AC Milan will be looking to avoid any scares on Halloween night as they host relegation battlers SPAL at San Siro on Thursday.
The Rossoneri come into the game having lost five of their first nine games of the season and languishing in 13th place in the table.
New head coach Stefano Pioli is yet to record a win in his first two games in charge; drawing against Lecce and losing against Roma last weekend, and reports have suggested that he could make a number of changes for this fixture…
Game date: Thursday 31 October
Kick-off time: 21:00 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Marco Piccinini
As mentioned above, Pioli is expected to make a number of alterations to his starting line-up from the game at the Stadio Olimpico in which his side suffered defeat.
The latest report from newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport suggests that the 53-year-old will make four changes to the XI – all in key positions.
First of all, Leo Duarte is expected to come in for Andrea Conti at right-back, which is an obvious snub to Davide Calabria – who didn’t start against Roma – and an indication that the coach is ready to try a new solution to fix the problem down the right side.
Two new faces are expected to come into the midfield too in Ismael Bennacer – who looks set to replace Lucas Biglia as the regista – and Giacomo Bonaventura, in for the ineffectual Lucas Paqueta.
Controversially, Suso will reportedly keep his position on the right flank, although the newspaper had Castillejo in their probable line-up yesterday.
Finally, Krzysztof Piatek will come in for Rafael Leao at centre-forward.
PREDICTED MILAN XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Duarte, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bonaventura, Bennacer, Kessie; Suso, Piatek, Calhanoglu.
SPAL have come into the 2019-20 season with the difficult task of building on a fantastic campaign last year in which they finished 13th and avoided relegation comfortably.
So far thought this time around things have not exactly gone to plan: the Ferrera-based side sit in 19th place with just seven points on the board so far.
Their away form has been worrying, with the Biancazzurri having lost all four games on their travels this season against Bologna, Sassuolo, Juventus and Cagliari respectively.
However, their last game out will give them some hope: they recovered from a goal down against Napoli at the Stadio Paolo Mazza to earn a 1-1 draw.
SPAL will be without long-term absentees Mohamed Fares and Marco D’Alessandro for the trip to Milano, while Federico di Francesco and Marko Jankovic also look set to miss out, as per 90min‘s injury report.
PREDICTED SPAL XI (3-5-2): Berisha; Tomovic, Vicari, Felipe; Strefeza, Missiroli, Valifordi, Murgia, Reca; Petagna, Paloschi.
HEAD TO HEAD
This fixture in particular has only ever been contested four times due to SPAL’s fairly recent rise to the top flight, but Milan hold the firm upper hand having won every meeting between the sides.
The last time the two teams met was in the final game of the 2018-19 season when the Rossoneri – needing to win to try and break into the top four – ran out 3-2 victors in a dramatic encounter.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie, but the home side hit back to level through Vicares and Fares. Kessie’s penalty with 66 minutes gone ended up being the winner, but Milan missed out on top four by one point.
Match facts (Via Whoscored)
- SPAL have lost their last 5 away matches (Serie A).
- SPAL have failed to score in their last 4 away matches (Serie A).
- Milan have scored at least 2 goals in their last 4 matches against SPAL in all competitions.
- Milan have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 3 matches against SPAL in all competitions.
- SPAL have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 3 away matches (Serie A).
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Milan‘s last 5 games (Serie A).
ONES TO WATCH
For Milan, you could make an argument for all the players having something to prove in what is an absolute must-win game under the lights of San Siro.
With four key changes set to take place, it seems that only one or two players (such as Alessio Romagnoli and Gianluigi Donnarumma) have their place in the starting line-up locked down.
For the Rossoneri to win games consistently though they must win games, and for that reason Suso and Krzysztof Piatek will both be under huge scrutiny to create and score chances respectively.
SPAL have their own threat though and Semplici will look to sit deep and frustrate before breaking with speed and precision. For that very reason Andrea Petagna – formerly of Milan and linked with a return in the summer – will need to bury whatever comes his way.
As per WhoScored, the second-best performer for SPAL this season so far (after Petagna, who has three goals) is goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
It is very easy to be negative about even the most simple of games for Milan on paper at the moment, with no disrespect intended towards Thursday’s opponents.
However, if Pioli’s side can come out with the same intensity they did against Lecce a fortnight ago and create the same chances, the team will be well on their way to a vital win.
The shakiness at the back in recent weeks however leads us to think a clean sheet is absolutely not a formality against a team who have yet to score a goal away from home this season.
Prediction: Milan 2-1 SPAL
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