AC Milan will look to start the New Year with a bang when they take on Salernitana at Stadio Arechi on Wednesday.
Serie A returns to action after over six weeks of hiatus, which included the break for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And Matchday 16 of the 2022/23 season begins on Wednesday afternoon with the game between Salernitana and AC Milan at Stadio Arechi.
Salernitana would have been delighted with the timing of the mid-season break. Davide Nicola’s men are 12th on the Serie A table but had failed to win their three games in November. Things did not go to plan in the recent friendlies either, with Fenerbahce and Alanyaspor beating them.
On the other hand, AC Milan endured a mixed bag in the first half of the 2022/23 season. They are second in the Serie A standings and reached the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. But Stefano Pioli’s men have dropped points in the most unexpected fashion. And the Rossoneri failed to grab a win in the mid-season friendlies.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Salernitana and AC Milan share the spoils at the end of a 2-2 draw. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Serie A encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
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— US Salernitana 1919 (@OfficialUSS1919) December 23, 2022
Davide Nicola has a few pressing roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of AC Milan. On Wednesday, the Salernitana manager will be bereft of the services of four first-team players.
Luigi Sepe is the latest player on the sidelines after sustaining a calf injury last month. Pasquale Mazzocchi is a long-term absentee due to a knee injury. In addition, Norbert Gyomber might miss out due to a hamstring issue. Meanwhile, Antonio Candreva will be unavailable due to a suspension after seeing red in the game against Monza ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Nicola will likely line his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Vincenzo Fiorillo deputising for Sepe. Guillermo Ochoa, who has arrived this month from CF America, is also an option to start between the sticks.
Dylan Bronn will be the experienced head in the backline and will look to marshall the defensive unit. The 27-year-old will line up alongside Flavius Daniliuc and Lorenzo Pirola in the back three. The two wing-backs will often drop deep to create a back-five during the defensive phases.
Speaking of the duo, Junior Sambia and Domagoj Bradaric will start on the flanks. They will also provide width in the final third. Meanwhile, the three central midfielders will need to shore up things in the middle of the park.
Ivan Radovanovic will sit at the base of the midfield, looking to keep Brahim Diaz quiet. Lassana Coulibaly and Emil Bohinen should provide defensive support to the Serb in the middle of the park. Finally, Boulaye Dia and Krzysztof Piatek will form the strike partnership for Salernitana versus AC Milan.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fiorillo; Bronn, Daniliuc, Pirola; Sambia, Coulibaly, Radovanovic, Bohinen, Bradaric; Dia, Piatek
Like his counterpart in the Salernitana dugout, Stefano Pioli has a few concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to Stadio Arechi. The AC Milan manager will be without seven first-team players on Wednesday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a long-term absentee, with the veteran striker out indefinitely. Mike Maignan (calf), Alessandro Florenzi (hamstring), Fode Ballo-Toure (shoulder), Junior Messias (ankle), Ante Rebic (muscle injury), and Divock Origi (knock) are also on the sidelines.
Ciprian Tatarusanu will continue to deputise for Maignan in the goal, with AC Milan set to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him. The backline should consist of Pierre Kalulu, Malick Thiaw, Fikayo Tomoro, and Theo Hernandez.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 2, 2023
Sergino Dest has failed to make his mark at AC Milan, forcing Pioli to deploy Kalulu as a right-back, considering Davide Calabria might not be fit enough to start. Thiaw and Tomori will thus form the central defensive partnership, with Hernandez providing creative quality from the left flank.
Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer pick themselves in the double pivot in the middle of the park. The duo will keep things tight in the middle of the park while moving the ball forward quickly during transitions.
Brahim Diaz showed promising form heading into the World Cup break and will be eager to continue in a similar vein this year. Rade Krunic and Rafael Leao should be the two wide attackers, with Olivier Giroud spearheading the AC Milan attack against Salernitana.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Krunic, Diaz, Leao; Giroud
- Salernitana have won only one of six meetings against AC Milan in Serie A (D1 L4): 4-3 in June 1948. That was the only time they scored more than two goals against the Rossoneri in the competition. AC Milan have scored at least two goals in all six games against Salernitana in Serie A. They are the team that the Rossoneri have faced the most times (six) while scoring at least twice on each occasion in the top flight.
- AC Milan have six wins in their last eight matches in Serie A. However, the only two games they have not won are the last two away games (D1 L1). The last time the Rossoneri failed to win three away outings in a row in the competition was in April 2019 (4).
- Salernitana have won three of their last six home games in Serie A (D2 L1), as many wins as they gained in their previous 20 home matches since returning to the top flight.
- AC Milan have failed to win two of their last four matches against a team starting the matchday with at least ten points fewer than them in Serie A (D1 L1). They had won their previous eight games against such opponents.
- Boulaye Dia has scored the most goals in the last 15 minutes of games in Serie A this season (3). He is also one of four players, along with Beto, Luis Alberto and Hirving Lozano, with the most goals as a substitute in the competition (three).
Player to Watch
The mid-season break invariably paved the way for speculation surrounding Leao to grow like wildfire. The latest update suggests that Manchester City will break the bank to sign the 23-year-old. But the player will be focused on the matters at hand and will be eager to deliver the goods for AC Milan.
Leao has been involved in the most shot-ending ball carries in Serie A this season and scored in his last top-flight outing. The Portuguese international will be determined to continue making his mark for Milan, regardless of what the future holds for him. And a solid outing against Salernitana is on the cards.
Salernitana 1-2 AC Milan
Salernitana will take the game to AC Milan and show the visitors they are no pushovers. On the other hand, the Rossoneri might get exploited for the soft underbelly they have shown this season. And the hosts should be in business to take something out of the game.
But with Rafael Leao being in a good run of form, AC Milan will have the advantage. In addition, Olivier Giroud is coming off a brilliant 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign, apart from the final, and will be looking to produce the goods for the Serie A champions. The Hard Tackle thus predicts AC Milan to eke out a narrow 2-1 win over Salernitana.