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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will welcome Atalanta to San Siro tonight hoping to continue their three-game winning run and stamp some authority in the top four race.

The Serie A table alone makes it apparent how big a game this is, with Milan currently in fourth spot on 44 points and Atalanta in sixth on 41 points. A win for the away side would see them leapfrog their Lombardy rivals by virtue of head to head.

The game will be heavily influenced by some key duels that will take place across the field starting with Olivier Giroud against José Luis Palomino. It will be a battle of two veterans as the 36-year-old striker looks for another important goal after netting in the last home league win against Torino, and he will come up against a 33-year-old centre-back stepping in for the injured Demiral.

At the other end, Milan will get a good luck at reported target Rasmus Højlund. The 20-year-old Dane is the fifth youngest non-Italian player to score at least six goals before reaching 20 Serie A appearances (only Adriano, Icardi, Kessié and Pato were younger in the three-point-per-win era). It could well be Malick Thiaw’s toughest test since becoming the middle centre-back in the back three, and he too has an impressive stat to his name.

Moving into the midfield, Rade Krunic will once again be relied upon in tandem with Tonali and he faces a very tough assignment in keeping Teun Koopmeiners quiet. The Dutchman has been one of the best midfielders in the league this season so far with nine goal contributions (6 goals, 3 assists) in just 21 league games, so the Bosnian will have to keep tabs on him and shield the defence.

Rafael Leão scored in his last league match at San Siro against Atalanta but he has not been involved in any goal for Milan in his last seven appearances in all competitions. The last time he played 8+ consecutive games with the Rossoneri without a goal or assist was in March 2021 (nine), and he will aim to get the better of his namesake Rafael Toloi who will be on the right of the back three and has become a bedrock of Atalanta’s defence.

Finally, we come to the fascinating battle between two former team-mates in Fikayo Tomori and Ademola Lookman, who played together through the England youth set-up including the U21s from 2017 to 2019. Lookman has been Atalanta’s story of the season with 12 goals and 5 assists in 22 Serie A matches, while Tomori made his first start against Monza after an injury lay-off and will have to be at his best.

Tags AC Milan Milan Atalanta
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