UEL preview: Slavia Praha vs. AC Milan – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will be looking to complete the job and book their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday evening when they face Slavia Praha away from home.

Milan emerged 4-2 victors in what was an entertaining first leg albeit one that provoked some worries from supporters and the media given that Slavia played for so long and scored twice with 10 men, keeping the contest very much open.

The Rossoneri come into the game off the back of a narrow home win against Empoli, but head coach Stefano Pioli admitted in his pre-match press conference that there is no chance of his side underestimating the task at hand.

Game date: Thursday, March 14
Kick-off time: 18:45 (CET)
Venue: Fortuna Arena
Referee: Glenn Nyberg (VAR: Higler)

Team news 

As mentioned, Milan come into the game off the back of a 1-0 home win against Empoli which was far from a vintage performance but was one that Pioli admitted the team had to put in, perhaps because they had an eye on the second leg.

In terms of absentees for the coach to deal with, Tommaso Pobega will not be available as he continues his recovery post-surgery, while Alessandro Florenzi reached the yellow card threshold and thus must serve a one-game ban.

The result of that is Davide Calabria is almost certain to get the start at right-back in the back four in front of Mike Maignan, with reports at the time of writing suggesting that Matteo Gabbia and Fikayo Tomori will be the centre-back pairing and Theo Hernandez at left-back.

In midfield it should be Yacine Adli partnering Tijjani Reijnders which means Ismael Bennacer would drop to the bench but that battle remains open, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek again in a more advanced midfield role.

Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud will return to the starting line-up in attack. The Portuguese missed the last league match against Empoli due to suspension, while the Frenchman started from the bench to rest up and give Luka Jovic a chance.

The match-winner from Sunday, Christian Pulisic, is also tipped to get the nod on the right which means the likes of Samuel Chukwueze, Jovic, Noah Okafor, Bennacer, Yunus Musah and Malick Thiaw would all be ready to come on.

It is therefore perhaps the strongest side that Milan can name on paper (this is subjective, of course) which shows that Pioli has read the warning signs from the first leg.

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

The opponents

The fact that Milan scored four goals in the first leg, won the game and walked off the pitch perhaps not feeling best pleased says a lot about how proceedings went, especially after the red card inside 30 minutes for Slavia.

A lot of the credit should go to Pioli’s opposite number Jindrich Trpisovsky for making the right tactical tweaks, and he made the bold declaration after the game that his side will beat Milan in the return leg.

He is right to feel confident and optimistic, not only because of what the first leg showed but also because Slavia won 4-0 with a rotated side against Teplice on Sunday and – thanks to rivals Sparta Praha slipping up – moved one point off top.

We spoke to Czech football writer Jan Pikous – who has covered Slavia for several years now – to give us some insight ahead of the first leg. He told us about their 2023 summer business, season so far, players to watch and expectations heading into the tie.

Having reached out to him again, Jan gave us some further information on how the first leg was perceived back in the Czech Republic and also some team news.

“At first I want to say that people in Czech Republic were quite satisfied with Slavia performance. A lot of fans even think Slavia were the better team in the first 30 minutes.

“So the red card was just a pity, it definitely could be the decisive moment of both legs. However, I don’t want to say that Slavia would win the game without the red card. But I could say that draw would be realistic.

“I also think its a big pity for Slavia that they conceded the fourth goal. If the match ended 3-2, I’m brave enough to say that the chances for going through would be 65-35 in Milan’s favour.

“But the difference of two goals, it’s just too much. Milan are extremely strong and I cannot imagine that they will lose by three goals. So now I would say Milan 85 percent, Slavia 15.

“It is quite clear they will play with back four tomorrow. Even though Slavia plays three at the back for most of the season, they look much sharper and stronger with back four now. On Sunday, they beat Teplice (quite decent mid-table side) 4-0 with this system.

“In terms of injuries, there is definitely no Masopust, probably no Schranz (if he was OK, he would play as one of the wingers in the starting line up). And midfielders Zafeiris and Ševčík are still injured.

“Trpišovský said today that they are trying hard to make them available at least for a part of the game, which I think is quite risky, if they are not fit. But these are two of the most creative players Slavia have, so even if they play 20-30 minutes, it could be useful.

Probable Slavia XI (4-2-3-1): Staněk – Vlček, Holeš, Zima, Zmrzlý – Oscar, Provod – Douděra, Jurečka, Wallem – Chytil.

