AC Milan coach Marco Giampaolo reflected on "issues" to deal with in his side after watching them beat Verona 1-0 in a game that left him determined to improve the Rossoneri attack.

A turbulent match was settled by Krzysztof Piatek's second-half penalty, which came after Verona had Mariusz Stepinski sent off and before Milan's Davide Calabria was given his marching orders, and Giampaolo acknowledged that the margin of victory was a narrow one.

He pointed to Verona's packed defence as a significant factor in his side's struggle for goals and also took a swipe at his predecessor, Gennaro Gattuso, by saying that his side had not yet learned to play as a collective.

"The team is working well, finding its balance and I know there are some strengths and weaknesses, but I work to improve the individuals and the team," Giampaolo told Sky Sport Italia.

"Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; there is no perfect side. I like the effort and passion we put into the game, but errors can happen.

"A team that defends with 10 men in their final third are difficult to break down. Verona played their honest defensive game and we were constantly pushing forward. We didn't do it perfectly and of course there is plenty to work on and improve, but the victory helps us to work.

"I won't just brush the dust under the carpet; I know full well we need to improve and there are issues we have to deal with."

The result left Milan with two wins and a defeat from their opening three games of the 2019-20 Serie A season and performances have been steadily improving.

After failing to register a shot on target in their 1-0 defeat to Udinese, Milan edged to a 1-0 victory over Brescia.

Against Verona, Milan had 17 shots on goal, with Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie picking their hosts apart with some intelligent approach play, but Giampaolo said his plans for the team have yet to be realised.

"I don't like to improvise," he said. "I want my team to have a structure to work on and some guarantees to build on. There are many talented individuals in the side and I still need to get them to fit within the context of the team unit.

"We must be honest. I don't hide. This team is trying and is accustomed to playing as individuals, whereas I must get them working in the service of the collective.

"We must learn to attack better, that is true."

Krzysztof Piatek scored his first Serie A goal of the season to help 10-man AC Milan secure back-to-back victories in a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona, who also had a man sent off in a tempestuous clash at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.

Rossoneri boss Marco Giampaolo restored Piatek to the starting line-up after dropping him from his previous teamsheet and he tucked away a second-half penalty to ensure the visitors claimed all three points from a bruising encounter.

Verona had Mariusz Stepinski sent off after 21 minutes for a dangerous challenge but the newly promoted side matched Milan for long periods and caused Giampaolo's defence plenty of problems.

Milan are improving as the season progresses and, after failing to register a shot on goal in their 1-0 defeat at Udinese on the opening day, they created ample opportunities to score here as Suso took up his role as creator in chief.

But the chance that mattered most was Piatek's spot-kick, and the 24-year-old, who scored nine league goals last season, opened his account for 2019-20 before Davide Calabria was dismissed in second-half stoppage-time.

Milan were on the back foot early on as Gianluigi Donnarumma made a double-save, parrying Marco Faraoni's cross away from goal before claiming Mattia Zaccagni's overhead kick in both hands.

Verona were on top when Stepinski caught Mateo Musacchio on the ear with a high challenge that earned him a straight red card following a VAR review.

But the 10 men continued to press and Valerio Verre fired over the crossbar in spectacular style when he controlled a long pass and volleyed with exceptional control.

Substitute Ante Rebic should have broken the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half but he mistimed his shot and Suso's weighted cross went to waste.

Davide Calabria thundered a volley onto the post from 30 yards as Milan heaped pressure on their hosts, who hit the post themselves through Verre before a handball in the box by Verona defender Koray Gunter presented Piatek with a chance from the penalty spot that he lashed into the bottom corner of the net.

Piatek had the ball in the net again when Marco Silvestri spilled Hakan Calhanoglu's shot and he slid in to poke it over the line, but after a VAR review the referee judged a foul had been committed.

