AC Milan would be hoping to make it three wins in a row as they welcome Udinese to the San Siro on Sunday.
A win over Inter in the derby was followed up with a comprehensive midweek win over Palermo which has the fans feeling a bit more confident as they hope to reach the Champions League next season. This was only the second time all season that Milan have won back-to-back matches and they have won three in a row only once.
Victory against Udinese would move Milan ahead of Roma temporarily and will certainly lift the spirits of every fan who have endured yet another tough season. Two seasons outside of European competitions have left fans and most particularly Silvio Berlusconi restless. Although there are still many more games left to play, earning three points would help Milan reach one step closer towards their objectives at the end of this season.
Udinese are no longer the team battling the bigger sides in the top half of the table. They finished 16th last season and will do well to finish in the top half of the table after a relatively poor start to the campaign. With just a single win this year, Stefano Colantuono’s men have suffered two back-to-back losses against Lazio and Palermo, and while they have managed to take two points from their last two games, the feeling around the camp is not very positive.
Both teams will be looking for three points for vastly different reasons. A victory for Udinese might give them the much needed push to revitalize their season while Milan will be looking to continue their surge up the table and keep up the positive momentum.
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Siniša Mihajlović v Stefano Colantuono
Sunday’s Serie A match between Milan and Udinese will represent the fifth time that Sinisa Mihajlovic and Stefano Colantuono go head-to-head as coaches. The Milan tactician has the upper hand with 3 wins and 1 defeat. For Mihajlovic, two of those wins came last season and when in charge of Sampdoria (Sampdoria-Atalanta 1-0, Atalanta-Sampdoria 1-2). As for Colantuono, his single success over Mihajlovic came the season before, 2013/2014, when in charge of Atalanta in a convincing 3-0 win over Sampdoria.
Mihajlovic will be hoping to continue positive momentum
AC Milan returned from Sicily with three vital points as they collected 10 from their last four games in the league. Sinisa Mihajlovic has silenced his doubters in recent weeks and Milan have produced a really good brand of football. Two consecutive clean sheets suggest that organization is present in defence while upfront Carlos Bacca and Mbaye Niang have delivered the goals.
Milan currently are just two points adrift of fifth-placed Roma, but they have the momentum to go for more. Mihajlovic will hope Milan continue their recent revival which also includes a narrow win in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal. The Milan hierarchy realistically target a Europa League berth but the Serbian has still not given up hope of a Champions League spot. With Roma not in action until Sunday night, Milan have the opportunity to move up to fifth when they host Udinese earlier in the day.
Udinese in desperate search of a win
Udinese find themselves in a fairly comfortable 14th position, seven points clear of Carpi in 18th place. Former Atalanta coach Stefano Colantuono replaced Andrea Stramaccioni on the bench this summer and many predicted a season of real struggle for the Zebrette. Indeed if their home form is only considered then Colantuono’s men would be in relegation zone with just eight points taken.
Fortunately it’s the away results which have kept Udinese away from immediate danger. Wins at Juventus, Bologna, Chievo and Torino leaves them with one of the best away records of the bottom ten teams in Serie A. To continue this good away record, Udinese need to produce a big display to keep out an in-form Milan side.
Alex vs Duvan Zapata
Alex struggled with injuries last term under Filippo Inzaghi as he could only play 27 games in all competitions. With Sinisa Mihajlovic’s arrival to the San Siro, he seems to have overcame all his physical hassles, so much so that he has already 19 appearances this season, not to mention how important his role is to help in Alessio Romagnoli’s development.
The Brazilian was very close to joining Sao Paolo this past summer. Milan were ready to sell him for free, but the player failed to find economic agreement with the Brazilian club. If he maintains his current form this season Milan will no doubt exercise the option to extend his contract for one more season.
Stefano Colantuono can be relatively satisfied overall with their campaign to date and had it not been for the injury to key summer signing Duvan Zapata from Napoli they could well be sitting comfortably in the top ten heading into Christmas.
The former Estudiantes forward was brought in on a two-year loan deal to replace the ageing Antonio Di Natale, but disaster struck in late September when the Colombian suffered a hip-injury whilst scoring the winner during Udinese’s 2-1 away win at Bologna, with the injury keeping the forward out until the end of January. Before suffering that injury the striker hit three goals in just four starts for the Friuli outfit and looked set to become a fan favourite and be the heir to club captain Di Natale.
Gianluigi Donnarumma vs Cyril Thereau
All of Milan’s clean sheets this year have come with Donnarumma in goal. The teenager has shown incredible reflexes and is remarkably agile for a goalkeeper of his size, getting his 6’5″ frame down quickly to parry low shots and adjusting almost in midair to block several shots.
He has made some truly world-class saves, and on at least one occasion he almost single-handedly salvaged his team a point. Milan have a prodigy on their hands – a prodigy that they must keep hold of, no matter what.
With age finally starting to catching up with club legend Di Natale plus the injury to Zapata, French forward Cyril Thereau has been the standout performer for Udinese so far this season. Seven goals and two assists in 21 appearances for the former Chievo striker, including two goals against his old side at the end of November, sees the 32-year-old collect the accolade as the Zebrette’s best performer to date this campaign.
Carlos Bacca and Niang against a shaky Udinese defence
AC Milan continued their impressive recent form with a deserving 2-0 win over Palermo in Sicily on Wednesday night, with goals from Carlos Bacca and M’Baye Niang in a game where the Rossoneri played some impressive attacking football to create countless opportunities as they dominated their rivals for the most part.
Niang’s pace and movement caused problems for Palermo. He worked hard for the team but just needs to add consistency and a bit more cleverness in the final third. Carlos Bacca has 12 league goals this season, as he proved once again how decisive he can be. His effort and commitment off the ball to help his team defend is also what makes him a crucial player for Milan.
The Udinese defence which has already conceded 33 goals this season will have a very tough time to contain this dynamic duo on Sunday afternoon.
AC Milan strengths and weaknesses
- Carlos Bacca and Niang will be too hot to handle for the Udinese defence. If they get proper service then Milan should easily bag the three points here.
- Mihajlović deserves credit for steadying the defence. But still the concerns while defending a set-piece remain.
Udinese strengths and weaknesses
- Colantuono has plenty of problems all over the pitch but his main concern will be Udinese’s defence which has already leaked over 30 goals.
- Summer signing Duvan Zapata returned from his injury layoff with a goal against Empoli. He will need to fire if Udinese hope to get anything from this tough away trip to Milan.