Stefano Pioli's decision to employ a three-man defence in Sunday's 1-0 derby defeat to Inter erased years of good work with the Rossoneri, according to legendary former boss Arrigo Sacchi.

Lautaro Martinez's first-half goal condemned Milan to another chastening defeat at San Siro, meaning they have gone five league games without a win for the first time since 2018.

Last season's Scudetto winners have now lost four consecutive games in all competitions, and they sit 18 points adrift of runaway leaders Napoli after slumping to sixth place in Serie A.

Milan failed to attempt a single shot on target in the game after opting to match Inter's 3-5-2 system, and Sacchi says the Rossoneri no longer resemble a coherent side. 

"Milan were no longer a team, especially in the first half. Inter did not play against an opponent, but against a sparring partner," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday.

"Switching to a three-man defence created confusion and erased the last few years of work. Furthermore, any idea of the game was cancelled. 

 

"How many shots on goal did Milan make in the first half? Zero. It was a monologue from Inter who didn't struggle too much and ended up dominating. 

"Simone Inzaghi's players are almost all of a high level and all have great experience. You can only win against Inter if you play as a team, something that Milan did not do."

Milan required 58 minutes to attempt a shot in Sunday's game, the latest point at which they have managed their first effort of a Serie A fixture on record (since the 2004-05 season), and mustered just four efforts, with none on target, for an accumulative expected goals (xG) of 0.3.

They face Torino in their next league fixture on Friday, before hosting Tottenham in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie four days later.

Liverpool are expected to bid for Athletic Bilbao duo Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet at the end of the season.

Williams is one of LaLiga's brightest young stars, with the 20-year-old winger having already earned seven senior caps for Spain, including four appearances at the World Cup in Qatar.

Attacking midfielder Sancet, 22, netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Cadiz on Saturday to take his tally of LaLiga goals this season to seven.

Williams in particular received heavy interest during the January transfer window, but Bilbao will reportedly be faced with tough decisions about both players at the conclusion of the campaign.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE SIDES TAKE A LIKING TO BILBAO PAIR

According to AS, Liverpool were joined by fellow Premier League side Aston Villa in testing Bilbao's resolved over Williams in January, although they were informed no figure would be accepted below his €50million (£45m) release clause.

That report also mentions Sancet's release clause is only slightly lower at €45m (£40m), while Fichajes add he has received interest from Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

Both players only have 18 months remaining on their contracts, meaning Bilbao will either need to sort out some extensions or be prepared to cash in.

ROUND-UP

– The Sun is reporting Manchester City, Milan and Inter are all admirers of Fulham left-back Antonee Robinson, although they will not meet the £35m asking price.

– According to the Daily Star, City will look to avoid any further depletion of their full-back stocks by offering Rico Lewis a new contract that would quadruple his salary.

– Journalist Rudy Galetti is reporting Galatasaray have agreed personal terms with out-of-favour Roma attacker Nicolo Zaniolo, and have offered a fee of €22m to the Serie A club.

Newcastle United and Fulham target Sander Berge wants to remain with Sheffield United until his contract expires in 2024, with the Norway international excited by the club's potential Premier League promotion, per The Sun.

– According to Football Insider, Newcastle will return after the season for another attempt at signing Conor Gallagher, with the belief Chelsea would have allowed him to leave in January if their signing of Enzo Fernandez had been completed sooner.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli defended his decision to start with Rafael Leao on the bench after his struggling team went down 1-0 to Inter in Sunday's derby.

Last season's champions sit sixth in Serie A after 21 games, in danger of failing to qualify for next season's Champions League unless they buck up their ideas.

They have lost four games in a row, with losses to Inter in the Supercoppa and Serie A sandwiching a 4-0 drubbing by Lazio and a 5-2 mauling at home by Sassuolo.

It was league duty on Sunday, and Leao was only a substitute, despite being a two-goal hero in September when Milan took the derby spoils 3-2 to keep pace with early bolters Napoli.

While Napoli have kept up their early frantic pace, and now sit 13 points clear of second-placed Inter, Milan have lost all momentum.

Pioli began against Inter with former Liverpool fringe man Divock Origi alongside Olivier Giroud in attack, abandoning the partnership early in the second half when the ineffective Origi was hauled off and Leao made his entrance.

The skilful Portuguese forward almost teed up an equaliser for Giroud, but the French striker's control was awful and the chance was lost, but that moment of fast-paced dribbling excellence highlighted Leao's threat.

