AC Milan will be looking to build on the positive start they have had to the 2020 calendar year when they make the trip to face Fiorentina on Saturday night.
The Rossoneri put an end to their three-game winless run in all competitions on Monday night by beating Torino 1-0 at San Siro in Serie A, and this weekend they will face a Viola side who have struggled massively after a positive start to the season.
Game date: Saturday 22 February
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: Stadio Artemio Franchi
Referee: Gianpaolo Calvarese
Milan boss Stefano Pioli has a number of injury issues to contend with, particularly in the defensive department with three centre-backs out.
Leo Duarte is continuing his recovery from an achilles tendon problem that required surgery late last year, but Simon Kjaer and Mateo Musacchio both sustained muscle injuries in Monday’s win meaning Matteo Gabbia – who made his league debut coming off the bench – could be in line for his first senior start.
In midfield, Lucas Biglia and Rade Krunic are both also still recovering from their respective knocks and will play no part, while at present it seems as though Hakan Calhanoglu will play trequartista as per the latest reports.
Meanwhile, Ante Rebic will keep his position on the left and Andrea Conti will start over Davide Calabria at RB.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Conti, Gabbia, Romagnoli, Theo; Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer, Rebic; Bonaventura; Ibrahimovic.
By Round 7 of the current season, Fiorentina had just embarked on a three-game winning run to put themselves eighth in the standings and seemingly well in the race for a European spot under the guidance of Vincenzo Montella.
Since then, they have won only four times in the league and have lost double that amount, something which eventually cost Montella his job just before Christmas as he was sacked and replaced by Giuseppe Iachini.
There were a number of changes in Florence last month, one of which included the signing of former Milan striker and academy product Patrick Cutrone. He is not expected to start though as Dusan Vlahovic’s brace in last week’s 5-1 win at Sampdoria should be enough for him to keep his spot alongside Federico Chiesa up top.
Franck Ribery will miss the game as he continues to recover from a long-term ankle injury, while Christian Kouame is also likely done for the season after sustaining ligament damage.
Probable Fiorentina XI (3-5-2): Dragowski; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Caceres; Lirola, Duncan, Pulgar, Castrovilli, Dalbert; Vlahovic, Chiesa.
HEAD TO HEAD
Milan’s record against their opponents on Saturday is good but not exceptional, having won 13 of the last 28 fixtures in Serie A, with seven draws and eight defeats. However, strangely only two of those losses came at the Artemio Franchi, with the other five coming on home soil at San Siro.
The two sides have already met this season of course, and that resulted in one of the aforementioned home defeats for Milan. Goals from Erick Pulgar, Gaetano Castrovilli and Franck Ribery powered La Viola into a 3-0 win before Rafael Leao’s silky consolation goal.
In the same fixture last season, the Rossoneri emerged 1-0 winners in a tight game in Florence, with Hakan Calhanoglu’s first half strike enough to win the game and help a late push for the top four.
- Milan have lost only two of their last 13 Serie A trips to Florence, winning six and drawing five.
- Since Stefano Pioli joined AC Milan on October 9, the Rossoneri have kept seven clean sheets, more than any other team in this period in Serie A.
- Milan are the only team yet to draw an away match in Serie A this season (W6 L6).
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a hand in 12 goals in 13 Serie A encounters versus Fiorentina (eight goals and four assists), only against Palermo (13) has he registered more in the competition – however, only two of those goal involvements have come with Milan.
- Fiorentina have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 4 home matches against Milan in all competitions.
ONES TO WATCH
He was picked out on Monday as the one to watch for Milan, but it is impossible not to choose Ante Rebic once again. The Croatian netted the winner against il Toro to move onto six goals in all competitions this calendar year including three match-winners.
Of course the 26-year-old winger will have the extra motivation of playing against Fiorentina, a team who signed him in 2013 but barely gave him a chance as he failed to even rack up 10 appearances for the Gigliati.
Fiorentina’s front two do actually carry a substantial threat, with Chiesa – although not hitting the form he has done in recent seasons – currently their joint top scorer with six league goals. The other player with six is Vlahovic, and he is averaging a goal every 161 minutes in Serie A.
They also have, on paper, a dynamic midfield. Gaetano Castrovilli is earning admiring glances for his performances, and the 23-year-old even admitted his love for Milan both after their 3-1 win at San Siro earlier in the season and during an interview this week.
There is no denying the positivity surrounding Milan at the moment which contrasts with the difficulties that Saturday’s hosts are going through, which leads us to think this will be an away win.
However, it will not be straightforward and La Viola will be out to prove they are not that far away from Europa League level sides.
Prediction: Fiorentina 0-2 AC Milan