Inter hosts Empoli with the charge of the Super cup. Milan looks into its past and recovers a crucial pawn for its coach
Milan returns to the field after the Riyadh Super Cup: today the first half, Inter at the San Siro against Empoli; tomorrow the second, Milan in Rome against Lazio. The Milanese reappear in the championship and find a Napoli already at 50. First common obligation: close the first round with 4 ahead of the ranking figure. That is to win.
There is no other alternative if you want to keep the flame of Scudetto hope burning. Inzaghi and Pioli are called to a little apnea: two games with their heads under water to then re-emerge and play the derby on February 5, another crucial crossroads for the season. Leaving points on the street in these two matches could mean definitively breaking away from a Napoli that travels at the rate of 100 points per championship. A less complicated apnea for Inter, both for the opponents to face (Empoli, Cremonese), and for the good wave riding with the victory of Riyadh. But even before: the nerazzurri have lined up 7 useful results (6 victories). The ongoing challenge is to continue this continuity, even at the cost of denying the fascinating madness that Empoli evoked last season.
Leading in the round of 16 of the Italian Cup until the 91st minute, the Tuscans were reached by a bicycle kick from Ranocchia and then defeated by Sensi. In the championship, Empoli even went ahead by two goals at San Siro, thanks to Pinamonti and Asllani, yesterday’s Interisti today, only to suffer one of the characteristic hysterical and passionate comebacks of the Beneamata: own goal, Lautaro, Lautaro, Sanchez. Inter know that Empoli, built to play well, can play these tricks and will have one more reason not to get distracted. No less than continuity of results, it will be important for Inter to confirm the solidity of play shown in Saudi Arabia. The game remains the best guarantee of long duration. With results alone one survives, with a shared collective idea one can live a long time. Inzaghi gave Inter a precise identity, even leaving aside players who were supposed to be pillars (Dumfries, Brozovic, Lukaku) and making others responsible who have become equally important: Darmian, Calhanoglu, Dzeko. Napoli is strong and far away, but Inter has returned from the East with their first trophy of the season and with so much more hope.
If Inzaghi is looking for continuity, Stefano Pioli is looking for exactly the opposite: discontinuity from the sad moment, getting out of the swamp in which he has been stuck for some time. For Milan 2 defeats and 2 draws in the last 4 games; 10 goals conceded in the last 5; eliminated from the Italian Cup and defeated in the Super Cup. In this sentimental mini-tour against teams that he has coached in the past (Lazio, Sassuolo, Inter), Pioli must give a new meaning to the season. His is a journey into the past, like Indiana Jones, also in another sense: to find the lost Milan, the one who deservedly won the last Scudetto. The Lazio Olimpico is the right context for the ritual of evocation. Milan, which on 24 April last, in that stadium, snatched a crucial victory for the title with its teeth, does not remotely resemble that of Lecce (first half) and Riyadh. Immobile scored after only 4′, Giroud pocketed an assist from Leao in the 50th minute and in the 92nd minute a fiery Tonali went to take the 3 points on the side of Ibra.
It is this Milan, proud and responsive, that the archaeologist Pioli is looking for. He cannot recover, for now, the charismatic presence of Ibra, but he can (must) rediscover the decisive plays of Leao, the fury of Tonali and, more generally, the hungry desire to win that fueled that Milan. The recovery of Rade Krunic who helped the final assault in that Lazio-Milan is not trivial. The Croatian, who has tackles and lungs, can fill out the anemic midfielder seen recently, both as a muscular attacking midfielder (4-2-3-1) and as a midfielder (4-3-3). Pioli is looking for the treasure of his Milan among the ruins of Rome. Milan plays to prevent Naples from singing with joy. Or, at least, too soon.
January 23, 2023 (change January 23, 2023 | 09:03)
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