Brocchi still rooting for Milan as Ibrahimovic's Scudetto-chasing Rossoneri prepare for derby

By Sports Desk January 25, 2021

Former Milan midfielder and head coach Cristian Brocchi is hopeful the Rossoneri can maintain their charge for a drought-ending Serie A title as they vie for domestic silverware with neighbours Inter.

Milan have not won the Scudetto since 2011, but the Italian giants top the table at the halfway stage of the season – two points clear of Inter despite a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Atalanta.

Following years of pain, Stefano Pioli's Milan and their fans are daring to dream as they rise to the summit of Italian football once again.

Monza head coach Brocchi was part of the successful Milan era between 2001 and 2008, after a brief spell with city rivals Inter, winning two Champions League titles, the Scudetto, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

While Brocchi attempts to lead Monza from Serie B to the top flight this season, the 44-year-old's heart still beats for boyhood club Milan as they prepare for Tuesday's blockbuster Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter.

Brocchi, who oversaw seven matches in charge of Milan before being replaced by Vincenzo Montella in 2016, told Stats Perform News: "Milan are a family for me.

"I arrived there at nine, was in the all the youth ranks. I won everything with Milan and when I quit I managed to be Milan's coach for a short period. I will never feel colder toward Milan.

"I root for them, watch every game and hopefully, as they are doing great, they can go on down this path."

Milan have already beaten Inter in 2020-21 – a three-minute brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the Rossoneri past the Nerazzurri 2-1 in October's Serie A showdown.

The two teams will meet again at San Siro, where a Coppa Italia semi-final berth is on the line amid an intriguing title race, with nine-time reigning champions Juventus, Roma, Atalanta and Napoli also vying for honours.

Brocchi is no stranger to the Derby della Madonnina, having also experienced the build-up from the opposing side during his stint with Inter in 2000-01.

"First of all, I think the most beautiful derby ever played was the one in the Champions League semi-final in 2003 [Milan prevailed on away goals after a 1-1 draw]. It was the ultimate derby for adrenaline and all the feelings you can feel," Brocchi said ahead of Monday's Serie B showdown with Brescia.

"The Milan derby is emotional, everybody wants to win and even if now it will be played without public, it still gives us great feelings."

All eyes will be on Ibrahimovic in Milan, where the 39-year-old continues to defy his age to inspire a title charge this term.

Ibrahimovic, who re-joined Milan from LA Galaxy in January 2020 having featured in the last Rossoneri team to celebrate league success almost a decade ago, has scored 12 goals in just nine Serie A matches this season.

After scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Cagliari on January 18, it meant Ibrahimovic managed to find the back of the net in nine successive starts for the first time in his career in Europe's top five leagues.

Ibrahimovic – who made his 600th career appearance (excluding playoffs) in the loss to Atalanta – is just two goals shy of reaching the 500 mark in club football.

"Strong players have no age as long as they feel fine. Ibra is an example, he is still strong physically," Brocchi continued.

"He is serving with character and class all the young player at Milan, who as I said before for us [Monza] with [Mario] Balotelli and [Kevin-Prince] Boateng. We have young players that can run for them too.

"Milan did the same. They assembled a squad of youngsters full of enthusiasm, legs and speed with a strong leader, Ibra, who is still at the top of his game and can be the icing on the cake of this winning choice." 

Related items

  • Toronto FC v CF Montreal: Courtois accepts blame amid ongoing winless streak Toronto FC v CF Montreal: Courtois accepts blame amid ongoing winless streak

    Laurent Courtois has accepted that it is on him to find a winning formula as CF Montreal look to snap their winless run against Toronto FC.

    Montreal were beaten 3-1 by Columbus Crew in midweek and are now without a victory in six games in all competitions.

    That includes a three-game losing streak in MLS, leaving them 13th in the Eastern Conference, and Courtois is eager to get back on track.

    "It's up to me to find the winning formulas and discern the phases of the game," head coach Courtois said after the loss to Columbus.

    "We have to grit our teeth and find solutions. The difficult times we are going through help me identify my group. I want to know the players better. 

    "From all the negative aspects we can observe, I can identify a few individual aspects to improve the game or the team itself."

    Monreal's rivals Toronto have themselves lost back-to-back games ahead of Saturday's Canadian Classique at BMO Field.

