Following the success in the Champions League mid-week, AC Milan will have to shift focus to the league and their clash against Sassuolo tomorrow. They need to bounce back, having lost their last Serie A game.
The first defeat arrived for Milan after all, more or less gifting last weekend’s game to Fiorentina as they committed several fatal mistakes. The confidence doesn’t seem to be lacking, though, as they followed that up by beating Atletico Madrid.
Stefano Pioli spoke to the media at the usual press conference and stated that he was happy with the performance mid-week. He also mentioned a few things they need to do to win against Sassuolo tomorrow.
Game date: Sunday, 28 November
Kick-off time: 15:00 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Manganiello (VAR: Ghersini)
Milan are still struggling with some injuries, there is no doubt about it, with Olivier Giroud added to the injury list once again. It appears 2021 is over for the Frenchman, who has had a lot of setbacks this season.
Furthermore, Fikayo Tomori still isn’t ready despite reports suggesting that he would play from start tomorrow. On the other hand, Mike Maignan has made a super recovery and will play the game from start, which is a huge boost for Milan.
With Tomori’s absence in mind, the heart of the defence should remain unchanged with Simon Kjaer and Alessio Romagnoli partnering up. There could, however, be a change on the flanks as Alessandro Florenzi is ahead of Pierre Kalulu on the right.
The versatile Italian came off the bench against Atletico Madrid and did relatively well, impressing Pioli by the looks of it. Further up the pitch, Tiemoue Bakayoko is ahead of Sandro Tonali and Franck Kessie, who both played the mid-week clash from start.
In addition to Maignan, another boost for the Rossoneri is the return of Rafael Leao, who has returned to good condition. He was on the bench mid-week but also remained there, now fully ready to have an impact on the pitch.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bakayoko, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic.
Roberto De Zerbi decided to leave the job as head coach of Sassuolo at the end of last season, joining the Ukrainian side Shakthar Donetsk instead. Given his importance for the Neroverdi, an initial struggle was expected without him.
They decided to hire the young manager Alessio Dionisi, who is 41-years-old and brought Empoli from the second-tier to Serie A ahead of this season. He couldn’t say no when Sassuolo came knocking, though.
The start of the season has been up and down for Sassuolo, with four wins, three draws and six losses. They did manage to beat Juventus away from home but that doesn’t say much, given the Bianconeri’s form this season.
After initially being praised by the media, Dionisi is now facing a tough period and although a loss tomorrow wouldn’t be an upset, it would be tough for him. Fortunately, he will have key player Davide Frattesi at his disposal as the one-game ban was overturned.
However, he will also be without star players such as Pedro Obiang, Filip Djuricic and Jeremie Boga. The latter has been a key player for Sassuolo for many years and his absence will be felt.
Probable Sassuolo XI (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Toljan, Chiriches, Ferrari, Rogerio; Lopez, Frattesi; Berardi, Raspadori, Traore; Scamacca.
Head to head
Milan have been quite successful against Sassuolo as of late, after the Neroverdi were labelled the Rossoneri’s ‘boogey team’ when they first established themselves in Serie A. The last meeting, however, ended in a win for Sassuolo and it’s one that Milan would like to forget.
Giacomo Raspadori came off the bench and turned the game around with a brace, cancelling a certain No.10’s fantastic opener. The loss came in a tough period for Milan in the top-four race, but it ended well eventually.
It’s clear, however, that they don’t want a repeat of that clash and Pioli knows that maximum concentration will be needed tomorrow. It’s also clear, though, that Sassuolo have struggled a bit since the departure of De Zerbi and that this could have a huge impact on the game.
➤ After going unbeaten for nine straight league games against Sassuolo (W7 D2), Milan lost their most recent game against the Neroverdi. The last time they suffered two consecutive defeats in this fixture was in 2015, with Filippo Inzaghi on the bench.
➤ Milan have won four home games against Sassuolo in Serie A (P8 D2 L2). Sassuolo won 2-1 when the sides last met at Milan in April.
➤ After their 3-4 defeat against Fiorentina, Milan could lose two consecutive Serie A games for the first time since last April. On that occasion the defeat at home came against Sassuolo, 1-2 with Giacomo Raspadori’s brace overturning the initial Calhanoglu’s goal.
➤ Since the beginning of May, Milan have won six of their eight Serie A home games (D2) and have kept five clean sheets. No team has kept more home clean sheets in this period.
➤ After 13 games in Serie A this season, Sassuolo have 15 points; that’s eight points less than they had at the same stage last season (23). Of all the teams present in both Serie A campaigns, this is the biggest such gap in points. The Neroverdi have also scored four goals less (19 in 2021/22 v 23 in 2020/21) and conceded five more (20 v 15).
➤ Sassuolo have lost three of their last five away league games (W1 D1), after a run of five consecutive away wins. In fact, the Neroverdi have suffered as many defeats in the last five as they have in the previous 10 Serie A away games (W6 D1).
➤ This fixture sees the only team that hasn’t lost any points from winning positions (Milan) come up against the one that has lost the most in the same situation (13 for Sassuolo, equal with Spezia).
➤ After his brace against Fiorentina, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is only two goals away from becoming the third player in the 2000s to score 300 goals in the Top Five European leagues. He’s currently on 298, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (480) and Messi (475). The Swede is also only one goal away from equalling Silvio Piola for the most goals in Serie A history after turning 38 years old (Piola scored 31 times).
➤ Giacomo Raspadori’s only brace in Serie A came at the San Siro against Milan last April, a game which he started from the bench. The Sassuolo’s striker hasn’t scored in 12 league games; he’s never gone 13 appearances in a row without scoring in the competition (12 also between August 2020 and January 2021).
➤ Domenico Beradi has scored more Serie A goals against Milan than any other team. The Sassuolo striker’s nine goals against the Rossoneri include four in one encounter in January 2014 and a hat-trick in May 2015. He is the only player to score at least three goals in two different matches against the Rossoneri in Serie A history.
Ones to watch
It’s impossible to do this section, for this game, without mentioning Maignan. The Frenchman was a key player at the start of this season and his return is crucial for Milan, not just providing more safety between the sticks but also adding passing dimension to the side.
In addition to him, Milan will rely a lot on the creativity of Rafael Leao when going forward tomorrow. He was rested mid-week and will surely have the energy to create some problems for Sassuolo, especially if he wakes up on the right side of the bed.
For Sassuolo, the front four will be decisive as they are all quality players, a few of which Milan have seriously followed lately. Berardi with his experience, Raspadori and Traore with their creativity as well as Scamacca with the pure strength.
The Rossoneri defenders will need support to contain these four and therefore, the work of someone like Alexis Saelemaekers could prove crucial tomorrow. And the Belgian is coming off a positive display against Atletico Madrid.
There’s no doubt that Milan are the favourites, especially considering Sassuolo’s form, but if there’s one thing the Fiorentina clash proved it’s that mistakes can happen to anyone. Therefore, the Rossoneri will need to have full focus on the task at hand and secure the three points.
Prediction: AC Milan 2-0 Sassuolo