The international break has come to an end (finally) and AC Milan are gearing up to take on Napoli at the San Siro on Saturday evening. After a positive display against Juventus which, however, resulted in a loss, the Rossoneri will be looking to grab the three points this time out.
Pioli’s side are currently sitting in 14th place in the standings, having claimed just 13 points in the first 12 games of the season. Of course, the manager didn’t start the campaign with the club, but there hasn’t been a significant improvement since he arrived either.
Therefore, the game against Napoli will be very important, as now is the time to exit the crisis and make sense of the season. In short, they certainly need to bounce back even without the necessary reinforcements, as it might be too late after the January transfer window.
For Pioli, it might be tough to replicate the performance against Juventus, as three of the players who played from start will miss this game. Bennacer, Borini, Calhanoglu, Castillejo, Duarte and Rodriguez are all excluded from the squad the list. On the other hand, Kessie and Musacchio are back after missing out on the game in Turin.
According to today’s edition of Gazzetta Dello Sport, Pioli has opted to just make the necessary changes, which you can understand given that three changes are already a lot. Coming off what might have been their best display of the season, it would be foolish to try and tweak too much.
Musacchio will slot in at the back alongside Romagnoli, having just returned from the injury that paved the way for Duarte in the first place. Other than that, the defence will remain intact, with Conti and Hernandez occupying the flanks. It will be interesting to see how they can cope with Napoli’s speed on the counter-attacks.
Per the newspaper, Biglia will play in the holding midfield role, as he is the natural replacement for the suspended Bennacer. Just like against Juventus, Paqueta and Krunic will offer support to the regista on each side. The two performed very well at the Allianz Stadium and further cemented their respective spot in the starting eleven.
Tonight’s clash will be a big chance for Piatek to prove the management wrong, as there have been rumours of a potential loan exit in January. Hopefully, he can build on his goal for Poland during the international break. Suso and Bonaventura will offer support on the flanks, with the latter replacing the suspended Calhanoglu.
AC Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Paquetà, Biglia, Krunic; Suso, Piatek, Bonaventura.
In recent years, the Rossoneri have struggled against Napoli. Therefore, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too much, although they have beaten the Partenopei under worse circumstances. Down below are the top five facts and stats for the game, provided by Opta.
- Milan have won none of the last four matches at Meazza against Napoli in Serie A (D2 L2): their longest winless streak on home soil against Napoli since the ‘80s.
- Napoli have lost just one of their last 16 matches against Milan in Serie A (W9 D6): a 0-2 defeat in December 2014, whilst Milan were managed by Filippo Inzaghi.
- Milan have lost seven of their opening 12 matches in a Serie A season, for the first time since 1941/42: Milan have never lost eight of their first 13 matches in the league.
- Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne has scored six goals against Milan in Serie A, against no side has he scored more.
- Napoli (9 pts fewer) and Milan (8 pts fewer) both have fewer points than at this stage last season.
Milan, and Napoli as well to some extent, can’t afford to lose tonight’s encounter. Therefore, it should be an exciting clash, which hopefully can result in three points for Pioli’s men. The game against Juventus certainly sparked some hope, although they will need to be very focused to replicate that performance. Given that both sides are struggling, I would say that a draw is a fair prediction.
AC Milan 1-1 Napoli