They say that injuries often strike at the worst time, and for AC Milan that could scarcely be more correct. The Rossoneri are set to be without their talismanic veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a prolonged period of time after a muscle injury. He will likely miss key Serie A games as the Italian giants try to keep their ailing title charge alive. Meanwhile, he will also likely miss a reunion with high-flying former club Manchester United, who are now among the favourites to win the UEFA Europa League.
Milan have been struggling recently, snapping a run of poor form that culminated in a 3-0 loss to rivals Internazionale in the derby with a win last weekend. However, they have struggled to make good of their imperious form in 2020, with the ‘Zlatan effect’ beginning to slowly but surely wear off from a side that were absolutely flying until a recent dip in performance.
The 39-year-old Swede has been in great form for much of the season, but some crucial injuries have ruled him out of important runs of games. He missed a mini spell of poor form for the club that culminated in a home loss to Juventus that threw their title charge into disarray. Since returning from that injury, the Swede has looked healthy but failed to score at the same rate he was earlier on in the season.
Milan will re-evaluate the injury within ten days and make a decision on whether or not the Swede will be fit enough to play against his old club. Right now, though, he is almost certain to miss the first leg of the last sixteen ties with United and will be unlikely to make the return leg.
What games will Ibrahimovic miss?
Immediately, the talismanic Swede is set to miss important games at home to Udinese and then away to Hellas Verona. The United game, on the 11th March, is likely to come too soon for him to be fit enough to play – at the best case, he might be able to come on as a substitute. Meanwhile, he will also miss a crucial home match against Napoli that could see Milan really tested in their title credentials.
Coached by former Milan legend Gennaro Gattuso, the former midfielder will want to try and remind his previous employers why removing him for Stefano Pioli was a bad idea. Also fighting for his own job in Naples, he will need to forget about his relationship with Milan, and with Zlatan, and go for broke.
This could leave Zlatan coming back, in his late 30s, from a muscular injury, to try and rescue the season. If Milan want to try and extend their season contention until May, they might need to think about alternatives that allow Zlatan the rest needed. Without their talisman, it would be hard to see the Rossoneri making any genuine progress in the title race or in the Europa League without him being fit.