AC Milan face a familiar opponent on Tuesday night at San Siro as they host Napoli for the second time in four days.
The occasion is slightly different from Saturday night this time however, with the Rossoneri aiming to make the final four of the Coppa Italia for the third time in the last four seasons.
Napoli have also been relatively successful in the cup too though, having reached the semi-finals twice in the last four seasons, and it would be reasonable to expect a more entertaining affair than the bore draw at the weekend.
We are not likely to see wholesale changes from the team that started Saturday night’s game, with all but two players set to remain the same.
The big headline without a doubt is that Krzysztof Piatek is set to make his first start in a Rossoneri shirt. The former Genoa man was announced last Wednesday evening, started on the bench at the weekend, and played the last 20 minutes – but this feels like his true unveiling.
Ignazio Abate is set to start at right-back in the only other change, coming in for Davide Calabria who will be rested ahead of the crucial upcoming game against Roma.
Likely Milan Xl(4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessié, Bakayoko, Paquetá; Suso, Piatek Çalhanoglu. [MilanNews]
As mentioned in the preview for the previous meeting, Napoli have somewhat managed to exceed expectations again despite such a fantastic campaign last time out.
They sit second in the Serie A table with 48 points on the board – a true testament to Carlo Ancelotti’s ability to adapt quickly, and to Maurizio Sarri for the squad and style he helped assemble.
There are expected to be a few changes from their starting XI, with talented young goalkeeper Alex Meret predicted to come in for David Ospina, and Nikola Maksimovic expected to start over Raul Albiol.
Faouzi Ghoulam is set to get the nod at left-back, while Fabian Ruiz is allowed to play despite his red card on Saturday night. Lorenzo Insigne meanwhile could start up top alongside Adam Ounas, with Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens due a rest.
Likely Napoli XI (4-4-2) : Meret; Malcuit, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Callejon, Hamsik, Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz; Insigne, Ounas.
LAST TIME OUT
As mentioned before, Tuesday night’s game under the lights at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza will hopefully be better than the weekend’s precursor – with the security blanket that there has to be a winner on the night even if it goes to penalties.
It is worth noting how much the Partenopei have the upper hand in recent fixtures, with Milan have lost 10 of the last 24 meetings, winning just five.
The two sides have barely ever faced each other in the Coppa Italia in living memory. In fact, the last time Milan played Napoli in the cup was back in 1990, with Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Maradona the star players for the respective sides.
📅 Tomorrow night marks the first time in 29 years that #ACMilan and Napoli will face each other in the Coppa Italia.
The last meeting was back in the 1989-90 season, when the Rossoneri prevailed 3-1 in the semi-finals.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) January 28, 2019
It goes without saying that the vast majority of eyes will be cast on Piatek on Tuesday night, with the 23-year-old expected to deliver big things following his big-money move.
However, it will also be interesting to see how Suso responds to the weekend’s game, in which he – as arguably the Rossoneri’s main creative force – was rendered completely ineffectual.
Milan should in turn look to capitalise on a change at the heart of defence for the visitors, but must also be wary of Insigne’s role slightly closer to the goal.
Despite the Naples club having somewhat of a hoodoo over the Diavolo in recent times, the form book tends to be thrown out of the window for cup games.
Gattuso fielding a strong XI plus the desire to reach a third final in four years could just be enough to see the Rossoneri edge this one, possibly after an additional 30 minutes.
Prediction: AC Milan 2-1 Napoli (AET)