There was more late drama as Calabria caught Matteo Pessina with his arm as the substitute headed towards the box. The Milan full-back was sent for an early shower but Verona's Miguel Veloso and Darko Lazovic missed chances to grab a late, late equaliser.

What does it mean? Giampaolo's men improving

Two wins from their first three outings of the season is a reasonable start for Milan, who are starting to gel in attack and are cutting out mistakes at the back.

Suso so important

Milan function best when Suso is on form and he was their attacking lynchpin here, dictating play and constantly probing at a resolute Verona defence.

Paqueta hooked after quiet half

Lucas Paqueta was ineffective in attack in the first half and Milan improved substantially after he was replaced by Rebic.

What's next?

The Milan derby is next up for Giampaolo's men as they aim to be the first side to take points from Inter this season, while Verona take on champions Juventus in Turin.

Krzysztof Piatek scored his first Serie A goal of the season to help 10-man AC Milan secure back-to-back victories in a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona, who also had a man sent off in a tempestuous clash at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.

Rossoneri boss Marco Giampaolo restored Piatek to the starting line-up after dropping him from his previous teamsheet and he tucked away a second-half penalty to ensure the visitors claimed all three points from a bruising encounter.

Verona had Mariusz Stepinski sent off after 21 minutes for a dangerous challenge but the newly promoted side matched Milan for long periods and caused Giampaolo's defence plenty of problems.

Milan are improving as the season progresses and, after failing to register a shot on goal in their 1-0 defeat at Udinese on the opening day, they created ample opportunities to score here as Suso took up his role as creator in chief.

But the chance that mattered most was Piatek's spot-kick, and the 24-year-old, who scored nine league goals last season, opened his account for 2019-20 before Davide Calabria was dismissed in second-half stoppage-time.

Marco Giampaolo wants AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek to become a complete player, insisting the Poland international cannot just be "a poacher".

Piatek scored nine Serie A goals for Milan last term following his January arrival from Genoa.

However, the 24-year-old is yet to score this season and was named on the bench against Brescia following Milan's opening-day defeat to Udinese.

Giampaolo, though, has been impressed by Piatek's response to being dropped, but insists he needs the forward to start offering more in general play.

"I liked him over the last three days," Giampaolo said ahead of Sunday's clash with Hellas Verona.

"Piatek shouldn't just focus on attacking in the final third like a poacher, he ought to be more of a complete player.

"We are Milan, we can't always just pump long balls up, we need to pass it around. He knows how to do it, I've seen him in training, he just has to play like a complete player.

"Goals mustn't be an obsession either, he should focus on playing well and the goals will come as a consequence."

The former Sampdoria coach also believes Milan's players will adapt to his style of play, even if they have failed to impress in their opening two fixtures.

"I am confident that things will improve with hard work and enthusiasm," he said.

"I admire the dedication they show in training and I feel they are increasingly becoming a team. I want to make our identity clearer at all times, in attack and defence.

"It doesn't concern me that Verona is traditionally a tough place for Milan to play in, as I don't really believe in these things.

"The team must fight for victory in any arena. It's the attitude that makes the difference and I see the right approach now."

AC Milan head coach Marco Giampaolo defended his decision to bench Krzysztof Piatek, while he said Lucas Paqueta must learn to be "a little less Brazilian."

Piatek was named among the substitutes as Milan edged Brescia 1-0 at San Siro on Saturday to celebrate their first victory under Giampaolo.

Giampaolo made changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Udinese on the opening weekend, with prolific scorer Piatek dropped to the bench in favour of Andre Silva before he was introduced just past the hour mark.

The move sparked questions and Giampaolo explained his decision after Hakan Calhanoglu's early header settled the contest in Milan.

"Every game requires its own choices and in this one I chose Andre Silva and [Ismael] Bennacer," Giampaolo told DAZN.

"Milan have a strong squad, so I have the option to choose between various alternatives. I don't know if Andre Silva is leaving before the transfer deadline, but he is a professional, he is at our disposal and therefore he can play.

