Massimiliano Allegri claims Sunday's Serie A clash between Juventus and Milan is more important for the Rossoneri despite him overseeing a miserable start to 2021-22.

Allegri is three league matches into his second spell in Turin but there has been no sign of a honeymoon period, with Juve yet to win any of those matches.

They relieved a hint of pressure with a 3-0 Champions League win on Tuesday, though the good will from that victory will only last so long given it was against Malmo.

Failure to get off the mark on Sunday will leave Juve winless across their first four Serie A matches in a single season for only the fourth time, the most recent occasion being in 1961-62.

By contrast, Milan – who this season are in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 – have won all three of their Serie A games in 2021-22, with Stefano Pioli's men second only to Roma on goal difference.

Despite their differing starts to the season, Allegri insists Sunday's encounter is a bigger deal for Milan than Juve, and he also wanted to stress there is no reason to panic for their title hopes if Pioli's side do leave with a positive result.

"Tomorrow's game is more important for them than for us," Allegri told reporters, though he would not openly elaborate on why he felt this way. "That's what you have to say, otherwise I will help you too much."

On the title race, he added: "I believe there is no team that can crush the championship. Maybe I'm wrong.

"You can lose points, but you can also quickly recover them. We must not think that if we lose then we will be 11 points behind, we have to work thinking about making up for the ground that we lost at the beginning.

"I have always said that, the championships are won against the smaller teams. We don't know what tomorrow's result will be because the devil invented football: you can play well and still maybe you lose or draw.

 

"It's not that before Malmo we had become poor drunks and now we are phenomenal again. We need balance. You have to work and have the ambition to win.

"I have to be a coach, because the team goes out on the pitch, but I also have to hammer on the psychological aspect because Juve is a team that has to play not to win games, but to win championships.

"Everyone wins matches, all teams, but the championship will only be won by one. In the end, the team that was the best will win the championship."

Allegri's return after two years away understandably conjured up memories of Juventus' remarkable streak of nine successive Scudetti, with the 54-year-old in charge for five of them.

But he feels comparisons between the two distinctly different teams and eras are unhelpful.

"I have found a Juventus with different players," he continued. "We must not think of comparing Juve today with what it was in the past.

"This team has its own identity as well as individual characteristics of the players. You need to become a team by improving many things, in terms of personality, technique and patience in playing. But it's just a different Juve."

In a potential blow for Juve, Allegri confirmed Federico Chiesa is a doubt for Sunday's game.

The Italy international has been involved in six goals against Milan in Serie A, a haul he has bettered against no other team.

He also scored his only brace with Juventus in the Italian top-flight against the Rossoneri in January.

For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

 

Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

"I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

 

Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

 

Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

 

The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

"It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

"You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

Stefano Pioli insisted Milan learnt a "valuable lesson" following their entertaining 3-2 defeat to Liverpool upon the club's return to the Champions League.

Milan were featuring in the Champions League for the first time since 2014 and the seven-time winners threatened an upset at Anfield, where the visitors surprisingly claimed a 2-1 half-time lead.

Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz both scored within two minutes of each other on the stroke of half-time to stun Liverpool, who had Mohamed Salah's penalty saved by Mike Maignan following Fiyako Tomori's ninth-minute own goal.

But Salah redeemed himself with an equaliser three minutes into the second half before Jordan Henderson's first Champions League goal in seven years settled the Group B thriller on Merseyside.

Despite leaving England empty-handed, Milan head coach Pioli – whose Rossoneri have won their opening three Serie A games this season – was relatively upbeat post-match.

"This was a valuable lesson that will help us going forward. The team was motivated, we expected Liverpool to start strong, but were a bit too static and couldn't get past their first press. When you don't have the ball, you run into danger," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was a very good game of football, it's a pity we lost the game, because a strong start here would've been very important.

"I leave Anfield aware this team can grow more and we still need that extra step up in terms of details, because those are what make the difference in the Champions League.

"We lost because on a set play we cleared the ball to the edge of the box and that is not what we ought to be doing."

Rebic became the seventh Croatian to score on his Champions League debut and the first since Miroslav Orsic for Dinamo Zagreb in September 2019.

Meanwhile, team-mate Diaz (22 years and 43 days) is the youngest player to score on his Champions League bow for Milan since Yoann Gourcuff in September 2006 (20 years and 64 days against AEK Athens).

