GdS: ‘Decided in midfield’ – the three duels that stand out in Lazio-Milan

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan and Lazio face off at the Stadio Olimpico tonight with both having quite different objectives, and the game will centre around the battle for midfield supremacy.

As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) this morning, Lazio’s mission is to catch the last train for the Champions League while for Milan the aim is to secure third place and try get second, but both have an eye on the European commitments that await them next week.

Tonight’s match at the Olimpico is an important crossroads for the destinies of the Biancocelesti and Rossoneri and for their coaches, whose permanence next season is not at all certain. It is a challenge that will almost certainly be decided in midfield, as per the paper.

Matteo Guendouzi of Lazio and Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Milan are not the only ones, but they are the most important innovations of the two departments this season.

Guendouzi, after starting quietly (also because he arrived at the end of August) became the starter in the first game against Milan at the end of September and he hasn’t been left out since then.

In addition to being Sarri’s cornerstone, who never gives up his ability to cover multiple areas of the pitch, he has also become the fans’ idol for the spirit he plays with and the ferocity with which he approaches matches. Lately he has also started scoring, which up until now had been his Achilles heel.

Loftus-Cheek is strength and technique together. It is his goals above all that have left a lasting impression though: the Englishman brought them back to Milan’s attacking midfield position, where they were missing last year, and he did so in two months played at the top (six of his seven goals have been in 2024).

It was against Lazio earlier in the season that he came off due to groin pain, then Milan lost him for a month and a half and slowed down. When he returned, he accelerated, dragging his teammates along, from the great performance against PSG to the brace against Rennes, plus the goals against Empoli, Udinese and the brace against Bologna.

Tonight he will challenge a coach he knows very well given that he and Sarri did wonders at Chelsea. In fact, it could be said that RLC actually played his best under the Italian at Chelsea, and it is that form which prompted Milan to take a punt.

Another decisive duel is the one between directors Danilo Cataldi and Yacine Adli. The Roman, after being overtaken by Rovella, has regained his place as starter in the last month with good performances.

The turning point match was the one against Bayern. Now, while waiting for the return with the Germans, he is looking for confirmation against another big team like Milan.

Adli started the season as a bit of an afterthought but he then overtook Rade Krunic in the hierarchies and is expected to start against Ismael Bennacer in the double pivot as he did against Atalanta, which was a surprise given it meant Tijjani Reijnders was left out.

Something changed at the Olimpico for Adli: on the night of last September 1st, before Roma-Milan and with the transfer window having just closed, Pioli told him that he was happy to still have him with him as part of the squad.

A new chapter began, because the Franco-Algerian seized the moment and worked on his game, applying himself on the defensive phase and ‘cleaning up’ his style of play, the result being that he has now become the new starting regista for the Rossoneri.

The other midfield battle is between Luis Alberto on one side and Bennacer on the other. The Spaniard from Lazio has awakened in recent weeks after a long hibernation.

He first started producing assists again (two against Torino), then returned to scoring in Florence (he hadn’t scored for four months). Against Milan he is looking for another top performance to get in gear for Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile, Bennacer knows Milan like few in this squad and Pioli trusts him blindly: he can afford to move him around positionally according to tactical needs without ever losing quality and dynamism. He will be a variable that can decide the match.


Tags AC Milan Danilo Cataldi Ismaël Bennacer Luis Alberto Matteo Guendouzi Ruben Loftus-Cheek Yacine Adli
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