AC Milan will be looking to make it three wins from four to begin the new season when they face off against Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium tonight.
Head coach Stefano Pioli is expected to make some changes to the starting line-up for the game compared to the team that beat Bologna on Saturday night owing to a hectic fixtures schedule that sees Milan play Inter on Saturday and Red Bull Salzburg the following midweek in the Champions League.
That means there should be an opportunity for some players who are not regular starters to get some minutes and stake a claim for a bigger role, and on that note we have picked out the key battles that are likely to influence the outcome of the game.
Domenico Berardi has scored 10 goals against Milan making the Rossoneri his number one victim in Serie A. He has scored twice in his last four appearances against them, after remaining scoreless in previous seven, so Fikayo Tomori will have to guard against his advances given he likes to cut in and play on his left foot as an inside forward.
Berardi and Rafael Leao (eight goals and eight assists each) are two of the three players to have been involved in the most Serie A goals in 2022 (16, level with Ciro Immobile). The Portuguese winger got a goal and an assist against Bologna to put a slow start to bed, and he will probably target the space between Toljan and summer signing Martin Erlic who is a physically strong centre-back.
Olivier Giroud scored a brace against Sassuolo in the last game of the last Serie A season to help seal the Scudetto win. Against no other side has he had more goals in the competition so far, and a battle against the 30-year-old Gian Marco Ferrari awaits given Origi and Rebic are out injured.
It is being widely reported that Tonali will be rested meaning Tommaso Pobega should get a chance from the first minute. He and double pivot partner Bennacer will have to keep the ball-carrying box-to-box midfielder Davide Frattesi quiet, who has already got off the mark with a goal this season after four in 2021-22.
Finally, Simon Kjaer should start a game for the first time since December 2021 when he sustained knee ligament damage in the win over Genoa. The Dane should face off against Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti, who scored in Saturday’s draw with Spezia after netting 13 league goals last season, so it will be a tough assignment.