AC Milan return to San Siro on Saturday as they face Fiorentina in another crucial Serie A fixture.
The Rossoneri enter this fixture off the back of two stalemates in their last two league games, with a 0-0 draw at home to Torino followed up by the same scoreline at Bologna in midweek.
Coach Gennaro Gattuso still has somewhat of a selection crisis to contend with ahead of the visit of the 10th place Viola with Milan in desperate need of a win to maintain fourth spot heading into Christmas.
Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura are still out with long-term injuries for Milan, while Franck Kessie and Tiemoue Bakayoko picked up suspensions during Tuesday’s draw at Bologna.
As a result, Gattuso has been forced to call up just three midfielders for the Fiorentina match. Two of them haven’t played yet in Serie A this season, while one has never played a professional match in 18-year-old Marco Bresciannini.
There has been speculation from Sky that Gattuso could use Davide Calabria in midfield, while Samu Castillejo is expected to start as the left winger.
Probable Milan Xl vs. Fiorentina (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Zapata, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Calhanoglu, Jose Mauri, Calabria; Suso, Higuain, Castillejo.
Fiorentina have had a stuttering start to the 2018-19 season, sitting in tenth position in the Serie A table despite their hopes of challenging for European qualification.
La Viola have won just one of their last five league games, that coming in their last outing; a 3-1 derby victory over Empoli at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Despite sitting in tenth place, Fiorentina could remarkably rise as high as fifth place with a win if results go their way, as they are just three points from Lazio who occupy that spot.
LAST TIME OUT
As mentioned, Milan played out a boring draw at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna, notable only for Bakayoko’s red card inside the final 15 minutes.
Fiorentina on the other hand have scored six goals in their last two league outings, including three in their come-from-behind win over rivals Empoli last weekend.
Rade Krunic had put the visitors ahead, but Stefano Pioli’s side roared back with goals from Kevin Mirallas, Giovanni Simeone and Bryan Dabo to win 3-1.
The last time Milan met Fiorentina in Serie A, the Rossoneri came out well on top. Simeone had given the away side an early lead at San Siro, but Hakan Calhanoglu, Nikola Kalinic, Giacomo Bonaventura and a brace from Patrick Cutrone saw the points stay at San Siro with a 5-1 win.
AC Milan have won exactly half of the last 28 meetings between the two clubs, while Fiorentina have won just six, with eight draws.
Given the perilous injury situation, a lot of the game on Saturday will be about how Fiorentina can – if at all – win control of the midfield. Mauri, Calhanoglu and Calabria will have a hard time keeping track of Edimilson Fernandes, Marco Benassi and Gerson.
Gonzalo Higuain is expected to get the nod to start up front, and the eyes of the San Siro crowd will be firmly on him amid both speculation over his future and his recent struggles in front of goal.
Meanwhile for the visiting side, Simeone will be looking to continue his good record at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and former Everton man Mirallas will provide a tricky test for Milan’s full-backs.
Given the injury situation surrounding Milan and the stuttering form of both sides, it would be fair to expect this to be anything but a wide open game.
Gattuso’s side must be smart in possession and look to craft opportunities at the right moments. Milan’s recent home record against Fiorentina will provide a confidence boost, but do not expect an easy fixture.
Prediction: AC Milan 2-1 Fiorentina