Milan didn’t just secure all three points against Crotone last weekend, they also won convincingly and settled some of the doubts that had emerged as of late. 21 games into the season, the story remains the same: this Rossoneri side will fight until the end, through good and bad times but always with the same goal in mind.
Inter remain just two points behind Stefano Pioli’s men and there are no doubts about the pressure of being in first place. However, the players seem to have tackled this well and with one game left until the crucial derby, they will be looking to assert themselves once again, taking on Spezia away from home.
The Nerazzurri, meanwhile, will face an in-form Lazio and it could thus be an opportunity for Milan to increase their lead at the top. Nevertheless, they will have to hold up their end of the bargain with another win tomorrow evening. Much like the game against Crotone, they are the clear favourites to win.
Ismael Bennacer, Simon Kjaer and Sandro Tonali were all forced to withdraw their availability for the game against Crotone. Fortunately, they have recovered and trained with the team during the week and as a result, Pioli has called all three up for the game tomorrow evening.
The only player left on the injury list, therefore, is Brahim Diaz who should be back in training within the next seven days. According to Gazzetta Dello Sport, Pioli is expected to make a few changes to the starting eleven, though not because they will face Red Star Belgrade mid-week ahead of the derby.
Davide Calabria is suspended and although there were some shouts for Pierre Kalulu, Diogo Dalot seems to be ahead in the race. It’s yet another important chance for the Man Utd loanee to show his qualities. In addition to him, Kjaer will return to the starting XI and thus send Fikayo Tomori back to the bench.
Bennacer is back, as mentioned, and will play from the first minute alongside his usual partner Franck Kessie. It’s very important for Milan to have the duo back in action during such an important part of the season, especially if you consider how big an impact they have on the team’s performances.
In the attacking trio, Hakan Calhanoglu will reclaim his No.10 spot from Rafael Leao, who is set to start on the left-wing instead. Pioli revealed during today’s presser that the battle is between him and Ante Rebic, who scored a brace last time out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course, will start up front.
It’s pretty much the XI you would have expected, in other words, perhaps hinting that the more notable changes will take place mid-week for the Europa League clash.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Leao; Ibrahimovic.
Probable Spezia XI (4-3-3): Provedel; Vignali, Erlic, Ismajli, Bastoni; Maggiore, Ricci, Leo Sena; Verde, Agudelo, Gyasi.
- In the three points per win era, Milan are the 18th team with at least 49 points after 21 Serie A seasonal games: all 17 previous teams finished in the top four, while 14 of these have finished the season in first position.
- Milan’s last Serie A defeat away from the San Siro Stadium dates back to 22nd December 2019 against Atalanta: more than 400 days have passed since then.
- Spezia are the first team to collect more than 20 points (21 currently) after 21 seasonal games on their first-ever Serie A season since Siena in 2003/04.
- In the last game Emmanuel Gyasi scored his second goal in Serie A — however, the Spezia player is the striker who has played the most minutes without netting a goal in home games this season (807).
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the first Milan player to score 14 goals after the first 21 Serie A games played in a season since Stephan El Shaarawy in 2012/13 – the Swede could also become the oldest player to score 15 goals in a single Serie A season, overtaking Silvio Piola in 1951/52.
As mentioned, Milan are the clear favourites to win this game but that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. Compared to Crotone, who seem to have given up on salvation already, Spezia have fought hard and have been responsible for a few upsets, knocking Roma out of the Coppa Italia and beating Napoli in the league.
This doesn’t really change the predictions for the game, but it’s worth taking into account. The Rossoneri can’t afford to underestimate anyone this season and especially not with the derby around the corner. Having said, these players have shown time and time again what their goal is this season.
Spezia 1-3 AC Milan
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