AC Milan will be aiming to begin a new era on a positive note when they welcome Lecce to San Siro on Sunday night.
Matchday 8 of the Serie A continues on Sunday, with as many as six games being played on the day. AC Milan will round off the proceedings in what will be their first game under the tutelage of Stefano Pioli, as they play hosts to Lecce at San Siro.
AC Milan have endured a turbulent start to the 2019-20 season, losing four of their first seven games (W3). The indifferent run of results left them languishing at 13th on the Serie A table ahead of the international break and cost Marco Giampaolo his job. Since then, Stefano Pioli has been appointed as the new manager, with the Rossoneri looking for some semblance of stability.
Lecce, too, have struggled in the initial stages of the season, which is their first back in Serie A in seven years. The Salentini have managed just two wins from their seven games so far (L5), although it is worth noting that those victories came on the road, meaning AC Milan could be in for a tricky outing.
AC Milan were on the right side of the result the last time they hosted Lecce, with Antonio Nocerino and Zlatan Ibrahimovic being on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
It has been an odd sort of a season for AC Milan, who have been more hit by suspension than they have been by injuries. The same is prevalent ahead of the visit of Lecce, with two players – Davide Calabria and Samu Castillejo – missing out after being sent off in the fiery 2-1 win over Genoa.
Calabria has been suspended for the second time this season, with the full-back seeing two of the five red cards that have been shown to AC Milan players this season. Mattia Caldara is the only player not at the disposal of Stefano Pioli due to injury, with the Italian defender still on the return trail from a long-term knee injury.
Meanwhile, Pioli’s arrival should signal a definitive change in the system, with the new manager preferring a 4-3-3. AC Milan should, thus, continue in the same formation as their last game, albeit with a slight shift in the playing style.
Gianluigi Donnarumma is a certain starter in goal for the hosts, keeping his place ahead of Pepe Reina. The defensive line, though, should see a couple of changes, one being a forced one. With Calabria suspended, Andrea Conti is expected to start as the right-back. Theo Hernandez should retain his place on the opposite flank.
At the heart of the AC Milan defence, captain Alessio Romagnoli will have Mateo Musacchio as his partner. Up ahead in midfield, Lucas Biglia is expected to sit at the base of the three-man unit, with Franck Kessie and Lucas Paqueta providing the forward thrust as the box-to-box midfielders.
Krzysztof Piatek should keep hold of his place and lead the line for AC Milan against Lecce, albeit with a change in his role. The Polish striker will now become more of a poacher, expected to finish off chances which will mostly come in the form of crosses. Suso will play in his preferred role as the right winger, with Ante Rebic likely to get his first start for the Rossoneri, starting on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Biglia, Paqueta; Suso, Piatek, Rebic
Fabio Liverani does not have many pressing injury concerns ahead of the trip to face AC Milan this weekend. But, the Lecce manager will be without key midfielder Giannelli Imbula, who misses out due to a thigh injury.
The 27-year-old is likely to be replaced by Panagiotis Tachtsidis as the visitors’ defensive midfielder, with Liverani expected to continue with the 4-3-1-2 formation. Former AC Milan goalkeeper Gabriel will be the man between the sticks for Lecce, with another ex-Milan star, striker Gianluca Lapadula is expected to start on the bench.
The four-man defensive line in front of Gabriel is likely to remain unchanged, with Andrea Rispoli and Marco Calderoni being the full-back pairing, while experienced centre-back Luca Rossettini will have Fabio Lucioni for company at the heart of the Lecce defence once again.
Tachtsidis will sit at the base of the midfield, with Jacopo Petriccione and Zan Majer providing him support. Lecce captain Marco Mancosu will sit in the hole behind the two strikers, roaming around to create the chances for the visitors, with Filippo Falco playing off Khouma Babacar.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Gabriel; Rispoli, Lucioni, Rossentini, Calderoni; Petricionne, Tachtsidis, Majer; Mancosu; Falco, Babacar
- AC Milan have lost just two of their 30 Serie A meetings with Lecce (W18 D10) and have won each of the last eight home games against the newly-promoted side. Among the teams currently in the competition, only against Cagliari (14) have they had a longer winning run.
- AC Milan’s last Serie A defeat against a promoted team was back in April 2018 (Benevento); since then they recorded six wins and three draws.
- AC Milan have lost their last two Serie A home games. The Rossoneri last lost three league matches on the trot at San Siro back in November 2006.
- Stefano Pioli has won two, drawn two and lost two games in his top-flight debut with new clubs. Two of these matches have been against AC Milan (in charge of Lazio and Inter Milan).
- Lecce have won all of their six points this season in away league games. Alongside Brescia, the Salentini are the only other side to have earned 100 percent of their points on the road.
Player to Watch
The hype surrounding Piatek has slowly dissipated away since the weeks and months that he has joined AC Milan. The start to the 2019-20 season has been a horrible one for the Pole, who has only managed to score twice in seven games so far.
With both of these strikes coming from the penalty spot, Piatek is still looking for his first goal from open play this season. With Stefano Pioli expected to change his role, the young striker will look to get back to his poaching ways, hoping to rediscover the swagger that earned him the move to Milan in the first place.
AC Milan 2-1 Lecce
AC Milan are in turmoil at the moment, with inconsistency being the name of the game for them. Lecce, on the other hand, are tricky customers on the road, meaning the Rossoneri are unlikely to have it easy in their first match under the tutelage of Stefano Pioli.
Pioli, though, is known to deliver quick results and with the players having a point to prove, a return to winning ways looks imminent. Expect a keenly contested affair between two struggling sides, but with the hosts likely to come out on top. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for AC Milan.