AC Milan missed a massive opportunity last weekend. A victory over Cagliari would’ve allowed them to mathematically clinch a Champions League spot for the first time in nearly a decade, yet they came out with a 0-0 draw. Typically that result would not be a complete shock, but Milan were fresh off a 3-0 victory over Juventus and a 7-0 victory over Torino. Milan’s defence was solid throughout much of the match, but the attack was a complete zero. Opportunities were there, but the finishing was simply not there. Now, the Rossoneri must produce a result against second-placed Atalanta on the final matchday for the club’s top-four ambitions. They must start Mario Mandzukic to give new life to the attack.
AC Milan Must Start Mario Mandzukic for Atalanta Match
A Disappointing Milan Tenure for Mario Mandzukic
The Croatian striker has held a notable reputation in Europe for years. Starring for clubs such as Bayern Munich and Juventus in the past, Mandzukic cemented his place amongst Europe’s elite striking class. Exceptional play wasn’t expected when he arrived at Milan in January, as his career is reaching an end, but the lack of time and production has been a disappointment.
In ten appearances (nine in Serie A and one in the Europa League), Mandzukic is yet to score. Much of this, however, can be attributed to coming onto the pitch in the dying embers of a match. Against Cagliari, for example, Stefano Pioli waited until the 88th minute to bring Mandzukic on. This was a very questionable decision, as Milan were in dire need of a goal.
Mandzukic also suffered an injury that forced him to miss a hefty amount of time this season. As a matter of fact, Mandzukic gave up his March wages due to the injury.
Everything will be forgiven, however, if he can score a deciding goal this Sunday versus Atalanta.
How the Milan Attack Should Look for This Game
Previously, it was believed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would return for this match. That’s out of the question, though, as the Swede’s injury will also cause him to miss this summer’s Euros.
Ante Rebic started at striker against Torino and produced an excellent hat-trick. In the Cagliari game, his form was nowhere to be found and he was very wasteful in the final third. Rebic is more of a winger than a striker and must be treated as such. There’s no time for experiments in this match.
Ideally, Milan will deploy Rebic on the left-wing, Hakan Calhanoglu in the middle, and Brahim Diaz on the right. Calhangolu and Diaz were also nonexistent against Cagliari, but the whole team was disappointing. The duo played well in matches prior.
Mandzukic is the ideal option at striker. First of all, like Ibrahimovic, Mandzukic is a tenacious leader. He knows what it takes to win, and his CV shows this. He may not be as agile or athletic as he used to be, but his positioning and vision are still there. Furthermore, he’s a solid target for crosses going into the box. Milan must enter this match with a ‘never say die’ attitude, which is something Mandzukic thrives on.
This will also allow Milan to get the best out of Rebic. Putting his Cagliari performance aside, he’s the team’s best goalscorer behind Ibrahimovic. Rebic will participate in build-up play, and be able to create his own shot as opposed to playing as a poacher.
Calhanoglu and Diaz must also be at their creative best. Mandzukic is more than capable of finishing his opportunities, so they must come to him.