Milan began the season with a shock 2-1 away loss to Hellas Verona in which a well-worked move finished off by Andrea Poli was outdone by Luca Toni’s two headed goals for the newly-promoted side.
But they recovered to record a 3-1 win against Cagliari in their first appearance at the San Siro. Robinho tapped in the opener after Mario Balotelli bamboozled his man on the right wing, and Philippe Mexes had an easy finish for the second after the Italian’s powerful shot was parried into his path by opposition goalkeeper Michael Agazzi.
Cagliari got one back in stunning fashion through Marco Sau’s dipping shot from the left wing, but Balotelli capped off an excellent performance with a thunderous drive into the roof of the net that secured the three points.
On Kaka’s first outing since the hero’s welcome he received on returning to the club, Milan endured a tricky afternoon at the Stadio Olimpico in which they were forced to battle back from a two-goal deficit to clinch a point against Torino. Sulley Muntari started the comeback with a shot that fortuitously caught Daniele Padelli off-guard, and Balotelli made it two with a penalty soon after.
A much better performance would be needed to beat early pace setters Napoli in their next game, and although the Rossoneri did improve they were eventually overcome by the Partenopei thanks to goals from Miguel Britos and Gonzalo Higuain. Milan had a chance to draw level when Balotelli wound up for a spot-kick, but the 23-year-old missed, remarkably given his imperious record of 21 out of 21 beforehand.
In their next game, Allegri’s men drew 3-3 away at Bologna, having to stage another revival - this time from 3-1 down - to manage a point at the Stadio Dall’Ara. Goals from Robinho and Ignazio Abate after Poli’s opener rescued the Rossoneri in the dying stages.
But Milan got back to winning ways in their most recent match at home against Sampdoria despite lacking the support of the closed Curva Sud, scoring through Valter Birsa and keeping a clean sheet to achieve an important win.
Having finished third in Serie A last season, Milan faced a qualifying play-off to reach the group stages in Europe. Their opponents were PSV, not an easy side to beat by any means, but Milan got a strong foothold in the tie when Stephan El Shaarawy – with his first goal in six months - headed home Ignazio Abate’s perfect cross in a game that was full of chances for both sides.
The second leg at the San Siro saw the hosts get the job done in clinical style with a 3-0 win against the Dutch through two Kevin-Price Boateng strikes either side of a Balotelli goal.
In their first Group H game, Milan scored two late goals at home to send Celtic back to Glasgow empty-handed, but the result could have been different after the visitors threatened to cause an upset on several occasions.
In their next game against Ajax in Amsterdam, the Rossoneri were behind right until the death. But Balotelli was handed the chance to make amends for his penalty miss against Napoli and duly converted in the 94th minute.
Whilst last season’s Milan side were prolific mostly from within the box, this year’s side have been particularly dangerous from distance. Kevin-Prince Boating against PSV, Cristian Zapata against Celtic, Sulley Muntari against Torino, Mario Balotelli against Napoli and Valter Birsa against Sampdoria have all netted from long range.
Only one of Milan’s 11 Serie A and seven Champions League goals has come from a header, while three have been tap-ins. Balotelli is the current top scorer with three, followed by Robinho and Poli, who both have two.
Milan have tended to line up with the same 4-3-3 formation employed by Allegri last season, with Poli and Antonio Nocerino playing either side of a slightly deeper Nigel De Jong in the midfield, and Robinho accompanying Balotelli and El Shaarawy in attack.