Serie A preview: AC Milan vs. Atalanta – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Isak Möller -

After two consecutive defeats, AC Milan will be looking to bounce back with a win against Atalanta on Sunday evening. With the Bergamo side just seven points behind, it’s a very important game for both sides. 

Milan advanced to the Round of 16 of the Europa League on Thursday despite losing the game against Rennes 3-2, winning on aggregate 3-5. Therefore, they are currently on two consecutive defeats and a strong performance is now needed to restore some confidence.

Speaking at the press conference today, Pioli admitted that it will be a difficult clash, as well as an important one for the standings. Atalanta are just seven points behind and with a game in hand as well, meaning Milan could quickly be in trouble.

Game date: Sunday, February 25
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Daniele Orsato (VAR: Irrati)

Team news

On the injury front, things are actually looking up for Pioli as the likes of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori have now recovered. The first two will even be called up tomorrow, while the Englishman needs a bit more time to regain fitness.

The manager has no excuse when it comes to the squad at his disposal, in other words, especially since Tommaso Pobega is now the only player still sidelined. In any case, some changes are expected to the starting XI compared to the game against Stade Rennes.

Based on the latest reports, Malick Thiaw will be back from start after being benched against Stade Rennes, following what was a horrendous display against Monza. He will certainly have to do a lot better this time out, otherwise Milan will be in serious trouble.

It will either be Calabria or Alessandro Florenzi on the right-hand side of the defence. The feeling is that the veteran will keep his spot, as the captain only just returned, but the battle remains open and has not been decided yet.

Ismael Bennacer and Tijjani Reijnders should team up in midfield, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing in a more advanced role, and better balance will be needed tomorrow. This was a big problem against Rennes and Pioli has surely focused a lot on that in his post-match analysis.

The attack, meanwhile, will be exactly what you expect as Christian Pulisic and Rafael Leao will be the starting wingers. Luka Jovic is suspended following the red card against Monza, but Olivier Giroud probably would have started anyway.

Although the bench is rather strong on paper, several of the Rossoneri’s deputies have struggled to impose themselves lately. Noah Okafor is one of them and Samuel Chukwueze is another, with Pioli sending a clear message to the latter during his presser.

“They have the same characteristics. Pulisic scores goals, assists and works. Chukwueze must score goals, assists and work,” he stated.

Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi (Calabria), Thiaw, Gabbia, Hernandez; Bennacer, Reijnders; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao; Giroud.

At risk of suspension: Florenzi, Loftus-Cheek, Musah.

The opponents

Atalanta have been in red-hot form lately, winning six of their last seven league games, and they are in serious contention for a Champions League spot. A win tomorrow would certainly confirm this, so they will likely be very fired up.

Just like Milan, Atalanta went four games without a win earlier in the season and paid a lot for that, but Gian Piero Gasperini has certainly done something right lately. Fielding Charles De Keteleare in a centre-forward role of sorts, it has been a match made in heaven.

The Rossoneri loanee has 10 goals and 7 assists, proving why Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara paid over €30m for him in the summer of 2022. He provided an assist in the reverse fixture and will surely be looking to have an impact again.

During his press conference, Gasperini confirmed that Ademola Lookman has recovered from his injury and this is great news for the Bergamo side. He scored a brace in the reverse fixture but, having said that, he will likely not play from start.

Gasperini also shared his thoughts on Milan: “A very strong team, apart from the defeat against Monza they have had a good run of results. It will be an important match that is worth a lot for the standings”.

Probable Atalanta XI (3-4-1-2): Carnesecchi; Scalvini, Djimsiti, Kolasinac; Holm, Ederson, De Roon, Ruggeri; Koopmeiners; Miranchuk, De Ketelaere.

At risk of suspension: Zappacosta.

Head to head

Milan have had their fair share of issues against Atalanta over the last few years, but they have at least won the last two games at the San Siro. Furthermore, taking a look at the last six meetings in the league, the Rossoneri have won four of these (1D, 1L).

The reverse fixture ended 3-2 in favour of the Bergamo side after Luis Muriel scored the winner in the 95th minute. Milan came back twice to level the scores but a red card for Davide Calabria in injury time made for a dramatic ending.

