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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Will Rafael Leão be fit for Milan’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Inter?

Portuguese winger Leão has missed Milan’s last two games against Inter and Spezia, neither of which they’ve scored in.

Update:
Portuguese winger Leão has missed Milan’s last two games against Inter and Spezia, neither of which they’ve scored in.
MATTEO BAZZIEFE

To say that Milan missed Rafael Leão in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against city rivals Inter would be something of an understatement. Stefano Pioli’s men were very much second best throughout last week’s clash at San Siro, mustering only two efforts on target across the 90 minutes, neither of which seriously tested Nerazzuri goalkeeper André Onana.

The seven-time European Cup/Champions League winners have it all to do in Tuesday’s second leg if they are to overcome a 2-0 first-leg deficit, but they do at least appear to have been handed a significant fitness boost ahead of the return Derby della Madoninna.

Leão likely to return to face Inter

Pioli received criticism from both the press and supporters for choosing to leave Leão on the bench in some games earlier in the season, a strange decision considering he is generally the Rossoneri’s main creative force.

The Portuguese had 26 goal contributions (13 goals, 13 assists) in 44 appearances this season before suffering a thigh injury early on in the victory against Lazio 10 days ago. Leão missed last week’s first leg against Inter and the subsequent weekend defeat to Spezia as a result, but Pioli has all but confirmed the winger will be available to play on Tuesday: “He’s better, like (Rade) Krunic and (Junior) Messias, they should do some finishing today. If everything goes as planned, they’ll be available”.

Given Milan’s struggles without him in the last two matches, Pioli will surely be tempted to thrown Leão, one of Europe’s most devastating attackers on his day, straight back into the thick of the action.

Bennacer joins Ibrahimović on the sidelines

The bad news from the first leg is that Algerian midfielder Ismaël Bennacer, who was forced off with a knee injury after only 18 minutes, is expected to join long-term injury victim Zlatan Ibrahimović in missing the remainder of the season.