AC Milan will be looking to maintain their three-point lead atop the Serie A table and possibly even extend it when they visit Genoa on Wednesday night.
The Rossoneri will feel that they were unlucky to only get a point in their last game against Parma on Sunday despite coming from two goals down to draw 2-2, as they had a goal disallowed and hit the woodwork three times.
They will have a chance to right those wrongs when they face a team battling at the wrong end of the table yet again…
Game date: Wednesday 16 December
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Referee: Paolo Valeri
With Ismael Bennacer and Matteo Gabbia having both picked up injuries during the draw with Parma, while all the major outlets are reporting that Simon Kjaer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be risked.
Sky are reporting that Gianluigi Donnarumma will have a back four of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu (who would make his first league start), Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez ahead of him.
Sandro Tonali would start again in the centre of midfield alongside Franck Kessie, while Ante Rebic would remain as the centre-forward supported by a trident of Alexis Saelemaekers (back from injury), Hakan Calhanoglu and Jens Petter Hauge on the left.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kalulu, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Leao; Rebic.
Genoa, just as they seem to be every season, are once again in crisis. They sit second-bottom of the Serie A standings having not won since the opening game of the season and they enter this game off the back of five defeats in the last six games.
Their most recent loss came against Juventus at the weekend, and although Stefano Sturaro levelled proceedings with just under half an hour left, Cristiano Ronaldo’s two penalties gave the Bianconeri a 3-1 win.
In terms of team news, under-pressure head coach Rolando Maran will again be without Davide Zappacosta, former Milan defender Cristian Zapata, Francesco Cassata and captain Domenico Criscito for the game.
Maran tends to prefer a 4-4-2 formation, and the latest reports suggest Marko Pjaca could be left out of the starting XI.
Probable Genoa XI (4-3-3): Perin; Goldaniga, Bani, Masiello, Pellegrini; Lerager, Radovanovic, Rovella, Sturaro; Scamacca, Shomurodov.
Head to head
The same fixture last season was a feisty and entertaining encounter which included three goals, four red cards and a missed penalty as Milan prevailed 2-1.
Lasse Schone’s free-kick squirmed under Pepe Reina to give the home side the lead but Theo Hernandez levelled in the second-half before Franck Kessie’s penalty won it. Riccardo Saponara and Samu Castillejo were sent off for dissent while substitutes, while Davide Calabria and Davide Biraschi also saw red.
In the reverse fixture, Genoa won 2-1 at the San Siro in the final game before lockdown. Goran Pandev and Francesco Cassata netted in the first half to render Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 77th-minute goal a mere consolation.
Milan’s record against Genoa is as follows: 125 matches, 56 wins, 41 draws, 28 losses.
Match facts (via Opta):
➤ Genoa won their last Serie A meeting against Milan in March and could win two in a row against them in the competition for the first time since 2015, under Gian Piero Gasperini (three in a row).
➤ The last Serie A draw between Milan and Genoa in Liguria was back in February 2011, with Ballardini and Allegri managers — since then three wins for the Rossoblu and six for the Rossoneri.
➤ Genoa have won six points so far: they have never collected fewer at this stage of the competition in the three points for a win era (also six in the 2017/18 campaign).
➤ Genoa have lost their last five Serie A matches, their longest losing run at home in the competition. AC Milan are the only side unbeaten in the ‘top five’ European Leagues since the restart after lockdown last May (G23, W17, D6).
➤ Milan have won their last seven Serie A away matches, only once have they won more in a row in their Serie A history: nine between 1992 and 1993.
➤ Milan are the only side in Serie A history to have scored 2+ goals in each of their first 11 games.
➤ Genoa’s Goran Pandev has scored three Serie A goals against Milan, including one in the most recent meeting, in March 2020 — that Milan’s last defeat in the competition.
➤ The only goal scored by Milan’s Sandro Tonali in the Serie A came at the Ferraris against Genoa, for Brescia in October 2019.
➤ Milan’s striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been involved in five goals (two goals, three assists) in his four Serie A matches against Genoa at the Ferraris.
Ones to watch
For the home side, the danger man seems to be striker Gianluca Scamacca. The Sassuolo-owned forward was heavily linked with a move to Milan over the summer as they sought a deputy to Ibrahimovic, but a loan to the Marassi was his fate instead.
He has six goals in all competitions so far this season with four coming in the Coppa Italia, and he continues to turn heads with his impressive performances in the top flight – despite only being 21 – after a year on loan at Ascoli.
For the Rossoneri, eyes will once again be on Pierre Kalulu at the heart of the defence to see how he deals with the threat posed by a team that plays with two up-front.
The pressure on Ante Rebic is starting to increase too: the Croatian has not scored yet this season and his performances at centre-forward are beginning to come under scrutiny.
It never seems to be an easy game against any team at the Marassi, and Genoa are already fighting for their Serie A status it seems with a number of players having a point to prove.
However, if Milan are serious about a top four finish let alone a Scudetto fight, they have to win this even with the injuries.
Prediction: Genoa 1-2 AC Milan