AC Milan will be looking to get some form of revenge when they square off against Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Thursday night.
The Rossoneri will make the trip with the memory still fresh from earlier in the month when Lille came to San Siro and snapped Milan’s 24-game unbeaten run across all competitions with a 3-0 win.
Although Milan have a number of selection dilemmas to contend with, they go into the game knowing that a win would mean they take a huge step towards qualification for the knockout stages, and Daniele Bonera insisted in his pre-match conference that the team will not be settling for a draw.
Game date: Thursday 26 November
Kick-off time: 18:55 (CET)
Venue: Stade Pierre Mauroy
Referee: Craig Pawson
Head coach Stefano Pioli won’t be able to make the journey with his squad as he is recovering from Coronavirus, while he will be unable to call upon forward trio Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers as all three are injured, so he will be forced into some changes.
According to the latest from Sky (via MilanNews), Pioli has five changes in mind compared to the starting XI which won 3-1 in Naples on Sunday.
Alessio Romagnoli still has some calf problems and on Wednesday he did not train, so he will start from the bench. Donnarumma will therefore be protected by a back four of Dalot – in for Calabria – Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo Hernandez.
Kessie will have a rest, with Tonali alongside Bennacer in the midfield. The trident should consist of Castillejo, Calhanoglu and Hauge behind Rebic.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Hauge; Rebic.
When Lille visited the San Siro earlier in the month they were second in Ligue 1 and narrowly trailing leaders Paris Saint-Germain, and that is still the case even though they lost their unbeaten record the game after beating Milan.
They have won six, drawn four and lost one of their league games this season, and after their defeat against Brest before the international break they got back on track with a romping 4-0 victory against Lorient, with danger man Yusuf Yazici getting another brace.
Lille will be able to welcome back the trio of Reinildo, Jose Fonte and Burak Yilmaz who were all suspended for the win over Lorient, though Yazici and Jonathan David are expected to be the front two.
They have been dealt two blows though as star midfielder Renato Sanches is set to miss out with the muscle injury while right-back Mehment Zeki Celik has a sprained ankle.
Probable Lille XI (4-4-2): Maignan; Pied, Fonte, Botman, Bradaric; Ikone, Andre, Soumare, Bamba; David, Yazici.
Head to head
As mentioned, it was the Yusuf Yazici show when these two sides met in the reverse fixture as the Turkish playmaker netted a superb hat-trick to fire his side to a 3-0 win.
That means that in the three previous encounters between the two sides, Lille have actually emerged with the better record against their opponents from Italy having drawn one and won two.
The previous game in Lille ended 0-0, but the game at San Siro was anything but as the visitors pulled off a shock 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Nigeria international Peter Odemwingie and the Ivorian Abdul Kader Keita.
Match facts (via WhoScored):
➤ Lille have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches against AC Milan in all competitions.
➤ There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Lille’s last 3 games (Europa League).
➤ There have been over 2.5 goals scored in AC Milan’s last 3 games (Europa League).
➤ Lille have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 matches (Europa League).
Ones to watch
The obvious threat for Lille is the man that Milan fans know well by now in Yazici, who has scored nine goals in 13 appearances across all competitions this season and was actively tentatively linked with a move to the Rossoneri earlier in the week.
However, it is also worth noting that Jonathan David finally scored his first goal for Lille at the weekend on his 14th appearance in all competitions. Not only that though, but he scored a perfect WhoScored 10 rating in the process, so he will be eager to back up that performance.
For Milan, the eyes will be cast towards Ante Rebic to see how he leads the forward line given the doubts over his fitness and whether he is an effective deputy to Ibrahimovic moving forward.
Sandro Tonali will also have another chance to impress having been completely overrun by Renato Sanches in the first game, while Matteo Gabbia is back in the firing line too against a potent attack.
The ‘first leg’ showed exactly what kind a of a threat Lille pose – they deploy a style very similar to Milan by using pace and power on the counter, and they schooled the Rossoneri the first time around.
It shouldn’t be like that again although it cannot be ruled out, but a point might be a valuable one in the scheme of things given the players out.
Prediction: Lille 1-1 AC Milan