"Liverpool deserve credit for their intensity and quality, above all in the first 25 minutes," Pioli said. "We had been able to turn it around and the real regrets are the two goals we conceded in the second half. Along with Liverpool's quality, we also made mistakes on those two goals.

"Hopefully, in future we'll face teams with slightly less quality and won't concede in those situations."

Milan are winless in their past nine European away games against English opposition (D4 L5), since a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in February 2005.

Pioli – whose Milan visit rivals Juventus on Sunday – added: "What disappoints me and we must work on is that we can do better, because we allowed Liverpool some give-and-go situations that we usually defend better against.

"We could've created a lot more problems for the Liverpool forwards and made it more difficult for them."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out of Milan's Champions League clash at Liverpool after suffering an injury setback.

The 39-year-old former Manchester United striker made a goalscoring return for Milan as a substitute against Lazio on Sunday, coming on to tap in the second goal in a 2-0 Serie A victory.

That followed a four-month knee injury lay-off, and the Swedish frontman has now reportedly suffered discomfort in an Achilles, forcing him out of plans for Wednesday's Anfield tussle.

That means coach Stefano Pioli will name Ante Rebic or former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud as his attacking spearhead when he selects his side to face Jurgen Klopp's Reds.

Pioli stated Giroud would not be able to play a full 90 minutes, having returned from a spell on the sidelines after testing positive for COVID-19.

Speaking in a news conference on Tuesday, Pioli said: "Zlatan has had an inflammation; he gave it a go this morning but it's useless to take risks at this point of the season.

"I see AC Milan with Zlatan and I absolutely think we'll have him back soon. Absences are a part of football; I'll need to choose between Ante and Olivier but we have the cover."

Ibrahimovic has abundant Champions League experience, scoring 48 goals in the competition from 120 games, with nine of those coming for Milan between 2010 and 2012 in a previous spell with the Rossoneri.

The Swede has scored for more teams in the Champions League than any other player (six – Paris Saint-Germain, Milan, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona).

He arrived from LA Galaxy midway through the 2019-20 season and helped Pioli take Milan into the Champions League for the first time in eight years with last term's second-placed finish in Serie A. 

They last featured in the competition in the 2013-14 campaign, a worrying drought for the club that have won the European Cup or Champions League on seven occasions.

"Our growth over the past year is clear for all to see," Pioli said. "Our experiences have helped us to grow and improve, and the beginning of this season has shown that this team knows how to play and how to approach games.

"The level is higher now; it's what we wanted and it's a chance for us to show that we can mix it with the best."

Milan have won just one of their last 13 games against English opponents in European competition (D4 L8), with that lone victory a 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal at San Siro in the Champions League in February 2012.

Pioli, quoted on Milan's official website, said: "Many of us have never played in the Champions League, but football is football. We know what to do and how to try and play against a really strong side.

"We've prepared really well for this game. There are no easy fixtures in this group; our opponents are all highly competitive and have been playing European football for a while. It's a chance for us to start writing our own history; we have a lot of belief in our own quality."

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

Stefano Pioli is open to fielding Olivier Giroud alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season after the Frenchman opened his Milan account with two goals against Cagliari.

Giroud curled in a delightful first-time shot to get off the mark on his San Siro bow and doubled his tally from the penalty spot in Sunday's Serie A clash as Milan ran out 4-1 winners.

With that first-half double, Giroud became the first player to score multiple times in his first home league match for the Rossoneri since Mario Balotelli in February 2013.

Ibrahimovic has been Milan's go-to man up top when fit since returning to the Italian club in January 2020, but the veteran striker is currently sidelined with a knee injury sustained in May.

Pioli hopes to have Ibrahimovic back after the international break in two weeks' time, however, and he is not against tweaking formation to pair the Swede with Giroud in attack.

"I am very open to all situations," Milan head coach Pioli told DAZN. "I'll take it one game at a time to pick the best line-up for that match. 

"When we have the need for two strikers, I will not hesitate to use them together. I just hope to have everyone back to full fitness."

 

Ibrahimovic watched from the stands as Giroud added to goals from Sandro Tonali and Rafael Leao, which came either side of Alessandro Deiola's temporary equaliser in the first half.

Milan scored four-plus goals in the opening half of a Serie A fixture for the first time since November 2011.

Asked if he is looking forward to linking up with former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic, Giroud said: "He is a great champion and very important in the locker room. 

"We want to play together, but I am happy playing with any of my team-mates. It doesn't matter who plays, it's important to respect the decisions of the coach."

