A.C. Milan forced into changes for Celtic clash; Kjaer out, Hauger In

By Euan Davidson

December 2, 2020

Celtic’s Europa League opponents A.C. Milan are set to freshen their side in tomorrow night’s fixture, according to respected Italian journalist Pietro Mazzalla.

In comments reported by Sempre Milan, Mazzalla claimed that centre-back Simon Kjaer is set to be rested. Replacing him will be 21-year-old Matteo Gabbia.

As for the midfield, one of Brahim Diaz or youngster Jens Petter Hauge will deputise for the injured Rafael Leão in an attacking front three. With Ibrahimović still out for the Rossoneri, it’s likely that Croatian sensation Ante Rebić will take his place.

The sight of Hauge will be unwelcome for Celtic supporters. The hotly-tipped Norwegian made light work of the Bhoys’ defence in a cameo role at Parkhead (BBC).

Milan’s Matteo Gabbia / (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

The next Nesta?

Gabbia, however, is less of a known quantity. A product of Milan’s youth set-up, the centre-back spent last season on loan Lucchese in the third tier of Italian football. Under Pioli this season, he’s made four starts, the last of which was in a 2-2 draw with Hellas Verona.

The young Italian centre-back probably would’ve played more for the Rossoneri this season, had he not caught COVID-19 with the Italy U-21s (Football Italia).

Gabbia has excited development staff in Italy for a few years. In 2016, Blair Newman of the Bleacher Report described the defender as a “a talented and versatile young player” who will feature in Milan sides for the next decade.

Perhaps with the right amount of playing time and the experience of Simon Kjaer and Alessio Romagnoli by his side, we could hear Gabbia’s name in years to come.

Hauge: good at football / (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

Hauge and Rebić: key men for Milan

A star of Bodo/Glimt’s unlikely Eliteserien win in 2020, Jens Petter Hauge is another promising talent snaffled by the Rossoneri. Against Celtic, he showed his power and pace, easily losing Duffy as he put away Milan’s third of the night.

Milan saw enough of Hauge in their Europa League qualifier (Sky Sports) to sign him for a mere £4.5m (Football Italia). With Celtic’s history of dipping into the Norwegian market, it’s somewhat of a surprise that no interest was registered in the winger.

Rebić, meanwhile, is well-known to European football fans. Comfortable either on the wing or through the middle, the Croatian starred for his country in 2018 World Cup. Although the Croats couldn’t quite pip France to an unlikely tournament win, Rebić certainly did his reputation some good.

The former Fiorentina and Eintracht Frankfurt player already has 3 goal involvements from 8 games, in a season which has seen him recover from a dislocated elbow.

Weakened, but not weak

While Stefano Pioli has injury problems to contend with, namely in attacking positions, he’s not wont for quality. The options that Milan have would be a threat to any team, such is their talent and recent form.

Having battled in the second half against the Rossoneri, Lennon’s side will face quite a different side to the one that came to Celtic Park. However, the determination of the Bhoys was palpable in that last 45, and came undone due to the same old defensive errors.

A sharper, more focused Celtic are needed to secure any kind of positive result tomorrow. With the weapons in Milan’s arsenal, any slip-ups will once again be punished.