"He has enormous potential," said Pioli, "but I chose to play with two centre-forwards who are closer vertically to put Inter's defence in difficulty, even if we didn't succeed.

"I trust a lot in Leao, even if he didn't start from the beginning. The choices I made are the best for what I saw during the week, for what the preparation for the match was and for the positions I wanted to fill."

With the benefit of hindsight, Pioli said he would "do it again" when asked about Leao's omission.

In all, Milan have not won for seven games, and they face Torino on Friday before a Champions League tussle with Tottenham the following Tuesday.

Tottenham's former Inter boss Antonio Conte may be licking his lips at that prospect, with Milan's defending leaving plenty to be desired in recent weeks.

Lautaro Martinez headed in Hakan Calhanoglu's corner for the only goal of the derby, and Pioli accepted his players were found lacking.

"Unfortunately we found ourselves unprepared once again on a dead ball," he said. "Up to that moment, we were working well as a team. We did better in the second half."

Pioli knows the drastic slide in form has left many Milan supporters agog, and he said: "The fans have every right to criticise, the last few performances haven't been up to par."

Yet Pioli still has the support of the dressing room, according to midfielder Rade Krunic.

Krunic told DAZN: "If you lose such an important match there are few positive things. The only thing to take away is the reaction in the second half, where we did better than in the first half.

"We seemed to be doing better in training than today. We believe in Pioli."

Simone Inzaghi felt Inter were "perfect" as they beat struggling Milan 1-0 in the most dominant derby display he can remember.

Captain Lautaro Martinez's first-half header inflicted a fourth successive defeat on the Rossoneri at San Siro on Sunday.

Milan failed to register a shot on target and are down in sixth place in Serie A after their miserable winless run was extended to seven games.

The Nerazzurri, on the other hand, are second behind runaway leaders Napoli following a third win in a row after also seeing off their city rivals 3-0 in Supercoppa Italiana last month.

While Napoli look like they could be out of sight with a 13-point advantage at the summit, Inter head coach Inzaghi believes a commanding derby display shows they continue to make strides.

He said: "I'm very satisfied, I complimented the team because they were perfect, I don't remember a derby won and dominated in this way.

"We had a great derby, winning two in I think 20 days don't always happen. We don't look forward or backward in the standings, but only at us."

Under-pressure Milan boss Stefano Pioli went with a more defensive line-up in a bid to arrest the champions' slide, but Inzaghi's focus was on how his side approached the game.

He added: "There's been talk about it for days [Pioli's tactics]. I have to be honest that I was worried about mine, regardless of how Milan played.

"Every Sunday we meet three or four [man] defences. Tonight in the first half we bordered on perfection. In the second we did very well and conceded the first shot in the 75th minute. It's a great satisfaction."

Another big plus for Inzaghi was a substitute appearance for Marcelo Brozovic, the first time he has featured for Inter since November.

Lautaro Martinez's purple patch continued as Inter consigned sorry Milan to a fourth successive defeat with a 1-0 derby victory.

The in-form Martinez, handed the captain's armband by Simone Inzaghi, took his goal tally for the season to 15 by opening the scoring with a header in a totally one-sided first half at San Siro on Sunday.

Milan failed to register a shot on target in a lacklustre display that increased their winless run to seven matches, putting more pressure on head coach Stefano Pioli.

Second-placed Inter moved five points clear of their city rivals behind runaway Serie A leaders Napoli, with the Rossoneri down in sixth spot as their dismal start to the year continued.

Martinez forced a magnificent reflex save from Ciprian Tatarusanu and also headed just wide in a blistering start from the Nerazzurri.

Inzaghi's side were dominant, but referee Davide Massa correctly refused to award them a penalty when Edin Dzeko went down too easily under a challenge from Matteo Gabbia.

It seemed to be only a matter of time before Inter were in front, though, and the opening goal duly arrived in the 34th minute, when the lively Martinez rose above Simon Kjaer to nod in Hakan Calhanoglu's corner from the left.

It remained one-way traffic following the break, Tatarusanu palming away Martinez's shot at his near post after Pioli introduced Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers.

Olivier Giroud finally had Milan's first attempt after 57 minutes, but his header sailed over the crossbar and was never going to trouble Andre Onana.

Further goals instead appeared more likely at the other end.

Romelu Lukaku had one ruled out when he was deemed to have dragged down Malick Thiaw, and Martinez had another chalked off for a marginal offside, but his first-half finish proved decisive.

 

Alexandre Pato has urged Milan forward Rafael Leao to stay put, claiming the Portugal international "has a home and everything he needs".

