Most of the talk where Europe’s top club competition right now is about whether it will be defending champions Real Madrid or Manchester City who are victorious in their semi-final, with the likelihood being that it will be one of these two teams who run out as overall winners. However, AC Milan and Inter will battle it out in the other semi, but can the former win the competition?
AC Milan have been Champions League winners on three occasions before, so they have the pedigree in the competition itself. They also entered this year’s tournament as Serie A champions too, and while they’re slightly off the pace at this late stage in the season, they could still defend their crown. So, based on all that, you’d say there’s no initial reason why AC Milan couldn’t see their name etched on the trophy for a fourth time.
As the tournament progresses and the excitement builds, especially at this stage of the competition, there is a matched fever for all sorts of other activities linked to football, whether this may be podcasts, players’ popping up on social media, video games and even online slot games that are inspired by the sport. It is this energy and build-up that Milan, managed by Stefano Pioli, have to channel and use to their advantage, starting with their city rivals Inter.
The AC Milan squad isn’t one that should be overlooked, even if some would suggest the likes of Real Madrid and Man City have stronger groups to pick from. Pioli has a blend of youth, experience and ability, which is always the perfect mix. Teams that are successful in the Champions League often have a match-winner or two in their ranks, and AC Milan have that in the form of winger Rafael Leao.
Leao, 23, plays on the left wing but is renowned for his pace, power, skills and the ability to come inside and wreak havoc. He’s got a goal and five assists in the competition so far, proving he can mix it with the best players on the continent. And, whoever AC Milan are playing against, he’s a threat, which is precisely what they will need at the semi-final stage and if they’re to go on and be the eventual winners.
The final key to success for AC Milan will be whether they have what it takes to first defeat Inter, their fierce rivals, over two legs. And then if they can topple either Real Madrid, the defending champions and the most successful side the competition has ever seen, or Man City, managed by Pep Guardiola, with a star-studded squad to pick from.
On paper, AC Milan aren’t as strong as Real Madrid or Man City, but something does play into their favour. The games against Inter are derbies, so they’re very much one-offs of sorts. And if they make it to the final, it will be a one-off game too. And, in one-off games, it’s not necessarily the strongest team on paper that wins. So could AC Milan win it? You bet.