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AC Milan started the pre-season in the same way they ended their title campaign, with two goals from veteran striker Olivier Giroud.
The goals in the 2-1 win in Cologne in a friendly were far fewer than the double against Sassuolo that won Milan the Serie A title 55 days ago, but it was a good sign for Giroud and his teammates.
Title rivals Juventus and Inter Milan have managed to bring back Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku respectively, making Milan’s title challenge even tougher.
A successful win would clinch Milan’s 20th Serie A title, earning another star on their shirt as Italian teams are awarded a star for every 10 league titles.
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The team will also overtake local rivals Inter, who have won the title 19 times. Only Juventus, with 36 league titles, has more.
“The goal is to win the second star and thus the 20th title, that was one of the first things that (director Paolo) Maldini and (Frederic) Massara told me,” Milan forward Divock Origi said. “We will do everything we can to make it possible and obviously it will be a great result.”
Origi is Milan’s only new signing so far this season, although the club have made loan signings Alessandro Florenzi and Junior Messias permanent as well as French teenager Yacine Adli returning from his loan spell at Bordeaux.
More importantly, however, Milan look set to complete the signing of talented young player Charles De Ketelaere from Club Brugge.
While the 21-year-old Belgian midfielder may not be as big a name as the players some of her rivals have signed, she sees Milan standing out with a mix of youth and experience that will help end their long wait for the title. Zlatan Ibrahimović, who turns 41 in October, renewed his contract for another year.
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Ibrahimovic and Giroud have already won many trophies. But for many of Milan’s young team, the league title was their first taste of success. And that has left them open for more, with many cutting their holidays short and returning to pre-season training earlier than planned.
It seems to have worked in the league with some impressive results, including a 5-0 thrashing of Wolfsburg and a 2-0 win over French league side Marseille on Sunday.
“We finally understood our value and we understood how important it is to prepare well, how difficult it is to win, what we need to stay at the highest levels, so I see that the boys are even more prepared for this season. prepared and even more attentive to detail,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “I am convinced that this is a cycle that has just begun and not one that is about to end.”
Massimiliano Allegri returned as Juventus coach last year – two years after being sacked – but the Bianconeri finished the season without a trophy for the first time in 11 years.
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The famous club has won nine straight league titles until 2020 and even during Andrea Pirlo’s disappointing tenure the team still won the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup.
The Bianconeri were hoping Pogba would bring back the glory days after returning from Manchester United. But the Frenchman continues to be plagued by injuries and may be out until the new year, missing the World Cup as well as a significant part of the season.
Pogba picked up a knee injury during one of his first training sessions back at Juventus and now faces a decision on whether to undergo surgery to fix the problem definitively. do but will see him through 2023 or less invasive treatment with a shorter recovery time but may not be as effective.
Juventus also signed midfielder Ángel Di María as a free agent after seven years at Paris Saint-Germain and defender Gleison Bremer from city rivals Torino as they aim to improve on two straight fourth-place finishes.
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It seems that Inter will be the main opponent of Milan.
After losing the title to their city rivals, which ended their long wait last season, Inter moved quickly in the transfer market to fulfill coach Simone Inzaghi’s goal of getting his team ready for the start of next season. – prepare the time.
Inter have signed midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Kristjan Asllani, and goalkeeper André Onana, but most importantly Lukaku has returned a year after his acrimonious move to Chelsea.
And Lukaku will be quickly forgiven if he leads Inter to the title again.
Lukaku scored 47 goals in 72 Serie A games in his previous two seasons with Inter and formed a formidable partnership with Lautaro Martínez – nicknamed “LuLa” by the Italian media – that helped the Nerazzurri won the league for the first time in 2021 in 11. years.
Napoli, Atalanta and Roma could also be dark horses for the title, although the trio boast just five scudetto wins between them, the most recent being Roma’s Serie A triumph in 2001.
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In Jose Mourinho’s first year, he led Roma to the Europa League title – the club’s first trophy in 14 years.
Mourinho and Roma have even bigger goals this season. After finishing sixth in Serie A last season, they will be targeting a fourth-place finish and a Champions League spot.
But quietly the capital club can expect even more, especially after the signing of former Juventus forward Paulo Dybala.
Napoli also cannot be ruled out, if the team can keep their title for the whole season.
It looked like he would follow Milan’s squad throughout last campaign before a mid-season defeat dashed its title hopes. The team eventually finished third, seven points behind the Rossoneri.
However, Napoli will also have to deal with the departure of players such as captain Lorenzo Insigne and all-time top scorer Dries Mertens as well as defender Kalidou Koulibaly this year.
After three straight third-place finishes, Atalanta’s eighth-place finish last season will be a disappointment to some. But it leaves the team coached by Gian Piero Gasperini free to focus on Serie A without worrying about the Champions League – or any European football.
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Atalanta, who won Serie B in 2011, have never won Italian football’s top prize and a place in the Champions League has already been secured for the team from the small city of Bergamo, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Milan. was seen as an incredible success. .
Beating their more famous neighbors to the Serie A title would be beyond most fans’ wildest dreams.