Leao played a key role as Milan ended their 11-year wait for the Scudetto last season, scoring 11 goals for Stefano Pioli's side in Serie A.

He has netted nine times this term for his club, while he also scored twice at the World Cup in Qatar.

The 23-year-old, whose existing contract expires in 2024, has been linked with a move away from San Siro, with the Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool rumoured to be potential destinations.

Reports in Italy have claimed discussions between Leao and Milan over a new deal had broken down, though these were dismissed by the club and the player's agent Ted Dimvula, who described it as "false and misleading information".

Pato, who spent six years at Milan between 2007 and 2013, has encouraged Leao not to be swayed by outside influences.

"He has to do what he feels with his heart, because sometimes you have too many people around you telling you what to do," the former Brazil striker told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He must decide for what he thinks will make him happy. Leao, however, has a home at Milan, he has everything he needs."

Pato feels Leao "can make the difference" in Sunday's Derby della Madonnina against rivals Inter, where Milan will be aiming to end a six-match winless streak.

Part of the Scudetto-winning side of 2011, Pato believes this season's squad must improve their attitude, though he remains confident Pioli can inspire an upturn in fortunes.

"The premise is that in my dressing room, there were quite a few legends," he observed. "Between training sessions and matches, there was no difference; the attitude was the same.

"I was lucky enough to see [Paolo] Maldini train 110 per cent every day. He arrived earlier, did extra work. [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] the same, Cafu the same. Champions who didn't think about the clock, but only about working as hard as possible.

"So more than talking, all you had to do to understand the right path was to observe. As for the current situation, I can only say that if they're using the same attitude as last year, it's not good.

"Sometimes, the management that follows wins is more complicated than when you don't win. However, I'm sure that Pioli will turn the light back on."

The future of Ansu Fati at Barcelona appears to be increasingly uncertain.

Fati was a revelation when he first broke into the Barca first team, but has suffered several injury issues that have halted his momentum.

Even when fit, Fati has struggled to get into Xavi's side this season, featuring in 30 games but only nine times from the start, with six goals and three assists to show for it.

And reports are starting to emerge that vultures may be circling to offer the Spain international more regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN LEAD THE WAY IN HUNT FOR ANSU FATI

Mundo Deportivo reports that Bayern Munich are at the head of a queue of seven European clubs interested in making a move for Fati at the end of the season.

It is also mentioned that four of the seven potential suitors come from the big-spending Premier League, though only Arsenal and Tottenham are named.

The player only signed a new deal in 2021 that committed him to Barca until 2027, with a release clause of €1billion, but the continued absence of Fati in the starting XI even after Ousmane Dembele's latest injury is apparently a concern to the player's agent, Jorge Mendes.

ROUND-UP

Barca, Atletico Madrid and Milan are all looking at a move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the end of the campaign after Chelsea surprisingly left the striker out of their Champions League squad, according to the Mail.

Chelsea are poised to join Manchester United in targeting Napoli hitman Victor Osimhen as the Blues look to solve their goalscoring problems, report the Mirror.

Real Madrid turned down the chance to sign Joao Cancelo on loan from Manchester City before he went to Bayern on transfer deadline day, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– The Mail has pointed to Tottenham's good relations with Atletico as reason for their optimism about signing Jan Oblak and Yannick Carrasco at the end of the season.

– The Mirror reports that Manchester United will look to move on six players at the end of the season, including Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has provided Milan with a major lift ahead of the derby against Inter, returning to first-team training and sharing pearls of wisdom with his Rossoneri team-mates.

Sunday's San Siro battle comes too soon for Ibrahimovic to make an impact on the pitch, but the 41-year-old striker is back in the fold, close to returning from the knee surgery he underwent last May.

It was envisaged he would be absent for around eight months, and Milan have given the veteran all the time he needs.

Head coach Stefano Pioli believes having Ibrahimovic around the squad can only be a positive as last season's Serie A champions bid to recover from a drastic dip in form.

Milan have lost three games in a row, including a Supercoppa Italiana final 3-0 thumping by Inter, and are without a win in their last six.

Discussing the return of the charismatic Ibrahimovic, who is a former Inter player, Pioli said on Saturday: "He has always been fundamental for this team.

"On Friday he resumed training with us, even if to a small extent. Unfortunately, the two games against Tottenham [in the Champions League] come too soon, and right now we don't know when he will be at 100 per cent.

"I hope with all my heart he can come back soon, especially for what he's doing. Few people would do what he's doing to come back from such a difficult and complicated injury.

