different choices in the market. We have a project that we are developing together. It takes time.”

Milan’s technical director emphasised that they have an idea and want to build a young and talented team. He added that their policy is to be patient and not offload players if they fail to perform immediately. Milan values Portuguese winger Rafael Leao at over 100 million euros (US$107 million) but will face a tough battle to retain his services if they miss out on Champions League football.

Leao’s return to fitness may not have paid off in the Champions League match this week against Inter, but Pioli will hope the 23-year-old can spark a revival in form for the final three matches and sneak a place in Europe’s premier club competition next term.

Milan’s upcoming match against Sampdoria is crucial for their Champions League hopes. While Sampdoria has only won three games this season, they could still pose a threat to Milan. The team’s crisis of confidence will need to be addressed if they want to secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.

Milan has a tough task ahead of them, as they trail Lazio and Inter in the race for a spot in next season’s Champions League. However, Maldini’s patient approach and Pioli’s vision for building a young and talented team may pay off in the long run. The club’s focus on developing their players and investing in their potential could lead to a brighter future for Milan.

The team’s struggles this season have been a stark contrast to their previous success. However, Milan has a track record of bouncing back from adversity. They have won seven European Cups/Champions Leagues, which is the second-most in history behind Real Madrid.