It was the first time Giroud has scored a league brace since April 2018, for Chelsea against Southampton, and the 34-year-old revelled in the manner his home debut turned out.

"I'm very proud to play for Milan and in a stadium like San Siro," he told DAZN. "I'm happy with the team performance because we started the game playing our style of football. 

"We really connected on the pitch and could've scored more, while the support from the fans was incredible."

Giroud has inherited the number nine shirt at Milan, which is one of the most iconic jerseys in football but has more recently become a poisoned chalice of sorts.

Mario Mandzukic, Krzysztof Piatek and Gonzalo Higuain have all failed to live up to its reputation, yet Giroud is unfazed by the weight of expectation.

"I heard there was something special about the number nine shirt, but I am not superstitious," he said. "I believe in myself and my abilities. 

"As a kid, I watched Marco van Basten, Jean-Pierre Papin and Filippo Inzaghi wear this shirt, so it makes me happy to be here now."

Milan have won their opening two Serie A games this season, just like they did last time out, but face a tough run of games upon their return to action next month.

The Rossoneri meet a Lazio side sitting top of the division on goal difference and rivals Juventus in their next two league matches, either side of kicking off their Champions League return with a trip to Liverpool.

"We've got a remarkable run of games coming up after the break, so we need to keep this mentality and enthusiasm," Pioli said.

"If we really want a positive future, we must treat everyone as first-choice players. We're missing some at the moment, a couple more might arrive, but we must train the way we want to play and play the way we train.

"We are getting used to playing entertaining football and enjoying ourselves, but we must also remember that the great teams are also capable of winning ugly."

Stefano Pioli insisted Milan are well-equipped to challenge for the Serie A title after they made a winning start to the season.

Milan launched their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, where Brahim Diaz netted the decisive goal after just nine minutes on Monday.

Pioli handed a debut to new signing and goalkeeper Mike Maignan, while Olivier Giroud also made his bow in the absence of injured talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front.

Despite injury ruling out Franck Kessie, Rade Krunic produced an assured performance in midfield and there was no change allowed from the central defensive pairing of Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori – the pair helping the Rossoneri keep a sixth consecutive clean sheet, their longest run without conceding in the league since February 1994.

Having finished 12 points behind rivals and champions Inter last season, Milan – who have won 11 away Serie A fixtures since the start of 2021, the joint-most in the top-five European leagues, alongside Manchester City and Barcelona – are aiming to go one step better this term and claim a first Scudetto in 11 years.

Milan head coach Pioli is encouraged by the competitive nature and depth within his squad following matchday one.

"I'm happy to have won and to have chased the second goal," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"I like how the team interpreted the game. We have always looked for the goal and this is the right mentality.

"Aside from [Franck] Kessie's injury, I knew we had prepared well.

"We are becoming a strong team with a lot of competitiveness in the group. We know so many ways to play.

"There's a lot of balance now. I don't like limitations. I know I coach a strong team. Just think of the players who were out tonight.

"Maybe the right word is ready; this is the most ready Milan."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is poised to give Milan a huge early-season lift by roaring back into action.

The extroverted striker is just weeks away from returning to full team training after the knee injury that forced him to miss Sweden's Euro 2020 campaign.

Head coach Stefano Pioli knows a fit Ibrahimovic can transform his team, as was proven when he scored 15 goals in his first 15 Serie A games of last season.

He netted at one goal every 79.47 minutes during that run, and even though his scoring then dried up, the veteran remains a talisman with the Rossoneri.

Asked about Ibrahimovic's condition, Pioli said in a news conference on Sunday: "Physically, he is certainly looking better, even though he's not begun full training with the team and he's forcing things a little bit.

"Next week will be very important for him because he needs to start ball work and that's what he's been missing.

"So we'll see next week whether he's able to actually train with us, and during the international break he might be able to be fit and available.

"I think his role is always the same: Zlatan is a charismatic leader in terms of his character. He's a leader on the pitch as well, he really is the benchmark for everyone.

"He's a significant figure. He's very motivated."

 

Ibrahimovic stands eighth on the list of top scorers across all competitions over the past 10 seasons, among players competing in Europe's top five leagues.

That is all the more impressive given his goals across two seasons with LA Galaxy are not counted in his total of 247 strikes, and Pioli will know Milan carried a unique threat when Ibrahimovic was on hand last term.

They won 66.7 per cent of games where he started (12 of 18) and that dipped slightly to 60 per cent when Ibrahimovic was not in Pioli's XI.

