AC Milan’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are dangling by a thread, as they gear up to take on SPAL in the final league game of the season.

AC Milan will travel to Stadio Paolo Mazza this weekend as they are set to face off against Leonardo Semplici’s SPAL outfit on the final matchday of the 2018-19 Serie A.

Gennaro Gattuso’s side are fifth place on the league table, with just a point separating them from Atalanta and Inter Milan, who are third and fourth, respectively. The Rossoneri have an outside chance of finishing in the top four and qualifying for next season’s Champions League, provided they win their final game and either of Inter or Atalanta drop points on Sunday night.

Milan are in quite good form heading into the final day of the season, having picked up three consecutive victories against Bologna (2-1), Fiorentina (1-0) most recently Frosinone (2-0). With Gattuso’s job reportedly on the line, nothing less than a victory would do for the Rossoneri on Sunday night.

SPAL are sitting comfortably in the 12th position in the Serie A standings, with 42 points from 37 games. Leonardo Semplici’s men have won just one of their last four matches, with their latest fixture ending in a 3-2 defeat to Udinese last weekend. However, the fact that they beat champions Juventus at home not so long ago will give them confidence going up against Milan.

The last time these two teams met, Milan came back from a goal down to beat SPAL 2-1 with goals from Samu Castillejo and Gonzalo Higuain. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two teams, let’s take a closer look at the encounter which could have great implications on the Champions League qualifying spots.

Team News & Tactics

SPAL

On-loan defender Vasco Regini underwent a knee surgery earlier in the week and will not be available for the final game of the season for SPAL. Other than that, Semplici has his full squad to pick from and he is expected to field a strong side against Milan on Sunday.

Alfred Gomis started between the sticks ahead of Emiliano Viviano against Udinese and could hold on to his place against Milan. Thiago Cionek, Francesco Vicari and Kevin Bonifazi will form the three-man backline that will be tasked with keeping the Milan attack quiet on the night.

Manuel Lazzari and Mohamed Fares will slot in as the wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively with the instructions to provide width going forward. Alessandro Murgia will start as the deepest of the central midfielders to provide additional protection to the backline, with support coming from Pasquale Schiattarella and Jasmin Kurtic on either sides.

Andrea Petagna is SPAL’s leading scorer this season with 16 strikes to his name. The 23-year-old had scored against Milan in the reverse fixture and should be leading the line once again with veteran striker Sergio Floccari as his partner.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Gomis; Cionek, Vicari, Bonifazi; Lazzari, Schiattarella, Murgia, Kurtic, Fares; Petagna, Floccari

AC Milan

Midfielder Lucas Paqueta is suspended for the tie, which comes as a blow for Milan. The visitors will also be without the services of Mattia Caldara, Davide Calabria and Giacomo Bonaventura for the final game of the season.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has recently been linked with a switch to Manchester United, is the obvious choice under the woodwork for Milan. He will be shielded by a backline comprising of Andrea Conti and Ricardo Rodriguez as the full-backs, with Mateo Musacchio and captain Alessio Romagnoli at the heart of the defence.

On-loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko will slot in at the base of the three-man midfield for Milan, with Franck Kessie and Hakan Calhanolgu deployed either side of him to provide the forward thrust and creativity from the middle of the park.

Spanish playmaker Suso will be key for Milan against a defensive unit like SPAL. He will slot in on the right flank, while Fabio Borini should get the nod on the left side ahead of Castillejo. Spearheading the attack for Milan in the crucial encounter on Sunday night will be January signing Krzysztof Piatek.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Bakayoko, Calhanoglu; Suso, Piatek, Borini

Key Stats

  • SPAL have won only once in 35 games against AC Milan in Serie A, which came way back in June 1957.
  • AC Milan have won their last six games against SPAL in Serie A: they have never won seven consecutive league games against the Ferraresi.
  • The last time SPAL lost three Serie A games in a row, was back in October 2018, they’re currently on two consecutive defeats.
  • AC Milan have won their last three league matches, keeping a clean sheet in the two most recent games; the last time the Rossoneri won three consecutive Serie A games without conceding was back in March 2018.
  • AC Milan have lost the most points from goals conceded in the last 10 minutes in Serie A this season (eight, level to Cagliari), on the other hand SPAL are the only team to not lose any points in the same period.

Player to Watch

Krzysztof Piatek

AC Milan need Piatek to shine. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

AC Milan need Piatek to shine. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Having joined AC Milan in January, as a replacement for Gonzalo Higuain, Piatek has made an instant impact at his new club, playing an important role in their push for Champions League qualification. The 23-year-old has netted 22 goals in the Serie A this term, 9 of which have come for the Rossoneri in 17 matches.

Piatek is staring at the possibility of achieving a very unique record on Sunday night. Should he go on to score against SPAL on the final matchday, the Polish striker could become the first player in Serie A history to score at least 10 goals with two different teams in the same league season.

Prediction

SPAL 1-2 AC Milan

SPAL come into the game having lost both their previous fixtures, against Napoli and Udinese, although it must be noted that they put up a solid fight in both the matches. AC Milan, on the other hand, are on a three-game winning streak, which holds them in good stead heading into the final game of the season.

The home team have nothing left to play for, whereas Milan are battling for a place in the top four, which provides them with the added motivation ahead of the match. It will be a closely contested encounter, but we at The Hard Tackle are backing Gennaro Gattuso’s men to come out on top at the Paolo Mazza.