Determined to extinguish the disappointment of last year’s eighth place finish which saw them fail to seal a European spot for the first time since the 1997/98 campaign, one element that had to improve for 18-time Serie A champions Milan was their poor showing away from the San Siro.
With five victories, nine draws and nine defeats their record on the road last term, a change at the helm in the close season witnessed former Bianconero Filippo Inzaghi replace Clarence Seedorf with the aim of trying to propel the Rossoneri back to the glory days.
Having brought in a whole host of new signings in the transfer window, there was plenty of belief that the club could put last year’s troubles firmly behind them and it certainly showed during their first away game of 2014/15 against Parma in September.
A highly-entertaining encounter at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, which saw both teams reduced to ten men, ended with Inzaghi’s charges defeating the struggling Crociati 5-4 thanks to summer signing Jeremy Menez’s inspired performance.
A 2-2 stalemate with Empoli followed as the then second-placed Rossoneri showed their mettle to battle back from two goals down and earn a priceless point in Tuscany courtesy of second-half strikes from Fernando Torres and Keisuke Honda.
As Autumn began to blossom, Milan were held to a 1-1 draw away at Cesena with Adil Rami’s goal cancelling out Davide Succi’s opener, before Honda was instrumental in October’s 3-1 triumph over Hellas Verona at the Stadio Bentegodi, chipping in with a brace to add to Rafael Marques’ own goal.
However, that signalled the end of their victories away from the San Siro with subsequent games against Cagliari (1-1) and Sampdoria (2-2) both finishing a point apiece prior to Genoa inflicting a first loss of the season on the road at the start of December. Luca Antonelli – who recently joined the Rossoneri in the winter transfer window – grabbed the winner in a 1-0 success.
Milan then survived the sending off of Paolo Armero to round off 2014 with a creditable goalless stalemate at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma, before a trip to Torino saw them kick the new year off with another draw, Menez on target from the penalty spot in a 1-1 finish.
But following two consecutive league defeats on home soil, it was vital that Inzaghi’s troops attempted to return from their second visit to Rome in two months with all three points when they travelled to Lazio midway through January.
And if there was any encounter to encapsulate Milan’s 2014/15 campaign in a nutshell, it would be their 3-1 reverse at the hands of the Biancocelesti. After taking the lead through top scorer Menez, his 10th league goal of the term, the hosts battled back to bag three unanswered strikes before the Rossoneri were on the receiving end of their third red card in as many matches following a moment of madness from Philippe Mexes.
With the race for a Europa League place hotting up, Milan will have to improve their record on the road in order to be sure of a spot among their European counterparts next season. And getting a positive result in the reigning champions’ own backyard on Saturday evening could prove crucial to achieving that goal.