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

By Isak Möller -

Following two consecutive wins, but far from brilliant performances, AC Milan will be hoping to send a statement to the fans against Empoli tomorrow. A win would put more pressure on Juventus, who are just one point ahead currently. 

Milan will head into the clash with decent confidence after two wins, but the feeling is that they could have done a lot better in both of those. Therefore, as the fans want to know where they stand, tomorrow’s game will be important in many ways.

Stefano Pioli didn’t speak to the media due to the tight schedule, but he admitted after the Slavia Praha game that Milan have a lot to analyse. They are paying dearly for lapses of concentration and this is something that needs to end immediately.

Game date: Sunday, March 10
Kick-off time: 15:00 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Juan Luca Sacchi (VAR: Abisso)

Team news

Tommaso Pobega remains the only player on the injury list but this time out, Milan have a few suspensions to deal with instead. Alessandro Florenzi will miss both this and the next Europa League clash, while Rafael Leao will be on the sidelines tomorrow as well.

Of course, it’s never a good thing not to have Leao, but Milan have showcased their depth on several occasions this season. Davide Calabria will be the replacement for Florenzi, taking the captain’s armband from Theo Hernandez again.

For the first time since late November, we could also see Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori in the heart of the defence. The duo has played ten games together this season, from start that is, and the Rossoneri conceded seven goals in those games. A foundation to work on, in other words.

In midfield, it seems Ismael Bennacer will replace Yacine Adli after a rather poor display from the latter last time out. Tijjani Reijnders, meanwhile, bagged a great goal and will thus keep his spot in the starting eleven, hoping to find the back of the net again.

Up front, given the suspension of Leao, Noah Okafor will get the chance instead and he will be looking to build on the goal against Lazio. He will have to provide service for Luka Jovic in the box, as Olivier Giroud is set for some rest.

Samuel Chukwueze, on the other hand, is set to remain on the bench with Christian Pulisic keeping his spot. Pioli is worried about another Monza-esque rotation, thus deciding to keep the American on the right-hand side to ensure balance.

Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Reijnders; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Okafor; Jovic.

The opponents

It’s been a very strange season for Empoli, going from despair to relative safety thanks to the appointment of Davide Nicola in early January. Prior to his arrival, the Tuscan side had only won three games all season, and they have now already won three with him.

In fact, before the defeat to Cagliari last time out, Empoli were unbeaten for six games (3W, 3D) and this has given them some breathing room. Not much, though, as relegation is still just two points away and they will surely be playing for salvation tomorrow.

After playing with a four-man backline for most of the season, this changed with the arrival of Nicole who uses three men at the back. It has clearly been a key to success but it remains to be seen if they can remain consistent, or if it was just the ‘new manager effect’.

The likes of Ciccio Caputo, Szymon Zurkowski and Tyronne Ebuehi have all recovered from their injury struggles and will be available for the game tomorrow. This is great news for Nicola, who has relied on especially Zurkowski (four goals and one assist).

Empoli lost their jewel Tommaso Baldanzi to Roma in the January transfer window and Milan loanee Daniel Maldini also left the club for Monza. Thanks to the formation change, however, the lack of an attacking midfielder has not been a problem.

The former Milan man M’Baye Niang joined the team in January and he has started his tenure well, scoring three goals in four appearances. It should be noted that all of these goals have come from the spot.

Probable Empoli XI (3-4-2-1): Caprile; Ismajli, Walukiewicz, Luperto; Gyasi, Marin, Maleh, Pezzella; Cambiaghi, Zurkowski; Niang.

Head to head

Milan have been rather successful against Empoli in the last few years, not losing to them since 2017. The Rossoneri have also won four of the last five meetings, winning the reverse fixture this season by three goals to nil.

The last time they faced each other at San Siro, however, it was a frustrating evening for Stefano Pioli’s side as they missed a plethora of chances. Olivier Giroud then scored what everyone thought was the winner with minutes to go, but it was ruled out for a handball.

Certainly, Milan will have to be a lot more effective in front of goal this time out, otherwise it could be another frustrating one underneath the San Siro floodlights.

Match stats and facts…

➤ Empoli have won just one of their last 14 Serie A matches against AC Milan (5D, L8): 2-1 on April 23, 2017 at San Siro, thanks to goals scored by Levan Mchedlidze and Mame Thiam.

➤ AC Milan have kept a clean sheet in four of their last six matches against Empoli in Serie A, after conceding at least one goal in each one of the previous 10.

➤ Empoli have avoided defeat in four of their last six meetings with Milan when facing them for a second time that season in Serie A (1W, 3D), although in the last three they have not scored a single goal.

➤ Since early December, only Inter have collected more points and scored more goals than Milan in Serie A: 40 points and 39 goals for the Nerazzurri in this period, with 30 and 30 for the Rossoneri.

➤ After a run of five consecutive away games without a win in Serie A (3D, 2L), Empoli won the two most recent ones, against Salernitana and Sassuolo; the last time they won three away games in a row in the competition was between December 2015 and January 2016, with Marco Giampaolo on the bench.

➤ Among the teams that finished the first half of this Serie A season in the bottom eight positions, Empoli are the team that have collected the most points in their first eight matches played in the second half (12), just one fewer than their total in the first half of the season (13).

➤ Milan have scored the most goals in the big five European leagues this season from substitute players (13): this is also a record for the Rossoneri in a single Serie A tournament in the three-point-per-win era, while since 1994/95, only Napoli (16 in 2022/23), Fiorentina (17 in 2022/23) and Atalanta (20 in 2019/20 and 21 in 2020/21) have had more in a single campaign.

➤ In case of a victory here, Stefano Pioli would surpass 350 points won as a coach in charge of Milan in Serie A (currently on 348), becoming just the second manager to reach this milestone with the Rossoneri in the three points per win era, after Carlo Ancelotti (557).

➤ M’Baye Niang, who scored eight goals in 67 Serie A matches with AC Milan between 2012 and 2017, has been involved in four goals in his four appearances in the competition with Empoli (three goals and one assist). Indeed, he has also been involved in two goals in two league matches played against Rossoneri, notching a goal and an assist, both on April 29, 2015 at San Siro (for Genoa).

➤ Milan’s Olivier Giroud, who found the net in his last league game against Empoli on January 7th, has scored 12 goals in the current league season – only in 2022/23 has he netted more in a single season in the competition (13).

Ones to watch

Noah Okafor will have a lot of responsibility on the left flank, replacing Rafael Leao, and we all know how good he can be when he wakes up on the right side. Although the goals off the bench are crucial, the Swiss international must show that he can do the business from start as well.

It will also be very interesting to see Fikayo Tomori back from start for the first time since the injury. The latest reports suggest that he will start, anyway, but fans are right to have concerns about his match fitness. Especially since Matteo Gabbia has been playing well in his absence.

As for the away side, Zurkowksi is a key player in his more advanced role and Milan will need to keep an eye on him at all times. He scored a hat-trick in Nicola’s first game in charge and, having just recovered from a minor injury, he will surely be eager to shine at San Siro.

Given that he’s expected to start tomorrow, it would be strange not to mention M’Baye Niang here. The devoted Milan fans will know him well from his time at the club, scoring some good goals, and it’s crazy to think that he’s still just 29 years old.


Milan will be hoping that the defeat against Cagliari has dialled down the enthusiasm for Empoli. On the other hand, the Rossoneri must also prove themselves with a good performance, so they will have to treat the encounter like a big game.

The Rossoneri are obviously the favourites and despite the absence of Leao, the feeling is that they will clinch all three points.

Milan 2-0 Empoli

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