AC Milan will be back in action on Saturday evening as they will face Empoli away from home, following the international break. It’s an important game for Stefano Pioli’s men ahead of what will be a tough period.
The Rossoneri failed to beat Napoli prior to the international break and their unbeaten run also came to an end. The confidence within the team isn’t lacking, but it will still be important to bounce back with a win tomorrow.
In his pre-match press conference, which you can read in full here, Pioli made it clear that the mentality won’t change amid the tight schedule. He wants his team to continue just like before, which saw them win the Scudetto last season.
Game date: Saturday, October 1st
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: Carlo Castellani
Referee: Aureliano (VAR: Guida)
There are a couple of new absences to keep in mind. Theo Hernandez got injured during the Napoli game and he’s currently recovering from a muscle strain. Furthermore, Mike Maignan go injured while playing for France and he will also miss out.
The likes of Divock Origi, Alessandro Florenzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are still on the injury list. Ante Rebic, meanwhile, has just about recovered from his hernia and will be called up for the clash, although it’s unlikely that he will play.
Compared to the game against Napoli, quite a few changes are expected and some of them are mandatory. Ciprian Tatarusanu will be the starting goalkeeper over the next month or so, while Fode Ballo-Toure will cover for Theo’s absence.
Davide Calabria also struggled with an injury at the start of the break and he’s not quite 100% yet, but it seems he will get the nod anyway. This will give Simon Kjaer or Pierre Kalulu the opportunity from start alongside Fikayo Tomori.
Ismael Bennacer was active during the break and since Sandro Tonali has recovered, the Italian will start along with Tommaso Pobega. The latter has impressed Pioli lately and it’s a good chance for him to shine again.
Alexis Saelemaekers appears to be ahead for a starting spot on the right flank and Charles De Ketelaere will also get the chance. Rafael Leao is back from suspension and he will try to link up with his partner in crime, Olivier Giroud again.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kjaer (Kalulu), Tomori, Ballo-Toure; Tonali, Pobega; Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud.
Empoli have struggled a bit at the start of this season under the management of Paolo Zanetti, who was hired ahead of the current term. While they have only lost two games, there are multiple games in which they really should have done better (four draws).
They got their first win of the season last time out, beating Bologna thanks to a late goal from Filippo Bandinelli. They will be looking to build on this even if Milan are clearly the favourites to win the clash.
Ardian Ismajli, who has played every game from start to finish thus far, is injured and will miss out on the game. It’s a blow for Zanetti who seemingly will give the youngster Koni De Winter (on loan from Juventus) the chance.
Empoli are expected to field a 4-3-1-2 tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how the midfield battle between the teams will unfold. Marko Pjaca, who is the attacking midfielder, is rather attacking-minded and his defensive work might be minimal.
Probable Empoli XI (4-3-1-2): Vicario; Stojanovic, De Winter, Luperto, Parisi; Haas, Marin, Bandinelli; Pjaca; Lammers, Satriano.
Head to head
Based on recent form, Milan are the clear favourites heading into this game despite the setback against Napoli before the break. Furthermore, looking at past meetings Empoli, it’s clear that the Rossoneri have the psychological advantage.
In fact, Empoli have never managed to win against Milan when playing at home (D7, L7). The last loss overall for the Rossoneri came back in 2017 and they have won their last three consecutive games against Zanetti’s side.
Last time out at the Castellani, Pioli’s men claimed a secure 4-2 win as Franck Kessie bagged a brace. Full-backs Alessandro Florenzi and Theo Hernandez also got on the scoresheet (the former scored a great free-kick).
➤ AC Milan have lost just one of their last 11 Serie A matches against Empoli (W6 D4), going down 2-1 at home in April 2017.
➤ AC Milan have won their last three Serie A games against Empoli: only between December 2003 and March 2006 have they had a longer streak of consecutive wins against the Tuscans in the top-flight (four).
➤ Among the 23 teams they have faced more than three times in home games in Serie A, AC Milan are the only one against which Empoli have never won (14 games – D7 L7).
➤ After their 1-0 win against Bologna, Empoli could win two consecutive league matches for the first time since December 2021, while the last time they made two consecutive clean sheets in Serie A was in January 2017 (three in that case).
➤ AC Milan have drawn three of the four away games this season between Serie A and Champions League (W1), as many as in their previous 20 matches on the road in all competitions (W14 D3 L3).
➤ Only Napoli and Fiorentina (both 62) have recorded more high turnovers than Empoli (60) in Serie A this season, on the other side AC Milan have scored the most goals following high turnovers (four).
➤ Since 2019, Empoli’s Mattia Destro has scored the joint-most goals against AC Milan in Serie A: four goals (in four matches), alongside Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile – in general in his career, the Italian striker has netted five goals in the top-flight against the Rossoneri.
➤ Empoli’s Fabiano Parisi has completed the most dribbles in Serie A this season (14); among defenders in the big five European leagues in 2022/23, only Jeremie Frimpong (18) and Nuno Tavares (17) have completed more.
➤ Milan’s Olivier Giroud has netted in his last three Serie A matches, and could score in four consecutive league games for the first time since January 2017 for Arsenal. In addition, the French striker has scored four goals in his first seven league games in 2022/23 – only in 2014/15 (five with Arsenal) has he netted more in his first eight matches in a single season between Serie A, Premier League and Ligue 1.
➤ Only Lautaro Martínez (28) has attempted more total shots than Milan pair Rafael Leão and Olivier Giroud (both 25, level with Osimhen) in Serie A this season – among these four players, the two Rossoneri have the highest shot conversion rate: 16% Giroud, 12% Leão.
Ones to watch
De Ketelaere has a point to prove and will want to grab his first goal for the Rossoneri, as he explained in a recent interview. His first few months at the club haven’t been bad but the feeling is that he can do even more.
Then, of course, an extra eye will have to be kept on Tatarusanu will have the task of covering for Maignan over the next few weeks. It’s a tough role to play but as we saw last year, he’s more than capable of putting in good performances.
During last season, there was a lot of talk about the development of left-back Fabio Parisi. He was even linked with a move to Milan and he has started this campaign in decent fashion as well, bagging a goal in the process.
In addition to him, Sam Lammers is on loan from Atalanta and scored a few weeks back. He’s quite tall and it will be interesting to see how he will get on against the tough Milan defenders, but it’s clear that he’s a talented player.
It won’t be an easy game for Milan, especially given the absence of Hernandez, but they are clearly the favourites to claim all three points tomorrow evening. The defence hasn’t been rock-solid lately, though, and thus they might concede.
Empoli 1-3 AC Milan