AC Milan will be hoping to return to winning ways in their first match in 2020 when they welcome Sampdoria to San Siro on Monday.
Serie A action has resumed this week following the end of the winter break, with Matchday 18 of the 2019-20 season underway. Two struggling teams will lock horns at San Siro, when AC Milan play hosts to Sampdoria on Monday, with both sides looking to start 2020 on a winning note.
For AC Milan, 2019-20 has been quite a roller coaster of a season already. After a horrendous start to the Serie A campaign, Marco Giampaolo was shown the door back in October. Things have improved since then, but only marginally so, with the Rossoneri still languishing in the bottom half of the table after managing just six wins from their first 17 games.
Sampdoria, on the other hand, have been even worse off so far this season. The Genovese side have flirted with relegation all season long till date and are currently just one point outside the drop zone. Much like their hosts AC Milan, the Blucerchiati parted ways with their original incumbent in October and have only made slow progress under a new boss.
The corresponding fixture last season was a fascinating contest, with AC Milan coming from a goal down to edge Sampdoria 3-2. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Stefano Pioli does not have a great deal of injury issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Sampdoria. On Monday, the AC Milan manager will be without just two first-team players, with Leo Duarte and Lucas Biglia on the sidelines.
The big news ahead of the game, though, is the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede, who was so crucial in the Rossoneri’s last triumphant campaign in Serie A, signing a contract till the end of the season. Ibrahimovic warmed up for his second debut with a superb showing in a friendly against Rhodense, scoring and assisting a goal apiece.
Having looked sharp in the friendly, it is believed that Ibrahimovic could pip Krzysztof Piatek to the central striker’s berth against Sampdoria. Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu will likely be the two wide men for AC Milan, with the duo providing the creative impetus in the final third.
With Biglia out injured, Ismael Bennacer is a certain starter at the base of the three-man midfield. Giacomo Bonaventura should be one of the two other two players in the middle of the park, with Lucas Paqueta expected to get the nod ahead of Franck Kessie for the third spot.
At the back, the quartet of Davide Calabria, Mateo Musacchio, Theo Hernandez and AC Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli pick themselves, with Gianluigi Donnarumma set to take his place in goal for the hosts.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Paqueta, Bennacer, Bonaventura; Suso, Ibrahimovic, Calhanoglu
Claudio Ranieri does not have any fresh fitness troubles to contend with ahead of side’s trip to take on AC Milan. On Monday, the Sampdoria boss will be without three first-team players, with Alex Ferrari, Andrea Bertolacci and Edgar Barreto unavailable.
However, there is some positive news, with Albin Ekdal and Ronaldo Vieira available again. Ekdal is likely to return to the starting lineup straightaway, with the Swede taking his place in the middle of the park. Ekdal will be tasked with keeping things tight in the middle of the park, with Jakub Jankto expected to provide him company in the central areas.
Jankto will be charged with transitioning from defence to attack, while also linking up with the two wide midfielders in the 4-4-2, who ought to be Karol Linetty and Gaston Ramirez. Sampdoria captain Fabio Quagliarella is in serious need of some goals and the vulnerable AC Milan defence should offer him some opportunities on Monday.
Quagliarella will lead the line for Sampdoria once again, with Manolo Gabbiadini being his strike partner. In Ferrari’s absence, Omar Colley and Jeison Murillo ought to partner up at the heart of the Sampdoria defence, with Bartosz Bereszynski and Nicola Murru forming the full-back pairing. Emil Audero will line up between the sticks in Milan.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Audero; Bereszynski, Colley, Murillo, Murru; Linetty, Ekdal, Jankto, Ramirez; Gabbiadini, Quagliarella
- AC Milan hold the head-to-head advantage over Sampdoria since the turn of the century, having won 15 of the last 28 meetings between the two sides (D6 L7).
- AC Milan have won 15 of their 19 opening games of a calendar year in the 21st century (D2 L2), winning each of their last three without conceding a single goal.
- AC Milan have kept a clean sheet in 14 of their last 26 home games against Sampdoria in Serie A.
- Sampdoria are in the middle of a horrible run of form, having lost 4 of their last 5 matches. The Genovese side have suffered a defeat in 75% of their trips this term (W2 D0 L6).
- Sampdoria (5.8%) and AC Milan (6.8%) are two of the four sides with the lowest shot conversion rate in Serie A this season (also SPAL, 5.6% and Udinese, 6.3%).
Player to Watch
This one was a no brainer. All the talks surrounding AC Milan lately have concerned Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to San Siro. With goals not coming at a consistent rate from the forwards, the onus will fall on the Swede to deliver the goods as soon as he steps foot on the field as an AC Milan player, in what will be his second bow with the Rossoneri. All eyes on the Swedish superstar.
AC Milan 2-0 Sampdoria
Quite often, people talk about the effect a new manager can have on a team. This time around the arrival of a star player ought to have a telling impact. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an AC Milan player once again and his influence should show right from the off.
The Rossoneri cannot afford to slip up any longer and with Sampdoria hardly looking the part so far in Serie A, anything but all three points would be unacceptable. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Stefano Pioli & co. with Ibrahimovic likely to leave his mark on the game.