2020/2021 and beyond has been unpredictable, to say the least, the worldwide pandemic has seemingly effected sports results especially in the world of Soccer. Nobody would have guessed that the return of 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović would have been the same season that AC Milan leads the Serie A for the first time since 2011.
Through the first fifteen fixtures of the Serie A 2020/2021 season Milan had remained undefeated, a clash with former champions Juventus became the squad’s first loss this season.
The Rossoneri rival clash at the top of the table was poor timing for Ibrahimović to remain on the injury list, forcing him to miss the matchup. Aged thirty-nine, Zlatan has scored ten goals and assisted goals in seven appearances this season, beyond that his leadership and knowledge of the game is making an impact in the AC Milan locker room since his return.
Coincidence or not, the loss of Zlatan since November 22nd and more so in the crucial fixture versus Juventus was harmful to the squad by suffering their first defeat of the domestic season without him.
Online sports betting sites still favour Milan to fail this season, placing them as third favourites in the betting odds.
Zlatan returned from injury this past weekend, coming on for the final five minutes versus Torino. A 2-0 victory extended Milan’s Serie A 1st place position into a three-point gap between rivals Inter Milan.
It was nothing more than a warmup for Zlatan but comfort in knowing his return to the starting squad came against the same team.
A repeat clash with Torino on Tuesday night in the Coppa Italia saw Milan scrape through on Penalties as squad rotation did not plan.
The league leaders cruised to a comfortable victory in the domestic clash, but the midweek Coppa Italia meeting proved a tough test at the San Siro. Twenty-Eight points separate the two teams domestically, but you would not have noticed that on Tuesday night.
The return of Ibrahimović came close to glory in the opening minutes, but a lobbed shot sailed just over the crossbar in what was potentially the best attempt of the first forty-five minutes.
The 39-year-old Swede has already bagged ten goals for Milan this term and was brought on for five minutes in the weekend game versus Torino, the second encounter on Tuesday night saw Ibra flex his legs for an entire half. But a halftime substation could have been telling that Stefano Pioli does not have a 100% fully fit player on his hands.
“The important thing is that the muscular problem is behind him, now we’ll have to help him find his way back because he was out a long time,” Pioli told the press.
“He’s such a strong player, a great stimulus for the whole team.”
Forcing Ibrahimović back into the squad is a foolish move that Pioli isn’t willing to take. A five-minute run around followed by a forty-five first-half outing is Pioli’s method of easing his star back into the squad.
His return was not as promising as hoped, a drawn fixture against relegation strugglers when you’re leading the Scudetto isn’t precisely promising and just one opportunity on goal saw Zlatan substituted at the half.
Zlatan Take Time
Milan’s injury concerns can be eased with the return of their most experienced and current top goalscorer this term. Still, as proved during the Torino fixtures, time will be needed to slide him back into the squad and find the same results post-injury.
Returning to the starting lineup after seven weeks must have been a relief. Still, the half Zlatan played in the Coppa Italia was severely lacking emotion and effort from all players.
Milan has qualified into the Coppa Italia quarter-finals and is top of the Serie A table. It’s too soon to start dwelling, but we need to hope the performance against Torino wasn’t a look into the future.