AC Milan will be looking to continue their exceptional form since the resumption of Serie A when they travel to face Napoli on Sunday night.
After Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over league-leaders Juventus, the Rossoneri have won four of five games since the league restarted, outscoring their opponents 15-5 in that spell and securing crucial victories over Roma and Lazio as well as the Bianconeri.
They face another in-form side in Napoli this weekend though, a game which pits last year’s head coach Gennaro Gattuso up against his boyhood club.
Game date: Sunday 12 July
Kick-off time: 21:45 (CET)
Venue: Stadio San Paolo
Pioli will not be able to call upon injured centre-back duo Mateo Musacchio and Leo Duarte once again as they continue their respective recoveries.
Samu Castillejo is edging closer to a return but he will also be missing as he is battling a hamstring strain, with the latest reports suggesting that the game against Bologna on July 18 could signify his return.
Milan boss Stefano Pioli has preferred to keep things fresh in his recent starting line-ups and he made changes for the game against Juventus, with Ante Rebic starting on the left in place of Hakan Calhanoglu, and Lucas Paqueta in behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The back four and midfield are almost certain to stay the same, with Alexis Saelemaekers virtually guaranteed a start due to Castillejo’s injury.
Then, Ibrahimovic should start up front again, and it is possible that Rebic and Calhanoglu could start with Giacomo Bonaventura and Paqueta to make an impact from the bench.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Rebic, Calhanoglu; Ibrahimovic.
Napoli have found themselves fighting for fifth spot after a difficult start to the season under Carlo Ancelotti, and it is largely down to Gattuso’s work.
The Partenopei were in seventh place when Rino took over and dropped into the bottom half at one point, but they have won nine of their last 11 league games to give Roma a real run for their money, albeit a bit late for a serious top four push.
With the Coppa Italia already under their belt, Napoli appear to be going from strength to strength under Gattuso, who will field a 4-3-3 formation with all of Napoli’s biggest stars against his former club.
Probable Napoli XI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian, Demme, Zielinski; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides met earlier in the season at San Siro when Stefano Pioli’s tenure was in its infancy, drawing 1-1 as a Giacomo Bonaventura strike cancelled out Hirving Lozano’s 24th-minute opener.
The last time Milan played at the San Paolo it was a night to forget despite having gone 2-0 up inside 50 minutes. A brace from Piotr Zielinski and an 80th-minute strike from Dries Mertens completed a dramatic turnaround in Round 2.
Milan’s record in this fixture since 2008 has not been good: they have won just five out of the last 25 league meetings between the teams and haven’t won away against Napoli since October 2010.
Napoli have won 10 during that stretch including five of the last six fixtures between the sides in Naples.
Match Facts (via WhoScored)
- Napoli have seen over 2.5 goals in 9 of their last 10 home matches against Milan in all competitions.
- Napoli have won 7 of their last 8 matches (Serie A).
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Napoli‘s last 9 home games (Serie A).
- Napoli have won 5 of their last 6 home matches against Milan in all competitions.
ONES TO WATCH
The in-form man for Milan at the moment is still Ante Rebic. The Croatia international has scored 10 league goals since the start of the year and has netted four times since lockdown.
However, the big talking point at the moment is the midfield tandem of Bennacer-Kessie and the way they have been able to shut down virtually everything thrown at them during such a tough stretch of games.
Do that again and they give the back four a good chance of keeping a clean sheet, and 15 goals scored in five games suggests Milan should back themselves to score at the other end.
Arkadiusz Milik is Napoli’s top scorer but given the doubts over his future it seems like Mertens will get the nod up front, however he has scored just once in 14 games against Milan.
Kalidou Koulibaly will be key in keeping a clean sheet, while in midfield the main man is without a doubt Fabian Ruiz, a player who continues to attract interest from top clubs.
Trips to Naples are never straightforward for Milan regardless of form, and when factoring in how good Gattuso’s side are playing we could be set for a belter of a game.
Prediction: Napoli 2-2 AC Milan