AC Milan will be looking to bounce back with a win this Sunday after what was a disappointing defeat to Inter mid-week. It won’t be easy, however, as they will face Lazio away from home.
The Rossoneri failed to seal their spot in the Coppa Italia final as Inter not only ended their run of clean sheets, but also scored three goals. It was a demoralising display, in other words, and thus a positive response is needed.
Stefano Pioli stated in his pre-match press conference that Milan need to look ahead, without focusing too much on the past. They can only change the present and will have to give their all tomorrow evening.
Game date: Sunday, 24 April
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: Stadio Olimpico
Referee: Guida (VAR: Orsato)
Ahead of the clash, some good and bad news has arrived for Milan. Starting with the former, Alessio Romagnoli will be included in the squad as he has recovered from his injury, even featuring in a friendly at Milanello earlier this week.
Furthermore, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic will also be at Pioli’s disposal for tomorrow’s game. The former has recovered from the knee overload and the Croatian has avoided a more complicated flare-up of his chronic knee problems.
Onto the bad news, Pioli confirmed during his press conference that Ismael Bennacer won’t be included in the squad. He sustained an ankle injury in the game against Inter and was unable to recover in time for the manager to consider him. A big blow for the Rossoneri, of course.
The latest reports, amid the absence of Bennacer, suggest that the midfield tandem will consist of Sandro Tonali and Franck Kessie. It’s the obvious choice for Pioli and although Bennacer will be missed, the two are very capable.
In the attacking trio, Brahim Diaz is expected to start in the No.10 role amid Kessie’s return to the tandem. The Spaniard did quite well off the bench against Inter but having said that, Rade Krunic is also an option for the XI.
Other than that, the XI will remain the same as Pioli has decided to opt for consistency in this season finale. Only five games remain and you can certainly understand him, also because it’s considered more or less the best XI.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for Lazio as the style of Maurizio Sarri didn’t exactly shine through in the first half of the season. Since the start of the year, though, they have only lost three games in the league.
It’s tough to assess the season of the Biancocelesti, frankly, but as things stand they could miss out on Europe altogether (currently in 7th place) That would, of course, be regarded as a big failure for them, but losing Simone Inzaghi was never going to be easy.
Their recent record tells us that they have struggled against the big sides. Four wins and one draw in the last seven games, with the two losses coming against Napoli and city rivals Roma. Looking at the entire season, they have won just two ‘big games’ (Inter and Roma early in the season).
In terms of fitness news for Sarri, it hasn’t been a week of perfect preparation for his players as they had to cancel a training session due to widespread flu within the team. Most of them should make it back, but there could be some absences.
As for as the starting XI goes, there should be no major surprises but a lot will obviously depend on the condition of the players. Milan-linked Luis Alberto is one of the players that have managed to avoid the flu and will thus play from start.
Probable Lazio XI (4-3-3): Strakosha; Lazzari, Luiz Felipe, Acerbi, Hysaj; Milinkovic-Savic, Leiva, Luis Alberto; Felipe Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni.
Head to head
Milan have had relative success away at Lazio over the last few years with two wins and three draws in the last nine encounters. The home side are still superior, however, but if the reverse fixtures are anything to go but then the Rossoneri should be considered favourites.
The two sides have faced each other two times this season, once in the league and once in the Coppa Italia. The league clash ended 2-0 in favour of the Rossoneri and the Cup clash was even better, with a 4-0 win. In other words, the aggregate score between the sides this season stands at 6-0.
➤ Milan beat Lazio 2-0 in the reverse fixture but have not managed to win both games against the Biancocelesti in the same league season since the 2008/09 edition (Carlo Ancelotti was the Rossoneri coach).
➤ Also considering the Coppa Italia win, Milan have already beaten Lazio twice this season (both at the Meazza): the last season in which they collected three wins against them was in 2004/05 (a success in the Super Cup and two in the league).
➤ In the last nine games at the Olimpico between Lazio and Milan in Serie A, the same result has never been repeated twice in a row (four Biancocelesti wins, three draws, two Rossoneri successes): it is since 2012 that Lazio have failed to win two consecutive league games at home against Milan.
➤ Lazio have lost 13 of their last 14 Serie A games against teams that started the matchday as league leaders (the exception in this set is the 2-1 victory over Inter on February 16th 2020).
➤ Milan have collected six consecutive clean sheets in Serie A and last had a longer run in February 1994 (nine games): the Rossoneri have conceded only seven league goals in 2022 (in 14 matches), only Liverpool (six goals conceded in 12 games) have shipped fewer since the beginning of the year in the Big-5 European Leagues.
➤ Two of the four teams that have kept the most clean sheets in the second part of this Serie A season compete in this match: nine for Milan and six for Lazio (same as Roma and Genoa).
➤ Milan have claimed 71 points in their first 33 matches this season: this is their best return since the 2010/11 season (71), when at the end of the season they won their last Scudetto.
➤ Lazio have scored the most goals in the last half hour of play in Serie A this season (25 goals scored). A section of the game in which Milan have conceded four of their last six Serie A goals (including the last away, Djuric in February in Salernitana-Milan).
➤ Lazio’s forward Ciro Immobile – seven goals in 14 Serie A matches against AC Milan – could become the fourth player in the Big-5 European Leagues (after Lewandowski, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) to score more than 25 goals in a single season at least three times since the start of 2016/17 (his first season at Lazio).
➤ Rafael Leão could become the fifth Portuguese player to reach double figures for goals in a single Serie A season, after Cristiano Ronaldo, Rui Barros, Rui Costa and Beto; among these, however, the AC Milan striker would be the only one to achieve this before turning 23 years.
Ones to watch
As Lazio are an attacking side, it will be up to Milan’s defence to deliver a good performance after what was a shocking one at times against Inter. Fikayo Tomori, as always, will be a key man in keeping the opponents quiet and he must do better tomorrow evening.
Further up the pitch, Brahim Diaz will clearly be a crucial man for the Rossoneri as they need creativity, having struggled to find the back of the net. On a good day, we all know what he can do and that day has to be tomorrow. Otherwise, Pioli’s men could be in trouble.
For the home side, it’s impossible to not mention Ciro Immobile. He has scored 25 league goals this season and four in the last two games. That says a lot about his qualities and that’s why Tomori will be a key man for Milan tomorrow.
In addition to Immobile, Luis Alberto is a source of creativity for Lazio and he has a point to prove after yet another falling-out with Sarri. He’s expected to leave the club in the summer and to do that, he needs to show his best sides on the pitch.
It will be a tough game for Milan, there is no doubt about it, but the feeling is that the support of their fans can lead them to victory. There will be more Rossoneri fans than Lazio ones at the stadium tomorrow (read here) and Pioli’s men must make the most of this. Then again, it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Lazio 1-2