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Preview: Europa League Game Five – AC Milan vs. Dudelange
By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan are back in Europa League action on Thursday night, in desperate need of three points against F91 Dudelange at San Siro.

The Rossoneri currently sit second in Group F – tied with Olympiakos having amassed seven points from their opening four games, but ahead due to head-to-head record.

With the Greek side facing a tough test against Betis, a win for Gennaro Gattuso’s side at home would put them in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages.

THE TEAM

In the past few weeks, Gattuso has had an absolute selection nightmare due to so many of his key players being injured.

Milan confirmed that Giacomo Bonaventura will miss up to nine months after undergoing knee surgery in the USA, while fellow midfielder Lucas Biglia is out until the New Year too.

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 25: Giacomo Bonaventura of AC Milan in action during the UEFA Europa League Group F match between AC Milan and Real Betis at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 25, 2018 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Injuries to Mattia Caldara, Matteo Musacchio and Alessio Romagnoli gave Rino a defensive crisis to solve in Rome against Lazio.

Likely AC Milan XI (3-5-2): Reina; Simic, Zapata, Rodriguez; Suso, Bertolacci, Mauri, Calhanoglu, Laxalt; Cutrone, Higuaín.

THE OPPONENTS

Dudelange made history in qualifying for the Europa League becoming the first Luxembourg side to compete in the group stage of a European competition. They overcame a rather impressive list of opponents to qualify as well beating the reigning Polish champions Legia Warsaw 4-3 on aggregate then absolutely blowing the reigning Romanian champions FC Cluj out of the water winning 5-2 on aggregate in the final round of qualifying.

Ahead of Milan’s last game against Dudelange – in Round One of the group stages – the reigning Luxembourg National League champions found themselves in 12th (out of 14 teams) with six points from their first four games.

Jose Mauri Milan

Since that game in September their fortunes have somewhat changed, with Dudelange now third in the table, with 23 points from 12 games.

LAST TIME OUT

Despite the aforementioned selection issues facing Gattuso for Sunday’s clash against Lazio, the Rossoneri did well to come away from the capital with a 1-1 draw. A deflected Franck Kessie strike (since credited as an own-goal) had given Milan the lead, but a late Joaquin Correa leveller earned the Aquile a point.

In Dudelange’s last encounter, they conceded a 91st minute leveller against struggling Victoria Rosport as they were held to a 2-2 draw.

AC Milan's Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League Group F football match between F91 Dudelange and AC Milan at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg, on September 20, 2018. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Milan edged their hosts 1-0 in a close encounter during their Europa League group stage opener against Dudelange, with Gonzalo Higuain getting the decisive goal in the second-half.

KEY PLAYERS

Higuain is expected to return to the starting line-up with a point to prove amid his Serie A suspension, while Jose Mauri and Andrea Bertolacci may be offered a chance to impress with a starting berth.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to see how Stefan Simic would cope if thrust into the XI. The 23-year-old has long been tipped to make his debut for the senior team, but is yet to take the plunge.

PREDICTION

With a range of selection issues to contend with, there has not been much consistency in the teams taking the field for Milan recently. However, against – with all respect – a weaker opponent, the Diavolo should find a way to get a much-needed win.

Prediction: Milan 2-0 Dudelange

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