"Piatek is a great player, but if he is on the bench occasionally, the world isn't going to end. Players must think only of giving their all for Milan, then I'll make my decisions. Maybe I saw he wasn't quite as sharp during the week in training as some others."

Brazilian midfielder Paqueta also started on the bench after he was named in Giampaolo's line-up against Udinese last week.

Asked about Paqueta – who was introduced for scorer Calhanoglu in the 65th minute – Giampaolo said: "In the way I see things, Paqueta can be an excellent mezz'ala.

"He just needs to learn to be a little less Brazilian at times, more solid and less playful.

"I think he can be a mezz'ala, but then in the final 10 minutes, in some situations, he could be used as a trequartista, but I like a player who is more attacking in his characteristics."

Andriy Shevchenko has backed fellow legends Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban to put AC Milan "back where it used to be" after they were given key roles at the club.

Former Rossoneri captain Maldini was appointed technical director in June while Boban, who won four Serie A titles and the Champions League during his spell at Milan, is now their chief football officer.

Shevchenko, who played alongside Maldini and Boban at San Siro, is confident the pair can help turn Milan's fortunes around after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the club finished fifth in Serie A, missing out on a place in the Champions League.

"Maldini and Boban will guarantee that the club mentality does not change," Shevchenko told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"They will do well. Paolo is growing as a manager.

"The expectations are high, but I believe that Paolo and 'Zvone' will bring Milan back where they used to be."

Marco Giampaolo was appointed head coach in June and Shevchenko has been impressed by the former Sampdoria and Empoli boss.

"He seems like a guy with strong ideas, like these managers [Maldini and Boban]," said Shevchenko.

"Giampaolo is a coach who can achieve great results through play. He gives the impression he is prepared: I believe it was a good choice."

Shevchenko also has high hopes for striker Krzysztof Piatek, who scored nine goals in 18 Serie A appearances for the club in the second half of last season.

Piatek is set to wear the iconic number nine shirt, following on from such names as Filippo Inzaghi, Marco van Basten and George Weah, and Shevchenko said the Poland international is a worthy successor.

"The way he entered Milan, the naturalness, the important goals he scored, it was a great impact and now it is right that Kris also takes responsibility for such an important shirt," said Shevchenko.

"It's not just about wearing certain shirts. Milan's story itself is both beautiful and difficult to wear on the skin.

"This is demonstrated by the attachment of the fans: in recent times the results have not been the same, yet I have seen that at Milanello for the first day of training there were thousands of people."

Gennaro Gattuso challenged Krzysztof Piatek to focus solely on doing his part for AC Milan as the struggling striker grapples with a goal drought. 

Poland striker Piatek has gone six games without scoring in all competitions, last finding the net in the 2-1 defeat to Juventus on April 6.

The lean streak is a vast departure from the scintillating form that saw him torment opposition defences upon arriving at San Siro in January.

Getting back to basics is the solution, according to his head coach.

"Piatek needs to think about what is good for the team," Gattuso told reporters.

"He has to make himself available and I've seen he's very fired up in that regard."

Piatek has a prime opportunity to find form when Milan entertain already relegated Frosinone on Sunday.

The Rossoneri must win to keep the pressure on rivals Inter and fourth-placed Atalanta in the race for the Champions League places, although Gattuso is adamant finishing fifth would not be a failure.

"Absolutely not," he said. "And not because I want to give myself credit.

"There is regret, because for two months we had our fate in our hands and we lost so many points. But it's not been a failure.

"We must give everything to take as many points as possible from the last two games. Then we'll see."

Gattuso also took the opportunity to praise a former Milan head coach in Massimiliano Allegri, who is on his way out of Juventus at the end of the season.

"History speaks for itself with Allegri in terms of the statistics and what he's won," he said.

