AC Milan will be desperate to put an end to their winless run when they face Cagliari Calcio at the Sardegna Stadium on Saturday.
After replacing Marco Giampaolo as the AC Milan manager earlier this season, Stefano Pioli hasn’t really been able to prove himself as a competent manager. And on Saturday, he will face yet another stern test when the Rossoneri lock horns with Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena.
The visitors are coming on the back of a three-game winless streak. They were notably annihilated by Atalanta 5-0 a few weeks ago while they drew their last game against Sampdoria. Therefore, sealing all three points in this encounter could be imperative if the Rossoneri are to return to the top half of the table.
But, things could be tricky against a Cagliari side, who are flying high at sixth in the league table. The club from Sardinia has flourished under Rolando Maran, though they have failed to win any of their last four matches in the league. It is a streak that includes an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at the hands of defending champions Juventus.
Hence, the hosts will be keen on fighting back and returning to winning form against Milan, who are equally desperate to seal all three points this weekend. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial Serie A fixture.
Tactics & Team News
After a 4-0 defeat to Juventus, it won’t be surprising to see Maran making a few defensive changes this weekend. The Cagliari coach will be blessed by the return of Fabio Pisacane, who should replace Sebastian Walukewicz. The 33-year-old could partner former Liverpool star Ragnar Klavan at the heart of the four-man backline.
Fabrizio Cacciatore, meanwhile, could make way for Pablo Farago at right-back. The 26-year-old will be expected to provide additional defensive cover on the far side. Luca Pellegrini, however, is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
No changes are expected in midfield, with Luca Cigarini, Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog all retaining their place at the base of Cagliari’s 4-3-2-1 setup. These three will look to provide captain Radja Nainggolan with the necessary defensive cover, allowing the Belgian to act more freely in the number ten slot.
The Belgian, on loan from Inter Milan, could start alongside club’s top scorer Joao Pedro, with both of these players look to provide ample support to lone forward Giovanni Simeone.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Olsen; Farago, Pisacane, Klavan, Pellegrini; Nandez, Cigarini, Rog; Nainggolan, Pedro; Simeone
Pioli has a lot of players out injured including key defender Ricardo Rodriguez. His absence makes Theo Hernandez a guaranteed starter at left-back. However, there is a bit of competition on the opposite flank, though we expect Davide Calabria to get the nod ahead of Andrea Conti.
Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio, meanwhile, are guaranteed to form the central defensive partnership for Milan this weekend. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the attacking trifecta of Pedro, Nainggolan and Simeone.
Lucas Biglia’s continued absence due to injury should enable Ismael Bennacer to retain his place in the holding midfield role. The ex-Arsenal starlet could be partnered by Giacomo Bonaventura and Franck Kessie, who could come in to replace Rade Krunic in central midfield.
Krzystof Piatek has emerged as a target for Tottenham Hotspur, and a move to north London could be imminent according to some reports. Hence, we do not expect the Pole to feature in this game, paving the way for returning superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic to lead the attack. The veteran Swede is guaranteed to be partnered by the wide attacking duo of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Romagnoli, Musacchio, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennancer, Bonaventura; Suso, Ibrahimovic, Calhanoglu
- Cagliari have won only one of their last 31 Serie A meetings against AC Milan.
- AC Milan have lost only one of their last 15 away games against Cagliari in Serie A.
- AC Milan are unbeaten in their last Serie A game of the first half of the season in their last four campaigns; their last such defeat was in 2014/15 season against Atalanta at San Siro.
- Cagliari have lost each of their last three league games, after going unbeaten in their previous 13 – the last time the Rossoblu endured a longer streak of consecutive defeats was in October 2017.
- AC Milan haven’t drawn any of their last 12 league games on the road; the last time they played more consecutive away games without a single draw in Serie A was in 1950.
Player to Watch
Tipped to make his first start since returning to AC Milan, all the spotlight will be on Ibrahimovic as he seeks to continue his legacy in the Serie A. Regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in the 21st century, the Swede’s decision to return to Milan received mixed emotions.
However, in the last game against Sampdoria, he appeared as a substitute for the last 35 minutes. Although he failed to make to find the back of the net, it goes without saying that he still possesses the quality that could cause serious problems for the Cagliari defence.
Moreover, it will be interesting to see how the opposition defenders plan on stopping the ex-Barcelona superstar, knowing he is much less agile than he used to be — definitely, the one to watch out for.
Cagliari 1-2 AC Milan
Milan have looked clueless in recent matches. But, with Ibrahimovic back and Pioli looking increasingly desperate to make a turnaround, this could indeed turn out to be one of the most important matches for the Rossoneri this season.
And looking at Cagliari and their poor run of form of late, it won’t be surprising to see the visitors sealing all three points with a narrow victory.