AC Milan will be looking to take another step towards the Scudetto on Sunday night when they face Hellas Verona at the Stadio MarcAntonio Bentegodi.
Milan come into the game off the back of a 1-0 win over Fiorentina at San Siro last week that came courtesy of a late goal from Rafael Leao, but Inter’s comeback win against Empoli on Friday evening saw them take top spot with a one-point lead, albeit with the Rossoneri able to climb back above them with a draw or win in Verona.
On two different occasions (1973 and 1990) a loss against Hellas Verona ultimately cost Milan the title (which was won by Juventus and Napoli respectively), and the hope is that the taboo can be put to bed.
Game date: Sunday, 8 May
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: Stadio MarcAntonio Bentegodi
Referee: Doveri (VAR: Aureliano)
The good news from the past few days is that Alessandro Florenzi is now back after his recovery from a minor surgery on his knee that took place last month, meaning Simon Kjaer is the only player in the treatment room as things stand.
According to what is being reported by a number of different sources including La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pioli should field an unchanged defence of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez in front of Mike Maignan.
Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer should return to being partners in the double pivot with Franck Kessie playing as the attacking midfielder, meaning Brahim Diaz should start from the bench again.
Junior Messias has a 60% chance of starting as the right winger over Alexis Saelemaekers, with Rafael Leao on the left wing completing the trident behind striker Olivier Giroud.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Krunic, Leao; Giroud.
Hellas Verona have had a very up and down season under head coach Igor Tudor, who replaced the departing Ivan Juric after he left for Torino. The longest losing streak this season has been the three games to begin the campaign, while the best winning run is two games.
The Gialloblu come into this game on a run of just one defeat in six (that being against Inter), with 2-1 wins over Atalanta and Cagliari either side of a 1-1 draw at home to Sampdoria.
In terms of team news, Verona will be without goalkeeper Ivor Pandur and defender Pawel Dawidowicz who are both out injured for the hosts, while Alessandro Berardi and Diego Coppola will also miss the game as per La Gazzetta.
Tudor is expected to keep the free-scoring trio of Giovanni Simeone, Gianluca Caprari and Antonin Barak as the front three, with Lazovic and Faraoni as the wing-back, Ivan Ilic and Tameze as the midfield pairing and then a back three of Casale, Gunter and Ceccherini in front of Montipo.
Probable Verona XI (3-4-2-1): Montipo; Casale, Gunter, Ceccherini; Faraoni, Tameze, Ilic, Lazovic; Barak, Caprari; Simeone.
Head to head
As SportsKeeda write, Milan a bit of a mixed recent record against Verona and have won 10 of their last 20 matches against them, losing just three in that stretch which was a 2-0 defeat in the 2016-17 season.
Milan are unbeaten in six meetings against the Giallobu, and the most memorable one was the reverse fixture earlier this season when Caprari and Barak’s first half goals game Verona 2-0 lead at San Siro, but the Rossoneri roared back thanks to strikes from Giroud, Kessie (penalty) and an own-goal to win 3-2.
In the same fixture last season, the Diavolo rocked up at the Bentegodi with a front four of Leao as the centre-forward, Castillejo on the left, Saelemaekers on the right and Krunic as the playmaker, winning 2-0 thanks to the Bosnian’s free-kick and Dalot’s top corner effort.
➤ This will be the 60th match in Serie A between Hellas Verona and Milan: 10 wins for the Gialloblu (the last one was back on 17th December 2017, 3-0), 21 draws and 28 Rossoneri wins, including four in the last six matches (D2).
➤ In the three points for a win era, only in 2001/02 have Milan won both Serie A matches in a single season against Hellas Verona (both 2-1).
➤ Milan have won their last two away games against Verona in Serie A and in their history have never achieved three wins in a row on the road against the Gialloblu in the top-flight.
➤ Verona could win two Serie A games in a row for the first time since January; they have never repeated the same result twice in a row in their last 13 league games.
➤ Only Liverpool have a longer unbeaten run than Milan in the ‘top five; European leagues: 13 games without losing for the Rossoneri in Serie A, with eight wins and five draws.
➤ The last time Milan picked up at least 77 points after 35 Serie A matches was back in 2010-11, the season of their last Scudetto (under Massimiliano Allegri); in the last 15 seasons, the Rossoneri have never gained 80 points after 36 games played in the competition.
➤ Since March 2022, Milan have conceded the fewest goals in the ‘top five’ European leagues (only one in eight games) – in this period the Rossoneri have kept seven clean sheets, a joint-record alongside Liverpool.
➤ Gianluca Caprari (seven assists) is close to the record for the assists for a Hellas Verona player in a single Serie A season since 2004-05 (nine for Hallfredsson in 2014-15); adding the 12 goals scored, he could become the second Italian in the last 17 years to be involved in at least 20 goals in a single Serie A campaign for the club (the other was Luca Toni).
➤ Junior Messias has scored in both his Serie A matches against Hellas Verona: both goals have been netted in the previous league season with Crotone.
➤ Rafael Leão is the player with the fourth-most dribbles completed (93) in the ‘top five’ European leagues this season, after Allan Saint-Maximin, Adama Traoré and Kylian Mbappé (but among them he is the youngest).
➤ Leao’s last goal in an away league match arrived in October 2021 against Bologna. His last last six goals have been netted in home games.
Ones to watch
For Milan, the struggling attack has been the theme of the last few weeks and the feeling is that constantly relying on Rafael Leao must stop, even though he did hit double figures in the league with his winner against Fiorentina.
Giroud has not scored a goal since the winner against Napoli away from home, which must change soon, and there is the obvious need again for Junior Messias to contribute to the attack.
Clean sheets have been the order of the day as Milan have not conceded in 7 of their last 8 league games, with Tomori and Kalulu called upon to keep that excellent record up.
For Verona, there is no doubting that the aforementioned trio of Antonio Barak, Gianluca Caprari and Giovanni Simeone are the ones to watch. Those three have scored 39 goals between them, or 63.9% of the 61 total goals Verona have netted this season.
The attacking midfielder Barak has 11 goals (and has been repeatedly linked with Milan), while the former Sampdoria forward Caprari has 12, and finally Simeone has 16 as the centre-forward.
The ‘Fatal Verona’ tag may involve games over 30 years ago, but it is important – after the pressure put on by Inter – that Milan ensure they go into the final two games of the season needing four points.
This will be far from a straightforward game against a team that play exciting football and can strike at any moment, so no result can be ruled out.
Prediction: Hellas Verona 1-2 Milan