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Young players contribute to Milan’s rise this season

Milan players celebrate at the end of Sunday’s match against Chievo, in Verona.

Milan players celebrate at the end of Sunday’s match against Chievo, in Verona.

Milan outclassed Chievo 3-1 away on Sunday for their fourth win in their last five Serie A outings. This is the first time for several months that Milan have gone five successive games without defeat.

Victory over Chievo also confirmed Milan’s positive record against the Verona-based side as they have now managed 21 wins in 29 clashes between the two sides.

The three points saw Vincenzo Montella’s side go up to second place for the first time in six years with 16 points, level with Roma, who stunned Napoli at the San Paolo on Saturday, but five adrift of Juventus.

Milan host the Bianconeri in next Saturday’s late kick-off.

Juventus have dominated the Serie A since dethroning Milan, then coached by current Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, in 2012.

Since then Milan slid into a freefall and were never really in the race for the title.

They finished third place in season 2012-13, eighth in 2014, 10th in 2015 and seventh last term, sacking a few coaches in the process including Allegri, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi.

For Milan, the head-to-head encounter with Juventus will be an ideal opportunity to gauge the real progress made lately and, in particular, to take revenge for the 1-0 defeat to Allegri’s men in last May’s Coppa Italia final played at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

Milan and Juventus will also cross swords on December 23 in the Italian Super Cup, in Doha.

But what has contributed to Milan’s revival of late?

For sure, they were not among the big spenders during the off-season as their star signing was Gianluca Lapadula, a 26-year-old forward who scored 30 goals for Pescara in Serie B last season.

The Rossoneri were reported to have paid €9 million, plus add-ons, for Lapadula.

Milan’s other signings of note were Leonel Vangioni (River Plate), Gustavo Gomes (Lanus), Jose Sosa (Besiktas), Mario Pasalic (Chelsea) and Mati Fernandez (Fiorentina).

Lapadula is yet to leave his mark on the team as so far he has not found the back of the net in four appearances for his new team.

Many reckon that coach Vincenzo Montella is behind Milan’s progress. He signed at a time when Silvio Berlusconi was on the verge of selling a major stake in the club after 30 years at the helm.

The move took quite some time to happen and, in the meantime, Milan lost precious time to close deals with new players in summer.

After years of signing seasoned veterans past their best playing years, Milan are now back in business also thanks to their upcoming players from the junior ranks.

So much so that in the first five league outings, the average age of the players fielded by Montella was 25 years and 10 months.

One has to go back to 1985/86 to find a younger Rossoneri team with an average age of 25 years and three months. The side was then coached by former club great Nils Liedholm.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Mattia De Sciglio, Davide Calabria, Alessio Romagnoli, Manuel Locatelli, Suso and M’baye Niang are contributing significantly this season to lift Milan to the higher echelons of the Serie A.

But, Montella also has a few veterans to rely on, the likes of Gabriel Paletta, Ignazio Abate, Luca Antonelli, Giacomo Bona-ventura, Juraj Kucka, Andrea Poli, Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca.

Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo faces a lengthy period on the sidelines after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury while on international duty earlier this month.

Having the right mix of players is working great for Montella.

Stern tests lie ahead but the indications are that Milan could indeed become Juve’s main challengers this season.

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