AC Milan will play in front of a full capacity San Siro for the first time since before the pandemic as they face Bologna on Monday night in a crucial clash.
Milan will know the results of Juventus-Inter and Atalanta-Napoli when they take to the field against the Rossoblu but one thing will remain certain: a win is an absolute necessity to either build the gap on title rivals or to ensure top spot.
Stefano Pioli reiterated in his pre-match press conference that the outcome of the other games doesn’t matter to the Rossoneri, who need to focus on holding up their end of the bargain.
Game date: Monday, 4 April
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Marinelli (VAR: Di Paolo)
Pioli has a few positions to decide for the game given that the international break just came to an end, which means some players have had more of a workload than others who stayed at Milanello and trained over the fortnight.
The update from Sky Italia (via FMCR) yesterday suggested that there were four positions that the manager needed to settle: Romagnoli or Kalulu (CB), Kessie or Brahim Diaz (CAM), Leao or Rebic (LW) and Giroud or Ibrahimovic (CF).
After listening to the press conference today, it seems Kalulu, Diaz, Leao and Giroud are the favourites to start. The ‘doubt in midfield’ that Pioli admitted to is most likely the No.10 role, which most likely will be occupied by Diaz after what has been an energising international break for him.
In short, there are no big surprises in the starting XI and that is indeed understandably, given that we are now entering the true season finale. Milan cannot afford any mistakes and Pioli will have to make careful evaluations for every game.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Messias, Diaz, Leao; Giroud.
Bologna started the season reasonably well and kept themselves in the top half of the table for almost all 19 rounds in the first half of the campaign, but since then their form has worsened and they have won just once in 2022.
They started the calendar year with three straight defeats and come into this game off the back of consecutive 1-0 losses against Fiorentina and Atalanta, with the recent sad news that Sinisa Mihajlovic will have to battle cancer a second time.
We wish him the very best in his fight, while the Rossoblu manager will have Gary Medel, Ibrahima Mbaye and Musa Barrow back from international duty, but Andreas Skov Olsen is a doubt.
MilanNews have given an update on the absentees that Bologna will have for the match against Milan. They will have to do without Lorenzo De Silvestri who has a hamstring injury and will return at the end of April, while Kingsley Michael will return in a couple of weeks after a fibula fracture. Nicolas Dominguez also is not expected to return before the end of April.
Probable Bologna XI (3-4-3): Skorupski; Soumaoro, Medel, Theate; Hickey, Schouten, Svanberg, Dijks; Orsolini, Arnautovic, Soriano.
Head to head
As SportsKeeda report, Milan have won 25 of their last 37 clashes with Bologna, losing only five in that space, meaning they have certainly had the upper hand recently. The Rossoneri have won five in a row in this fixture since a goalless draw in Bologna in December 2018.
Milan left it late in the game earlier in the season at the Stadio Renato dall’Ara but ended up winning 4-2. Rafael Leao scored with a deflected shot and the home side received their first red card of the night as Soumaoro hauled down Rade Krunic, with Davide Calabria doubling the advantage before the break.
The home side roared back and scored a quickfire double after the break through a Zlatan Ibrahimovic own-goal and a Musa Barrow strike, before Soriano saw red for a nasty late stamp on Fode Ballo-Toure. Bennacer put Milan back into the lead inside the final ten minutes before Ibrahimovic netted to put some gloss on the scoreline.
➤ Milan have won 11 of their last 12 Serie A games against Bologna (D1) and in the most recent six they have always scored at least two goals (18 in the period, exactly three on average per match).
➤ Milan have won each of their last five home Serie A games against Bologna, after losing 0-1 in January 2016 (Emanuele Giaccherini’s goal at minute 82).
➤ Milan have won the most matches by a one-goal margin in the ‘top five’ European leagues this season (11), including each of their last five wins in Serie A.
➤ Stefano Pioli (99) is close to his 100th match as Milan’s manager in Serie A, in the three points for a win era (since 1994-95) he is the coach with the highest average points for the Rossoneri in the competition: 2.04 per match.
➤ With a win in this match, Milan would have 69 points from 31 matches: in the three points for a win era (since 1994/95) it would be the third best result for the Rossoneri at this point of the season in Serie A, after 70 points in 2005/06 and 76 in 2003/04.
➤ Bologna have lost their last two league games and they haven’t scored in their last three matches: they could register a streak of four consecutive Serie A matches without scoring for the first time since September 2018 (five in that case, four of these with Filippo Inzaghi as a manager).
➤ Milan have scored the most goals in the first 30 minutes of play in Serie A this season (21), on the other side, Bologna have netted the fewest goals in the same period (four).
➤ Bologna have conceded the fewest goals via corners (only one) in Serie A this season; in addition, only Roma (11) and Inter (nine) have scored more such goals than Bologna (eight).
➤ Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been involved in 10 goals (seven goals and three assists) in 10 Serie A games against Bologna: since returning to Milan he has scored three goals (including one in
the reverse match) and provided two assists in four matches against the Emilians.
➤ Since returning from the African Cup of Nations, Musa Barrow hasn’t scored a Serie A goal in seven appearances, although only three of those were made as a starter (one assist and 10 shots in just
320 minutes played).
Ones to watch
The Rossoneri will be looking to ride the confidence that Giroud will have right now. He has already scored big goals against Inter and Napoli, and he netted in both of France’s games over the international break as he closes in on Thierry Henry’s goalscoring record.
If Kessie does get the nod to start as the attacking midfielder then he will have to offer a bit more in an attacking sense than he has, and productivity will also be needed from the right wing, and there will be hopes that Leao can rediscover his goalscoring prowess.
For the away side Marco Arnautovic is the main threat as he has 9 league goals this season, but he is followed by Musa Barrow who is not expected to start but has 9 goal contributions (5G, 4A).
We are among the sources to have reported recently that Milan like the look of Aaron Hickey, and he will have a big test in the right wing-back role in his attempts to keep Leao and Theo quiet in what could be classed as an audition game for him.
Bologna have struggled to score goals and their run in 2022 so far is not encouraging, but they have also not been pushovers either as Mihajlovic still demands they are a well organised unit. If the Rossoneri are serious about their title ambitions, this simply has to be a win.
Prediction: Milan 2-0 Bologna