"Has he talked to his team-mates? I think so, he knows how to strike the right chords."

Pioli's team have slipped 15 points behind leaders Napoli and entered the weekend in fifth place, albeit only two points behind second-placed Inter, so there is all to play for at San Siro.

"It will be a great opportunity for us and we must do everything to seize it," Pioli said. "Inter come into the match in excellent form, but we have a great desire to start again."

Since the Supercoppa loss on January 18, Milan have been beaten 4-0 at Lazio and 5-2 at home by lowly Sassuolo, putting their top-four prospects in unexpected mid-season peril.

Inter will fancy piling on more misery, but Pioli said: "We have not lost the spirit that has always distinguished us. We must go back to showing it."

Milan are determined to get back into the top four and ink themselves in for another Champions League campaign, but Pioli said: "It shouldn't be taken for granted.

"We have to win many games from here until the end to get as high as possible."

Milan Skriniar will no longer captain Inter after agreeing to join Paris Saint-Germain, says Simone Inzaghi, but the Nerazzurri boss still expects the defender to start Sunday's derby against Milan.

Skriniar revealed he had reached an agreement with PSG last week, though the move will not occur until the expiration of his contract in June after Inter stood firm on his €20million valuation in the January transfer window.

The Slovakia international sat out Tuesday's Coppa Italia win over Atalanta, but he captained Inter on his last appearance against Empoli on January 23, when he was sent off.

With club captain Samir Handanovic losing his starting spot to Andre Onana, Skriniar has skippered Inter for much of the season, but Inzaghi has now revealed that will no longer be the case.

"We have hierarchies based on appearances, but because of what happened he will no longer be the captain," Inzaghi said at Saturday's pre-match press conference.

"We talked about it very calmly with the club and the boy.

"The captain is Handanovic, then we'll scale based on appearances with [Marcelo] Brozovic, [Danilo] D'Ambrosio and Lautaro [Martinez]. 

"The thing that matters most to me is the match."

Inzaghi remains likely to name Skriniar in his line-up against city rivals Milan, who have slipped out of Serie A's top four amid a six-match winless run in all competitions.

"I don't judge his choices but the man and the player, who are unique," Inzaghi said of Skriniar. "He is a splendid boy, who works very well every day. He will probably be a starter."

While both Milan giants have struggled to match the pace set by runaway leaders Napoli this campaign, Inzaghi expects the derby to be fiercely competitive.

"I can say that two teams are facing each other who fought for the Scudetto last year, who played in the Supercoppa Italiana, who are well-equipped and want to make their run without thinking about the others," he said.

"In all the derbies I have seen that they are special matches, which live as single episodes, where a single decision can change the game from one moment to the next. 

"We know that there is this gap, at this moment of the season every point is fundamental for any goal, whether it is to bring Napoli closer or to detach ourselves from the teams pursuing us." 

Having lost September's return fixture 3-2, Inter are looking to deny Milan a first Serie A double over their rivals since the 2010-11 season.

Milan will attempt to recover from a miserable January when they do battle with in-form Inter in a derby at San Siro on Sunday.

The Rossoneri have suffered three consecutive defeats in all competitions, conceding 12 goals in the process to lose the Supercoppa Italiana and leave their hopes of retaining the Serie A title in tatters.

Stefano Pioli's side have slipped to fifth, but a victory this weekend would put them above their second-placed city rivals.

Either way, there are appears to be no stopping Napoli in their quest for the Scudetto, with the runaway leaders holding a 13-point advantage at the summit.

Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta numbers for a derby Milan fans may be dreading given their alarming slump.

Milan suffer the January blues

It has certainly not been a happy new year for Milan so far, and a 5-2 home defeat to Sassuolo last Sunday saw them sink to a new low.

That came on the back of a 4-0 hammering at Lazio, and Inter also capitalised on their defensive frailties to win the Supercoppa Italiana with a 3-0 victory last month.

Milan have extended the season of goodwill into 2023, and they made unwanted history in January, with the 18 goals they conceded more than they had previously shipped in any single month since records began in 1929-30.

The last time they lost four games in a row was between January and February 2017 under Vincenzo Montella.

Inter to deny Milan a long-awaited double?

Inter have won their past two games in all competitions and were able to keep defender Milan Skriniar during the transfer window, although he is expected to join Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season.

Simone Inzaghi's side have lost their past two Serie A derbies against Milan, but they have not suffered three losses in a row to their fierce rivals since a run of four defeats on the spin between November 2002 and February 2004.

