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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan have the opportunity to overtake Juventus and pinch second spot when they face their Lombardy neighbours Monza at the U-Power Stadium tonight.

Stefano Pioli’s side have been in great form recently and won 3-0 on Thursday night in the Europa League, and while Monza have struggled to match last season’s pace it still promises to be a tricky and also heartfelt encounter given the links between the clubs.

The outcome will be heavily influenced by who wins the battles that will take place across the field, starting with Luka Jovic against Pablo Mari. Jovic is averaging a goal every 105 minutes for the club and has made a name for himself as a super sub, but will get a start tonight over Olivier Giroud.

The Serbia international is of course playing for a new contract given his current deal runs out in June, while the 30-year-old former Arsenal man Mari will be a tough opponent in the heart of the Monza defence.

Monza’s main threat this season has come from the impressive attacking midfielder Andrea Colpani given that he has seven goals and an assist in Serie A already, and he will look to get the better of Ismael Bennacer.

The decision was made to rotate the double pivot for Thursday night’s game so Bennacer should be fresh despite coming off the bench, and he will have to keep close tabs on Colpani while also dictating play with his passing and dribbling.

Sticking with Monza’s attack, there will be a big opportunity for Lorenzo Colombo to send a message to his parent club given he is on loan from Milan, and he is likely to come up against Malick Thiaw who is tipped to make his first start in a while.

It has been 82 days to be precise since Thiaw was in the starting line-up, and he got minutes off the bench in midweek to help him regain rhythm. It is possible that Matteo Gabbia might be the one to battle fellow academy graduate Colombo, but we think he will side towards helping Bennacer with Colpani.

One of the signings that Monza made over the summer was the experienced Armando Izzo who joined from Torino, and he will face a very tricky examination from Rafael Leao down the left side of the Milan attack.

Izzo has 242 Serie A appearances to his name so he will certainly relish the battle, while Leao – who scored a gorgeous goal against Rennes to boost his confidence – is now aiming to end a goal drought in Serie A that has been ongoing since September.

Finally, we end with the man of the moment: Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Englishman has been in outstanding form in 2024 having scored six times this year with three braces, and that means in this calendar year he has already doubled his goals tally from 2019 to 2023 inclusive.

Loftus-Cheek will again occupy that important attacking midfield role and will face Roberto Gagliardini, the former Inter man who is the deeper of the double pivot Raffaele Palladino uses.


Tags AC Milan Monza Milan
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