x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Youthfulness a double-edged sword for AC Milan right now

The PSV XI who finished the first leg included five teenagers. So Milan must hope to seize on any naivete by the Dutch side while staying wary of their youthful fearlessness.

Luca Toni, 36, caused problems for AC Milan in the Serie A raising concerns for their game against Eindhoven next. EPA
Luca Toni, 36, caused problems for AC Milan in the Serie A raising concerns for their game against Eindhoven next. EPA

Maturity is about more than a birth date on a passport. Among other things, it is measured in the capacity to recover from setbacks. The challenge set AC Milan in tonight's second-leg play-off for the Uefa Champions League against PSV Eindhoven is to show they have the composure to shake off recent reverses.

Pressure on any club in pre-qualifying for the lucrative Champions League is high. Milan, who have scarcely recruited this summer, will base their budget for signings in the last days of the transfer window on projected income - or lack of it - from Europe's principal competition.

Though Milan drew 1-1 with PSV in the away leg, the momentum might be said to be PSV's. They equalised in Holland. Milan then lost an early lead again at the weekend, losing 2-1 at Hellas Verona thanks to headed goals from the former Al Nasr forward Luca Toni.

Toni is 36, and the sort of savvy veteran who characterised the Milan teams of Maldini and Inzaghi, Seedorf and Ambrosini, over the past decade.

Yet the strikers seeking the goals to ease them through tonight will probably be Mario Balotelli, 23, Stephan El Shaarawy, 20, and a teenager, Mbaye Niang.

Up against them is an exceptionally young squad. The PSV XI who finished the first leg included five teenagers and no one older than 22. So Milan must hope to seize on any naivete by the Dutch side while staying wary of their youthful fearlessness.

It will be a lesson in how grown-up this Milan are.

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