How Milan should line-up vs. Celtic – first start for young winger; rotation in key areas

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will begin their 2020-21 European campaign on Thursday night when they travel to Glasgow to face Scottish champions Celtic.

The Rossoneri make the trip full of confidence having not lost in their last 20 games across all competitions stretching back to the resumption after lockdown, with 16 wins in that period including seven out of seven in 2020-21.

They will face a Celtic side who are in a bit of chaos with selection issues and lost the Old Firm derby 2-0 to Rangers at the weekend, whereas Milan beat their city rivals Inter 2-1.

Below is how we think the Rossoneri should line up…

Goalkeeper: Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Perhaps the first of a few controversial calls, but Tatarusanu was brought in for a reason: he’s an experienced and reliable deputy who should be able to fill in and give Donnarumma a break, given he hasn’t missed a game in a very long time and has also travelled with the Italian national team over the recent break.

Antonio Donnarumma genuinely might not be a bad shout either, given his tendency to pull out big performances in tournaments.

Defence: Dalot, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez.

One change to the back four sees summer signing Diogo Dalot come in for Davide Calabria, who is due a well-earned rest. It would be ideal to rotate both full-backs given their work rate through the first seven games of the season, but unfortunately it seems that Conti will not quite make the game against Celtic, meaning Dalot would have to play on the right rather than shifting to the left and having Conti play.

However, with plenty of games to come in a crowded schedule and the former Atalanta man hopefully returning to full fitness, there will be chance for Theo to get a rest. As for the centre-back pairing, they’re the only two fit options available.

Defensive midfield: Tonali, Bennacer.

The temptation is definitely to rotate both Kessie and Bennacer after a hectic start to the season, but the Ivorian seems to need the rest that bit more, and partnering the forward-looking Tonali with a box-to-box player in Krunic could sacrifice a lot of the midfield resilience that makes Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 so effective.

The hope is that Milan are in a good position early into the second half and fresh legs can come on in midfield to do some proper rotating.

Forwards: Castillejo, Brahim Diaz, Hauge.

Three changes in the trio of forwards supporting the striker, and we will break down each.

Castillejo needs to play himself into form if he is to get himself out of a difficult moment – it won’t just magically click. This is the perfect moment and the perfect stage to do just that against a suspect defence.

Brahim Diaz is the only natural replacement for Hakan Calhanoglu in the squad, and the Turkey international – also involved in multiple games over the international break – should be rested where possible to give the Spaniard a chance to show what he can do.

Jens Petter Hauge has been training with the team for a few weeks now and should be near enough up to game speed, having come on late against Spezia. This is the time to start him and see what he can do, safe in the knowledge there are pieces who can come off the bench and freshen things up.

Striker: Leao.

Celtic are likely to field a three-man defence consisting of Sean Welsh, Kristoffer Ajer and Shane Duffy. All are more than adequate SPL defenders, but if a quality forward with pace and movement can run off their shoulders into dangerous positions they may be stretched given their lack of pace.

Leao showed against Spezia that he knows how to take up the right positions and with three creative players feeding him, it’s time to see what the Portuguese starlet can do up front and to give Ibrahimovic a rest given he asked to come off towards the end of the derby.

Tags AC Milan Celtic Milan


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