Rafael Leao scored twice in a 3-2 win when Milan were the home team in the Serie A clash in September, and they will be striving to complete a first league double over Inter since the 2010-11 campaign.

Nerazzurri's strong home form built on solid foundations

While Milan can't stop conceding goals, Inter have had no such trouble at home in Serie A this season.

They have only let five goals in at home in the league, the joint-best record along with Roma.

Only Napoli (28) have earned more points at home this season than Inzaghi's men, who have 24 from 10 games – winning eight and losing two.

 

More derby delight for Giroud?

Milan striker Olivier Giroud has scored in both Serie A derbies he has played in against Inter.

The France international could become the first player to find the back of the net in his first three derbies for Milan in the three-points-for-a-win era (since 1994-95).

Giroud was on target in the drubbing at the hands of Sassuolo last weekend, that goal taking his tally in Serie A to six for the season.

Rafael Leao wants to stay at Milan amid interest from Europe's elite clubs, with his agent slamming "false and misleading information" regarding his contract talks with the Rossoneri. 

The Portugal international was integral as Milan ended an 11-year wait for the Scudetto last season, scoring 11 Serie A goals for Stefano Pioli's title-winning side.

That led to increased speculation over a move away, with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain credited with an interest in the forward.

With the 23-year-old's contract set to expire in June 2024, Milan remain confident they can agree fresh terms as Leao's agent Ted Dimvula reiterated his client's desire to stay at San Siro.

"There is a lot of false and misleading information about Rafael Leao, mainly in the Italian press," Dimvula told Fabrizio Romano on Wednesday.

"This has only one purpose: to paralyse the cordial and professional dialogue that we have with the Milan management regarding the extension of Rafael's contract.

"We are currently working together to find a satisfactory solution for all parties."

Pioli's side have failed to win their last six games across all competitions and are now fifth in Serie A, 15 points adrift of runaway leaders Napoli.

Leao was dropped to the bench for Sunday's 5-2 defeat against Sassuolo, sparking reports the former Sporting CP forward wanted a move away and was trying to lower his release clause. 

However, Dimvula has no doubts the former Sporting CP forward intends to "progress" with Milan.

"The player's priority has not changed: he wants to stay at Milan and continue to grow and progress at this club and in this city that he loves so much," he added.

"We therefore firmly deny any desire on the part of Rafael and his entourage to lower his release clause in order to facilitate a departure of the player next summer.

"Rafael is completely focused on the important goal at hand with his current club, and he hopes, in this difficult period, to be able to let him work calmly and serenely to return to winning ways."

Nicolo Zaniolo asked to be welcomed back in an open letter to Roma's supporters after his failed request to leave in the January transfer window.

Zaniolo was linked with several clubs – including Milan and Bournemouth – after Roma head coach Jose Mourinho confirmed the forward wished to depart after a win against Spezia in mid-January.

The Italy international was keen on a move to Milan and reportedly irked Roma by rejecting the chance to join Bournemouth in a £26.3million (€30m) deal.

That led Mourinho to describe the likelihood of Zaniolo staying at the Stadio Olimpico as "unfortunate" as the end of the window approached, while the forward was also reportedly threatened by fans.

With Zaniolo set to stay at Roma until at least the end of the season after failing to secure a move away, he hopes the Giallorossi will welcome him back into the fold.

"Many things have been said and written about me in recent weeks and many are not true," the 23-year-old said in an open letter sent to ANSA on Wednesday.

"I arrived in Rome as an unknown and Roma and the fans welcomed me as one of their own. They gave me trust, courage and affection in the terrible moments and during my injuries. 

"At 23, I have had experiences that many of my colleagues do not in their whole careers, to fall, to get up, to fall again, to get up again, to win.

"In recent months, I went through a delicate period, in which it was difficult to understand what my professional future would be. 

"However, I have always worked hard on the pitch and in training with the utmost professionalism. For the first time in recent days I have been afraid, for myself and for my family, and I have felt abandoned.

"The future is in our hands. I hold out mine and place myself at the complete disposal of the Roma family."

Zaniolo – who has only scored once in 13 Serie A appearances this campaign – has not played for Roma since their Coppa Italia win over Genoa on January 12, missing their last three league games.

Milan have denied any issues in ongoing negotiations with Rafael Leao regarding a new contract following reports on Tuesday.

It was reported in Italy that discussions between the Portugal international and the club on a new deal had broken down.

Leao's deal at San Siro is due to expire in 2024 and it was claimed the player's entourage wanted to significantly reduce his release clause.

