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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will look to put things right domestically after Thursday night’s Europa League defeat against Roma when they take on Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium this afternoon.

Milan had won seven games on the trot before taking on Roma in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final but were beaten 1-0, and what filters is that a heavily rotated side will look to keep the Serie A winning run going today.

The game will be influenced by some key battles across the pitch, starting with a player who is not expected to be rested in Rafael Leao, who should come up against Jeremy Toljan on Sassuolo’s right side.

Leao left the field to jeers on Thursday after a poor performance, though they might have been for the decision to bring him off, so the Portuguese winger will look to get back into his groove again today against a full-back who has now been at Sassuolo for three years and can provide a threat overlapping.

At the other end, Sassuolo’s main threat in Domenico Berardi’s absence will be Andrea Pinamonti, the former Inter striker who has nine league goals this season. He should jostle with Simon Kjaer who is tipped to start alongside Malick Thiaw at centre-back.

Kjaer would make his first start since suffering some muscle discomfort during the March international break and he will want to prove he deserves a new deal, but Pinamonti is a very difficult customer.

A player who is set to be given a rare opportunity from the start is Luka Jovic, tipped to start over Olivier Giroud up front to allow the Frenchman some rest. His likely opponent would be the experienced Gian Marco Ferrari.

The renewal of Jovic is far from certain even though he has scored plenty of goals in 2024 after struggles at the start, so he will look to convince the management by getting the better of a defender who has now been a Sassuolo player (with some loan spells included) for eight years.

Yacine Adli will have an interesting double duty to carry out at the base of the midfield this afternoon, with his opponent likely to be Kristian Thorstvedt who tends to occupy the playmaker role for the Neroverdi.

Adli of course will take on the regista duties in build-up and will look to find the forwards quickly with his distribution, but must keep tabs on the Danish attacking midfielder who has five league goals this season and has been one of their brighter spots.

Finally, there will be a fascinating duel down Milan’s right side between Samuel Chukwueze and Josh Doig. Chukwueze came off the bench during the Roma defeat and looked the brightest player by far, which continued a run of positive performances.

The Nigerian will look to keep that momentum going at the Mapei Stadium, but Doig is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young full-backs in the division, with a Scotland debut surely not far away for the 21-year-old.


Tags AC Milan Sassuolo-Milan
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