"We've argued and embraced each other since we were first together. There have been ups and downs but he's a genuine person and deserves the best. We have a unique relationship."

AC Milan moved to within a point of Serie A's top four with a 1-0 victory over Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi on Saturday.

A first-half header from Hakan Calhanoglu was enough to give Gennaro Gattuso's side maximum points against the struggling Viola.

The result puts pressure back on Atalanta in third and Inter in fourth in the race for a place in next season's Champions League.

Alban Lafont made two smart saves in the space of three minutes to deny Suso and Calhanoglu, as Milan made all the early running in Florence against a team with only one win in all competitions since the start of February.

They got the breakthrough 10 minutes before the interval, with Calhanoglu glancing Suso's curling cross from the right into the bottom-left corner.

Fiorentina showed far more endeavour in the early minutes of the second half and Gianluigi Donnarumma reacted well to keep out Kevin Mirallas' strike after the Belgian forward's strong run.

Donnarumma then had to claw the ball away from the right-hand corner of his net after Franck Kessie sent it goalwards, and only a combination of goalkeeper and Alessio Romagnoli stopped Federico Chiesa as Fiorentina pushed.

They could not find a way through Donnarumma or a resilient Milan defence, though, and it could have been worse had substitute Patrick Cutrone not wasted a clear chance on the counter-attack with 10 minutes left.

 

What does it mean? Milan's top-four chase still alive

Atalanta's victory over Genoa earlier meant Milan realistically had to win to keep the pressure on in the race for the top four. They are now only three points adrift of Gian Piero Gasperini's side and one behind Inter, who face relegated Chievo on Monday.

As for Fiorentina, a fifth loss in a row and 14 games without a win means the end of the season cannot come soon enough.

 

Donnarumma dominant

A first clean sheet in nine Milan appearances in all competitions will have been welcome for Donnarumma, who showed excellent reactions to keep Vincenzo Montella's side at bay.

 

Piatek continues to misfire

It is now five games without a goal in Serie A for Krzysztof Piatek, who looked off the pace throughout his 74 minutes on the pitch.

 

What's next?

Milan host Frosinone next Sunday, while Fiorentina head to Parma.

Moise Kean came off the bench to earn Juventus a 2-1 comeback win at home to AC Milan, paving the way for the runaway Serie A leaders to be crowned champions this weekend.

Napoli need to avoid defeat at home to Genoa on Sunday to keep their slim title hopes alive after Kean, who was subjected to alleged racist abuse in a midweek win at Cagliari, came up trumps.

Milan led in the first half thanks to Krzysztof Piatek's 21st Serie A goal of the season, with Juve struggling to create openings against the Rossoneri in the absence of injured superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Paulo Dybala's penalty got Massimiliano Allegri's side back on level terms at Allianz Stadium and, with six minutes to go, teenager Kean fired home to score for the fifth consecutive game for club and country.

Piatek missed a great chance with just 63 seconds on the clock, Suso's deep right-wing cross headed wide by the striker at the back post.

The leaders survived strong penalty appeals when Alex Sandro blocked Calhanoglu's cross with his arm, but referee Michael Fabbri only gave a corner after checking with VAR.

There was no let-off for Juve in the 39th minute, though, Piatek drilling home after Tiemoue Bakayoko robbed Rodrigo Bentancur and poked the ball through for the striker to score.

Mario Mandzukic's overhead kick was brilliantly tipped over the crossbar by Pepe Reina and Piatek forced a smart save from Wojciech Szczesny with a curling 25-yard drive.

Juve were gifted a golden chance to level, however, with Dybala clumsily brought down by Mateo Musacchio in the box, and the attacker beat Reina from 12 yards.

Kean blasted over the crossbar and Sami Khedira, making his return from a heart problem after replacing the injured Emre Can, directed a headed chance off target.

Alex Sandro and Federico Bernardeschi wasted further chances but Kean would not be denied in the 84th minute.