These two sides also faced each other in the Coppa Italia in January, playing at San Siro, and Atalanta prevailed 2-1 after some controversial decision by the referee. Teun Koppmeiners scored a brace for the Bergamo side and thus sent them through to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.

Taking at the last league meeting at San Siro, though, Milan came away with all three points after goals from Theo Hernandez and Junior Messias. It was a stunning strike by the former, even though noted as an own-goal by the goalkeeper.

Match facts and stats…

➤ Atalanta have won three of their last nine matches against Milan in Serie A (D2 L4), including the reverse fixture (3-2); under Stefano Pioli’s management, only Inter (four) have defeated the Rossoneri more times than La Dea in the competition.

➤ Milan lost the reverse fixture against Atalanta (3-2) and have not lost both seasonal matches against La Dea in Serie A since the 2007/08 season, when Carlo Ancelotti and Luigi Delneri were the respective managers.

➤ Milan have won their last two home games against Atalanta in Serie A, keeping clean sheets, and only once have they achieved three consecutive home victories against the Bergamo side with clean sheets under the same manager, doing so between 1992 and 1995 with Fabio Capello.

➤ Despite the loss in the last round, Milan have secured at least 52 points after 25 games played for the third time in the last four seasons: as many times as in the previous 16 participations of the Rossoneri in the tournament after as many matches played.

➤ Since the beginning of the 20th matchday, no team has won more points (15), scored as many goals (17), and conceded fewer goals (two) than Atalanta in Serie A; in particular, in these last five matches, La Dea have scored as many goals as in the previous 11 league games.

➤ Atalanta have scored six goals from corners in this league season, only Milan have done better so far: seven, including one in the reverse fixture against La Dea, with Olivier Giroud scoring from Alessandro Florenzi’s assist.

➤ Atalanta (10) and Milan (12) are the only two teams in this championship to have scored at least 10 goals from the bench; both also scored with substitutes in the last matchday: La Dea with Mitchel Bakker and the Rossoneri with Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic.

➤ Teun Koopmeiners has nine goals, seven of which away, in all competitions in 2023/24 and could reach double figures in goals for the second consecutive season; the Dutchman has also been involved in three goals (two goals, one assist) in the two matches between Atalanta and Milan this season, scoring a decisive brace in the Coppa Italia encounter (2-1 at the Meazza, January 10, 2024).

➤ Olivier Giroud is the player who has scored the most goals (four) against teams currently in the top six positions in the league this season; the Frenchman, with 12 goals overall in this Serie A, is just one short of his best scoring season in the competition (13 goals in 33 appearances in 2022/23).

➤ This match will feature the only two midfielders in Serie A who have scored more than five goals and provided more than five assists this season: Charles De Ketelaere (six goals and six assists for the  Belgian owned by Milan) and Christian Pulisic (seven goals and six assists).

Ones to watch

Ismael Bennacer is expected to start in the midfield tandem and he has been struggling with match fitness lately. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see him in action, knowing that he can absolutely be decisive for Milan in both phases of the game on a good day.

In addition to the Algerian, Christian Pulisic did tremendously well off the bench against Monza and he will be looking to continue on this path in the league. Milan need him to be more incisive as well, given that it has been such an up-and-down season for Rafael Leao on the other flank.

For Atalanta, it goes without saying that all eyes will be on De Ketelaere. He has been one of the key players for Gasperini’s side this season and he put Milan in difficulty in the reverse fixture as well. Whether he can perform at San Siro, however, is another question.

Koopmeiners is another crucial one for Atalanta, always moving in between the lines, which is what Milan have struggled with defensively this season. He could absolutely be crucial in that sense, and Bennacer will have to keep a close eye on him.


It will be a tough game for Milan, there is no doubt about it, but they always seem to find a way back after some less glorious periods. We can only hope that the reaction performance comes tomorrow, and not against Lazio next week. Maybe it goes against logic, but we’ll say a win for the Rossoneri here.

AC Milan 2-1 Atalanta

Tags AC Milan Atalanta Serie A

1 Comment

  1. 2-1 to us? 🤔 Interesting.
    I’m going with a big scoreline….like a 5-2 or 6-1 and then grab the popcorn for the ensuing drama 😂
    Btw, whomever we put on the right side (Calabria or Florenzi) I have a feeling CDK will own him 😅

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