Milan will be looking to end their season with a bang on Saturday night as they face Cagliari at San Siro in the final game of the 2020-21 campaign.
The Rossoneri are undefeated since the resumption of Serie A having won eight of their 11 games, the most recent being a 4-1 win against Sampdoria on Wednesday night.
The season will end this weekend in front of another empty stadium to bring the curtain down on a remarkable 2019-20 campaign, and you can read Pioli’s pre-match press conference here.
Game date: Saturday 1 August
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Marco Serra
Pioli will be without the suspended Ante Rebic for the curtain call, during which Milan will wear their new home shirt for the first time, as well as injured trio Mateo Musacchio, Andrea Conti and Alessio Romagnoli.
La Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting that it will be the same back four to face the Sardinians as the one that beat Samp, with Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Theo Hernandez protecting Donnarumma, who will be captain again.
Bennacer and Kessie will be the double pivot in midfield, with Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu and Rafael Leao from right to left supporting Ibrahimovic in attack.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Gabbia, Kjaer, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Leao; Ibrahimovic.
Cagliari have had a real up and down season, starting under head coach Rolando Maran who guided the team into the top four after 15 rounds of action, losing just twice.
Since then it has been a steady decline and Maran was even sacked just before lockdown, with Walter Zenga taking control in March of a side that hadn’t won since early December.
His record isn’t brilliant either as the Sardinians have won just three times in 12 games under the tutelage of the former Wolves boss, though they did beat champions Juventus comfortably in midweek by a scoreline of two goals to nil.
In terms of injury news, Radja Nainggolan, Luca Pellegrini, Christian Oliva and Leonardo Pavoletti are all expected to miss out with injuries, however Nahitan Nandez is back from suspension.
Zenga is reportedly set to give Gagliano another start alongside Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro in the front three.
Probable Cagliari XI (4-3-1-2): Cragno; Piscano, Walukiewicz, Klavan, Lykogiannis; Nandez, Ladinetti, Ionita; Gagliano; Simeone, Pedro.
HEAD TO HEAD
In terms of teams that have been in the top flight for a number of seasons, Cagliari might be the team that Milan have the best record against.
In fact, over the last 26 Serie A meetings against the Rossblu dating back 15 years, the Rossoneri have prevailed in 20 out of 26 and have lost just once, with five draws.
That defeat came back in the 2016-17 season as Cagliari won 2-1 at the Stadio Sant’Elia towards the end of the campaign.
The two sides have met once already this season albeit at the newly-constructed Sardegna Arena, and the Diavolo ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Rafael Leao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Match Facts (via WhoScored)
- Milan have won their last 14 home matches against Cagliari in all competitions.
- Milan have been winning at both half time and full time in 8 of their last 9 home matches against Cagliari in all competitions.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Milan‘s last 9 games (Serie A).
- Milan have scored at least 2 goals in 10 of their last 11 matches (Serie A).
- Milan are undefeated in their last 11 matches (Serie A).
- Milan have scored at least 2 goals in 8 of their last 9 home matches against Cagliari in all competitions.
- Cagliari have failed to win 12 of their last 13 away matches (Serie A).
ONES TO WATCH
For Milan, the player everyone will be keeping an eye on is Rafael Leao. Pioli confirmed that the Portuguese starlet will start the game due to Rebic’s suspension, and he has dazzled with moments of brilliant off the bench so far this season.
The 21-year-old netted with a sumptuous strike on Wednesday night in Genoa to make it four goals since lockdown, and he will be trying to prove a point to Pioli ahead of the new season at San Siro this weekend.
Cagliari actually play some good expansive football – something which has contributed to their downfall at times, but has allowed Pedro and Simeone to combine for 30 league goals.
The Brazilian in particular has been dazzling so far this season with 18 league goals, and he has now been at Cagliari for six years amassing well over 170 appearances.
This game may have an ‘end of season’ feel to it with both teams having sealed their fate, but we expect – and hope – that Milan want to go out with a bang and keep the good run going with an exciting display and another handful of goals.
Prediction: AC Milan 3-1 Cagliari