Milan begin their 2021-22 season against Sampdoria on Monday, then face Cagliari next weekend, and those may be the only games Ibrahimovic has to miss, if Pioli's fitness forecast proves accurate.

"He's fit and firing mentally," Pioli said of the player who turns 40 in October.

"He's a player that can still be a matchwinner for the team, for himself. So he's very motivated and can't wait to get back into full training with his team-mates.

"The same goes for me: I can't wait to get him back on the training ground."

Stefano Pioli feels team spirit will be "crucial" ahead of the 2021-22 campaign and he pointed towards Simon Kjaer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the men who lead by example at Milan.

Having been appointed in 2019, with the Rossoneri slumped in 13th in Serie A, Pioli guided his side up to 6th at the end of the campaign before a second-place finish last season – their joint-highest since winning the Scudetto in 2010-11.

Simon Kjaer, who ranked second among Milan defenders for aerial duels won (55) and first for interceptions (42) in 2020-21, was a standout performer as the Rossoneri undertook something of a transformation under Pioli.

And after Kjaer's heroics at Euro 2020, involving the potentially life-saving actions he performed to deal with Christian Eriksen's concerning collapse against Finland, Pioli appeared unsurprised by the Dane's clarity of mind.

"I already knew the value of Kjaer. He is a man of rare intelligence and sensitivity," the head coach told Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

"He used those qualities to save a friend. He was lucid and precise even in such a dramatic situation."

But Pioli was not just full of praise for Kjaer, as he shifted his focus to define the important role that Ibrahimovic plays for the Rossoneri.

The 39-year-old netted 15 times during the last Serie A campaign, though it is the forward's presence off the pitch that the former Inter head coach sees as a great aid.

"Ibrahimovic has helped me a lot, he is an example in everything he does. He demands the best from himself and the others. Zlatan and Simon [Kjaer] have changed the team, not just technically, but especially in the moral sense," Pioli added.

Milan, who play Serie C side Modena on Saturday, are well underway with their pre-season plans as they prepare to compete in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14.

The signings of Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali – the latter pair making their loan deals permanent – will only further develop an already strong squad, and Pioli is looking forward to the season ahead.

"We must not set limits for ourselves, but it will be a difficult season because there will be seven teams fighting for the top four," the head coach said.

"The group is crucial, Italy won the Euros because you could see the team spirit in their eyes. You don't win with tactics, you win by putting the group ahead of yourself."

Milan announced the re-signing of Real Madrid's Brahim Diaz on Monday on a two-year loan deal and the 21-year-old feels the Rossoneri can compete to achieve "great" things under Stefano Pioli.

Diaz spent the 2020-21 campaign on a season-long loan at the San Siro, managing four goals and three assists in 27 Serie A outings, 17 of which Pioli's men ran out victors in.

Formerly of Manchester City, Milan's loanee is aware of the pressures that come with a club like the Rossoneri but he insists he will not shy away from the battle next campaign.

"I'll give my all to show my talent and I'll give my blood, sweat and tears for this great club", Diaz told the in-house media on Tuesday.

"I'll fight to make it a great season. I've learnt how important Milan are and this season I hope to have an even better season. Last season was great, but this is a new season.

"Milan deserves a team worthy of the club. I am confident we are all ready to do our best and achieve great things."

Last campaign, out of the forwards at the San Siro, Diaz (1.31) ranked second behind Ante Rebic (1.77) for chances created from open play per 90 minutes.

The Spaniard (0.81) was also the most fouled player in the final third for Milan to frequently offer the likes of Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu set-piece opportunities.

 

Diaz also spoke highly of Pioli, who guided Milan to second last season, their highest Serie A finish since their Scudetto-winning performance in the 2010-11 season.

"Our success was thanks to coach Pioli. He created a good team from the experienced players and young players who are growing," Diaz added.

"We have all learnt a lot from the coach, he taught me a lot and, under his guidance, last season we had a good season.

"Now we must improve and in the coach's hands, we certainly will."

Milan have handed defender Davide Calabria a new four-year contract.

Calabria has spent over six years in Milan's first team, making 151 appearances, and has now extended his stay until 2025.

The 24-year-old only had one year left on his previous contract, meaning the new deal is a three-year extension.

Academy product Calabria played 32 Serie A games last season, 30 of which were starts, with both of those figures being career highs.

