I just can’t contain myself, I’m so excited at the prospect of winning a trophy! OMG! That would be the greatest feeling ever—
Oh. Wait. I support the Arsenal. We’ve won trophies before.
I’ll be honest I say that I don’t know what to expect from this odd little tournament. There are four teams, but we each only play twice. Lyon seem to have sent out strong-ish sides by their standards, but we and Liverpool seem to have adopted a more casual approach with differing results. I have no idea what to expect from AC Milan because this will be their first match in this competition. Will they field a strong side? It’s anyone’s guess.
On one hand, we know that players like Olivier Giroud, Theo Fernandez, and Ante Rebic will still be in Qatar. It’s possible but unlikely that Rafael Leão will be available after Morocco ousted Portugal on Sunday. Also unavailable is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is still recovering from knee surgery. On the other, AC Milan have done very well in Serie A, trailing league leaders Napoli by eight points and finishing second by Chelsea in their Champions League group. Given those absences, it’s hard to see Stefano Pioli wanting to try all that hard here, but, again, who knows?
Gianluca Di Marzio suggested that Pioli ran a training session with a probable lineup seen here. From
what I can gather, this is a heavily rotated XI with only Timori (14 starts), Tonali (11) and Kalulu (10) consistent starters. No one has started more than seven matches of AC Milan’s 15 Serie A matches.
By contrast, it looks like the only player we’ll definitely be without are Jesus (sob) and Saliba, who continues to watch as France progress to the next round of the World Cup. Everyone else is in Qatar, which doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll send out a full-strength XI. What it does show however is a remarkable level of squa-wide commitment and unity. Martinelli, Xhaka, and Tomiyasu, whose nations were eliminated recently, were given time off but have returned to training. White is back in training after dealing with a personal issue, and there’s a distant, distant possibility that Saka and Ramsdale may return to the club. More likely, they’ll be given time off, especially Saka, who logged heavy minutes and was fouled just as often as he is in the Prem.
With all of this folderol behind us, we’re likely see just as much rotation on our side as Di Marzio foresees for the Rossoneri. This would give Eddie Nketiah another chance to convince after scoring against a strong-ish Lyon side last week. Say what you will about the lad; he’s currently our only striker. Slate him or doubt him all you want, but there’s no point in hoping he fails (as I’ve seen some onionheads on Twitter do). It’s not as if him bagging a brace in this glorified friendly will somehow magically convince Arteta and Edu to stop trying to sign reinforcements, so set aside petty grievances and enjoy the match for what it is. There’s nothing at stake, and if a decent performance from Nketiah gives him confidence going into matches of record, such as against West Ham in two weeks, so much the better.
Anyway, without much else to analyse, given how much we don’t know, why not take a few minutes to play this handy little quiz to test your knowledge of our little rivalry with AC Milan?