AC Milan will be looking to continue their winning run as they host Olympiacos in the second matchday of the UEFA Europa League group stage on Thursday.
AC Milan are yet to lose a single game since their opening day defeat to Napoli, a six-game span that saw them win three games whilst drawing the other three. Coach Gennaro Gattuso will be keen on maintaining his side’s solidity when they face Greek Super League giants Olympiacos at the San Siro on Thursday.
Fans were left astonished when the Rossoneri registered a shocking win over high-flying US Sassuolo last weekend. Suso starred for the Italian giants in dismantling a lacklustre Sassuolo defence, scoring two goals in the second half. However, it’s the defence that will be the main cause for concern for Gattuso, with Milan often conceding needless goals throughout the course of this season.
In fact, Milan’s only clean sheet of the campaign came against lowly Dudelange in their opening Europa League fixture and given Gattuso’s demanding expectations from his players, keeping a clean sheet against the sharp Olympiacos attack could be imperative this week.
Speaking of Olympiacos, they tasted their first defeat of the campaign against PAOK last weekend when Jagos Vukovic’s unfortunate own goal proving to be the only difference between the two sides. Unlike Milan, however, the Greek giants are known for their sturdy defence underlined by the fact that they have already kept six clean sheets in all competitions this season.
Although their opening group game against Real Betis ended in a draw, the Red and Whites are more than capable of beating Milan this week and given their excellent form this campaign, they will be confident of their chances of overcoming the Rossoneri.
The Hard Tackle will run the rule over both the sides before their fascinating clash on Thursday evening.
Team news & tactics
Gennaro Gattuso will stick to his 4-3-3 formation following its success in recent matches while not many changes are expected either from the side that won against Sassuolo.
Defender Ignazio Abate was given the nod over Davide Calabria and was later subbed off in the final minute of the game, hinting that the veteran right-back could retain his place in the starting lineup this week. Ricardo Rodriguez will likely start on the opposite flank, ahead of Uruguayan international Diego Laxalt.
Gattuso will stick to his customary defensive partnership of Mateo Musacchio and club captain Alessio Romagnoli in central defence with Gianluigi Donnarumma starting in between the sticks for AC Milan.
The return of star striker Gonzalo Higuain will be a huge boost for the hosts this week after the Argentine missed the last couple of matches with a muscular problem. He will replace Samu Castillejo as the lone forward up front even though the Spaniard scored in the win over Sassuolo last weekend.
Higuain will be partnered by the attacking duo of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu. Susu, in particular, will be one of the players worth keeping an eye on this week, having plundered two goals in the win over Sassuolo.
In midfield, Gattuso is likely to resort to his similar three-man midfield setup led by Lucas Biglia as the defensive midfielder. The Argentine will be partnered by the central midfield duo of Giacomo Bonaventura and Franck Kessie, whose incredible work-ethic could be key against the industrious Olympiacos side.
Probable lineup(4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Biglia, Kessie, Bonaventura; Suso, Higuain, Calhanoglu.
Olympiacos have a fairly huge squad, meaning they can afford to make a few rotations to the squad that slumped to a 1-0 defeat against PAOK.
The attack, in particular, has been an issue for head coach Pedro Martins this season, with none of his players managing to score more than once in their league campaign so far. But, the Portuguese mastermind will hope that front-man Ahmed Hassan can find his scoring form this week.
Daniel Podence will retain his place at right wing while Giannis Fetfatzidis will replace the 31-year-old Lazaros Christodoupoulos on the opposite flank.
Club captain Konstantinos Fortunis will be deployed as the lone attacking midfielder in the final third for Olympiacos. The 25-year-old has been one of his club’s most productive players this season, being involved in seven goals in all competitions so far.
As much as we will love to see Yaya Toure start in midfield this week, the Ivorian is likely to make way for a much younger and pacy alternative in Andrea Bouchalakis. The 25-year-old will be partnered by youngster Mady Camara at the base of Olympiacos’ 4-2-3-1.
And finally, in defence, coach Martins is unlikely to make any changes with Omar Elabdellaoui, Yassine Meriah, Jagos Vukovic and Konstantinos Tsimka forming the four-man backline with Andreas Gianniotis playing in goal.
Probable lineup(4-2-3-1): Gianniotis; Elabdellaoui, Meriah, Vukovic, Tsimka; Camara, Bouchalakis; Fetfatzidis, Fortounis, Podence; Hassan.
- Despite standing on the wrong end of the league table, AC Milan have lost only one game in all competitions this season.
- These two sides have met only twice with Milan winning one fixture while the other was drawn.
- Gennaro Gattuso’s side have only managed one clean sheet in all the seven matches they have played so far.
- AC Milan saw over 1.5 goals in 7 out of their last 10 games played.
- Olympiacos have seen less than 2 goals in each of their last four matches all competitions.
Player to watch
All eyes will be on Gonzalo Higuain as he returns to full fitness this week after missing out on a couple of games. Since joining from Juventus earlier this summer, the Argentine striker has been playing excellent football for his new club, netting three goals in just five games.
Therefore, his return will surely serve as a huge boost for the home side, who have already impressed offensively this campaign. His deadly finishing coupled with his poaching qualities make him one of the feared attackers in world football and thus, stopping him will be imperative as Olympiacos look to keep the dangerous Milan attack at bay this midweek.
AC Milan 2-1 Olympiacos
Following a morale-boosting 4-1 win against Sassuolo on the weekend, AC Milan will be high on confidence going into this game. In addition, they have already garnered quite an attention thanks to their impressive attacking setup this season, making them huge favorites to seal all three points here.