AC Milan will face yet another tough test on Thursday night as they welcome Arsenal to San Siro for the first leg of their Europa League Round of 16 clash.
The Rossoneri enter the game in resurgent form, having gone unbeaten in their last 13 games in all competitions, and not having conceded a goal for over 580 minutes.
In addition to that, they come into the clash with added rest after Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina was postponed due to the tragic death of Davide Astori.
After rotating the team somewhat for the last European game against Ludogorets at home, Gennaro Gattuso is likely to return to a full XI with the benefit of a few days extra rest.
The back four will probably be the same as the one that started at Lazio in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg, with Bonucci and Romangnoli flanked either side by Calabria and Rodriguez.
Kessie, Cutrone and Suso were all taken off early in the Coppa match and will benefit from even more rest; and all three will have a crucial role to play against the Premier League giants.
Probable AC Milan XI vs. Arsenal: G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone, Calhanoglu.
Arsenal have hit somewhat of a rough patch of late, with growing pressure on manager Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have lost five out of their last six games in all competitions, but the squad is entering this fixture knowing that winning the Europa League presents their only opportunity of Champions League football next season.
However, their line up is still packed with star names. Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin are expected to make up the back four, with Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere in holding midfield.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) March 6, 2018
Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will likely play behind Danny Welbeck, with Alexandre Lacazette out injured and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied.
LAST TIME OUT
The Rossoneri’s last match will have been eight days ago by the time Thursday comes around, as Gattuso’s side triumphed in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Stadio Olimpico, beating Lazio 5-4 on spot kicks after a goalless 120 minutes.
Meanwhile, Arsenal played on Sunday, and lost yet more ground as they were beaten 2-1 by newly promoted Brighton. Lewis Dunk and veteran Glenn Murray got the goals for the home side, while Aubameyang’s tally before the break proved to be for nothing.
For Milan, the aforementioned trio of Kessie, Suso and Cutrone are without a doubt the key men in the hopes of securing a first leg advantage to take back to the Emirates Stadium.
Kessie has a chance to boss a makeshift Arsenal midfield, while Suso versus Kolasinac will be an interesting battle on the right side. If Cutrone can get in between the two Gunners’ central defenders, then he could benefit too.
The visitors are not without quality though – seen in the likes of Mesut Ozil and on his day Jack Wilshere. There is pace in this Arsenal team, something Milan will have to be wary of, especially on the counter attack. Away goals are almost worth double at this stage.
There is no reason that Milanisti should not be optimistic going into this game. We saw from the Coppa semi against Lazio that winning the first leg is not a necessity, but in this case it really would help. Gattuso must send his team out to attack, get an early goal and hope Arsenal capitulate again.
Prediction: Milan 2-0 Arsenal