The 19-year-old was fed by fellow substitute Miralem Pjanic and drilled an unstoppable finish across Reina to give Juventus a potential party ahead of a midweek trip to Ajax in the Champions League, although they needed Szczesny to keep out Calhanoglu's late strike.

AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso accepts his side are showing signs of fragility but urged them to stay calm in the race for Champions League qualification.

Kevin Lasagna equalised after Krzysztof Piatek's opener to earn Udinese a 1-1 draw at San Siro on Tuesday, leaving Milan without a win in their last three Serie A games.

Milan are clinging on to fourth place, the Italian top-flight's final Champions League qualification spot, having looked certain to return to Europe's elite club competition following a run of five straight wins prior to their sudden slump.

And Gattuso accepts his team's mentality is a concern with his side's next game away to runaway league leaders Juventus, before the Rossoneri host fifth-placed Lazio.

"Today was the first time that we suffered physically. We struggled during the second half, therefore, we gave them space," Gattuso told Milan TV. 

"We didn't have the strength to get back for their goal. We could've won but we also could've lost. The strength that we've had for three or four months was missing.

"We gave off the feeling of fragility. We must remain calm. We know that we're going through a tough spell and we must get out of it.

"There are still eight matches left. We know how many points are still on offer and how important they can be. We must recover mentally and physically. We've lost some certainties at this moment in time.

"Many people like to talk about tactics but the difference is made through desire and physicality. You could see this today. It's not a question of our formation but rather how we play, how we can hurt opponents. The team tried to do so but you could see that we were lacking that cutting edge.

"We were waiting for an opportunity. When you win five matches but then face some difficulties, the ball starts to weigh heavy. Things that happen that should be prevented and this is the moment we're in. We weren't precise, we struggled and at the end these performances can happen."

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lucas Paqueta were both substituted due to injury in the first half, adding to Milan's fitness problems after Franck Kessie was unable to play.

"I'm concerned because I saw the footage and it was a bad sprain," Gattuso said of Paqueta's injury. "The ankle swelled up straight away. He'll have a scan and we'll see what the doctors say.

"We must also get Kessie back fit, who yesterday dropped out of training after 10 minutes. He tried today but he had to stop. He's had a scan and there is a bit of inflammation.

"Suso hasn't trained for two days after the knock he picked up to his foot in Genoa. We must try to get these injured players back fit."

AC Milan dropped points for the third successive Serie A match as Kevin Lasagna cancelled out Krzysztof Piatek's opener to secure a 1-1 draw for Udinese at San Siro on Tuesday.

Gennaro Gattuso's men had lost to both Inter and Sampdoria in their two most recent games, and although they controlled much of the match, they were undone by a devastating counter-attack which Lasagna finished off.

Milan had to contend with injuries to Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lucas Paqueta in the first half, though they still managed to dominate and deservedly lead at the break, thanks to Piatek's 20th Serie A goal of the season.

But Udinese refused to let Milan run riot and they pulled level in the 64th minute through Lasagna, and his goal proved to be enough for the visitors to leave with a share of the spoils.

Three days on from a costly error in the 1-0 defeat to Samp, Donnarumma lasted just 11 minutes before he had to go off with an injury seemingly sustained while clearing the ball.

His replacement Pepe Reina was similarly untested as Milan controlled proceedings, going close in the 26th minute when Patrick Cutrone brought down Paqueta's pass and saw his half-volley pushed away by Juan Musso.

Paqueta joined Donnarumma in exiting early just before the break having hurt his ankle in a collision with Rodrigo de Paul, but Milan found the net a few minutes later – Piatek nodding in from close range after his initial volley from Cutrone's cross was saved.

Milan remained in the ascendancy after half-time, but they were caught out by a deadly break as Seko Fofana put the ball on a plate for Lasagna, who finished with aplomb.

Lasagna was less successful 16 minutes from time, however, making a mess of his finish with just Reina to beat, slicing wide.

