Milan got off to a winning start to the league season with a 1-0 win at Sampdoria’s the Luigi Ferraris Stadium and will look to match their city rivals Inter by going for the full six points in the long anticipated return of fans to the San Siro against Cagliari.
The expected Milan lineup remains the same as last week with stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Frank Kessie being listed as out for the game and Ismael Bennacer not yet deemed match fit after contracting COVID during the summer offseason.
Mike Maignan will look to replicate his spectacular debut performance against Sampdoria while the ever-present defense of Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez will look to see that Maignan doesn’t see as much action as last time out.
In midfield Rade Krunic is expected to fill in for Bennacer slotting in besides Sandro Tonali who had possibly his best performance in Milan colors against Sampdoria, showcasing the defensive understanding and mobility carrying the ball that we had all hoped to see when he first signed at the club.
The forward line will also remain the same with the electric Rafael Leao on the left, Alexis Saelemaekers on the right, and last week’s match winner Brahim Diaz just behind the striker where he has played his best football for the club. Up top, Olivier Giroud will be looking for his first competitive goal for the club, he offered some threatening moments against Sampdoria but was ultimately unable to find the back of the net.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Krunic, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud.
Cagliari started the season with a 2-2 draw at home to Spezia coming back from down 2-0 with a Joao Pedro 4 minute brace. The Sardinia side come into the season looking to establish an identity under relatively new manager Leonardo Semplici who was hired towards the end of February of last season. He took over a team that was struggling in the relegation zone and proceeded to put together an impressive run of one loss in their final 8 games (W4 D3 L1) too secure top division safety.
The club’s transfer window featured the redemption of Razvan Marin on an 10m deal from Ajax and a 3.5m deal for Pescara’s young fullback Gabriele Zappa. As well as blast from the past Serie A players with the likes of former Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, Inter’s fullback Dalbert and Parma’s Alberto Grassi all coming in on loan.
The Cagliari side are expected to lineup in Semplici’s patented 3-5-2 featuring Diego Godin anchoring the defense, flanked by the highly sought after Nahitan Nandez on the right and the aforementioned Dalbert on the left, Marin and Strootman in midfield, and the prolific Joao Pedro partnered with Leanardo Pavoletti up top.
Probable Cagliari XI (3-5-2): Radunovic; Ceppitelli, Godin, Carboni; Nandez, Marin, Strootman, Deiola, Dalbert; Joao Pedro, Pavoletti
Head to head
These two sides have had an eventful head to head history especially last season’s 0-0 draw in matchweek 37 in which Milan could’ve secured spot in the Champions League with a home win. The game was incredibly hard fought all the way through but the Cagliari defense stood firm especially Diego Godin who had a throwback game to deny the Rossoneri on the day. The away match however was much more favorable with Milan storming to a comfortable 2-0 win off the back of an Ibrahimovic brace.
Cagliari haven’t beaten Milan in nearly 4 years stretching back to a 2-1 win on the last day of the 2016/17 season in a game that incidentally also featured a Joao Pedro goal. At the San Siro specifically, Milan haven’t lost to Cagliari in the last 10 fixtures stretching back to 2011.
Match facts (via LegaSerieA):
➤ Cagliari have lost more Serie A games against Milan than against any other side (W8 D27 L43). Their last win against the Rossoneri was back in May 2017 (2-1 at Sant’Elia stadium), losing six and drawing two of eight games since.
➤ Milan haven’t conceded a single goal in their last five Serie A games against Cagliari; the last team against which the Rossoneri recorded more clean sheets in a row in the competition was Chievo in 2016 (seven in a row).
➤ Milan have lost only three of their 39 home matches against Cagliari in Serie A (8%); among the teams they have faced at least 20 times at home in the competition only against Verona have they a better percentage (o defeats in 29 matches).
➤ Milan have haven’t conceded a goal in their last six league games, only keeping seven clean sheets in a row in Serie A three times before: in February 1994 (nine), October 1993 (seven) and January 1972 (seven).
➤ Milan could win their first two league games of the season in two Serie A campaigns in a row for the first time since 2002/03 and 2003/04, under Carlo Ancelotti.
➤ Cagliari are unbeaten in their last four away league games (W2 D2); since 2000, they have only had two longer unbeaten runs away from home: eight in December 2019 under Rolando Maran and five in November 2006 under Marco Giampaolo.
➤ Cagliari have drawn three of their last four league games (L1), as many as in the previous 22 Serie A matches (W6 L13).
➤ Stefano Pioli (59%) has the second-highest win in percentage in Serie A with AC Milan (41 wins in 70 matches), behind only Lajos Czeizler (64%: 73/114).
➤ Among the players who have scored at least five Serie A goals since the start of last season, Milan’s Brahim Díaz is the only one who has not yet scored in a home game.
➤ João Pedro has not scored in any of his last four Serie A games against Milan, having scored in each of his previous three; the Brazilian striker can become the fourth Cagliari player to score 3+ goals in the Rossoblu’s first two matches in the top-flight after Luigi Riva in 1968/69 (4), Roberto Boninsegna in 1968/69 (3) and Pasquale Foggia in 2007/08 (3).
Ones to watch
For Cagliari the man to watch is easy to identify, Joao Pedro has been their main goal scorer notching 34 league goals in the past 2 campaigns as well as boasting a respectable record against Milan themselves. Nahitan Nandez will also command a lot of respect down Milan’s left hand side having been heavily linked with Inter to replace the departing Achraf Hakimi in the summer.
As for Milan they will continue to look for Giroud to score his first league goal for the club in a system that will also require him to linkup play consistently with the likes of Leao and Brahim Diaz. Alexis Saelemaekers is another player to look for following a very timid performance against Sampdoria, Dalbert is known to be an offensively minded wingback so that’s a matchup the young Belgian will have an opportunity to exploit going forward.
With the notable absences in midfield and up top and Semplici’s traditionally defensive style, Milan will look to control the ball in the opposition half and attempt to win the war of attrition.
Prediction: AC Milan 1-0 Cagliari