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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan welcome Slavia Praha to San Siro tonight hoping to obtain a first leg advantage to take to the Czech capital next week in their Europa League last 16 tie.

Milan beat Stade Rennais 5-3 on aggregate in the play-off round to qualify for this phase, while Slavia on the other hand won their Europa League group – one that included Roma – to secure an automatic passage. You can read some insight on them in our preview.

The game tonight will feature a lot of interesting battles as Milan’s 4-2-3-1 is expected to face a three-man defence. It starts with Rafael Leao against Tomáš Vlček who is at the time of writing tipped to play on the right side of their back three.

Leao has been in good form in Europe having scored twice against Rennes in the play-off round, and he ended his Serie A goal drought in the last league home game. Vlcek is considered a real talent at just 23 years of age, but this might just be his toughest ever test by his own admission.

For Slavia, the main threat at the other end is definitely Mojmir Chytil who is tipped to start the game up front for them, which means Matteo Gabbia will likely take on the task of marking him.

The 24-year-old Czech forward has scored 15 goals and has added five assists in 34 games so far this season so will be full of confidence, but Gabbia has been in good form too so will be well up for the duel.

Vaclav Jurecka is the other big danger man for the away side and the predicted line-ups have him playing as a sort of left-sided attacking midfielder in a 3-4-2-1 system, which would pit him against Yacine Adli.

Jurecka has 13 goals and four assists this season and thus he is up there with Chytil in terms of producing goals, while for Adli it will be another test of his defensive capabilities given the new role that Pioli has entrusted him with.

There is a player among the ranks of the Czech side who has actually already faced Milan this season in David Zima. He was at Torino until the January window when Slavia brought him back, though he did not feature in the 4-1 at San Siro back in August.

He is likely to come up against Christian Pulisic who will once again be the trusted right winger for Pioli. The American scored in that win against the Granata and will be looking to notch his first UEL goal of 2023-24.

We end with another midfield battle, this time between Tijjani Reijnders and Oscar Dorley over on Milan’s left side. The Dutchman has started more on the bench recently but is expected to get the nod tonight given his quality and creativity, so will want to show Pioli what is missing when he doesn’t start.

Dorley meanwhile was described to us by Slavia expert Jan Pikous in our preview as ‘a great midfielder – energetic, versatile, very good all around player’, so he is certainly one to keep an eye on.


Tags AC Milan Milan Slavia Praha


  1. If I was the Slavia Praga coach, I’d try to play defense and keep the game close (a 1-0 or 2-1) and try to win it in the return leg. The thing to avoid is a 3-0 loss like Rennes.

    The big question mark is Adli. Whether he’s able to play well, or screw up will impact how the game will go.

    The second is related to the performance of Leao and Loftus-Cheek. They are the ones most likely to break a closed defense. I doubt we’ll get the chance to counter them.

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