AC Milan are back in Serie A action on Saturday night as they make the relatively short trip to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to face Sampdoria.
Milan have started the season well in the league having won three and drawn two of their opening five games, with the most recent result of course being the thrilling 3-2 derby win over Inter that came last Saturday.
However, the Rossoneri’s away form has seen them draw all three games this season and Stefano Pioli stressed in his pre-match press conference that there is work to be done in order for his side to get back to their best, including defensively and on set pieces.
Game date: Saturday, 10 September
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CEST)
Venue: Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Referee: Fabbri (VAR: Abisso)
As mentioned above, the campaign so far has been a contrast in some ways from the Scudetto winning season in 2021-22, as Milan have actually failed to win any of their three away games (Atalanta, Sassuolo and RB Salzburg in the Champions League), while winning three of three at home.
In terms of injury news, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee surgery) and Alessandro Florenzi (tendon surgery) are long-term absentees, while Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic will also miss the fixture but could well return next week for the Champions League tie with.
According to what is being reported by various outlets, Pioli will make one change in the defence as Simon Kjaer should come in for Fikayo Tomori to partner Pierre Kalulu at centre-back. Mike Maignan, Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez remain.
There will be a change in midfield too as Tommaso Pobega is expected to get another start under his belt, giving Ismael Bennacer the opportunity to catch his breath with Sandro Tonali preferred to partner his compatriot.
Two changes are anticipated in attack compared to the game against Red Bull Salzburg, with Junior Messias and Divock Origi tipped to come in for Alexis Saelemaekersand Olivier Giroud respectively. Rafael Leao will keep his spot despite looking a bit tired last time out.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Kalulu, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Pobega; Messias, De Ketelaere, Leao; Origi.
Milan will look to put things right against a Sampdoria side that are once again searching for an identity under Marco Giampaolo, with just two points to show from their opening five games, though those came from draws with Lazio and Juventus.
Samp have lost some key pieces last season and many believe they might well struggle if it turns out they haven’t been replaced correctly. The likes of Mikkel Damsgaard, Federico Bonazzoli, Morten Thorsby, Abin Ekdal, Maya Yoshida, Gianluca Caprari and Stefano Sensi all left
Francesco Caputo might well be the headline signing while Abdelhamid Sabiri and Filip Djuricic have arrived to bolster the playmaker role, plus Harry Winks from Spurs on loan though he is injured currently.
Speaking of injuries, Sampdoria’s website confirmed they are suffering with some problems in the centre-back department as Omar Colley, Jeison Murillo and Alex Ferrari have all done individual work this week, so three defenders that Giampaolo has at his disposal are currently sidelined.
Fabio Quagliarella is expected to be fit enough to start after recovering from back comfort and should lead the line with Caputo. Sabiri is tipped to be playmaker, with Djuricic, Rincon and Gabbiani in front of a back four that is currently expected to feature Ferrari and Colley despite their injury worries.
Probable Sampdoria XI (4-3-1-2): Audero; Bereszynski, Ferrari, Colley, Augello; Gabbiadini, Rincon, Djuricic; Sabiri; Quagliarella, Caputo.
Head to head
Milan and Sampdoria met twice last season and the tale was almost identical in both games, with each of them finishing 1-0 to the Rossoneri in the end.
The first meeting came in round one as the title hopefuls Milan travelled to the Marassi, and a first half goal from Brahim Diaz was enough to seal all three points. In the return fixture, Rafael Leao got the only goal in what was a massive win at the time to go top.
Milan have lost just twice away against Sampdoria since 2010, but one of those defeats did come when Giampaolo was coaching them back in March 2019. Of the last 27 meeting, the Diavolo have won 14, losing 7 and drawing 6.
➤ Milan have won four of their last five Serie A games against Sampdoria (D1), without conceding a goal in the last two; the last time the Blucerchiati beat the Rossoneri in the top-flight was back in March 2019, 1-0 (Defrel’s goal) at Ferraris, under Giampaolo.
➤ Sampdoria have lost each of their last three Serie A home games against AC Milan; only once in the competition have they recorded four consecutive home defeats against the Rossoneri: in the period between 1963 and 1968.
➤ Sampdoria are – level with Montpellier – one of the two sides to have collected the most losses (16) in 2022 in the ‘top five’ European leagues; the Blucerchiati have only scored 21 goals in 24 Serie A matches in this period, 0.88 on average per game, the lowest considering the teams in both 2021/22 and 2022/23 Italian top-flight.
➤ Sampdoria have only picked up two points in Serie A this season and could equal their worst haul after six games in a top-flight campaign should they lose this match (two draws and four defeats in their first six also in 2013/14, however they did manage to avoid relegation).
➤ No team has lost fewer games than AC Milan (only one defeat – last January against Spezia) in the ‘top five’ 5 European leagues in 2022 – the Rossoneri have recorded 2.29 points on average per game this calendar year in Serie A: only Liverpool (2.40) and Manchester City (2.38) have a higher average this year.
➤ Only Atalanta (16) have registered more direct attacks than Milan (14) in Serie A this season – four for Sampdoria, only Empoli (three) have had fewer.
➤ Including the two goals they conceded against Verona, Sampdoria have conceded six first half goals in Serie A this season (no team has conceded more during the opening 45 minutes – Monza also six).
➤ No player has lost possession on more occasions than Sampdoria’s Abdelhamid Sabiri in Serie A this season (93 out of 287, 32%).
➤ Milan’s Rafael Leão has been involved in the most goals in Serie A in 2022: 19 (10 goals, nine assists); he has found the net twice against Sampdoria in the top-flight, coming in his last three games against the Blucerchiati.
➤ Tommaso Pobega scored his only brace in Serie A against Sampdoria at Ferraris, for Spezia, in May 2021 – the Blucerchiati are the only team against which the Italian midfielder has scored at least one goal and provided at least one assist in the top-flight (October 2021 for Torino).
Ones to watch
It will be very interesting to see Pobega from start in the midfield tandem. The youngster has provided mixed performances thus far and he needs to show that he can get the job done even in a midfield duo, a position in which he did not play much at Torino.
In addition to him, Origi certainly has a point to prove after receiving criticism for his display off the bench last time out. We know that he has the quality to do really but the time has come to show it, otherwise Giroud is ready to pounce.
The veteran Caputo scored a great goal for Sampdoria last time out and although it didn’t result in a victory, he cannot be left with too much space. He’s dangerous with both feet and the Milan defenders shouldn’t be fooled by his age.
Colley should also have an interesting battle with Origi. The defender is tall and strong, which could make things difficult for the former Liverpool man. He can be reckless at times, though, which is an opportunity for Milan.
It will most likely be a tight affair as Sampdoria like to defend against the big teams. Furthermore, Milan have had a very tight schedule recently and will most likely not have loads of energy for this clash. Anything other than a win is a failure, though.
Sampdoria 0-1 AC Milan