AC Milan will be looking to secure their passage into the final eight of the Coppa Italia once again as they host SPAL at San Siro on Wednesday night.
The last time that the Rossoneri failed to advance to the quarter-finals was all the way back in 2008-09, and they will be looking to avoid a repeat of that when they face Serie A’s bottom club at the Giuseppe Meazza for the second time this season.
Game date: Wednesday 15 January
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Davide Ghersini
Head coach Stefano Pioli will be without midfielder Lucas Biglia once again as he continues his recovery from a muscle injury, as well as Leo Duarte who is still out after undergoing surgery on an achilles tendon problem.
It has been a busy few days for Milan in the market, as Mattia Caldara has completed his return to Atalanta on an 18-month loan deal, having subsequently been replaced by Simon Kjaer who arrives at the Rossoneri on an initial six-month spell from Sevilla.
Meanwhile, back-up goalkeeper Pepe Reina has left for Aston Villa with Asmir Begovic coming in to replace him – both on loans until the end of the current campaign.
Interestingly, there was speculation that Begovic could be thrown straight in against SPAL as Gianluigi Donnarumma is set to miss the game with a small thigh issue – but instead it seems as though Antonio will get the nod two years after his heroics against Inter in the same competition.
In other injury news, Davide Calabria has a right ankle sprain, Mateo Musacchio has a left ankle contusion – which means Simon Kjaer could get his first start – and Hakan Calhanoglu will miss out with a problem in his right calf.
There is no certainty as to whether Pioli will continue with the 4-4-2, and it has been speculated that a return to the 4-3-3 could be on the cards, with Suso potentially even coming back into the fold in an otherwise strong XI.
Probable Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Krunic, Bennacer, Bonaventura; Suso, Piatek, Leao.
As mentioned, SPAL are struggling to follow up their impressive 2018-19 campaign this time around as they are currently stuck to the bottom of the table.
They will hope that they can cause an upset to spark a resurgence, but manager Leonardo Semplici has a long injury list and will be without defender Arkadiusz Reca, winger Marco d’Alessandro, and full-back Mohamed Fares.
One boost for the Biancazzurri is that centre-back Nenad Tomovic will return after a one game suspension as they look to put a run of five defeats in six league games behind them.
SPAL have actually already played in the third and fourth round of this competition, beating FeralpiSalo 3-1 before hammering fellow relegation battlers Lecce 5-1 at home last month to reach this stage.
Probable SPAL XI (3-5-2): Berisha; Cionek, Tomovic, Felipe; Strefezza, Murgia, Missiroli, Valoti, Igor; Paloschi, Floccari.
HEAD TO HEAD
There have only been five meetings between Milan and the Ferrera-based club due to their fairly recent rise to the top flight, but the Diavolo have so far emerged victorious on every occasion.
Earlier this season the two teams met in the league at San Siro and Pioli’s side won 1-0 thanks to a second-half free-kick from Suso.
The two squared off in the final game of the 2018-19 season when the Rossoneri – needing to win to try and break into the top four – ran out 3-2 victors in a dramatic encounter but missed out as Inter and Atalanta won.
Match facts (via WhoScored)
- Milan are undefeated in 29 of their last 30 matches against Cagliari in all competitions.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Cagliari‘s last 7 games (Serie A).
- Cagliari have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 7 matches (Serie A).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This could be one of the most bizarre situations for a Milan player in recent memory if Suso is given the nod to start against SPAL.
Every major media outlet is reporting that the Spaniard both wants to leave the club and has been told he can leave, but that there are no concrete offers at present from anyone.
Wednesday night could strangely be a farewell for the 26-year-old after five years at the club, but it is almost certainly an opportunity for him to put himself in the shop window.
Speaking of which, Andrea Petagna continues to be linked with a potential return to AC Milan as a replacement for Krzysztof Piatek, who also seems to be close to an exit.
As SPAL’s only real major goal threat, it will be interesting to see if the 24-year-old target man treats the game as an audition and a way to prove he deserves another shot at playing for the club where he came through the academy.
Update: Petagna has been left out of the squad to face Milan. So that puts an end to all that nonsense.
Given the visitors’ poor recent form and their injury problems, plus Milan’s resurgence in the last game against Cagliari and their home advantage, we do expect at least a comfortable passage into the quarter-finals of the cup. If not, the team would rightly be shrouded in doubt and criticism once again.
Prediction: AC Milan 2-0 SPAL