    Nashville SC scored twice late on to snatch a 2-0 win in the Reds' most recent match, but acting head coach Jason deVos admits there can be no excuses.

    "The last ten minutes, two mistakes cost us and that's the cruelty of football sometimes - that it's a 90-minute match and you need to put in a 90-minute performance in," he said. 

    "The players are aware of that. They know where the growth areas are for us as a team."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Toronto - Federico Bernardeschi

    Bernardeschi missed the loss to Nashville but will hope to start this weekend in a fixture he has fond memories of. 

    The Italian has scored in each of his two home games against Montreal, making him the third Toronto player to score in two successive home games against them after Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

    Montreal - Joel Waterman

    Montreal have conceded three or more goals five times across their 12 MLS games this season, which is tied with San Jose Earthquakes for the most in MLS.

    They quite simply need to sharpen up at the back, with Joel Waterman needing to step up and hope others around him also do so.. The centre-back led the way for interceptions (three) and clearances (four) against Columbus, yet it was still not enough.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Montreal have won five successive matches against Toronto, following a run of neither side ever winning more than three on the spin in this fixture.

    Toronto have won seven and drawn one of their eight matches in which they have held opponents under two goals since September, while they have lost all 13 in which they have shipped two or more.

    Keeping the opposition quiet is therefore key, and this could present a chance to do just that against a Montreal side with fewer points (five) than any side in MLS since mid-March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Toronto - 39.6%
    Draw - 28.5%
    Montreal - 31.9%

  • Fiorentina 2-2 Napoli: Kvaratskhelia keeps visitors' slim European hopes alive Fiorentina 2-2 Napoli: Kvaratskhelia keeps visitors' slim European hopes alive

    Dethroned Italian champions Napoli's hopes of playing European football next season are hanging by a thread after they played out a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina in Serie A on Friday.

    Napoli took the lead in the eighth minute through defender Amir Rrahmani, who nodded home a corner by Matteo Politano.

    Cristiano Biraghi levelled for Fiorentina in the 40th minute from a free-kick, before M'Bala Nzola put the hosts in front two minutes later when he fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

    Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia responded with another stunning free-kick early in the second half to rescue a point for his team.

    Eighth-placed Fiorentina, on 54 points and with a game in hand, are five points behind Lazio in seventh.

    They can still earn a Europa League spot either by leapfrogging the Rome side or by winning the Europa Conference League final in which they face Greece's Olympiakos on May 29.

    Ninth-placed Napoli, on 52 points, still have a slim chance of making the Europa Conference League playoffs.

    Data Debrief

    Fiorentina left-back Biraghi has now scored six goals from direct free-kicks since the start of 2021-22, which is behind only James Ward-Prowse (seven) - now of West Ham and formerly of Southampton - as the most across Europe's top five leagues in that period.

    Kvaratskhelia also levelled via a direct free-kick, making this the first Serie A match in which both teams scored via that route since Fiorentina against Lazio in April 2018 (Jordan Veretout and Luis Alberto in that case).

  • Southampton 3-1 West Brom (3-1 agg): Saints set up play-off final with Leeds United Southampton 3-1 West Brom (3-1 agg): Saints set up play-off final with Leeds United

    Southampton saw off West Brom 3-1 at St Mary's on Friday to set up a Championship play-off final showdown with Leeds United.

    Leeds thumped Norwich City 4-0 at Elland Road 24 hours earlier to book their place at Wembley, where Southampton now await on May 26.

    The first leg between the Saints and West Brom finished goalless - just like the other semi-final - but the home side's quality told in the end.

    Russell Martin's side dominated the first-half possession, with David Brooks going closest to scoring with a shot that hit the outside of the post.

    Southampton made the breakthrough via a powerful Will Smallbone finish four minutes into the second half after Gray Diangana lost possession.

    Darnell Furlong had a shot helped over by Alex McCarthy, while David Brooks - who assisted the opener - had a strong penalty appeal rejected.

    Southampton remained in control, though, and Adam Armstrong scored a second with a shot through Furlong's legs and past Alex Palmer.

    Armstrong's second goal arrived from the penalty spot in the 86th minute after Tom Fellows fouled Ryan Manning in the box, rendering Cedric Kipre's late header a mere consolation.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.