Milan’s triumph in the Suppercoppa Italiana has been one of few bright spots in recent memory, as the club has found itself in poor form (3-2-5) ever since the earlier, heartbreaking loss to Roma in the league.
The late December match against Juventus in Doha, Qatar, also had the unintended consequence of postponing Milan’s visit to Bologna’s home ground from its original 22 December date.
Having slipped from second to eighth place in Serie A in that time, and coming off two very disappointing losses to Udinese and Sampdoria, Montella’s side will without a doubt be looking to gain all three points and put the season back on track.
The impact on the table will depend on the result of the final game of matchday 23, Roma vs. Fiorentina, to be played on Tuesday at 20:45 CET. Milan currently sit level on points with la Viola at 37, and the teams have an even head-to-head record (having drawn their only meeting so far this season 0-0).
Any result for Fiorentina would, therefore, give them (at least temporary) sole possession of 7th place, still one spot outside of European competition.
Wednesday’s game against Bologna being played will mark the end of Milan having a game in hand over most other teams in Serie A. They will need to pick up all three points in order to remain in contention for the top 6 spots in the league, which provide entry into European competitions.
Milan’s results from its last few outings have been nothing short of disastrous, with no points in their last 3 Serie A match and 4 consecutive defeats in all competitions. However, they are not entirely reflective of the team’s play: while sloppy at times, particularly towards the beginning of matches (e.g. Torino, Juventus, and Napoli), the players have held the ball well and created many chances.
Milan’s biggest downfall over its current unsuccessful stretch has been its poor finishing and luck (particularly in regards to the referee’s whistle).
With Giacomo Bonaventura and Mattia de Sciglio unlikely to see the field again this season due to injuries, and Luca Antonelli sidelined for at least two weeks, Montella will once again have some improvisation to do in terms of his squad selection.
L’aeroplanino will face an important dilemma: the team’s need to get back into form means he cannot afford to rest too many key players, but one of the most important clashes of the season, against Lazio away, looms just ahead next Monday.
Luckily, Abate will likely be fit enough to play the full 90 minutes and Davide Calabria, who is still recovering from a training injury, is out of the squad. Leonel Vangioni will likely take his place in the lineup, after Romagnoli understandably struggled at leftback.
After receiving a red card in his last outing, José Sosa will sit out this game in favour of Manuel Locatelli or Andrea Bertolacci (who put in a solid shift against Sampdoria). Expect Montella to revert to his previous, more traditional tactic after some unsuccessful experimentation last game.
Roberto Donadoni’s Bologna side will be looking to forget their humiliating 1-7 home defeat to Napoli last weekend with a strong performance against this struggling Milan side. A win would see them climb from 14th to 11th in the league, while a draw would not affect the table.
The former Milan midfielder may look to shake up the lineup, but expect Swiss-Albanian veteran Blerim Džemaili and Hungarian youngster Ádám Nagy, both of whom are in the midst of great seasons, to figure in midfield.
Angelo da Costa will likely get the call in nets over Antonio Mirante, who obviously struggled in Bologna’s previous match and was substituted late in the game. Former Milan players Simone Verdi and Mattia Destro will likely see the pitch at some point, if not from the first minute.
Likely Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Paletta, Romagnoli, Vangioni; Kucka, Locatelli, Pašalić; Suso, Bacca (Lapadula), Deulofeu.
Likely Bologna XI (4-3-3): Da Costa: Torosidis, Oikononmou, Maietta, Masina; Džemaili, Taïder, Nagy; Verdi, Destro, Krejčí.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Carlos Bacca’s 40th-minute penalty was all that separated the two sides on 7 May 2016, as the defence kept the clean sheet and Christian Brocchi earned one of his two victories behind the Milan bench. Despite the scoreline, the Rossoneri dominated the game, both in possession (59-41) and in shots on target (5-1). Milan avenged a previous loss, also by a lone goal (this time from Emmanuele Giaccherini), to Bologna earlier in the season. In that game, Mihajlović’s team was caught on the counter late in the game after dominating for long stretches.