Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
Sunday night in Milan looked to be Gennaro Gattuso’s final act as manager of the Rossoneri. It’s been a turbulent time for the former bulldog midfielder, who piled pressure on himself. After losing the derby to Inter and at home to Real Betis in the Europa League, he said that his job was under threat. After going 2-1 down to Sampdoria at home on Sunday, it seemed like it was all over for the club legend.
However, Gattuso saw his side rally, and produce a huge 3-2 win over Sampdoria. That launched them up the league, into fifth. They had been in the bottom half, but that single win has changed everything for the Rossoneri. They’re now in contention for the Champions League, which means everything to them. No matter what hammerings they take in the Europa League or Coppa Italia, fourth place keeps Gattuso safe.
The club need Champions League football, after losing over £100million in their latest accounts. With an expensively assembled squad, Milan need to make the top four cut-off, or they’ll be in huge trouble. However, a win in Serie A’s only midweek fixture would put Milan into the top four. Can Gattuso build on Sunday’s comeback, or will he be under pressure once again?
Back to the Future for Gattuso
All season Gattuso has tried to sort out their defence. However, the former holding midfielder went against type, and played an open 4-4-2 against Sampdoria. He paired new signing Gonzalo Higuain with academy graduate Patrick Cutrone. The pair worked wonders together, each grabbing a goal in the win. It’s a little flash of the past, back to Gattuso’s Milan days. Back then, two forwards was the standard approach from Milan; taking in the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Hernan Crespo and Pippo Inzaghi.
The modern duo clearly have a lot to live up to, but Genoa boss Ivan Juric was impressed. He pointed out the impressive link up between Milan’s forwards. “They’re good, they work well as a pair and also individually,” Juric said. “They’re devastating, Cutrone uses his cunning more while Higuain is more technical.”
There’s going to be plenty of work for Genoa’s defenders on Wednesday, especially as Higuain looks to add to his six goals in eight appearances against the Grifone. With Cutrone to work off up front, this may be the change that fires Milan into fourth.
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Genoa Facing Test Too
He was sacked in February 2017, and appointed again two months later. The Grifone made an awful start without him in the 2017/18 campaign, but Davide Ballardini saved them. He brought stability and strong results this season, only to be sacked in October, replaced by Juric. It’s a bizarre back and forth, while it sums up the hiring and firing culture in Italian football.
Juric is a boss who could get Genoa playing great football. When he was first in charge, but their January sales ended up costing them. Tomas Rincon and Leonardo Pavoletti left for a combined £19.5million to Juventus and Napoli respectively, two big blows. After that, Genoa started a slump in form which ran for two years.
The good thing for Juric is that Genoa have finally replaced Pavoletti. Krzysztof Piatek has been fantastic for the Grifone, hitting nine goals in his first nine Serie A starts. He’s been a bargain at just £4million. That could help Juric improve on his last two spells at the Luigi Ferraris, but he’ll be hoping that the interest in Piatek doesn’t lead to another big January sale, and more post-Christmas blues.
Decisive Night for Gattuso
Gattuso has been left in no uncertain terms about what he needs to do. Their top priority is the top four, and it’s their only goal. With a chance to sneak into fourth this week, the Rossoneri can’t pass this up. Their comeback over Sampdoria shows fighting spirit now, but slip up to Genoa and other questions will be asked. Having nearly lost three in a row before this, a poor result here might make Milan nervy.
They can’t linger on a manager who isn’t going to deliver them the finish that they desperately need. With that in mind, Gattuso’s career is under the spotlight on Wednesday.
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