AC Milan have their Serie A top-four hopes dangling by a thread as they prepare to play Sampdoria on Saturday.
Italian giants AC Milan will be keen to get back to winning ways when they take on bottom-placed side Sampdoria in the Serie A on Saturday night.
The Rossoneri did not just surrender their Serie A title but also put up a meek performance against arch-rivals Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League semi-final earlier this month. Stefano Pioli’s men have their tails between their legs and now are very much in danger of missing out on a top-four finish.
They are currently four points off the fourth spot with three games to go. A top-four finish is not in their hands and there is every reason to believe Milan will have to settle for a spot in the Europa League next season.
Sampdoria, have their own reasons to forget the season and look set to finish at the bottom of the league. Possessing the worst attack and the worst defence in the Italian top flight, Sampdoria’s relegation comes as no shock.
It is a testament to Milan’s drop-off in form that Sampdoria can retain some hope of securing a result at San Siro this weekend. The visitors have little but pride to play for but will be keen to give their fans something to cheer about in an otherwise forgettable campaign.
For Milan, the game represents an opportunity to pacify their fans and show things can improve. Pioli cannot afford another setback, especially after the ultras made their feelings clear following last weekend’s loss to Spezia. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
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Getting set for the run-in 🎯 #MilanSampdoria #SempreMilan
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— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 18, 2023
The Rossoneri have struggled to find the back of the net in recent weeks and look clueless in the absence of Rafael Leao. The Portuguese ace returned to action midweek against Inter Milan but sorely lacked match fitness.
Stefano Pioli will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Florenzi, and Ismael Bennacer, all of whom are out injured. The Milan boss has an otherwise fully fit squad at his disposal and is likely to play a full-strength side.
Malick Thiaw and Junior Messias both failed to impress against Inter and are expected to be dropped to the bench. Pioli is likely to retain his 4-2-3-1 formation and will seek to make a quick start on the night.
Mike Maignan should start in goal behind the quartet of Davide Calabria, Fikayo Tomori, Simon Kjaer, and Theo Hernandez. Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic should form the double pivot with Btazhim Diaz retaining the number 10 role. The Spaniard fluffed his lines against Inter on several occasions and will hope to make a difference this time around.
Rafael Leao should retain his spot on the left wing with Alexis Saelemaekers coming in for Messias on the opposite flank. Veteran striker Olivier Giroud should lead the line despite drawing a blank twice against Inter. The Frenchman still remains Milan’s best striker.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Kjaer, Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud
Dejan Stankovic’s arrival brought with it early optimism but that has dissipated of late with Serie B looming. With pride at stake, Sampdoria will be keen to inflict further wounds on hurting Milan side which has admittedly been pedestrian of late.
Abdelhamid Sabiri and Emil Audero are both ruled out due to injury and will sit out for the rest of the campaign. It is not all bad news as Mehdi Leris will return to contention for the trip to the San Siro.
Sampdoria are likely to retain their 3-4-1-2 formation despite their struggles with Nicola Ravaglia in goal. The trio of Koray Gunter, Bram Nuytinck, and Bruno Amione will form the backline with Alessandro Zanoli and Tommaso Augello deployed out wide on the flanks.
📅 20 maggio
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— U.C. Sampdoria (@sampdoria) May 17, 2023
Tottenham Hotspur loanee Harry Winks is likely to partner Tomas Rincon in central midfield, providing the base for Filip Djuricic to act as the playmaker.
Italian veteran Fabio Quagliarella has struggled to find the net much this season but is expected to make the cut on the night. He is likely to partner Manolo Gabbiadini upfront as Sampdoria plots an upset in Italy’s second city.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Ravaglia; Gunter, Nuytinck, Amione; Zanoli, Winks, Rincon, Augello; Djuricic; Gabbiadini, Quagliarella
- A win on Saturday will make it four straight victories for AC Milan against Sampdoria in Serie A. This will be their longest winning run against I Blucerchiati since the 1999-2005 period.
- AC Milan are currently winless in their last three games against Serie A teams in the bottom three.
- AC Milan have won just three of their last 11 Serie A games. They have picked up just 14 points during that run.
- Sampdoria are set to finish below 28 points in Serie A for the first time in their history. Sampdoria have won the least points away from home in Serie A this season.
- Sampdoria have conceded 36 goals in away games in Serie A this season. This is the most of any side in Serie A this season, level with Sassuolo.
Player to Watch
The Portuguese star is AC Milan’s standout attacker and removing him from the equation largely nullifies the Rossoneri’s attacking impetus. He was off form against Inter and will be hopeful of a stronger showing on the night.
Leao’s drive and ability to do the unexpected are unique traits on the Milan roster. When he is in full swing, the team as a whole performs better. The Rossoneri will hope that Leao can turn up the heat on the night.
AC Milan 2-0 UC Sampdoria
While AC Milan are going through a rough patch, Sampdoria’s defence has been a rolling door of late. The match is unlikely to be pretty or pleasing to the eye but the home side should have it in them to force a result. Anything less could very well see fans make their feelings loud and clear.
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