Milan enter ritiro in bid to re-focus

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Valerio Pennicino/Getty ImagesKaka is expected to be back in the fold this weekend for Milan.

Having existed for decades in Italy, the mid-season ritiro is often feared and seen as a punishment for players during a crisis period in their season. Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani was eager to emphasise that it wasn't punitive on this occasion, and the players and coaching staff were all in agreement that it was the appropriate action for the club to take.

"We certainly told the players and coaching staff that Milan cannot be satisfied with 12th place in Serie A. They must be concentrated and stay together, so in that sense the ritiro seems to be the best option," he told Milan Channel on Wednesday.

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Bringing the players into seclusion can be interpreted in two ways, but as Galliani also insisted Milanello is hardly a "jail cell", and the additional preparation time would ensure that everyone at the club was focused on improving what has been a disappointing start to the season.

Immediate progress against Udinese on Saturday is fundamental, and while games early in the season are always being dismissed as not being "decisive", the importance of securing a win at the San Siro shouldn't be played down.

Philippe Mexes will be missing after picking up a four-match suspension for his actions during the game against Juventus, but coach Massimiliano Allegri did have positive news this week as he confirmed Kaka and Matias Silvestre should be back this weekend.

In contrast, the injury issue continues at the club after it was reported that Mario Balotelli had picked up a thigh problem on Thursday, and is not only in doubt for this weekend's game but also the clash against Barcelona in the Champions League next week.

While there is some debate as to whether or not the Rossoneri can aspire to a top-three finish this year, it is arguably fair to say that with a fully-fit squad led by Balotelli, they are more than capable of doing so.

However, injuries continue to threaten their progress this season, and we will only really know the true strength of the squad built by Allegri when he has all of his players at his disposal. Key absentees not only weaken his hand, but also create confusion over the preferred system and tactical line-up.

As a result, areas of weakness are magnified and there is naturally concern and nervousness both on and off the pitch when Milan fail to secure the results expected of them.

A positive over the course of the international break included Riccardo Saponara gaining valuable playing time, as he was one of the few players to impress Allegri against Caen. Meanwhile, the various other injured stars that have been absent in recent weeks have generally made significant strides towards recovery.

Both Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio have pencilled in the Barcelona game as their comeback night, and so there are signs of both optimism and improvement ahead. Nevertheless, the players should all make the most of being summoned to Milanello this week, and see it as a sign that their season starts afresh on Saturday.

Was a ritiro the right move from Milan? Has the objective already been reduced to a top-three finish?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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