Relegation battlers Spezia will host an AC Milan side eager to return to winning ways and prepare for the Champions League semi-finals next week.
Stefano Pioli will want his side to answer critics about a passive performance as the designated home team in their huge Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. AC Milan, who face Spezia next, struggled to break down rivals Inter Milan, who notched a 2-0 first-leg win.
Pioli will know the pressure he is under ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg but will hope for a turnaround. Before that, Milan travel to face relegation-threatened Spezia, hoping to bounce back from their midweek disappointments.
🗣️ "This is a must-win match"
The Coach's thoughts ahead of Matchday 35
🗣️ "Lucidi e determinati: è una partita da vincere"
Le parole di Pioli alla vigilia di #SpeziaMilan #SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/YbPpOO1UMe
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 12, 2023
Following two draws against AS Roma and Cremonese in recent matchdays, Milan raised their game against top-four rivals Lazio last weekend. Goals from Ismael Bennacer and Theo Hernandez secured the three points and helped open up a gap over fourth-placed Roma. Milan still have plenty of work to secure Champions League football next season. So Pioli will hope for a victory against Spezia.
Since Leonardo Semplici’s men beat Inter Milan in the league and have gone eight games without a win. Their defeat to Cremonese last weekend matched the club’s record for a winless run, something Zpezia will hope to halt on Saturday.
However, they face the prospect of getting three vital points against a wounded Milan side. Then there is the looming threat of relegation, as Spezia need to do much more to secure their safety. Despite bringing in the bottom three, they still have only trail 17th-placed Hellas Verona by 3 points, something Semplici will hope to recover.
Team News & Tactics
Spezia have a long list of injured personnel to deal with alongside Kevin Agudelo, who misses out with a suspension. With at least eight players likely to miss out against AC Milan, Jacopo Sala is the only one with a chance of making the squad.
📌 | CONVOCATI
➡️ Sono 21 i convocati di Mister Semplici per #SpeziaMilan #Eurovision #Eurovision2023 @Recrowdita pic.twitter.com/TCO6fKTPZM
— Spezia Calcio (@acspezia) May 12, 2023
Emil Holm, Joao Moutinho, Daniel Maldini, Petar Zovko, Julius Beck and Agudelo are out of the game against Milan. Yet, the Spezia manager is likely to keep up his team’s shape and continue to feature a 4-3-3 attacking shape in a bid to get goals and possibly an upper hand.
The big boost for Spezia will come from top scorer M’Bala Nzola, who is available again for selection. They were using Eldor Shomurodov in his absence earlier, but the Uzbek striker can now return to the bench or replace Agudelo in the wide areas. There’s also a chance for Daniele Verde to feature as part of the front three.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Dragowski; Amian, Ampadu, Nikolaou, Reca; Ekdal, Esposito, Bourabia; Nzola, Gyasi, Verde
Stefano Pioli will heavily rotate his team for the Spezia trip keeping the Champions League game against Inter Milan in mind. The big news from the first leg clash was the injury to Ismael Bennacer. The midfielder has been a key player for the Rossoneri and will be missed.
Looking ahead to #SpeziaMilan #SempreMilan
Brought to you by @play_eFootball pic.twitter.com/6K13kpCqZq
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 11, 2023
Pioli hopes the Algerian is not out for long and could assess his situation before Wednesday. Meanwhile, the manager could bring fringe stars like Ante Rebic, Divock Origi and Charles De Ketelaere for the Spezia game.
The AC Milan boss will hope to have Rafael Leao for the second leg. And even if the Portuguese winger proves his fitness for the weekend, he is unlikely to make the lineup.
Hence, Milan will field a much-changed side for the Spezia trip, but Pioli could have a few of his regulars in the team. Davide Calabria, Sandro Tonali, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez will keep their places, while Alexis Saelemaekers will also feature from the start.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere, Rebic; Origi
- Spezia have lost their last three matches in Serie A.
- Spezia are winless in their last eight games in Serie A.
- Spezia have failed to score in ten of 19 matches this year.
- AC Milan have picked up only 23 points from their last 15 Serie A games.
- AC Milan have won three of their last five Serie A games against Spezia.
Player to Watch
Theo Hernandez just ran the entire length of the pitch to score a wondergoal… again! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/HupGn4Z5js
— GOAL (@goal) May 6, 2023
With few options in the left-back position, Pioli will forcibly use Hernandez at left-back. The full-back also has a point to prove at the weekend after a sub-par display in midweek against Inter Milan. The Frenchman is a massive threat in the attacking play but needs to pick up form.
With the full-back likely to start against Inter Milan next week, he will want to use the Spezia game as a Kickstarter to polish his play. These are two big games for the full-back to show Stefano Pioli he can be relied upon for big moments.
Spezia 0-2 AC Milan
AC Milan have no choice but to win this game and provide a good performance. Three points away from home to Spezia will do their confidence a world of good, which will come in handy on Wednesday for the second leg against Inter.
Going by form, there’s nothing to suggest Spezia can cause an upset and boost their safety chances. Coming to Serie A, Milan are under pressure to consolidate their top-four position, and a win against Spezia would be a massive boost to their chances.
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