AC Milan’s game against Napoli on Sunday night is crucial in the race for the Scudetto, and the game should be decided by some key battles.
La Gazzetta dello Sport starts by looking at the duel between Kalidou Koulibaly and Olivier Giroud. The French striker knows how to occupy the area well and he has 10 goals this season – though none have come away from San Siro – and Koulibaly’s tussle with him epitomises one between the third best attack the league against the best defence. Giroud is 1.93m and Koulibaly is 1.95m so it is a battle between two sizeable physical presences.
Then there is the battle between Rafael Leao and Di Lorenzo down Napoli’s right side. The Portuguese winger has 11 goals in 30 games and a renewal is imminent, so Di Lorenzo will have to be at his best to contain him.
Diego Demme versus Franck Kessie in the middle of the park should be interesting too, with the Ivorian playing in a more advanced role. The performance of the ‘Presidente’ has not been at the same level as last season, but he is second among Milan’s midfielders for balls recovered (110), third for interceptions (21) and tackles (27), fourth for tackles won (87) and aerial duels (15).
Fikayo Tomori will have a tough evening against Victor Osimhen, because much of Napoli’s attacking manoeuvre passes through the Nigerian. Spalletti expects something more from his centre-forward who hasn’t been able to make his mark so far in head-to-head matches.
Finally, two fantastic deep-lying playmakers will square off in Fabian Ruiz and Sandro Tonali. The former is the director of Spalletti’s entire game plan and he is among the top four players in the league in terms of number of passes per game, whereas the Italian has taken over from Kessie as the leader of the midfield.
He ranks second among Milan players for tackles won (100, behind Saelemaekers’ 112), intercepted balls (24, also behind the Belgian with 38), key passes (at the top, 32), successful passes (866) and big chances created (4).