AC Milan go into Friday night’s game against Genoa knowing that a win is virtually a necessity to keep their Scudetto hopes alive.
Going into the last two league fixtures Milan had their title fate in their own hands but after consecutive 0-0 draws against Bologna and Torino, Inter can now go ahead if they win their game in hand, while Napoli are still breathing down the Rossoneri’s necks.
Stefano Pioli stated in his pre-match press conference that the team are well prepared and that a bit more composure is what they need to break the drought in front of goal, but expects another tough game against a side who sit deep.
Game date: Monday, 4 April
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Marinelli (VAR: Di Paolo)
Milan found themselves with a bit of an injury crisis for the trip to Turin on Sunday night as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ismael Bennacer, Ante Rebic and Samu Castillejo were all ruled out on the day of the game while Alessio Romagnoli, Simon Kjaer and Alessandro Florenzi missed out too.
However, the good news is that Rebic and Bennacer are back with both having disposed of muscle fatigue, but Ibra is expected to miss the next three games and Castillejo has picked up another knock in training.
Sky (via MilanNews) are reporting that Brahim Diaz should start on the bench in the match against Genoa tomorrow night. Franck Kessie has the advantage to start in his place, although Rade Krunic was also tried during the week in that position suggesting that Pioli has not totally made up his mind yet.
Another battle is on the right wing, with Alexis Saelemaekers ahead of Junior Messias at the moment but a last-minute change not excluded. On the left wing it will be Rafael Leao, despite Ante Rebic’s recovery.
Ahead of Mike Maignan will be Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori and Theo Hernandez. Ismael Bennacer returns to midfield having recovered from the muscle problem that kept him out of the Torino game, and alongside him will be Sandro Tonali.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo; Tonali, Bennacer; Saelemaekers (Messias), Kessie (Krunic), Leao; Giroud.
It has been another season of utter chaos for Genoa as their seemingly perennial attempts to just keep their heads above water by any means necessary continue. Davide Ballardini started 2021-22 as the head coach but he was replaced by Andriy Shevchenko who had a disastrous eight-game reign in the end.
Abdoulay Konko was caretaker for one game, and now it is the 48-year-old German coach Alexander Blessin who has been in charge since January, but they are really in a battle to stave off the drop given they are second bottom and three points behind Cagliari in 17th.
The Rossoblu have won just 2 of their 32 league games so far this season but remarkably have drawn 16 of them, including a run of seven in a row stretching from January into March that featured five 0-0 draws and only two goals conceded. Their most recent win was three games ago: a 1-0 triumph against a Torino side that Milan could not score past.
In terms of fitness news for Blessin, he has quite a few players out as Inter loanee Zinho Vanheusden, Milan target Andrea Cambiaso, Lennart Czyborra, Juventus loanee Nicolo Rovella, Stefano Sturaro and Riccardo Calafiori are all going to miss the trip to San Siro.
There are doubts about whether experienced defender Domenico Criscito – their second top scorer with five goals – will start or not, but the papers are suggesting that Silvan Hefti, Nikola Maksimovic, Leo Ostigard and Johan Vasquez will be the back four.
Probable Genoa XI (4-2-3-1): Sirigu; Hefti, Ostigard, Maksimovic, Vasquez; Sturaro, Badelj; Ekuban, Melegoni, Portanova; Destro.
Head to head
Milan have had the better of recent encounters against Genoa and have won 18 out of the last 30 matches played between the two teams, with 7 victories for the Rossoblu in that stretch of time.
The sides have already met twice this season as Milan triumphed 3-0 at the Stadio Luigis Ferraris back in December thanks to an Ibrahimovic free-kick and a brace from Junior Messias, while the Rossoneri also emerged victorious in the cup after extra-time, with goals from Giroud, Leao and Saelemaekers enough to reach the quarter-finals.
➤ Milan have won seven of their last 10 Serie A matches against Genoa (D2 L1), after losing four of their previous five against the Grifone in the competition (W1).
➤ None of the last 10 games between AC Milan and Genoa played in the second half of a Serie A season have ended level: eight wins for the Rossoneri and two for Grifone, with the both Liguri’s wins coming at Meazza.
➤ Milan have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five league matches – Stefano Pioli could become just the third manager in Rossoneri history to collect at least six clean sheets in a row in a single Serie A season, after Fabio Capello (twice in 1993-94: seven and nine) and Nereo Rocco (seven in 1971-72).
➤ No team have kept more clean sheets than Milan in Serie A in 2021-22: 14, level with Inter – the last time the Rossoneri recorded more clean sheets in a single Serie A campaign was in 2011-12 (18).
➤ Milan could fail to find the net in three consecutive league games for the first time since January 2020, while only twice have they played out three successive goalless draws in the competition: in January 1994 and in April 1936.
➤ Genoa have won the fewest games (2 in 32 matches) and drawn the most (16) in the ‘top five’ European Leagues in 2021-22 – in their Serie A history, only in two seasons have Grifone drawn more matches (17 in 1992-93 and in 1989-90).
➤ In 2022 only Liverpool (6 in 12 matches) have conceded fewer goals than AC Milan (7 goals in 13 games) in the Big five European leagues – the Rossoneri are 40th however during this period for goals scored (16 ).
➤ Theo Hernández scored the first of his 17 Serie A goals against Genoa in October 2019 – he is the only defender to have already been directly involved in 10 goals (4 goals, 6 assists ) in the league this season.
➤ Mattia Destro – 15 appearances and 3 goals for AC Milan in Serie A between February and May 2015 – has scored five goals against the Rossoneri in the competition. He could become only the fourth player to find the net in four matches in a row against them in Serie A in the era of three points for a win, after Diego Milito in 2010, Antonio Di Natale in 2011 and Romelu Lukaku in 2021.
➤ Mattia Destro – nine goals in Serie A this season – could become the first Genoa player to score 10+ goals in two back-to-back Serie A seasons since Tomas Skuhravy (3, between 1990-91 and 1992-93). However, the Italian forward has only scored one goal in his last 10 league matches (v Salernitana on 13 February).
Ones to watch
It’s time for Milan’s left wing to reignite. Theo Hernandez has scored 4 goals and provided 6 assists this season but in the last 5 games has had not added to his tally of goal contributions as his last assist dates back to February 19 against Salernitana and his last goal was on January 9 against Venezia (a brace). Rafael Leao is without a goal since February, and his performances have been less effective of late.
While it is also time for the No.10 and right wing roles to step up too, we must praise the centre-back pairing of Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu for keeping six straight clean sheets. If they keep another, then we are getting towards record territory.
For the vistiors, the name of Mattia Destro should be familiar to Milan fans given he has a knack for scoring against the Rossoneri, but he has found the net just twice in 12 appearances in 2022 and may not even start.
One of the key men will be Ostigard in the heart of the Rossoblu’s defence. He scored the opener for them in their cup defeat earlier this year and has been a big part of their impressive defensive record, but will likely have to nullify both Giroud and Leao.
Call us pessimistic, yet we can’t help but feel Milan could end up with a third-straight stalemate. We hope for this prediction to be proven wrong after five minutes thanks to a Theo goal, but Genoa are one of the better defensive teams overall (though Lazio’s 4-1 win recently did show the blueprint) and they are fighting for their lives.
Prediction: Milan 0-0 Genoa