Milan should have secured a winner in the 86th minute, but Samu Castillejo's volley from 12 yards was straight at Musso and Udinese held on to a point.

 

What does it mean? Milan response falls short

Despite being in control for much of the game, Milan ultimately paid for not making the most of their pressure. After taking the lead, they appeared to ease off in terms of their intensity and Udinese took advantage. Gattuso's side picked things up again towards the end, but it was too late.

Piatek leads the line effectively again

Typically lively throughout and he linked well with Cutrone. Chances were not a regular occurrence, but the January recruit from Genoa still managed to make his mark, scoring his seventh league goal for Milan.

Castillejo fails to shine

Brought on as the replacement for the lively Paqueta, Samu Castillejo failed to offer anywhere near as much as the Brazilian.

What's next?

Another tricky test awaits Milan on Saturday, as they travel to runaway leaders Juventus. Udinese host fellow strugglers Empoli the next day.

AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso has accused Mauro Icardi of lacking respect for his Inter team-mates ahead of Sunday's Derby della Madonnina.

Icardi will not be involved at San Siro when the city rivals clash, as a stand-off over his Inter future and conflicting takes from club and player over his fitness continue.

Milan enter the game in contrastingly high spirits, a point and a place ahead of Inter in third following a run of five consecutive wins in Serie A.

Asked about Icardi, who scored a last-gasp winner when the sides met earlier this season but has now been stripped of the Inter captaincy, Gattuso told a pre-match news conference: "The way I see it, even the best player in the world should respect his team-mates.

"Respect for players and those who represent them is fundamental. The locker room is sacred.

"I appreciate when my players speak their mind in person."

Milan's recent upturn owes much to the prolific form of Krzysztof Piatek, who has scored six goals in as many league starts since joining from Genoa in January.

The Poland striker's dedication in training was initially mistaken for dissatisfaction by Gattuso, who is delighted by his recent recruit's attitude.

"We do not speak much, he prefers actions on the pitch," he said.

"I am beginning to see him smile more often. At the beginning I thought he was upset with me.

"He is dedicated and likes to train, he knows what needs to be done."

Gattuso added: "The team has to make the difference on the pitch. Few players are capable of winning a game on their own, we are not in a condition to win based on just one player."

It was only December when reports emerged the axe could be set to fall on AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, with Arsene Wenger the man on everyone's lips.

Only two wins in seven matches that month, and Ivan Gazidis' arrival from Arsenal, increased pressure on Gattuso and prompted speculation over former Gunners manager Wenger.

Ex-Chelsea and Juventus head coach Antonio Conte was also linked with a return to Italy via Milan.

Since the New Year, however, Gattuso and his Milan have only lost once in 12 games in all competitions – including five successive Serie A victories heading into Sunday's derby against Inter.

Across the city divide, Luciano Spalletti's Inter have stuttered as they deal with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding former captain Mauro Icardi.

With Milan in form and on track to qualify for the Champions League, Rossoneri great Gattuso has fans dreaming again.

 

Difficult December

Already under pressure following Leonardo's return, the month of December only plunged Gattuso's position into further doubt. Back at the club as they continued to overhaul their senior hierarchy under new owners Elliott Management, sporting director Leonardo was forced to deny links with Conte in July. Five months later, the 49-year-old Brazilian then dismissed reports Gattuso could be replaced. Leonardo's backing came after a five-match winless streak, which included a run of four league games without a goal against Torino, Bologna, Fiorentina and Frosinone. At that stage, Inter were third and seven points clear of fourth-placed Lazio following victories over Napoli and Empoli to close out 2018.

