Following the disappointing Coppa Italia exit, AC Milan will be looking to bounce back with a strong performance in the league, taking on Roma this Sunday. However, it promises to be a difficult encounter for the Rossoneri.
Milan managed to take the lead against Atalanta mid-week but then lost their bearings, conceding two goals by Teun Koopmeiners. Another trophy is thus out of sight for the Rossoneri, who will need to bounce back immediately in the league.
In his pre-match press conference, Stefano Pioli admitted that it won’t be an easy game for Milan at San Siro. He also highlighted the defensive struggles they have experienced, conceding far too many goals in numerical superiority situations.
Game date: Sunday, January 14
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Marco Guida (VAR: Mazzzoleni)
The injury situation is still pretty bad for Milan, of course, but Noah Okafor has been given the go-ahead by the medical staff to return to action. He will be available, therefore, while Marco Sportiello and Marco Pellegrino also have recovered but won’t be available.
Alessandro Florenzi will miss out as the fatigue is present still, just like Pierre Kalulu, Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori who remain on the injury list. Then, we must also add the absences of Ismael Bennacer and Samuel Chukwueze, who both are at the AFCON.
Pioli will have a good squad to rely on for the clash, though, with Matteo Gabbia and Filippo Terracciano to count on now as well. As per the latest reports, the former will start in the centre of defence alongside Simon Kjaer, meaning Theo Hernandez will finally be on the left again.
In midfield, Yacine Adli will be back from start and he will partner up with Ruben Loftus-Cheek as well as Tijjani Reijnders. The best trio for that department right now, one could argue, as Yunus Musah didn’t exactly impress against Atalanta mid-week.
Up front, it will be the classic ’11-9-10′ trio with Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao all playing from the first minute. The Portuguese winger needs to break his goal drought in the league, having failed to score since September, while the American will be after more glory.
Probable Milan XI (4-3-3): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo; Loftus-Cheek, Adli, Reijnders; Pulisic, Giroud, Leao.
Just like last year, it has been a season filled with ups and downs for Roma, with Jose Mourinho always at the helm. They had a very rough start to the season but have somewhat recovered since then, even if they are ‘just’ in ninth place and with six defeats already.
In the last five games, in fact, they have clinched just one victory and that is simply not good enough for the Giallorossi. It should be noted that these five games were all against notable opponents, but the point still stands.
Going back to Mourinho, he has been sent off twice in the league this season and once in the Coppa Italia, now on two consecutive games with a red card. He is ‘The Special One’, after all, and this means he will miss the game against Milan tomorrow.
Miss is perhaps the wrong word, as he will be present in the stands of San Siro and will certainly communicate with his coaching staff on the touchline. In any case, Roma will be without some prominent players: Tammy Abraham, Houssem Aouar, Sardar Azmoun, Paulo Dybala, Evan Ndicka, Renato Sanches and Chris Smalling.
Three of them (we’ll let you do the math) are on international duty for the AFCON, which evens out the situation with Milan a bit, and the rest are injured. Mourinho will be able to rely on a rather strong XI anyway, even if the absence of Dybala will be felt.
Probable Roma XI (3-5-2): Patricio; Mancini, Llorente, Huijsen; Kristensen, Cristante, Paredes, Bove, Spinazzola; Belotti, Lukaku.
Head to head
Taking a look at the head-to-head statistics, it’s clear that Milan have done better in this fixture in recent years. Roma have not won against the Rossoneri since 2019, that is eight league games, and Pioli’s men are also unbeaten in the last five home games against the Giallorossi.
The last clash between these two sides at San Siro ended 2-2, following a late comeback from Roma who looked out of the game prior to that. It was the start of a very tough period for Milan, who dominated the affair until that first goal from Mourinho’s side.
Interestingly enough, Mourinho was also in the stands for that game due to a suspension. You can take a look at the highlights below.
Match facts and stats…
➤ Roma are winless in their last eight Serie A matches against Milan (D3 L5), since a 2-1 victory in October 2019.
➤ AC Milan are unbeaten in their last five home Serie A games against Roma (W3 D2), including the draw 2-2 last season; the Giallorossi’s last win at the Meazza stadium against the Rossoneri was back on 1st October 2017.
➤ In each of the last seven Serie A matches between AC Milan and Roma, both teams have scored (25 goals in total, 3.6 on average per match); the last clean sheet was recorded by the Rossoneri in the 2-0 on 28th June 2020.
➤ In the last seven Serie A MDs, AC Milan have picked up 16 points (W5 D1 L1), keeping four clean sheets: in the period only Inter and Juventus (both 17) gained more points.
➤ Roma have lost (without scoring) in their last two away Serie A games: they could lose three consecutive away league games for the first time since September-October 2021; the last time they registered three defeats on the road in a row without scoring in Serie A was back in March 2005.
➤ AC Milan have registered the most direct attacks in Serie A this season (41), while Roma are 19th in this ranking (17); however, the Rossoneri (four) and the Giallorossi (three) are two of the first five teams for goals scored by direct attacks.
➤ Since Josè Mourinho joined Roma, the Giallorossi have always lost the first match of the second half of the season (20th match in Serie A): defeat against AC Milan at the Meazza stadium in 2021/22 and defeat against Napoli at Maradona stadium in 2022/23.
➤ Olivier Giroud – who scored a penalty in the reverse match against Roma – has netted nine goals in the current league season; the last AC Milan player to score at least 10 goals in three Serie A campaigns in a row was Alexandre Pato (between 2008/09 and 2010/11).
➤ Roma’s Romelu Lukaku has scored in each of the four games he has started against AC Milan in Serie A; the Belgian closed this first half of the season with eight goals scored in 16 league appearances, four less than in the first half of 2020/21 season (12) and six less than in 2019/20 (14) – last season he played only seven matches, scoring one goal, in the first 19 Serie A games played by his club.
➤ Roma’s Paulo Dybala has been involved in 12 goals in Serie A against AC Milan (seven goals and five assists), only against Udinese (19) he has had a hand in more. However, his last goal against the Rossoneri in Serie A was back on 10th November 2019 (1-0 with Juventus).
Ones to watch
If it’s true that Hernandez will be back on the left-hand side, then Milan fans should indeed keep a close eye on him. He showed what he can do in those areas against Atalanta, combining with Leao, and the Rossoneri need to see more of this.
In addition to the Frenchman, Gabbia will be another important player against a strong Roma attack. He did really well against Atalanta but had to leave early with a head injury. Fortunately, he’s now back and will be looking to impress underneath the floodlights at San Siro.
For Roma, it goes without saying that Milan will have to contain Lukaku as much as possible. The Belgian striker has scored eight league goals this season and he certainly knows what it feels like to score against the Rossoneri.
Mancini is another player to keep an eye on. He always plays incredibly dirty, using every possible trick to get his opponents off balance. The battle with Leao will be very interesting in that sense, and the latter will have to be quick in his movement.
It will not be an easy game for Milan, that is certain, but the feeling is that they should be able to clinch all three points. Mourinho has some pretty significant absences and the recent form speaks for itself, whereas the Rossoneri are heading into the clash with a positive league form.
That being said, in big games form goes out the window, and we have seen Pioli’s men struggle in these types of games before.
Milan 1-0 Roma