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In Focus: Leao can bring European glory nights back to Milan
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Dan Fitch
Rafael Leao scored twice for AC Milan against Napoli
Rafael Leao scored twice for AC Milan against Napoli

AC Milan will be expecting Rafael Leao to once again be an inspirational figure tonight when they take on Napoli for the second time this month. 

The two teams met in Serie A just 10 days ago, with the Rossoneri delivering a shock 4-0 thrashing of the runaway league leaders. 

At the heart of the performance was the Portugal international, who reminded everyone how special a player he can be by netting two goals. 

Ahead of the first-leg of Milan's Champions League quarter-final against Partenopei at the San Siro, we look at whether the talented forward can repeat the trick.

Napoli brace

Milan went into their recent Serie A trip to Napoli as the big underdogs — but no one seemed to have told Leao.

After 17 minutes Brahim Diaz played in the winger, who applied a deft chip to beat goalkeeper Alex Meret.

The Almada-born attacker was involved in the move for the second goal and then scored the third himself, weaving through the Napoli defence before applying an unstoppable finish. 

The eventual 4-0 scoreline was in no way complimentary to Milan, who could have easily won by an even bigger margin. 

Leao's strikes ended a barren run in front of goal having not previously found the net since January. 

Rafael Leao remains on course for his best tally for goals and assists in Serie A this season
Rafael Leao remains on course for his best tally for goals and assists in Serie A this season

Formation change

The Rossoneri will hope that Leao's match-winning performance will spark a revival in both his own form and that of the team. 

When it comes to the 23-year-old's productivity, the bulk of his 11 goals and nine assists came before the World Cup. 

He scored twice at the winter tournament, but ultimately suffered disappointment when Portugal were surprisingly eliminated by Morocco in the quarter-finals. 

That could have impacted his subsequent performances, but so too could the tactical decisions of Stefano Pioli. 

The manager has persisted with a 3-4-2-1 formation since the turn of the year, which seemed to have stifled their most talented player. 

When AC Milan switched back to a 4-2-3-1 against Napoli, both the team and Leao individually gave their most exciting performance of the season. 

Glory nights

Rafael Leao suffered World Cup disappointment with Portugal
Rafael Leao suffered World Cup disappointment with Portugal

Pioli will surely persevere with the same strategy in the Champions League ties against Napoli. 

With Inter likely to be waiting in the semi-finals for the winner after their 2-0 first-leg victory over Benfica, an Italian finalist seems inevitable. 

After their breathtaking season, most pundits would have expected that team to be Napoli. The recent result between the teams opens up the possibility of it instead being last season's Serie A champions. 

Leao was crucial to that title-winning campaign, scoring 11 league goals and assisting eight. 

Despite his two-and-a-half month run without a goal, he looks likely to surpass that this season, with 10 goals and six assists to his name in Italy's top flight. 

With his dribbling ability and electric pace, the former Sporting Lisbon and Lille star has the talent to bring back the nights of European glory to Milan.


AC MilanSSC NapoliChampions LeagueSerie ARafael Leao
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