Higuain out, Piatek in

Gonzalo Higuain's arrival from Juventus at the expense of Leonardo Bonucci after just one season was meant to signal a new era at San Siro, with the Argentina international seen as the man to follow in the footsteps of Andriy Shevchenko and others. Many believed Milan were the winners of that deal too after also signing promising defender Mattia Caldara. It did not go according to plan, however. Higuain – often a frustrated figure on the pitch – left for Chelsea and a Maurizio Sarri reunion having scored just eight goals in all competitions. Milan wasted little time replacing the former Napoli striker, turning to Genoa sensation Krzysztof Piatek in a €35million deal in January. With Brazilian star Lucas Paqueta's transfer triggering memories of Kaka, Milan enjoyed an upturn in form. After making his debut against Napoli, Piatek opened his account with a double against the same opposition in the Coppa Italia three days later. Milan only lost once in January – against Juve in the Supercoppa Italiana – as Gattuso celebrated his true number nine.

Atalanta comeback

Leaving the Italian capital with a point against Roma thanks to Piatek further highlighted Milan's resurgence, which the Poland international and Paqueta backed up at home to Cagliari. But, it was the win at Atalanta that really impressed. One of the most entertaining teams in the league under Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta were stunned by a red-hot Milan. With another Piatek brace, a settled front three and a midfield trio of Franck Kessie, Paqueta and Tiemoue Bakayoko – finally returning to his Monaco form – performing well, doubts over Gattuso quickly disappeared. As for the Nerazzurri, they went through a turbulent February. After playing as Inter snapped a three-match losing run against Parma, Icardi was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by Samir Handanovic. The 26-year-old has not featured in the eight matches since.

Milan leapfrog Inter

Repaying the faith shown and solidifying the rebuilding project under Elliott Management, Gattuso's Milan continued to fly high as they went from fourth to third, dislodging Inter for the final Champions League automatic qualifying spot. A fourth successive league win at home to Sassuolo, coupled with Inter's shock loss away to Cagliari, saw Milan take full advantage to leapfrog their bitter rivals in the standings. Absent from the Champions League since 2013-14, Milan cemented that position – only six points behind second-placed Napoli – with a gritty victory on the road against Chievo, where Piatek enhanced his status as a fan favourite.

A city divided on and off the pitch. Sunday's derby will pit AC Milan against bitter rivals Inter – a Serie A blockbuster with Champions League implications.

In-form Milan occupy third in the table, a point above Inter ahead of the San Siro showdown.

Milan have won five straight league games and are unbeaten in their past 10 matches in all competitions under Gennaro Gattuso, while Inter have struggled for consistency amid the chaos surrounding Mauro Icardi's future with the Nerazzurri.

Ahead of the 223rd Derby della Madonnina, we unveil our combined XI from Milan and Inter players thanks to Opta.

 

Goalkeeper: Samir Handanovic (Inter)

The selection set to raise most eyebrows, Handanovic gets the nod over Gianluigi Donnarumma. Both goalkeepers have made 27 appearances this season, but new Inter captain Handanovic – who has conceded one less goal than his rival with 22 – has kept 13 clean sheets, compared to Donnarumma's nine.

Right-back: Davide Calabria (AC Milan)

The 22-year-old Italian – who has been linked with Manchester United among others – slots into the right-back position, ahead of Inter's Danilo D'Ambrosio. With 40 tackles won (15 more than his counterpart), 27 interceptions (seven greater than D'Ambrosio) and 94 successful duels, Calabria has continued to impress this season.

Left-back: Ricardo Rodriguez (AC Milan)

Another Milan full-back makes it into the XI, with Kwadwo Asamoah overlooked in favour of Rodriguez. The Switzerland international has been a mainstay down the left for Gattuso and Milan with 25 Serie A appearances. Rodriguez has provided three assists, completed 1,231 successful passes at left-back and won 20 tackles – areas all superior to Asamoah.

Centre-back: Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan)

The Milan captain and face of the future, Romagnoli is enjoying another stellar campaign. The 24-year-old Italy centre-back has proved to be a rock at the back for the Rossoneri, while chipping in with two goals.