Head to head

Prior to the first leg, Milan had never faced Slavia Praha in a competitive game but the game at San Siro was the 17th time that the Rossoneri have taken on a side from the Czech Republic. In the previous 16 meetings, Milan have been victorious on 10 occasions, with three draws and two losses.

Eight of these matches have come against Sparta Praha, the team that Liverpool beat 5-1 away from home in another of the last 16 ties. The Diavolo won 3-0 at home and 1-0 away against Slavia’s big rivals in the 2020-21 group stages.

The other teams that Milan have faced from the Czech Republic are Slovan Liberec, Viktoria Plzen and Vitkovice.

Match facts…

➤ Slavia Prague have already hosted an Italian opponent in the UEFA Europa League this season, beating Roma 2-0 in the group stage; against teams from no other nation have they won more home games in European competition than they have against Italian sides (P8 W4 D2 L2 – level with Germany and Switzerland).

➤ Milan have won just two of their six away games in European competition in Czechia (D3 L1 – including Czechoslovakia), though both such victories did come in Prague, beating Sparta Prague in both the 1972-73 Cup Winners’ Cup and 2020-21 UEFA Europa League.

➤ Slavia Prague are winless in their last four home games in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League (D2 L2) and have only managed to net one goal across those four matches.

➤ When holding a lead of 2+ goals from the first game in a two-legged knockout stage tie in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, Milan have only been eliminated on one of the previous 15 occasions – versus Bordeaux in the 1995-96 quarter-final (2-0 in the first leg, 0-3 in the second leg).

➤ Milan striker Olivier Giroud has scored 15 goals in 22 appearances in the UEFA Europa League, including one against Slavia Prague last time out. Should he find the net in this game, the 37-year-old would be the oldest player to score in both legs of a two-legged knockout stage tie in the UEFA Europa League.

Ones to watch

Milan will of course be looking for big performances from their leaders in Giroud, Leao, Theo Hernandez, Tomori and Maignan, to avoid a scare like the early Rennes goal gave them.

However, Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek have arguably been bigger threats going forward recently, while at the back it is Gabbia who has been a rock and Bennacer had a great game against Empoli.

We also asked Jan about who to look out for that he hadn’t mentioned in the first leg.

“Matěj Jurásek. Just 20 years old, definitely going to ‘top five’ leagues in next few years. The biggest talent Slavia have. He was injured for a long time, on Sunday he played after four months absence and scored two beautiful goals.

“Regarding talent, he offers much more than other Slavia attacking players. He’s not just an athlete, he is a proper baller. However, he is still raw at just 20.

“Also, he definitely will not be ready to play the full game. So I expect him to come in the 2nd half as a wild card from the bench. Watch the highlights from Teplice game though, he’s good.”


Given the fact that Slavia will almost certainly come out to rock Milan just as Rennes did, it feels right to expect a goal fest again. We can see this playing out a very similar way to that tie in France, but with the knowledge that the first goal is absolutely huge.

And Jan: “My prediction is 2:2. I think the Czechs will definitely score, but I’m pretty sure Milan will not be goalless too. The quality of Pulisic, Leao, Theo is just too strong for the Prague side.”

Slavia Praha 2-2 Milan


Tags AC Milan Slavia Praha Milan


  1. “It is therefore perhaps the strongest side that Milan can name on paper (this is subjective, of course) which shows that Pioli has read the warning signs from the first leg.”

    Thank god.

        1. 0 Mixed feelings here.
          On top of that, there are plenty of other italian teams in europe to secure the 5th UCL spot, since apparently doing well in the Conference league has the same weight as the champions league.

    1. I wouldn’t bet my money on a collapse but it will be interesting to see if it will somehow effect their game in serie a as they will also have to meet napoli in the next match and who knows if they might have a minor one.

      1. Hard for them to drop points. They are playing good football. I just hope that they don’t manage to win the scudetto when playing us because it will be a too much to take.

        1. Well they might drop into a minor slump if they lose against napoli as well as it could maybe reinforce the mental disappointment of not progressing in cl i have seen more crazy things happen in the sport but im not suggesting that they will throw away the championship either but yeah i would also have a hard time seeing them winning the championship on the day we meet them.

          1. Even if inter fall into a minor slump, the problem might be the two chasing teams not taking advantage of inter slump. Inter would lose a game one weekend and we would also draw or lose on the very same weekend. Plus this investigation came at the wrong time for us. Couldn’t they have investigated us during the off season?

          2. I’m well aware that we will need to get points as well but I’m just implying that they might get a bit wonky but its not like there is any guarantees for that to happen either. Well I don’t think that’s how things work even though that the case bothers me as well.

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