Serie A preview: Udinese vs. AC Milan – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan are in action on Saturday night as they take on Udinese at the Bluenergy Stadium looking to make it four wins in a row in Serie A.

After dropping points against Salernitana before Christmas, Milan have improved in the league as they beat Sassuolo, Empoli and most recently Roma, scoring seven goals and conceding once in the progress.

However, the pressure is still on the team to keep the good run going given how far ahead Inter and Juventus are plus the fact the Coppa Italia elimination still stings, something Stefano Pioli acknowledged in his pre-match press conference.

Game date: Saturday, January 20
Kick-off time: 20:45 (CET)
Venue: Bluenergy Stadium
Referee: Fabio Maresca (VAR: Abisso)

Team news 

Milan are without a number of key players for the trip to Udine, such as Tommaso Pobega, Fikayo Tomori, Pierre Kalulu and Malick Thiaw, all of whom will be out for at least a few more weeks.

Meanwhile, Samuel Chukwueze and Ismael Bennacer are not available either because they are at the African Cup of Nations with their respective national teams Nigeria and Algeria.

However, some good news came from training as Alessandro Florenzi, Marco Sportiello and Olivier Giroud will be part of Pioli’s squad. The first two have recovered from their respective muscle injuries, while the French centre-forward is back from the flu.

Marco Pellegrino is back in contention too but the plan is a bit different for him: he will play for Ignazio Abate’s Primavera side in their game against Atalanta away tomorrow afternoon at 13:00 CET.

Pioli is not expected to change anything in terms of the starting line-up compared to the team that beat Roma, as per reports circulating at the time of publishing.

Mike Maignan will therefore be in goal again with a back four of Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Matteo Gabbia and Theo Hernandez ahead of him.

In midfield, it should be double pivot of Yacine Adli alongside Tijjani Reijnders. The former scored his first goal for the club during the victory last weekend and will look to build on arguably his best game.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is tipped to be ahead of them in a more advanced midfield role, flanked by Christian Pulisic to his right and Rafael Leao to his left.

Olivier Giroud is down as the centre-forward but he has been battling with the flu this week and only returned to training yesterday, so Luka Jovic remains ready.

Predicted Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo; Adli, Reijnders; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao; Giroud.

The opponents

Udinese were looking to build off the back of a 12th-placed finish in Serie A last season, one where they never really flirted with relegation despite a spell of one win in 17 from October to March.

In the summer they lost Beto to Everton in a permanent deal worth €25m and Rodrigo Becao moved to Fenerbahce for over €8m, while several left on free transfers.

In terms of signings, Brenner came from Cincinnati for €10m. They also paid a fee for Christian Kabasele of Watford, Martin Payero or Middlesbrough, Thomas Kristensen of Aarhus, Keinan Davis of Aston Villa and Etienne Camara of Huddersfield.

The 2023-24 campaign – which is their 29th consecutive season in the top flight – has not been too kind to Udinese so far, with Andrea Sottil sacked in October and replaced by Gabriele Cioffi.

After failing to win any of their first 10 games, the Bianconeri’s first victory rather predictably came against Milan at the San Siro. They have only won once since, in round 18 against Bologna.

The fact they are hovering just above the relegation zone and went out of the Coppa Italia at home against Cagliari means there is an air of discontent surrounding the Friuli.

In terms of team news coming into the game, Cioffi will be without the former Milan winger Gerard Deulofeu who is one of several players out for the home team along with Vivaldo Semedo.

Both Jaka Bijol and Enzo Ebosse remain in the treatment room and therefore will not be able to play, but there is a chance Martin Payero could return following a muscle strain.

Sky are predicting that Cioffi will use a 3-5-2 system which is one that Milan are known to have found difficult to play against.

Probable Udinese XI (3-5-2): Okoye; Ferreira, Perez, Kristensen; Ebosele, Lovric, Walace, Payero, Kamara; Pereyra, Lucca.

Head to head

Milan have played Udinese 104 times in their history across all competitions, racking up 44 wins, 37 draws and 23 defeats which gives them a win rate of 42.3%.

