AC Milan will be once again looking to start their revival when they host Napoli at San Siro on Saturday night.
The Rossoneri have lost seven of their first 12 games to begin the season and currently sit down in 14th place, with an immediate impact not achieved under new head coach Stefano Pioli.
In fact, Milan could even set an unwanted club record should they lose this weekend’s game against Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but it could also be a vital launching point against a side also struggling and seemingly in turmoil off the field.
Game date: Saturday 22 November
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Pioli will have two selections issues to deal with ahead of Napoli’s visit as both Ismael Bennacer and Hakan Calhanoglu picked up their fifth bookings of the season at Juventus, resulting in a one match ban.
However, Mattia Caldara is back to full fitness and available for selection, while Mateo Musacchio and Samu Castillejo are both out with muscle problems.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (via MilanNews.it) have offered their prediction for the line-up that Milan will field, with no surprises as Lucas Biglia slots in Bennacer’s position.
However, Ante Rebic’s wait for his first Rossoneri start looks set to continue as Giacomo Bonaventura looks set to get the nod alongside Krzysztof Piatek and Suso in attack. The back four and the rest of the midfield remain unchanged from the defeat in Turin.
PREDICTED MILAN XI (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Conti, Duarte, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Paqueta, Biglia, Krunic; Suso, Piatek, Bonaventura.
Napoli have had a turbulent start to their Serie A campaign and find themselves in seventh place at present, having managed just one win in their last six games.
As ESPN note, the Partenopei are in a bit of a crisis of their own at the moment as their squad mutinied against going on a training retreat after their recent Champions League draw versus Red Bull Salzburg.
A number of outlets have reported that Ancelotti could even be sacked if the Azzurri were to lose against the Diavolo on Saturday night.
He will have to do without left-back Faouzi Ghoulam and Arkadiusz Milik is touch-and-go with a knee injury. French full-back Kevin Malcuit will also miss out after sustaining ligament damage.
PREDICTED NAPOLI XI (4-4-2): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Koulibaly, Maksimovic, Hysaj; Callejon, Fabian, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens, Lozano.
HEAD TO HEAD
Napoli are one of the Italian powerhouses which Milan have a favourable record against, with the two sides having met 71 times in Serie A in the past and the Rossoneri prevailing 32 times.
Napoli have won just 14 games between the pair, while there have been 25 draws, as 90min note.
Milan’s first game of last season ended up being a trip to the Stadio San Paolo after the opening fixture against Genoa was suspended, and they coughed up a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 with Dries Mertens netting a late winner.
The return fixture was goalless thanks to some heroics from Gianluigi Donnarumma, while not long after that a Krzysztof Piatek brace fired Milan into the Coppa Italia semi-finals in January.
Match facts (Via Whoscored)
- Milan have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 home matches against Napoli in all competitions.
- Milan have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 3 home matches against Napoli in all competitions.
ONES TO WATCH
Napoli are one of the few sides that Piatek has failed to score against in Serie A (though as aforementioned he did score twice against them in the cup), and with speculation rife over his future it will be interesting to see how fired up he is.
The Poland international made some inflammatory comments in midweek about his next move and a potential €60-70m valuation, so he will be looking to add to his one goal from open play this season in order to get back on track.
The visitors meanwhile may have failed to break down Genoa in their last game, drawing 0-0, but a look at their squad reveals the frightening attacking firepower they have.
Dries Mertens is still the focal point of their attack though, and with seven goals already on the board this season it is vital that Duarte and Romagnoli keep him quiet and track his movement.
Given the difficult moment that both teams are experiencing and the pressure on the respective squads, we don’t expect this to be a gung-ho wide open game.
Moreover, Milan’s home record against Napoli is actually not that bad despite the Azzurri being on top in recent years, which points towards a draw – though any of the three possible outcomes would not really cause a huge shock.
Prediction: AC Milan 1-1 Napoli.