AC Milan are desperate for a win after five consecutive games without one and on Sunday mid-day, they will take on Sassuolo at San Siro. Stefano Pioli needs a response, otherwise he might really come under scrutiny.
The Rossoneri have struggled big time over the last three weeks, failing to win a game in their last five attempts. The most recent clash, the 3-0 defeat to Lazio, highlighted the crisis in the worst way and forces the Milan management to reflect.
In his pre-match press conference, which you can read in full here, Pioli stated that his players need to remain united in this time of difficulty. Ultimately, though, it will come down to the final score of tomorrow’s game.
The injury situation is looking a little better for the gaffer as Theo Hernandez, who missed out against Lazio due to a muscle injury, should be back from start. It’s a huge boost for Milan given the Frenchman’s importance.
Davide Calabria took a knock in the Lazio defeat but has also recovered for this clash, while it seems Rade Krunic will get his first minute since returning from his injury last week. Good timing, since Pioli will have to do without Ismael Bennacer who is suspended.
On the other hand, Fikayo Tomori injured his hip last time out and it remains to be seen when he will be back in action. As such, Simon Kjaer will be the one starting next to Pierre Kalulu tomorrow.
The other changes to the XI are expected to take place in the attack. Alexis Saelemaekers should get the nod ahead of Junior Messias, who started the game against Lazio well but then failed to provide the necessary end product.
Charles De Ketelaere is expected to play from start as Brahim Diaz failed to impose himself yet again last time out. The Belgian came off the bench and did well, even though it was a hopeless situation for him given the score.
Olivier Giroud, despite his poor form, will remain the starting striker. Divock Origi is lurking but the former Liverpool man has also struggled to make an impact ever since joining the club, much due to injuries.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kjaer, Kalulu, Theo Hernandez; Krunic, Tonali; Saelemaekers/Messias, De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud.
It’s been a very tough season for Sassuolo and especially in recent time. After at least amassing three wins and three draws in the first eight games, the Neroverdi have since won just one (!) game.
Alessio Dionisi is still in charge of the team and while some believed he would become a very good manager, it simply hasn’t panned out that way thus far. They drew their last game (against Monza) but lost four consecutive ones before that.
A big reason behind Sassuolo’s downfall is probably the parallel decline of Domenico Berardi, whose price tag has plummeted since the start of the season. In eleven league games, he has found the back of the net just three times. At the same point last season, he had eight goals. He also had seven assists, now zero.
A notable absence for tomorrow’s game includes Andrea Pinamonti, but goalkeeper Andrea Consigli has recovered and will thus be available for the clash. Pinamonti will be replaced by Augustin Alvarez, who was once linked with a move to Milan.
Probable Sassuolo XI (4-3-3): Consigli; Toljan, Erlić, Ferrari, Rogério; Tráoré, Obiang, Frattesi; Berardi, Álvarez, Laurienté.
Head to head
Milan have fond memories of facing Sassuolo, after they were initially labelled a bogey team, as the Rossoneri secured the Scudetto at Mapei Stadium last season. The home side never stood a chance in the 3-0 trashing.
Even so, and despite Sassuolo’s poor form this season, Milan failed to replicate the Scudetto performance at Mapei earlier in the season as the game finished 0-0. Pioli’s men were toothless in that clash and didn’t deserve to win, especially considering Berardi missed a penalty.
Furthermore, and what might be concerning, Sassuolo have had a couple of upsets at San Siro in recent time. In fact, they have won their last two games away at Milan and the latter will be hoping to end the trend tomorrow.
➤ Milan have gone unbeaten in their last two meetings against Sassuolo in Serie A (W1 D1) without conceding a goal – the Rossoneri have never obtained three clean sheets in a row against the Neroverdi in the top-flight.
➤ After the 0-0 draw back in August, Milan and Sassuolo could draw two consecutive matches for the first time in Serie A.
➤ Sassuolo have won both of their last two away games against Milan in the league, only against Hellas Verona (four) and SPAL (three) do the Neroverdi have a longer ongoing away winning streak in Serie A (current sides).
➤ AC Milan have failed to win each of their last five games in all competitions (D2 L3) last going six games without a victory in April 2018, under Gennaro Gattuso.
➤ Sassuolo have recorded two draws and six defeats in their last eight league games: only once they have gone nine games in a row without winning in Serie A, between December 2017 and March 2018, under Iachini.
➤ Under Alessio Dionisi (since 2021/22) Sassuolo have lost 34 points from winning positions in Serie A, drawing against Monza last time out (1-1) having taken the lead; in this period, only Verona (44) and Bologna (39) have dropped more points from winning positions in Serie A.
➤ Four of Milan’s last seven home Serie A goals have come in the final 15 minutes of play – none of the Rossoneri’s first 15 home goals this season had come from the 70th minute or later.
➤ Only Solamente Vlasic (36) has created more open play chances than Armand Laurentié (35, level with Deulofeu) in Serie A this season, whilst Rafael Leão has completed the most dribbles so far (32) – Laurentié has completed 24, fewer only than the Portuguese, Parisi, Felipe Anderson and Kvaratskhelia.
➤ Olivier Giroud, who scored a brace in his last Serie A appearance against Sassuolo, has failed to score in each of his last five league matches (410 minutes): he’s never had a longer goalless run in the Italian top-flight.
➤ Milan are both Domenico Berardi’s best victim in Serie A (10 goals) and the club in the top flight against whom he has been involved in the most goals (14, 10 goals, 4 assists); however, 11 of those 14 involvements came between 2013/14 and 2015/16, registering only three goal involvements in his most recent 11 games against them.
Ones to watch
De Ketelaere has a point to prove and is expected to get the chance from start tomorrow. He really needs to find the back of the net, or at least get an assist, to break the deadlock and build from there. The quality is there, he just needs to make use of it.
In addition to the Belgian, it will be interesting to see Krunic in the midfield tandem. The Bosnian has recently returned and might not be in the best of form, but his simplistic playing style could come in handy if Sassuolo decide to press high.
As for Sassuolo, there’s no question that Frattesi is the big star of the team. Berardi has lost that position to the midfielder, who has also been linked with a move to Milan. He will be crucial for Sassuolo in the midfield battle tomorrow.
Finally, Traore is another midfielder that Milan need to keep a close eye on. He’s very good in tight situations and he also has the pace to make life really difficult for his opponents, covering a lot of ground each game.
Both teams have been very poor lately but Milan are still the favourites to come away with the win. One can only hope that Piolio has focused on the right things in training during the week and that the players are eager to break the trend.
Milan 2-1 Sassuolo
Berardi… overrated in the first place. So glad we sidestepped that land mine.
Correct. Bench Diaz. He is not Milan owned. CDK & Adil must be in the 1st and 2nd spot. Give our new players their chances.