Coming off a disappointing domestic campaign, AC Milan are now under the leadership of manager Sinisa Mihajlovic and began the Serbian’s tenure with a solid 1-0 victory over archrival’s Inter to open International Champions Cup play.
But the Rossoneri, armed with several new transfer acquisitions, face their first real preseason test when they meet Spanish titans Real Madrid in ICC action Thursday at Shanghai Stadium in China.
Milan wrapped up Serie A last season with a 10th place finish, two spots down from the previous year, but Mihajlovic and the addition of midfielders Jose Mauri and Andrea Bertolacci, as well as strikers Carlos Bacca and Luis Adriano, could spell a significant change at San Siro. Every one of those fresh faces saw the pitch against Inter, though Bertolacci was the only one to start.
The Rossoneri largely dictated the pace against Inter, with defender Philippe Mexes netting an incredible acrobatic goal to secure the victory in the 62nd minute.
Adriano, a star from Brazil who enjoyed roaring success with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine, seems particularly excited to start his endeavor with Milan.
“The impact on arrival was great, we work with greater intensity than I did at Shakhtar,” Adriano said Gazzetta dello Sport. “And my teammates are making my arrival easy for me, particularly the Brazilians Alex and Rodrigo Ely. Even members of the technical staff speak slowly, so I can understand. Berlusconi has given me confidence and peace. Not only to me but to the whole group.
“Why I chose Milan? I spoke with my wife, with my father, with [Mircea, Shakhtar Coach] Lucescu and Pato.
“I thought it was time to face this challenge. Milan have a great history, I want to be a part of it.”
Enthusiasm and a desire to bring Milan back to Champions League contention are all necessary traits before the Serie A season begins, but Adriano and the rest of his new teammates would no doubt receive a major boost of confidence should they overthrow Los Blancos.
Madrid, led by the ceaseless attacking of superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez, are fresh off convincing victories over Inter, 3-0, and Manchester City, 4-1, and looking sharp with La Liga still a month away.
And during that considerable amount of time, it’s possible Madrid could have an entirely different look. Besides the never-ending speculation surrounding Ronaldo and winger Gareth Bale’s potential transfers, Los Blancos are still fighting off bids for forward Karim Benzema.
The 27-year-old Frenchman, who’s enjoyed six incredible years in Spain, has been linked to several of Europe’s top teams, with Premier League’s Arsenal considered the current frontrunners. Benzema only fueled the speculation by taking a separate plan to China and posting a rather cryptic message to his Instagram account.
Benzema’s expected to play against Milan, but his words of “Leave the past to the past” left Madrid supporters scratching their collective head.
Prediction: Real Madrid over AC Milan, 3-1