AC Milan will be looking to secure their first Scudetto in eleven years on Sunday evening, taking on Sassuolo at Mapei Stadium, which will be packed with Rossoneri fans.
The Rossoneri claimed three huge points in the game against Atalanta, overcoming what was a very tough task on paper. The players showed fighting spirit and looked like a team deserving of the Scudetto, with just one point needed now.
Stefano Pioli revealed during today’s press conference that it has been a very good week of training, without the need for intervention from him. Furthermore, he stated that the job isn’t finished yet and Milan need to be ‘the best’ tomorrow as well.
Game date: Sunday, 22 May
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CEST)
Venue: Mapei Stadium
Referee: Doveri (VAR: Aureliano)
Just like last time out, Pioli will have almost all of the players at his disposal as the likes of Simon Kjaer and Daniel Maldini will miss out again. Indeed, the medical staff deserves praise for the second half of the season, with significantly fewer injuries.
According to what is being reported by a number of different sources including La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pioli will make zero changes to the starting XI we saw against Atalanta last weekend. Consistency is key, therefore.
Rade Krunic has won the battle with Ismael Bennacer once again and will start in the attacking trio, while Franck Kessie will partner up with Sandro Tonali in the tandem. Further up the pitch, Alexis Saelemaekers should keep his spot to the right.
Some reports have suggested that Pioli is thinking about fielding Ante Rebic as the No.9, seeing as Olivier Giroud’s contribution has been minimal lately. The Frenchman remains ahead, but that could change in the coming hours.
In any case, it’s clear that Pioli doesn’t want to change too much as this starting XI has achieved great results in the last few minutes. Then, of course, we will see some changes during the game.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Krunic, Leao; Giroud (Rebic).
Sassuolo’s season has been filled with ups and downs, with no proper consistency to their success. Roberto De Zerbi, the influential manager, left Sassuolo ahead of the season and Alessio Dionisi was brought in to replace him after his success with Empoli.
The manager had a 1.95 points-per-game average at Empoli in Serie B, but it hasn’t gone quite as well this season with 1.36 at Sassuolo. Of course, he wasn’t expected to replicate the former figure as that made him the champion of Serie B with Empoli.
However, a bit more was perhaps expected from Sassuolo given the players they have, currently in 11th place. They have enjoyed some great games this season, though, beating Milan, Inter and Juventus away from home. Against Napoli, they lost 6-1 away. Ups and downs indeed.
The likes of Abdou Harroui, Jeremy Toljan, Pedro Obiang and Filippo Romagna will miss out on the clash tomorrow. They are not the most important players and Dionisi will be able to field a very strong XI.
Probable Sassuolo XI (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Muldur, Chiriches, Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Lopez, Frattesi; Berardi, Raspadori, Traore; Scamacca.
Head to head
When Sassuolo were promoted to Serie A, Milan struggled big time for quite a few years against them. However, the situation has changed at least if you look at the clashes at the Mapei Stadium, where Milan have won their last five.
On the other hand, Sassuolo have won the last two games (both at San Siro) and have the opportunity to claim three consecutive wins against Milan for the first time in Serie A history. You could debate who’s the favourite based on the stats for quite some time, in other words.
In the reverse fixture, Alessio Romagnoli opened the scoring with a header on a corner but Sassuolo came back in style, scoring three goals. Simon Kjaer got put down for an own-goal but it was really the work of Gianluca Scamacca, who also scored the equaliser. Domenico Berardi then sealed the deal.
➤ In 17 Serie A matches between Sassuolo and AC Milan, the Rossoneri have won nine games, with the other meetings seeing two draws and six Neroverdi wins (including both of the last two meetings).
➤ Sassuolo could win three matches in a row against AC Milan for the first time in Serie A; in addition, only in 2014/15, have they won both matches in a single season against the Rossoneri in the top-flight.
➤ AC Milan have won each of their last five away league games against Sassuolo, this after losing each of their first three on the road against the Neroverdi in Serie A. In six of the eight meetings between the two sides at the Mapei Stadium, the Rossoneri have scored at least two goals (including each of the last four).
➤ Sassuolo have conceded a goal in each of their last 15 home Serie A games (26 goals in total), their longest ever such streak in the top-flight.
➤ AC Milan have picked up 83 points in Serie A this season, their highest total in the three points for a win era (excluding 2005/06 when they had a deduction). The Rossoneri have won 25 league games so far; only three times previously have they won at least 26 games in a top-flight campaign: 2005/06, 1950/51 and 1949/50.
➤ AC Milan have kept a clean sheet in 17 matches in Serie A this season; the last league season in which they had more clean sheets was in 2011/12 (18).
➤ Only Inter (320) have attempted more shots than Sassuolo (299) and AC Milan (296) in the second half of this season’s Serie A. The Neroverdi are also third for goals scored in this period with 34, behind only Napoli and Lazio, but have also conceded the third-most goals in this time (32, fewer than only Venezia and Empoli). AC Milan, on the other hand, have conceded the fewest goals in the second half of this season (nine), at least eight fewer than any other team.
➤ Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi has scored more Serie A goals against AC Milan than any other side (10 goals); he has been directly involved in at least one goal (two goals and one assist) in each of his last three games against the Rossoneri in the competition.
➤ Five of the 10 youngest players to score at least five goals in Serie A this season will feature in this match: Sandro Tonali and Rafael Leão for AC Milan, and Giacomo Raspadori, Hamed Traoré and Gianluca Scamacca for Sassuolo.
➤ Milan’s Rafael Leão – who scored the fastest goal in Serie A history at the Mapei Stadium against Sassuolo on 20 December 2020 – has been directly involved in six goals (three goals and three assists) in his last five league games; from mid-April 2022, only Lautaro and Muriel (both eight) have had a hand in more goals than the Portuguese in the competition.
Ones to watch
There are plenty of options in this Milan side, and the same goes for Sassuolo which we will discuss below. However, for the sake of this section, the Rossoneri players highlighted are none other than Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu.
Milan have only conceded nine goals in the second half of the season and they have the centre-back pairing to thank for it. Another strong performance is needed tomorrow against a team that likes to attack a lot, and in numbers.
For Sassuolo, as said, there are also plenty to choose from as they have many talents. It’s impossible to disregard Domenico Berardi, though, given that he always seems to find the back of the net against Milan.
The other danger-man will obviously be Gianluca Scamacca, who cannot be left with too much space tomorrow. And since he’s also very strong in the air, Tomori and Kalulu must keep a close eye on him even when he isn’t in possession.
A draw is enough for Milan, but it doesn’t really feel like a game that will end in a draw. This fixture has only ended in a draw two times (0-0 and 1-1) the feeling is that Pioli’s men will go for the three points.
Indeed, playing too much on the result could cost the Rossoneri dearly as Sassuolo have very strong attackers. Sitting too low could thus invite the Neroverdi to take control, while limiting the exposure of their big weakness: the defence.
Prediction: Sassuolo 0-1 AC Milan