AC Milan travel to Croatia to face Rijeka with nothing on the line as they have already secured qualification to the knockout rounds and first place in their group.
Date: Thursday, December 7
Time: 19:00 CET
Venue: Stadion HNK Rijeka
TV Guide: BT Sport Extra, Fox Sports, Sky Calcio 1
Milan have been in poor form as of late. Apart from their 5-1 thrashing of Austria Vienna in this competition, their last three Serie A fixtures have been a loss to Napoli and draws to Torino and Benevento.
The Benevento result is especially concerning as it was their first point ever in Serie A and achieved by a 95th minute header from their goalkeeper.
The predicted XI from Sky Sport 24 sees many changes. Gigio Donnarumma will be given a rest as Marco Storari is set to start. The back three could consist of Cristian Zapata, Alessio Romagnoli, and Gabriel Paletta, who has yet to play in a competitive match this season.
The midfield will see Lucas Biglia return to the lineup over Riccardo Montolivo, and he will be supported by two youngsters in Manuel Locatelli and Niccolo Zanellato. Luca Antonelli and Davide Calabria will be the wing-backs.
In attack we will most likely see the Cutrone-Andre Silva Europa League partnership once again.
The reason for the squad rotation is undoubtedly because the match has little importance. It is a perfect opportunity for Gennaro Gattuso to take a look at some players who haven’t received much run this season. Gabriel Paletta in particular was praised by Gattuso when he was managing the primavera as an example for the younger kids to look up to, and is now getting his chance.
AC Milan Squad: A. Donnarumma, Guarnone, Storari; Abate, Antonelli, Bonucci, Calabria, Musacchio, Paletta, Romagnoli, Zapata; Biglia, Gabbia, Locatelli, Montolivo, Zanellato; Cutrone, Forte, Andre Silva.
AC Milan probable XI (3-5-2): Storari; Zapata, Romagnoli, Paletta; Calabria, Locatelli, Biglia, Zanellato, Antonelli; Silva, Cutrone.
Rijeka currently sit in fourth place in the Croatian first division. They have played in 18 matches, winning 9, drawing 2 and losing 7.
They are coming off a domestic loss over the weekend, and still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout round, albeit slim. They will come ready to play and looking for three points.
LAST TIME OUT
The two teams met on Match Day 2 in what was a tough fixture for Milan, as they squeaked by a 3-2 victory against Rijeka at the San Siro.
They took the lead and comfortably went up 2-0, only to give up two goals in the last six minutes of regulation and allow Rijeka to draw 2-2. Patrick Cutrone bailed out the rossoneri with a beautiful late goal to take all three points.
For Milan, the first player to watch will be Lucas Biglia. Biglia was thought to be one of the most important signings of the summer, but has yet to impress. Eventually it was found out that he had a knock, but he is now recovered and Milan will be looking to him to turn things around.
Andre Silva is always one to watch in the Europa League, as he has been brilliant in the competition. In addition to this it will be a good chance for Manuel Locatelli to perform well and win a place in the side, and look for him and fellow youth product Cutrone to link up.
Rijeka do not have any star players, but as we saw last time they can definitely cause damage. One player to watch out for is Mario Gavranovic. The Swiss player has scored 12 goals in 24 competitive matches across all competitions this season, and will certainly look to trouble the Milan back-line.
After the Benevento match, Milan will be keen to get a good result and performance against Rijeka. Although you can never be too confident with this team, expect the players who have not been given much time to play very hard and try to earn Gattuso’s trust.
With the talent disparity, if Milan play with desire and ambition, they should be able to win the match comfortably.
Rijeka 0-2 Milan.