The five key battles that could win or lose the game for Milan against Empoli

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan welcome Empoli to San Siro tonight hoping to record their second league win in a row after Sunday’s 4-0 triumph over Napoli.

They face off against a side that snapped an eight-game winless run and a four-match losing streak in the last round against Lecce, and Stefano Pioli stressed the importance of putting the win in Naples to once side and approaching each game as if it were a knockout match in his press conference.

The outcome of the game will be heavily influenced by some of the positional battles that will take place across the pitch, although for once we preface this by saying there have ‘never been so many doubts’ about Milan’s starting line-up as of the time of publishing.

We start with what could be an interesting midfield duel between Tommaso Pobega and Razvan Marin. The former is without a start in three months and is tipped to play behind the striker, while the 26-year-old Romania international Marin was linked with Milan last year and is expected to operate at the base of Empoli’s midfield.

Staying in the middle, tonight will be an audition of sorts for the 20-year-old playmaker Tommaso Baldanzi. He has been heavily linked with the Rossoneri – his boyhood club – and has netted four goals this year, but he meets an opponent he may look to emulate in many ways in Sandro Tonali, who graduated through the Italy youth sector to the senior side and was fantastic against Napoli.

Sebastiano Luperto feels like a Serie A veteran given he made his debut eight years ago for Napoli now, and the 26-year-old will likely be tasked with thwarting Divock Origi. There are rumours Origi’s future at Milan is far from guaranteed and with a limited amount of starts left to prove his worth, it is crucial he adds to his goal tally tonight.

Only Nicolo Cambiaghi has matched Baldanzi’s goal contribution tally for Empoli with three goals and one assist, and he will face off against Malick Thiaw. The German U21 international should get the nod over Simon Kjaer so it will be a big chance to remind Pioli of his quality against the Atalanta loanee.

Finally, we come to a battle on Milan’s left side between Ante Rebic and Tyronne Ebuehi. Rebic’s season has been more down than up and speculation continues to swirl regarding a summer sale, but he can remind Milan fans of his previous heroics at the business end of the season against his 27-year-old Nigerian opponent.

Tags AC Milan Milan Empoli
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