"AC Milan is delighted to announce the contract extension of Davide Calabria until June 30th 2025," the club said in a statement on Friday.

 

Stefano Pioli's men finished second in Serie A last season and have already had a busy transfer market.

They completed the signing of Sandro Tonali on a five-year deal from Brescia on Thursday, the midfielder having spent last season on loan with the Rossoneri.

Pioli has urged the club to strengthen his squad if they are to be a force next season and insisted Franck Kessie is happy at San Siro amid speculation over his future.

He is hoping not to lose any more stars after Gianluigi Donnarumma departed at the end of his contract and Hakan Calhanoglu joined city rivals Inter in a surprise move.

In the other direction, Fikayo Tomori returned to San Siro in a permanent deal from Chelsea and Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan replaced Italy international Donnarumma.

Milan have completed the signing of Sandro Tonali on a five-year deal from Brescia.

The midfielder spent last season on loan with the Rossoneri, making 37 appearances for Stefano Pioli's side.

Milan had the option to buy the 21-year-old and on Thursday confirmed an agreement has been struck with the Serie B club.

Pioli earlier stated that the club must strengthen their squad to be a force next season and Franck Kessie is happy at San Siro amid speculation over his future.

The Rossoneri finished second in Serie A last seaon but have since seen Gianluigi Donnarumma depart at the end of his contract and Hakan Calhanoglu join city rivals Inter.

Fikayo Tomori returned to San Siro in a permanent deal from Chelsea and Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan replaced Italy international Donnarumma.

Milan head coach Pioli wants more new faces to take the club to another level, but knows he will have to be patient.

He said in a press conference on Thursday: "The club and all of us want Milan to be competitive, we need to give continuity to our work, we want to improve the quality of our players and raise the level of the team.

"We start today on July 8, I would prefer to have the whole squad today but I know that the market is long.

"It is clear that both the club and I want to make Milan a competitive team, giving continuity to what we are doing.

"Our journey started a year and a half ago and we want to grow further. To do this we know we must try to improve the level of the team."

Ivory Coast midfielder Kessie is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham but Pioli is not concerned about losing the 24-year-old.

Asked about the prospect of Kessie signing a new deal, he said: "These are club things. We all know how important Franck is and how happy he is to be at Milan.

"Franck has grown a lot, we talk about him but the others have also grown. He can still do a lot, both I and the club know how important Franck is, I have already heard it. First he rested, then married, now he will go with the national team."

 

Pioli says there is no point in Milan dwelling on losing Donnarumma, who is set to join PSG, or Calhanoglu.

He added: "We have to look forward and not back. I am attached to them for what they did last year, but now we are only thinking about the new season."

Milan returned to training on Thursday but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not expected to join in with the group for a couple of weeks as he recovers from knee surgery.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said his side deserved to finish second in Serie A after securing their long-awaited Champions League return with a 2-0 win at Atalanta on Sunday.

Pioli's Milan led Serie A in the first half of the 2020-21 season but faded, before restoring second spot, only to draw 0-0 at home with Cagliari in the penultimate round to leave their top-four hopes up in the air in a three-way fight with rivals Juventus and Napoli.

Franck Kessie scored a double from the spot as Milan got the decisive win to leapfrog Atalanta as Serie A runners-up and secure their first Champions League berth since 2013-14.

Kessie became the first player to score 10-plus penalties for Milan in a Serie A season since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2011-12.

"We achieved it because we deserved it and we deserved second place in the standings," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was right, unfortunately we had thrown away last Sunday's match point. I am really excited and happy."

Milan's runner-up placing was their best since finishing the 2012-13 Serie A season in third.

Pioli also hailed the Rossoneri for their collective effort to overcome the loss of veteran top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic to injuries for large periods of the second half of the campaign.

"It is all we have done together, the strength not to break down in difficulties," Pioli said. "I am very proud of the mental growth of the group.

"We played with Zlatan only 19 out of 38 games, taking away the champion from the other teams for half the season I would like to see what they would do.

"I also thought that if we were fifth it would be a difficult summer. Now we enjoy it and then we will leave again."

Milan also finished the 2020-21 league season with double the number of wins on the road compared to at home.

They set a new all-time record for away wins in a Serie A season: 16 – no side have ever done better in the top-five European leagues in a single campaign (16 also for Real Madrid in 2011-12 and Manchester City in 2017-18).

"We asked ourselves, we tried to evaluate this situation well," he said. "We weren't a team that made a lot of one-on-ones in the last quarter of the pitch.

