Preview: Europa League Group Stage – Milan vs. HNK Rijeka

By Grégory Leclercq -

AC Milan are gearing up to take on Croatian side HNK Rijeka at home in the second match day of their Europa League group stage campaign.

Date: Thursday, September 26
Time: 21:05 CET
Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
TV Guide: 

It’s that time again; where the Rossoneri get out of an awful weekend away from home and prepare to try and gain back confidence with an European game on Thursday.

Just like it was the case before facing Austria Wien, a game which was quite comfortably won 5-1 by Milan in Vienna two weeks ago, the team is facing a change in mindset as they suffered last time out on the pitch.

Milan who were less than impressive in their last Serie A encounter, losing 2-0 at Sampdoria and failing to muster even a single shot on target.


As the Roma game approaches (scheduled at 18:00 CET on Sunday), Vincenzo Montella is expected to rest a few of his starters who have recently been playing five games in 14 days.

Players like Franck Kessie, Lucas Biglia, Alessio Romagnoli, Ricardo Rodriguez and of course captain Leonardo Bonucci could badly use some rest in order to come up strong against Roma on the weekend.

It is believed that the system won’t change though as Montella sticks with the 3-5-2, with projected line-ups suggesting a partnership Andre Silva and Patrick Cutrone up front.

Montella also suggested that Manuel Locatelli – who had displayed incredible reliability against sides like Craiova and Shkendija – would likely be starting the game in midfield.

Other than the long-injured Andrea Conti; Riccardo Montolivo, Luca Antonelli and Davide Calabria are not part of the official game list.

This would mean that Jose Mauri and Ricardo Rodriguez will likely start on Thursday at San Siro with no real other back-up for their positions.

The same applies to Fabio Borini, who is expected to replace Ignazio Abate in the right wing slot of the 3-5-2, even though the later is called-up.

Squad List: G. Donnarumma, A. Donnarumma, Storari; Abate, Bonucci, Musacchio, Paletta, Rodriguez, Romagnoli; Bonaventura, Calhanoglu, Gabbia, Kessie, Locatelli, Mauri; Borini, Cutrone, Kalinic, André Silva, Suso.

While Zapata and Gomez has been left out the call-up, Paletta is likely to be given time in order to rest one between Romagnoli and Bonucci while youngster Matteo Gabbia may see some minutes.

Probable XI (3-5-2): G. Donnarumma; Musacchio, Bonucci, Romagnoli (Paletta); Borini, Mauri, Locatelli, Calhanoglu, Rodriguez; Silva, Cutrone.


HNK Rijeka (for “Hrvatski Nogometni Klub Rijeka”) has been one of Croatia’s biggest teams for a few years now, eventually winning their first domestic league title last year after finishing second to Dinamo Zagreb for the previous 3 seasons.

The Croatian club which is under Italian ownership, comes into this game on the back of a 1-1 away draw against Slaven Koprivnica on Saturday.

Rijeka need to pick up points soon in order to assists their chances of progression, having played their first European match against AEK Athens and losing 1-2 at home.

Their greatest European achievement was during the 1978-1979 season as they reached the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup quarter-finals and eventually lost 2-0 on aggregate to Juventus.

The club – which is nicknamed “Riječki bijeli” for “Rijeka’s whites” – qualified for the 2017-2018 Europa League after losing to Olympiacos in the Champions League play-offs. They nonetheless went through both previous rounds against Welsh team The New Saints and Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg.


It is safely important to address that the Rossoneri have never lost nor draw in European games against Croatian sides.

Indeed, Milan have played twice against Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and in the Champions League leading to an Italian victory every single time.

Milan will then go up against a team they have never faced before, just like they did when traveling to Vienna last time out in Europe.

Meanwhile, Rijeka have only played two games against Italian opposition before, failing to score a goal and losing one of them.


How could we pick Milan’s key player as anyone else than Andre Silva?

The lad has managed a hat-trick in his first European outing of the season against Austria Wien, something that will surely award him a lot of confidence ahead of Thursday’s game and will only make fans glad to see him back on the pitch after being benched this week-end.

It is also rumored that his agent, Jorge Mendes will be present tomorrow night at the San Siro to watch the game.

As for Rijeka, the club disposes from a bunch of former Serie A and Serie B players such as Acosty, Zuparic, Elez, Gomelt and Vesovic as well as Fabio Borini’s former teammate at Sunderland, “Charis” Mavrias and Mario Gavranovic who also played in the Champions League with Schalke 04 a few years back.

The Croatian side though can count on acknowledged starters such as captain Mate Males, Romanian number 10 Florentin Matei and ex- Austria Wien Alexander Gorgon who is one of the team’s most valuable players according to Transfermarkt.Com.


We at expect a turnaround from coach Montella and believe that even though the game is played at home, it will be a much harder fought game than in Vienna two weeks ago.

Everybody expects another change in mindset from the Rossoneri especially before playing Roma and Inter back-to-back in Serie A.

With many changes to be made though, there’s a high chance to see the team struggling to find the net and be as dominating as they had been against Austria Wien and that is why we would go for a 2-0 victory in favour of the home team.

Tags AC Milan Europa League Italy Milan Montella News Rijeka Rossoneri
Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.