AC Milan will be looking to make it three wins in a row across all competitions on Saturday evening when they make the short trip to the U-Power Stadium to face fellow neighbors Monza.

AC Milan have endured a tough time since the resumption of club football following the World Cup hiatus. A seven-game winless run that included two defeats to arch-rivals Inter, elimination from the Coppa Italia by Torino’s second string, a draw against Roma and Lecce, and getting on the wrong end of a 4-0 and 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Lazio and Sassuolo, respectively.

Regardless, albeit unconvincingly, they returned to winning ways as Olivier Giroud’s second-half strike helped them edge Torino 1-0 at home last Friday. The reigning champions took that positivity to Europe as they were involved in the midweek Champions League action, beating Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg thanks to an incredible diving header from 5ft 6in Real Madrid loanee Brahim Diaz.

It was Milan’s first appearance in a Champions League knockout round since 2014. Stefano Pioli’s men will look to keep momentum building on Saturday when they visit their near neighbors, Monza.

However, that won’t be an easy task, and Milan cannot take their foot off the gas just yet. Putting Juventus to the sword and holding Inter to a draw in 2023 shows Monza are no stranger to defying the odds.

Things started terribly for the newly-promoted side under head coach Giovanni Stroppa, and he lasted just five games, getting the sack in September after losing the first five games of the season by an aggregate score of 13-2.

Raffaele Palladino took over, and he has overseen an incredible resurgence towards the mid-table, picking up 28 points from 16 games under the new boss (W8, D4, L4). Monza fans are now dreaming of Europe in their first season back in the top flight, with their team only a point adrift of Torino in the Europa Conference League spot.

They secured a comfortable 1-0 win at Bologna, although their 2-0 triumph at Juventus a couple of weeks before that was an even more impressive performance from the in-form outfit. Regardless, they have now gone seven games without a loss in Serie A, and have the tools to pull off another surprise here by taking down another one of the established Italian giants.

The Rossoneri celebrated a comprehensive 4-1 victory when they locked horns with top-flight debutants in the reverse fixture earlier this season, but Saturday’s fixture looks unlikely to provide the same heights of goalmouth action, with Monza now looking like a more competent outfit.

Team News & Tactics


Monza have no injury concerns at the moment, and their empty treatment room has certainly boosted their recent surge in form.

Raffaele Palladino is expected to field a 3-4-2-1 formation with on-loan Arsenal defender Pablo Mari in the middle of the back three, ex-Inter player Stefano Sensi in midfield, and former Milan youth academy product Andrea Pentagna in the attack.

Mari, for one, has shown his Premier League class with a string of top-notch displays at the back. He will hope to anchor the three-man backline, consisting of Armando Izzo and Luca Caldirola alongside the Brazilian central defender, effectively to help his team secure a clean sheet on Saturday. Michele Di Gregorio should start behind the defence in goal for the hosts.

The numbers in midfield could prove to be decisive and will likely make the game a bit cagey, given Milan also has a stacked middle of the park. Giulio Donati scored the winner at Dall’Ara last week. He could keep his place ahead of the influential Raphael Augusto off the right flank and will be tasked to provide width with Patrick Ciurria manning the opposite wing, while Matteo Pessina and Sensi will start in central midfield.

Danny Mota and Gianluca Caprari will serve as the key creators, finding openings and sending the ball forward for frontman Pentagna to exploit. Pentagna has hit the form just at the right time for Monza, scoring once and providing an assist in his last two league games.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Di Gregorio; Izzo, Mari, Caldirola; Donati, Pessina, Sensi, Ciurria; Caprari, Mota; Petagna

AC Milan

It has been a week of mixed news for Milan from an injury point of view, as they could welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the fold for the first time this season, while Ismael Bennacer could also be present on the bench. However, the trip to Monza may come too soon for the likes of Mike Maignan, Sergino Dest, and Alessandro Florenzi, with all set to miss due to respective injury concerns.

After a seven-game losing streak, Stefano Pioli was forced to reinvent his side, reverting to a back three, but a variant of that system, now featuring Brahim Diaz and young defender Malick Thiaw, has helped them earn shutout wins against tricky opponents in Torino and Tottenham.

Having conceded 14 goals across a four-game span in January, the Milan team came under increased pressure during the recent bad run of form, with suggestions that not every player is pulling their weight in terms of effort levels and commitment.

However, Pioli responded well by pulling an absolute defensive masterclass against Antonio Conte’s side. Injury to defensive midfielder Ismael Bennacer meant Milan often let runners move freely and left an awful lot of space between the defence and midfield in their recent defeats.

This time they were organised, compact, and effective, looking to build a solid base. Pioli has always had the ability to revitalise defenders during his time at Milan. It’s no wonder Pierre Kalulu, Simon Kjaer, and Malick Thiaw played out of their skins against Spurs, with the latter of the three even deserving of the Man of the Match award.

Pioli will likely stick with the same setup, and personnel for this game, meaning Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic will form the dynamic double pivot, flanked by Theo Hernandez and Alexis Saelemaekers, with the former benefiting from more freedom to foray forward and having extra cover in behind.

Fresh off the back of scoring the match-winning strike against Tottenham, attacking midfielder Brahim Diaz will look for his sixth competitive goal for Milan this season. Curiously, two of his five-season goals came in the reverse fixture versus Monza, so he’ll be hoping for a lucky charm yet again.

Rafael Leao has looked jaded in recent weeks, but he will keep his spot behind target man, striker, and poacher all rolled into one, Olivier Giroud.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Kjaer, Thiaw; Saelemaekers, Tonali, Krunic, Hernandez; Diaz, Giroud, Leao

Key Stats

  • Monza have conceded in six of their last eight matches.
  • Monza are currently on the longest streak without defeat in Serie A (8: W4 D4).
  • The hosts are also unbeaten in seven of their last eight games under Raffaele Palladino at the U-Power Stadium (W4 D3).
  • The Rossoneri have posted successive 1-0 wins after going seven matches without a victory in all competitions.
  • Following their 1-0 victory against Torino, AC Milan could keep two clean sheets on the spin in Serie A for the first time since August 2022.

Player to Watch

Olivier Giroud

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Regarded as one of the most underrated strikers in Europe, Giroud has been the best attacker for the Italian giants this season, scoring 11 goals and providing six assists in 29 games across all competitions so far. He found the back of the net in Milan’s 1-0 victory against Torino and will be looking to add to his season tally here.

With this expected to be a tough clash against a team-high in confidence, the Frenchman could turn out to be Milan’s saviour yet again.


Monza 1-1 AC Milan

Going by the two clubs’ league positions, the visitors are the favourites for this encounter, but Monza could make life difficult for their esteemed neighbours. Monza have made significant progress under Raffaele Palladino over the last few months and are the form team in Serie A at the current moment. Their home record is also quite impressive, and they will be optimistic about taking something from this game.

The hosts are a tough nut to crack with solid defensive foundations, while Pioli’s troops have struggled for goals in recent weeks, with three scored in their last four Serie A fixtures. Despite Milan’s confidence-boosting Champions League win over Spurs, the Hard Tackle expects this one to be a tight game, with both teams finding the back of the net once to play out a 1-1 stalemate.

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