Milan have denied that any breakdown has occurred, though, and insist discussions will continue.

"With regard to the article published today by the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport titled: 'Leao Milan total break', Milan would like to clarify that the negotiation with Rafael Leao has not suffered any interruption," a club statement read.

"The journalistic narrative of an alleged frost between the parties is not only totally unfounded but also harmful to the club and its player.

"AC Milan continues, in fact, the dialogue with Leao and his entourage in a serene and professional atmosphere."

Several clubs have been attributed with an interest in Leao, including Premier League trio Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Stefano Pioli accepts something has to change at Milan if they are emerge from their slump after achieving an unwanted first with their 5-2 loss at home to Sassuolo on Sunday.

The Rossoneri shipped four or more goals in successive Serie A matches for the first time in their history, having previously been thumped 4-0 at Lazio in midweek.

Milan also recently suffered a 3-0 defeat to rivals Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana, meaning they have lost three in a row in all competitions for the first time since September 2019.

Without a win in six games going further back, the pressure is building on head coach Pioli, who ended the club's 11-year Scudetto wait last season.

While the 57-year-old is expected to be given more time to turn things around, he understands Milan cannot carry on as they are.

"I'm thinking about many things," he told Sky Sport. "Everything that has worked over the past two years isn't working right now.

"It's clear that if you want to change results, you have to change something. I'll make the decisions that are needed to bring us more compactness, energy and better balance."

Domenico Berardi helped pile the misery on Milan at San Siro with a goal and assists for Gregoire Defrel, Davide Frattesi and Matheus Henrique.

Armand Lauriente was also on the scoresheet from the penalty spot, with Olivier Giroud and Divock Origi netting what proved to be consolation goals for out-of-form Milan.

 

It marks the first time the Rossoneri have conceded five goals at home in a league match since April 1997 when losing 6-1 to Juventus.

And with Serie A leaders Napoli 10 points clear of Milan ahead of facing Roma later on Sunday, Pioli concedes his side's hopes of defending the title are over.

"To say I'm disappointed doesn't cut it," Pioli said. "These recent performances have left us in difficulty, but this must push me to understand certain situations must be improved.

"We have to react. We probably won't be able to win the Scudetto again. Instead, our Scudetto is fighting to finish in the Champions League spots, which we can achieve."

Next up for Milan is another Derby della Madonnina showdown with Inter at San Siro next weekend, and striker Giroud has called for unity during a tough period for the club.

"It's a difficult moment for us, but we have to stay together," he told DAZN. "We have the support of the fans, which we have seen.

"We want to give everything for them on the pitch because they deserve more. At the moment I realise things are not going in the right direction. We have to work harder.

"Everything is going wrong for us. Our attitude is good and we want to do well, but it's not enough. 

"Whoever plays, however, must do more, myself included. Let's try to stay united. We have the opportunity to raise the level in the derby with Inter next week."

A goal and two assists from Italy international Domenico Berardi piled on the misery for Milan as Sassuolo thrashed the Rossoneri 5-2 at San Siro.

Sassuolo took an early two-goal lead thanks to goals from Gregoire Defrel and Davide Frattesi prior to Olivier Giroud pulling one back for the hosts.

Berardi made it 3-1 after just 30 minutes before Armand Lauriente's penalty and Matheus Henrique's effort in the second half handed Milan their second chastening loss in a week after their 4-0 humbling at Lazio on Tuesday.

Divock Origi scored a consolation for Stefano Pioli's side, who are now six games without a win heading into next weekend's Milan derby, including four in Serie A as their title defence continues to falter.

A VAR review denied Giroud an eighth-minute opener and, to make matters significantly worse, Milan found themselves two down inside 22 minutes.

Berardi squared for Defrel to tap in the opener before the same man fed Frattesi, who fired past Ciprian Tatarusanu at his near post after great work in the area.

Milan provided a swift response when Giroud expertly headed Davide Calabria's cross into the far corner in the 25th minute.

But the two-goal lead was restored on the half-hour mark when Berardi flicked a near-post header past Tatarusanu from a corner.

Milan's hopes of a second-half comeback were doused almost immediately as Lauriente was brought down in the penalty area by Calabria after 33 seconds of the restart, allowing the Frenchman to make it 4-1 from the spot, meaning Milan had conceded at least four goals in back-to-back Serie A games for the first time in their history.

Ante Rebic had a goal ruled out for offside before Henrique fired in a fifth with just over 10 minutes remaining, with Origi's curling strike into the top corner doing little to lift the gloom among the home fans.

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