AC Milan will be looking to take another step towards the Scudetto on Sunday evening when they face Atalanta at San Siro, which is sold out.
The Rossoneri secured a huge comeback win against Hellas Verona last weekend and are now just four points from clinching their first Scudetto since 2011. From the remaining two games, they need four points.
The pressure is on Stefano Pioli’s men to at least get a draw tomorrow, therefore, and he admitted that it will be a very difficult match during his press conference. Hopefully, he has prepared the team in the best way.
Game date: Sunday, 14 May
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Orsato (VAR: Irrati)
Milan have struggled with injuries all season but they have been fortunate enough in the last few weeks. In fact, Pioli has been able to rely on a very strong squad lately, with just Simon Kjaer missing currently.
According to what is being reported by a number of different sources including La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pioli will make one change to the starting XI we saw against Verona last time out. Despite his positive display, Rade Krunic will be demoted to the bench.
This means that Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer will form the midfield tandem, while Franck Kessie will be the No.10. The battle is still open between Krunic and Bennacer, it should be noted, but the Algerian is ahead currently.
Alexis Saelemaekers is expected to get the chance from start again after showing his qualities last time out. He had a huge hand in the second goal and was more involved in open play, making the right decisions more often than usual.
Up front, Olivier Giroud will start yet again as Zlatan Ibrahimovic doesn’t have more than 10 minutes in his legs. It’s also possible that we could see Ante Rebic in the centre-forward position as against Verona, before the Swede came on.
UPDATE: It seems Krunic will start after all, Bennacer on the bench.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Krunic, Leao; Giroud.
It has been a surprisingly poor season from Atalanta, who will be fighting for a European spot in these last two games. They are currently in 8th place and this is certainly below their expectations.
The first half of the season included just three losses for the Bergamo side but it has been a tough 2022, with six losses. They have recovered slightly in the last four games but the fact is that Gian Piero Gasperini is at risk of getting sacked.
In other words, tomorrow’s game means a lot both for Atalanta and the manager, meaning Milan cannot expect any favours. This will make for a great challenge on the pitch, among other things.
Gasperini is struggling with a few injuries as the likes of Josip Ilicic, Rafael Toloi and Giuseppe Pezzella will miss out on the game. There were talks about a four-man backline but it seems the manager will stick with three at the back.
Probable Atalanta XI (3-4-1-2): Musso; Djimsiti, Demiral, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Frueler, Zappacosta; Koopmeiners; Zapata, Muriel.
Head to head
Milan have won their last two games against Atalanta but it must be noted that these were played away from home. Looking at the Rossoneri’s record at San Siro, they have four draws and three losses against the Bergamo side.
In other words, Milan need to change the trend tomorrow and given that they have won convincingly away, they should be able to beat Atalanta at home as well. Football isn’t always that easy, though, and pressure is on tomorrow.
As already mentioned, Pioli’s men won the reverse fixture and although the scoreline was 3-2 in the end, Milan really dominated that clash. Davide Calabria scored inside the first minute and Tonali doubled the lead, followed up by a great strike by Rafael Leao.
➤ AC Milan have won their last two Serie A meetings against Atalanta, after winning only once in their previous 11 (D6 L4); the last time that Rossoneri won three consecutive games against Atalanta in the top-flight under the same manager was between 1993 and 1996 under Fabio Capello.
➤ Atalanta are unbeaten in their last seven away Serie A games against AC Milan (W3 D4), keeping a clean sheet five times. AC Milan’s last home win against Atalanta was back in January 2014, a 3-0 victory under Massimiliano Allegri.
➤ AC Milan vs Atalanta is the most-played fixture after MD36 in last 10 Serie A seasons (seven times), AC Milan have won three, Atalanta have won once and there’s been three draws.
➤ AC Milan could finish a Serie A season with more than 80 points for the first time since 2010-11, when they last won the league title.
➤ Atalanta have won 12 away Serie A games this term; their most ever in a single top-flight season, while only AC Milan have more this season (13). However, Atalanta have lost each of their last three away league games when facing a side starting the matchday in the top half of the table (vs Fiorentina, Roma and Sassuolo).
➤ AC Milan have faced the fewest shots in Serie A in 2022 (154), while in this calendar year, only Liverpool (8) have conceded fewer goals than the Rossoneri (9) in the big five European leagues.
➤ Atalanta have had 20 different scorers in Serie A this season, more than any other side; in Serie A history, only Fiorentina in 2014-15 have had more different players with at least one goal in a single season (21).
➤ AC Milan’s Olivier Giroud (nine goals) could become the oldest player with at least 10 goals in his first Serie A season (35y, 227d the day of the game), overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo (33y, 299d).
➤ Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic has found the net in each of his last four appearances in the top-flight – no other Atalanta player, excluding strikers, has ever done better in the three points for a win era in Serie A (since 1994-95).
➤ Atalanta’s Luis Muriel has netted 49 Serie A goal with Atalanta; with his next goal he could equal Papu Gomez and Jørgen Leschly Sørensen as sixth top scorer with Atalanta in the top-flight (all 50 goals).
Ones to watch
Based on the game against Verona, it’s pretty obvious that two players can make life very easy for Milan: Sandro Tonali and Rafael Leao. The former’s advanced role last time out was a joy to watch and it remains to be seen what role he will have against Atalanta.
Leao, it goes without saying, was crucial in the turnaround as he assisted both of Tonali’s goals. These two players have a bright future ahead and as said, if they can perform at a high level for what remains of the season, it will be much easier for Milan.
For Atalanta, Milan will have to keep a close eye on the attackers and especially Zapata. He’s a very strong player and he will certainly make life difficult for Kalulu and Tomori, both the latter two are capable of stopping him as well.
It will also be interesting to see Koopmeiners in his advanced role, given that Milan were linked with him before he joined Atalanta. He’s a nifty player that the Rossoneri midfield must keep track of tomorrow.
It’s a very difficult game to predict Milan have done well against Atalanta recently, but not at San Siro. Hopefully, the confidence from the last two wins at Gewiss Stadium will give the Rossoneri the boost they need.
Everything is on the line, the importance of this game cannot be understated, but Milan have shown that they are capable of performing in difficulty. The Rossoneri fans, therefore, have every right to be optimistic.
Prediction: Milan 2-1 Atalanta