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Analyzing AC Milan's chances of winning the Europa League

Analyzing AC Milan’s chances of winning the Europa League

Last season, AC Milan came close to the UEFA Champions League title. This season, they were knocked out of the competition and fell to the UEFA Europa League. That fall seems to have been the best thing for them.

They look like challengers for the Europa League which, if they claim, will be a morale boost for them. They are not struggling in the real sense of the word, but are finding it difficult to break down teams.

In the following sections, we shall analyze Milan’s European season thus far and make our position known on where they will finish.

AC Milan in 2023/24 European competitions

The Rossoneri finished in fourth place last season in the Serie A to secure a place in the UEFA Champions League.

After some great summer business and a good start to the season, they were drawn alongside Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, and Newcastle United. Many believed they would escape from this group alongside PSG to the round of 16, but it proved to be the group of death in the 2023/24 Champions League season. Indeed, that group lived up to expectations.

They ended up finishing in third place thanks to a negative goal difference while PSG stole the second-place spot with a positive one as Dortmund topped the group. They scored the second least amount of goals in the group stages (5) which cast a huge shadow of doubt and worry over their ability to win anything this season.

Dropping down to the Europa League gave them a new lease of life, however.

In the playoff round, they were drawn against Stade Rennais from France. Rennes finished second in their group but scored 13 goals. Their attack worried the Rossoneri fans, who had just watched their team concede eight goals in the Champions League.

In the end, Milan prevailed, winning their playoff tie against the French Ligue 1 team with a 5 – 3 aggregate scoreline.

Positivity is back at the Milanello and the fans are gearing up for their round of 16 games on 7 and 14 March 2024.

AC Milan vs Slavia Prague preview

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Milan’s fans have promised to be at the San Siro in their numbers to cheer their team to a big first-leg win just as they did against Rennes. The Czech First League team fans are also preparing to travel to San Siro with hopes of making history.

Both teams have not met in any previous competitions which makes this match a difficult one to preview. If we take a look at their league forms, however, we see that their form guides are similar.

One can make a case for the quality in their leagues as a reason why Milan has the upper hand in this tie. On paper, the Rossoneri have a better squad as well. They are European royalty, having won the Champions League seven times – second only to Real Madrid – and reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League four times (two progressions to the semi-finals).

Slavia will surely put up a fight but the quarter-final ticket belongs to the Rossoneri.

The first leg of the tie will be played at the San Siro in Milan, Italy, on 7 March 2024 at 2100 HRS GMT and the return leg will be played at the Fortuna Arena in Prague, Czechia.

AC Milan’s threats to the title

Before they scale past the hurdle of Slavia, they will be taking note of the presence of Brighton and Hove Albion, Conference League holders West Ham United, Liverpool, Villarreal, AS Roma and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. These teams are also competing in the round of 16 of the Europa League.

Villarreal and Roma are the only teams that do not have a clear path to the quarter-final. For Villarreal, it is thanks to their opponents being Olympique de Marseille and for Roma, it is thanks to them facing dark horses Brighton. I Giallorossi will have to call on all their tournament experience of the last few years as well as the experience in their squad to scale past Brighton.

If they manage to escape these teams, Liverpool, West Ham, and Leverkusen are lying in wait for them. Luck could fall on their side and they get one of Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Atalanta or Glasgow Rangers in the quarter-finals. However, they will meet one of the other teams we have listed as their main threats in the last eight.

Stefano Pioli will surely be focused on the game in front of him, but he will do well to plan ahead if he goes far in the Europa League this season.

Positives: Leao will stay at AC Milan

One of the current positives for AC Milan right now though is that star forward Rafael Leao will stay at the club for the time being at least, judging by his comments.

In addition to a buyout clause recently added to his current contract, Leao has distanced himself from a move away from San Siro even, going by comments made recently at the presentation of his new book.

Leao pledged his loyalty to AC Milan, saying: “In Milan, they helped me grow as a man and as a player. I can’t leave them. My future is in Milan. My education is based on loyalty.”

The 24-year-old also commented on the difficulty of previously being likened to Mbappe, adding that PSG’s comments touting him as the Frenchman’s ideal replacement are unlikely to help their cause.

“It was difficult for me to leave [Portugal]. I had my friends there, my parents, I went to a city where I didn’t know anyone. It was a new championship, they called me the Portuguese Mbappe, but I needed time to adapt to a new reality.”

Leao revealed.

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