Centre-back: Stefan de Vrij (Inter)

De Vrij has slotted in seamlessly alongside Milan Skriniar following his free transfer from Lazio. The Dutchman has made 21 interceptions in 22 games, even scoring a goal in the process for Inter.

Central midfield: Radja Nainggolan (Inter)

Inter gave up a lot when they parted with cash and young midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo for Nainggolan from Roma. The experienced midfielder, however, is starting to prove his worth after a slow start. Reunited with Luciano Spalletti, Nainggolan has three goals and as many assists in 19 appearances. 

Central midfield: Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Brozovic has come into his own this term. After helping Croatia reach the 2018 World Cup final, Brozovic has won 139 duels – the most of any player in the combined XI. The 26-year-old has also won 56 tackles, 36 interceptions and completed a team-best 1656 passes to go with two goals and an assist.  

Central midfield: Franck Kessie (AC Milan)

He provides pace, power and penetration. Kessie has earned plenty of admirers following his exploits for Milan, who have benefited from his four goals and an assist in midfield. His break-up play – highlighted by 23 interceptions – have proved priceless.  

Right wing: Suso (AC Milan)

One of the first names on the teamsheet at Milan – Suso has flourished after arriving from Liverpool in 2015. This season, the Spanish playmaker has dished up eight assists and scored five goals – well ahead of Inter winger Ivan Perisic, who has found the back of the net four times and posted just two assists.

Left wing: Matteo Politano (Inter)

While Perisic has struggled to replicate his destructive form of previous seasons, Sassuolo loanee Politano – who can sign for Inter permanently at the end of the campaign – has picked up the slack with four goals and three assists.

Centre-forward: Krzysztof Piatek (AC Milan)

Piatek has renewed hope among Milan fans. When Gonzalo Higuain's unsuccessful loan spell came to an end in January, the club's hierarchy turned to the Polish sharp-shooter. And Piatek has delivered with six goals in seven Serie A appearances since leaving Genoa, where he scored 13 times for an overall tally of 19 – only one behind league leader Fabio Quagliarella, level with Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 clear of Icardi.

Mauro Icardi's ongoing stand-off with Inter looms over this weekend's derby showdown against AC Milan at San Siro.

The striker was stripped of the club captaincy in February and is yet to return to training following a knee problem, despite head coach Luciano Spalletti stating he has been cleared by Inter's medical staff.

Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara insisted again this week that the Argentina international wants to remain with the Nerazzurri but, even if he does, his status as the most potent frontman in the city is under threat.

Poland's Krzysztof Piatek has been a revelation since joining Milan from Genoa in January and the rivals' contrasting form of late can partially be explained by the contributions of their leading centre-forwards.

With Piatek making hay as Icardi watches on, we took a look at some Opta data comparing the two number nines.

80.33 – Piatek averages better than a goal a game in Serie A since linking up with Gennaro Gattuso's squad, netting six in as many starts to average one every 80.33 minutes.

13 – The 23-year's introduction to Serie A with Genoa earlier this season was similarly prolific as he scored 13 times in 19 appearances.

102.34 – Icardi's goals-per-minute reading for 2017-18, when he scored 29 in 34 Serie A outings – all of which were starts. Piatek's Genoa stint was shy of this in terms of goal regularity, clocking 122.62 minutes per goal.

9 – Icardi's productivity had dropped off considerably this season, even before his absence. Over the course of 20 appearances, 18 from the first whistle, he has scored nine times or once every 185.44 minutes.

76.92 – Piatek's shooting accuracy percentage at Milan, up from 50 at Genoa. Over the course of his prolific 2017-18, Icardi's accuracy stood at 63.1 per cent as he returned 1.6 shots on target per game.

37.5 – Another number assisted by the smaller sample of Piatek's time at Milan, but his shot conversion percentage is, again, impressively high. Icardi converted 28.71 per cent last season, down to 16.98 this time around.

Page 1 of 2
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.