"We miss the individual play when the teams close, in this data we are below average. We lacked some individual play. On the road, perhaps we found some more space, this is a situation that we will have to evaluate.

"I heard that this team took advantage of the absence of fans in the stadiums at least initially to find serenity, but I'm sure this team here with the enthusiasm of our fans at San Siro would have grown a lot."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli urged his players not to think about what could have been had they beaten Cagliari, with Serie A's top-four race going down to the last day.

Pioli's Milan would have sealed Champions League qualification with a victory at San Siro on Sunday, but were held to a goalless draw, failing to beat Cagliari for the first time in a home league match since October 1999.

It was also Milan's first 0-0 draw in Serie A in 56 games, since January 2020, while it marked the first time the Rossoneri have failed to score against Cagliari at San Siro in the top flight in just under 24 years.

Without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan managed just two of their 21 attempts on target, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – making potentially his last appearance as a Milan player at San Siro with his contract due to expire at the end of the season – had to make two fantastic stops at the other end.

The draw leaves Milan – who have not featured in the Champions League since 2013-14 – on 76 points, one ahead of fifth-placed Juventus and on level pegging with third-placed Napoli.

Milan face second-placed Atalanta, already sure of a Champions League place, in their final game of the season, with Juve facing Bologna and Napoli playing Hellas Verona.

"There's no point thinking about what might've been. We have to focus on the next match," Pioli, whose team had beaten Torino and Juve 7-0 and 3-0 respectively in their previous outings, told Sky Sport Italia.

"We weren't at the level of our recent performances, in terms of tempo and quality. We had the game of a lifetime against Juventus, then with Torino, so it's another of those with Atalanta. We go again.

"We knew a win would finish it, so there was some tension, some fear, some misplaced confidence that we could win by playing ugly, but we have to fight for every point.

"We should've moved the ball quicker and created more advantageous situations, that's just it.

"We've done great things this season, there is a disappointment this evening and we know Atalanta are the only side we've been unable to beat during my tenure at Milan."

Asked if missing out on the Champions League would be a failure, considering Milan's fine start to the season, Pioli said: "With the way we played, all we did and how much we've grown over the year, failing to reach the top four would certainly be disappointing.

"It would still not be a failure, because I feel we laid the foundations to get there very soon in the future and it was an aim at the start of the season, but definitely not an obligation."

Ibrahimovic was on the sidelines, but his season is over, while he will also not feature for Sweden at the rescheduled Euro 2020.

"We need to remember that people said we were entirely dependent on Zlatan, then after two games they said we play better without him. Neither of those are true," Pioli added.

"We needed someone who was ready to play as a centre-forward when Ibra was out, but unfortunately [Mario] Mandzukic had various different issues and was rarely available."

Stefano Pioli says Milan's 7-0 rout of Torino was another example of their "great growth" and challenged his side to reap what they have sown by securing a Champions League spot.

The Rossoneri tore Torino to pieces in a ruthless rout at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino on Wednesday, moving above Napoli into third place in Serie A with two games to play.

Ante Rebic - starting in place of the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic - scored a quickfire second-half hat-trick and Theo Hernandez was on target in both halves with brilliant finishes as magnificent Milan ran riot three days after beating Juventus 3-0 in Turin.

Franck Kessie was on target from the penalty spot and Brahim Diaz scored one of the five goals Milan scored in a devastating second-half display.

Milan are three points clear of fifth-placed Juve - who beat Sassuolo 3-1 - in the battle for a top-four finish and Pioli says they must finish off the job.

The head coach told Milan TV: "Thinking of winning the game with such a clear result was difficult, but we wanted another concrete performance like the one against Juventus. 

"We are happy with this, but we have to continue like this because we have not done anything yet."

Pioli says two huge results in Turin in quick succession demonstrated the strides his side have made.

"The team is mature and this is the sign of a growth made up of ups and downs that are natural because we are a young team," he added.

"Everything has served and now we have to reap what we have sown. 

"We had to face two difficult and important trips and having faced them with the right mental attitude is a symptom of great growth."

Victory for Milan was their 15th away from home in Serie A this season, matching a record set by Inter in the 2006-07 campaign.

It was the first time for 20 years they have scored six or more times in a Serie A away match, with the last occasion coming when they humiliated Inter 6-0.

Milan face Cagliari on Sunday before finishing their campaign with a trip to second-placed Atalanta.

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