AC Milan will be keen to address their slide in form when they travel to Udinese on Saturday night.
Defending champions AC Milan will travel to the Dacia Arena to take on Udinese Calcio in their Serie A fixture on Saturday night. Stefano Pioli’s side are currently winless in two league games and have dropped down to the south spot in the league standings.
The Rossoneri have little chance of successfully defending their title and will now be looking over their shoulders at retaining a top-four spot. Just two points separate them from arch-rivals Inter Milan, who occupy the second spot and there is little margin for error as the season enters its final leg.
The shift to a 3-4-2-1 formation has improved results but is yet to see Milan reach the heights of the previous campaign. Stefano Pioli looks likely to retain it against Udinese as the club aims for a first league double over Le Zebrette since 2007/08.
Andrea Sottil’s men are currently tenth in the Serie A, seven points off sixth-placed Atalanta. While fanciful, a good run of results could see Udinese growing in confidence and challenge for a European spot.
Sottil has turned the home side into a team that is difficult to beat. In fact, Udinese have 11 draws in the Serie A this season, more than any other side in the Italian top flight. This resilience should, if anything, make life difficult for Milan.
Both teams still have much to play for this season and will be keen to sign off their March’s set of fixtures in style. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
Bianconeri in campo nel pomeriggio 💪
The lads out on the pitch for an afternoon session 💪
⚪⚫ #ForzaUdinese #AlèUdin #Udinese #Training pic.twitter.com/jC1sQu2VSE
— Udinese Calcio (@Udinese_1896) March 15, 2023
Udinese are unbeaten in their last three Serie A games and are expected to make a few changes to their lineup for the night. The home side will be without former Milan loanee Gerard Deulofeu and Enzo Ebosse, both of who are out with long term injuries.
Udinese have an outside chance of challenging for the sixth spot and marking a return to European football. A win against Milan will go a long way in solidifying their credentials. Milan have appeared vulnerable in recent times and have shown the ability to wilt under pressure. Udinese can gain much by taking the game to their opponents.
Andrea Sottil is likely to deploy his side in a 3-5-2 formation. Marco Silvestri should start in goal behind the back three of Rodrigo Becao, Jaka Bijol and Nehuen Perez. Becao has a surprisingly good goalscoring record against Milan and is a threat for the home side on set-pieces.
Kingsley Ehizibue and Destiny Udogie will act as the wing-backs and will provide the width. The duo can also drop back to form a back five should Udinese concede the midfield battle.
The trio of Tolgay Arslan, Walace and Sandi Lovric will patrol the central midfield, aiming to win back possession and control the pace of the game. The extra man in the middle of the park should give them the upper hand over Milan’s preferred central midfield duo on paper.
Ricardo Pereyra will start further upfield as part of the attacking two but is likely to drop deeper and play the number 10’s role. He will aid an in-form Beto who should lead the line on the night.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Silvestri; Becao, Bijol, Perez; Ehizibue, Arslan, Walace, Lovric, Udogie; Pereyra; Beto
Junior Messias continues to recover from his injury and is still yet to regain full fitness. The Brazilian will miss the game
The Rossoneri will also be without Oliver Giroud who is suspended for the game. The Frenchman’s absence could pave the way for veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to make his first start for the club in 419 days. The 41-year-old last started a game for Milan against Juventus in January 2022.
Divock Origi is another player who could be deployed in the role but the Belgian has so far failed to impress since making his move to San Siro from Liverpool. Stefano Pioli might also choose to deploy either Ante Rebic or Rafael Leao as makeshift forwards as a safer option.
Pioli is likely to persist with his 3-4-2-1 formation. The Italian tactician replaced his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation seven games ago and has been privy to just once defeat across all competitions. While the new formation has brought about a semblance of defensive solidarity, there have also been blips such as the 1-1 vs Salernitana and the loss to Fiorentina.
📸 Thursday training 🔛#UdineseMilan approaches 💪#SempreMilan
Brought to you by @play_eFootball pic.twitter.com/nO3u9kJ0TJ
— AC Milan (@acmilan) March 16, 2023
Mike Maignan should start in goal behind the back three of Pierre Kalulu, Malick Thiaw and Fikayo Tomori. Belgian star Alexis Saelemaekers and Theo Hernandez will start out wide in the flat midfield four and will be entrusted with providing the width on the flanks.
Sandro Tonali is likely to return to the starting XI and should partner Ismael Bennacer in central midfield. The duo will be tasked with holding the fort and providing a base for the more offensive minded players to get forward.
Brahim Diaz is currently in talks with Real Madrid regarding a contract extension and will be expected to don the playmaker’s shoes on the night alongside Ante Rebic. It will come as no surprise if Rebic decides to drop deeper to offset Udinese’s extra man advantage in central midfield. Rafael Leao has had a difficult 2023 so far and will hope that he can rediscover the scoring touch upfront.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Maignan; Kalulu, Thiaw, Tomori; Saelemaekers, Bennacer, Tonali, Hernandez; Diaz, Rebic; Leao
- Udinese have drawn 36 of their 95 Serie A games against AC Milan, the most against any opposition in the Italian top flight.
- AC Milan have lost just one of their last 11 Serie A games against Udinese. They have won five and drawn another five during this run.
- A win on the night will see AC Milan do the league double over Udinese for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
- A draw on the night will see both clubs draw consecutive games at the Dacia Arena for the first time since 2004 to 2005.
- Udinese have not kept three consecutive clean sheets in Serie A since February 2021.
- AC Milan have conceded 12 goals from crosses this season, more than any other side in Serie A in 2022/23.
Player to Watch
Milan more or less play well as long as Leao turns up for a game. The Portuguese international’s future at the San Siro is far from secure but he remains a key player in Milan’s ambitions of finishing as high as possible in the Serie A this season.
With Giroud out, Leao is likely to be deployed as a striker. The 23-year-old is a good finisher and will be keen to rediscover his scoring shoes since the turn of the year. Leao could find some joy upfront if Milan hold their own in midfield and it is likely that the reigning Serie A MVP will be the difference maker on the night.
Udinese Calcio 1-1 AC Milan
Udinese’s home form is far from stellar but given the run Milan are on, they will fancy their chances on the night. Pioli’s shift to the 3-4-2-1 has improved the club’s fortunes but glaring weaknesses were exposed against Salernitana and Fiorentina. There is every reason to believe that a goalscoring draw will see both teams share the spoils on the night.
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