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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan travel to the capital to face Roma tonight with a rather simple mission: win at the Stadio Olimpico to keep their Europa League hopes alive.

Roma emerged the victors in the tactical battle at San Siro with Gianluca Mancini’s header the only goal in the game, but Milan will not go down with a whimper and a response can be expected given how much is on the line.

Just like last week there will be several crucial battles across the field, starting with perhaps the most interesting one between Rafael Leao and Mehmet Zeki Celik. The pair know each other well having been team-mates at Lille, and they were reacquainted in the first leg.

The night certainly went better for the Turk given that he and Stephan El Shaarawy built what has been described as a ‘cage’ for Leao down Roma’s right side. The Portuguese winger left the field to jeers but responded with a goal on Sunday against Sassuolo, so he will want to show he is the man for the big occasions again.

Edoardo Bove will present a different challenge for Tijjani Reijnders and the Milan midfield. He does not have the same metronomic control over a match that the suspended Bryan Cristante has, but he is an incredibly busy player who can be really hard to track.

He may find himself with a lot of space given Milan’s midfield will need to get forward at every opportunity, and that is why Reijnders must be cautious in the defensive phase while trying to be that creative spark from the double pivot.

In a game where Milan know they must score and win to go through it feels strange to highlight two defensive battles, but Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala‘s duels with Matteo Gabbia and Fikayo Tomori could well end up being the key.

Gabbia did a good job limited Lukaku’s influence in the reverse game yet the Belgian’s hold-up play always causes issues and he will try to bring others into play on the counter, including Dybala who is able to decide games on his own with his technical quality. Tomori being help will help the Rossoneri play a higher line and build out from the back better, but he has to be sharp defensively.

AC Milan are obviously not planning on tonight be the final European game of the season, but it must still be on the minds of some players that this is their last shot at a trophy with the club, and that applies to Olivier Giroud who will face Gianluca Mancini again.

Giroud will know deep down that Milan should be going into the second leg level after he missed an absolute sitter that Samuel Chukwueze laid on a plate for him in the closing stages. Mancini will be up for the physical battle, and will also look to continue his trend of big goals at the other end.

Tags AC Milan Roma Milan

1 Comment

  1. Let’s hope Roma don’t get any corners or set pieces. Because after almost 5 years with Pioli, we still don’t know how to defend those… smh.

    Players need to actually show up and play with some fire this time. About the only way we go through. Everyone needs to step up.

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