In the reverse fixture at San Siro, Udinese pulled off a shock as they got their first league win in their 11th game of the season. A Pereyra penalty was enough to secure the full share of the spoils.

In the same fixture last season Udinese won 3-1 at the Studio Friuli, with Pereyra again scoring as well as Beto and Ehizbue. It was the game in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a penalty to become the oldest Serie A scorer ever.

The sides had met in the first game of the season in Milano, with the Rossoneri emerging 4-2 victors thanks to a brace from Ante Rebic plus goals from Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez.

Match facts…

➤ Udinese have won their last two league matches against AC Milan, but have never won three games in a row against the Rossoneri in Serie A.

➤ After the win 1-0 at the Meazza stadium on 4th November 2023, Udinese could win both matches in a single season against AC Milan in Serie A for only the second time, after 2016-17.

➤ There have been three wins for each side and two draws in the last eight matches in Friuli between Udinese and AC Milan in Serie A. The Bianconeri won the most recent one (3-1 on 18th March 2023).

➤ Udinese have drawn the most matches in the big five European leagues this season: 12 of 20 (W2
L6). The previous team to register as many draws after 20 Serie A matches in a single season was Torino in 2007-08. The last club to draw at least 13 of their first 21 matches in a single Serie A campaign was Inter in 2004-05 (14).

➤ Milan have won both matches played in 2024 in Serie A, in the previous 13 calendar years only in 2018 have the Rossoneri won each of the first three games played – winning all the first four under Gennaro Gattuso.

➤ Stefano Pioli has won 99 out of 165 matches with AC Milan, with only four managers enjoying 100 wins with the Rossoneri in Serie A: Carlo Ancelotti, Nereo Rocco, Fabio Capello and Nils Liedholm. Among these, Carlo Ancelotti reached 100 wins in the fewest games (165).

➤ Milan’s away games have produced the highest number of goals in Serie A this season: 36 goals in total in 10 away games (3.6 on average) – 20 goals for the Rossoneri and 16 against.

➤ Milan have scored the joint-most goals in the last 15 minutes of the 1st half in Serie A this
season (12, level with Inter), on the other hand, Udinese have conceded the most goals (eight) in the same period.

➤ Roberto Pereyra has been involved in a goal in each of the last four league matches against AC Milan (two assists and two goals), including the decisive goal via a penalty in the reverse match won 1-0 at the Meazza.

➤ In the last 20 seasons (since 2004-05) only one player has been involved in at least one goal in five consecutive matches against the Rossoneri in Serie A: Antonio Di Natale between 2008 and 2011, also for Udinese.

➤ Since his arrival in Italy (2019/20 season), Théo Hernández has scored the most goals in Serie A
among defenders (25). Among AC Milan’s defenders, only Paolo Maldini (29) and Aldo Maldera (27)
have scored more goals in the top-flight in their history.

Ones to watch

The pressure is mounting on Rafael Leao to end his goal drought after over 80 days in Serie A without a goal, while Olivier Giroud will look to build off his great performance against Roma, as will Yacine Adli.

The Kjaer-Gabbia centre-back pairing will come up against a front two who can put them in trouble but they’ll be full of confidence after nullifying Romelu Lukaku, and then Theo is back to his preferred role on the flank.

The man of the moment for Udinese is Lorenzo Lucca, who has scored six goals (plus two assists) in 13 starts for Udinese this season after joining in the summer. He revealed in the build-up that his idol is Zlatan and that he hopes to meet him.

Pereyra – who has been a thorn in Milan’s side – has five goal contributions while Samardzic, Lovric and Thauvin are all on four. Walace and Perez have been the reliable pillars in midfield and defence for some time for the Zebrette.


We can’t always predict wins, and this just feels like dropped points not just because of the recent bad run against Udinese or the injuries, but also because Milan have made a habit of building up a head of steam which evaporates with a bad result.

Udinese 1-1 Milan 


Tags AC Milan Udinese-Milan

1 Comment

  1. Would really like to see Pulisic as the attacking midfielder or okafor as second striker. They would probably be better than RLC.

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