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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan simply must return to winning ways at San Siro when they welcome Udinese tonight, especially given the difficult recent run of form.

Milan come into the game having draw 2-2 with Napoli in their last game, a result which followed losses to Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain (1-0 and 3-0 respectively), meaning the pressure is on to respond. They face a Udinese side that are winless in their first 10 league games, but have seven draws.

There will be a number of crucial battles across the field, starting with the one between Olivier Giroud and Jaka Bijol. The Frenchman ended his goal drought in Naples with two trademark headers that should have been enough for all three points but weren’t, and now the challenge is to keep being decisive.

His opponent will be the 24-year-old Slovenia international Bijol, who made 32 league appearances for Udinese last season (scoring three times) having arrived from CSKA Moscow and has played all 10 Serie A matches so far this term. He plays in the middle of the three and is a physical centre-half.

There will be a fascinating midfield duel between Tijjani Reijnders and Lazar Samardzic. Reijnders has become an ever-present in the midfield for Pioli but he will reportedly be asked to play in a double pivot tonight alongside Rade Krunic.

When he is on form the team tick, but he does need that first goal for confidence. Speaking of giving his team rhythm, Samardzic is very much Udinese’s metronome and is often the source of anything good they do. He has been linked with Milan in previous windows, and is their joint-top scorer with two goals.

Roberto Pereyra has become a mainstay in Udinese’s side over recent seasons even when it looked like he was destined to leave in the summer, but he is yet to get a goal contribution this season in seven appearances (four starts).

Despite this, he can cause issues on the counter especially paired with the pace of Isaac Success, so Fikayo Tomori will have to be attentive and build on his recent good form. Pereyra scored for the Zebrette in their 3-1 victory over Milan at the Dacia Arena last season.

Finally, we move to the double battle on the left wing between Theo Hernandez and Festy Ebosele plus Rafael Leao against Christian Kabasele. That side has been Milan’s strength since both players arrived, and yet to attacking production from the left has dried up a bit, with Leao having not scored in over a month and Theo not at his best.

With the reported switch to a 4-4-2, the Frenchman and the Portuguese will have to pick their moments to attack Udinese’s right, given that they are coming up against a threat on the counter in Ebosele at wing-back. Both must support and supply the strikers, while being concentrated tactically.

Tags AC Milan Milan-Udinese


  1. They will sit deep and counter. I hope pioli’s plan isn’t to use Thiaw to man mark Success or Samardzic… because we know how that will play out.

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