AC Milan will be desperate to bounce back to winning ways when they welcome Sassuolo to San Siro on Sunday.
The second half of the 2022/23 Serie A season is underway with Matchday 20. And Monday will witness four games, with the action beginning with the match between AC Milan and Sassuolo at San Siro in a lunchtime kick-off.
AC Milan seemed to be closing the gap to Napoli at the top of the table when the season began after the World Cup. But they have been a horrendous run across all competitions, including three games without a win in the top flight. And the latest setback was a 4-0 trounce from Lazio earlier this week. The run of results has enabled Napoli to open up a 12-point lead atop the standings.
But AC Milan fans can breathe slightly easier heading into this weekend. That is because Sassuolo will come into the game with the worst run in Serie A. The Black and Greens are on an eight-game winless run while managing only two points in that stretch. And considering one of those points came in their most recent games, such a streak is unprecedented for Sassuolo.
The reverse fixture saw AC Milan and Sassuolo play out a goalless draw at the Mapei Stadium in August. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
The coach: "With a victory, self-confidence and spirit will grow again" 🎙️
— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 28, 2023
Stefano Pioli has a gamut of roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Against Sassuolo on Sunday, the AC Milan manager will be bereft of the services of half a dozen first-team players.
Ismael Bennacer and Fikayo Tomori are the latest absentees to cripple Pioli and AC Milan. While Bennacer will be unavailable due to a suspension, Tomori sustained a hamstring injury against Lazio that will keep him sidelined until March. Mike Maignan (calf), Fode Ballo-Toure (shoulder), Alessandro Florenzi (hamstring), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) are the other absentees.
Ciprian Tatarusanu will continue to deputise for Maignan between the sticks. And AC Milan will line up in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation in front of the Romanian goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Simon Kjaer will likely replace Tomori as Pierre Kalulu’s central defensive partner, with Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez being the full-backs.
Rade Krunic should come into the team in place of the suspended Bennacer. The Bosnian will link up with Sandro Tonali in the double pivot in the middle of the park. And Brahim Diaz should be the most advanced midfielder for AC Milan against Sassuolo.
Diaz will look to pull the strings in the final third, hoping to find teammates in pockets of space. Alexis Saelemaekers and Rafael Leao should flank the Spaniard, with Olivier Giroud spearheading the attack. So Ante Rebic, Junior Messias, and Charles De Ketelaere will be among the backup options for Pioli.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kalulu, Kjaer, Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud
Unlike his counterpart in the AC Milan dugout, Alessio Dionisi barely has any injury concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to San Siro. The Sassuolo manager will be without only two first-team players on Sunday.
Andrea Consigli and Andrea Pinamonti are recovering from their respective muscle injuries. And the duo will likely remain unavailable for a few more days. Meanwhile, Dionisi has been sweating over Rogerio’s fitness. But the Brazilian left-back might be fit enough to make the matchday squad.
Rogerio might even make the starting eleven, joining Jeremy Toljan, Martin Erlic and Gian Marco Ferrari in the backline. Ferrari will marshall the Sassuolo defence against AC Milan, with the quartet protecting Gianluca Pegolo.
The visitors will mirror the 4-2-3-1 formation set by Stefano Pioli in the home side’s dugout. And Davide Frattesi and Maxime Lopez should pair up in the double pivot in the middle of the park. The duo will aim to keep things tight while looking to facilitate quick transitions.
Hamed Junior Traore will be the creative supremo for Sassuolo, with the 22-year-old reprising the no. 10 role. Domenico Berardi has a stellar record against AC Milan and will be the go-to player for Dionisi. And the Italian international will join Armand Lauriente and Agustin Alvarez in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pegolo; Toljan, Erlic, Ferrari, Rogerio; Frattesi, Lopez; Berardi, Traore, Lauriente; Alvarez
- AC Milan are unbeaten in their last two Serie A meetings with Sassuolo (W1 D1) without conceding a goal. The Rossoneri have never obtained three clean sheets in a row against the Neroverdi in the top flight.
- But Sassuolo have won both of their last two away games against Milan in the league. Only against Verona (four) and SPAL (three) do they have a longer ongoing away winning streak in Serie A (current sides).
- AC Milan have failed to win five games in all competitions (D2 L3). They last went six games without a victory in April 2018 under Gennaro Gattuso.
- Under Alessio Dionisi (since 2021/22), Sassuolo have lost 34 points from winning positions in Serie A, drawing against Monza last time out (1-1) after taking the lead. Only Verona (44) and Bologna (39) have dropped more points from winning positions in Serie A during this period.
- Olivier Giroud scored a brace in his most recent Serie A appearance against Sassuolo. But the French international has failed to score in his last five league matches (410 minutes). He has never had a longer goalless run in the Italian top flight.
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Things have been going from bad to worse for AC Milan in the last couple of weeks. And while defensive frailties have come into the spotlight, Brahim Diaz’s waning form has also been concerning for Stefano Pioli. The recent dip has come in the wake of impending negotiations between Milan and Real Madrid over a permanent deal.
The Spaniard needs to rediscover top form to take some of the burden off Rafael Leao in the final third. In addition, Diaz can help Olivier Giroud arrest his slump by getting back to his creative best. And with Sassuolo being defensively susceptible, Sunday will present a fantastic opportunity to Diaz.
AC Milan 2-1 Sassuolo
AC Milan and Sassuolo are two of the most exciting teams on paper. But form has deserted both sides for some time, thus setting up an intriguing fixture this weekend. And we expect them to engage in a hard-fought battle at San Siro on Sunday.
Fikayo Tomori’s absence gives Sassuolo an opportunity to arrest the horrendous run and bounce back to winning ways. And Domenico Berardi might be in business against AC Milan again. But Sassuolo’s defensive frailties will hand the Rossoneri enough openings to eke out a narrow victory. The Hard Tackle predicts AC Milan to beat Sassuolo 2-1 on Sunday.