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Christian Pulisic benched for Milan’s UCL opener, here’s why not to freak out

United States men’s national team fans might have felt discouraged on Tuesday to see the Christian Pulisic benched news. For the first time this season Pulisic wasn’t in AC Milan’s starting XI as the club hosted Newcastle to a 0-0 draw in their UEFA Champions League opener.

Nigerian forward Samuel Chukwueze started in Pulisic’s usual place on the right wing for his first start with the club. Chukwueze arrived from Villarreal in the summer.

The switch from Milan manager Stefano Pioli worried USMNT fans who fear this could be Chelsea 2.0 situation where Pulisic can’t get starts for his club.

Pulisic benched for Milan’s game vs. Newcastle

Why was Pulisic benched?

The decision to bench Pulisic, who won Milan’s player of the month award for August, was most likely a rotation decision. He looked sluggish during Milan’s 5-1 defeat to Inter on Saturday and was substituted out in the 55th minute for Chukwueze.

Pulisic wasn’t the only usual starter placed on the bench for Tuesday's game vs. Newcastle as Dutch midfielder Tijjani Reijnders also didn’t start.

At the 60-minute mark of Tuesday’s game both Pulisic and Reijnders were brought off the bench and put into the game.

It doesn’t look like this is a case of “Pulisic lost the starting job” and more so a case of managing his minutes. 

That being said, both Pulisic and Chukwueze failed to impress all that much against Newcastle. Pulisic’s 30-minute Champions League cameo featured a shot that was blocked, several losses of possession and a couple mishit crosses.

His USMNT teammate Yunus Musah looked better off the bench with more confidence taking on Newcastle players.

The 0-0 result at home is a massive disappointment for Milan. With the likes of Dortmund and PSG also in the group this was probably the easiest game on paper for the Italian side. Milan outshot Newcastle 25-6 but couldn’t get the ball in the net.

Milan’s best chance came in the first half when Rafael Leão made a mess of a golden opportunity.

Milan’s next game will be Serie A action vs. Verona on Saturday. Pulisic should be in the starting lineup again for that game.

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