AC Milan will be hoping to build on their 1-0 win over Torino when they travel to Florence to face Fiorentina on Saturday.
AC Milan have had a strong start to the year, notably winning all but one of their competitive matches in January. In February, however, they have only registered one win in all competitions, which came against Torino in the last game.
Milan have been able to hold Juventus in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final this month. But, they were thrashed by Inter Milan 4-2 in the Milan derby. And given their unpredictable run of form, securing a win against Fiorentina could be critical as they aim to move up the league standings.
Speaking of Fiorentina, they have performed worse than their weekend rivals this season, collecting only 28 points from 24 games. As a result, the Viola are dawdling at the wrong end of the table. The Rossoneri, in contrast, are currently eighth, though it is unlikely that they will be able to overcome Parma and Verona even if results go their way.
It is a must-win game for Milan nonetheless, knowing a defeat would allow Napoli to potentially overtake them in the eighth spot. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this fascinating encounter in Serie A on Saturday.
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Fiorentina are coming on the back of a morale-boosting 5-1 win over Sampdoria in their last game. Both the attackers in Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa bagged two goals each, and they are expected to lead the line for the hosts once again.
In midfield, Milan Badelj will miss out due to suspension. It could allow Erick Pulgar to return to the side, operating in a deeper midfield role, alongside Alfred Duncan and Gaetano Castrovilli. These three will play a key role in the second line of press, preventing the Milan midfielders from dominating the possession.
Elsewhere, both Pol Lirola and Dalbert will retain their place in the wing-back slots. These two will be tasked with the responsibility of keeping an eye on the likes of Theo Hernandez and Andrea Conti.
And finally, in defence, coach Giuseppe Iachini will have the privilege of choosing from a fully fit defensive unit. However, we expect the trio of Nikola Milenkovic, German Pezzella and Martin Caceres to retain their place in the three-man backline, with Bartlomiej Dragowski starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dragowski; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Caceres; Lirola, Duncan, Pulgar, Gastrovilli, Dalbert; Chiesa, Vlahovic
Stefano Pioli will likely miss out on the services of Simon Kjaer while Mateo Musacchio is also unlikely to be risked given his muscle problem. Therefore, it won’t be surprising to see Matteo Gabbia making his full debut for the Rossoneri.
The young Italian defender is set to partner Alessio Romagnoli at the heart of the four-man backline. Apart from that, Pioli is unlikely to tinker with his defence, though Andrea Conti is also expected to return to the side, having served his suspension. He will replace Davide Calabria at right-back, with Theo Hernandez being a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
Pioli is unlikely to make any changes in central midfield, with Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer operating in the double-pivot. Besides, the likes of Lucas Biglia and Rade Krunic are out injured anyway, leaving the Milan coach with Giacomo Bonaventura as the only other option.
Moving forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is more than expected to lead the line for the visitors. But with Milan likely to play with a 4-4-1-1, Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic could operate in wider attacking roles while Hakan Calhanoglu is tipped to replace Lucas Paqueta in the number ten slot, after missing the last game due to injury.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Donnarumma; Conti, Gabbia, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Castillejo, Kessié, Bennacer, Rebic; Calhanoglu; Ibrahimovic
- AC Milan have won four of their last eight Serie A matches against Fiorentina, winning the last four against the Viola in the second half of the season.
- Fiorentina have won only two of their last 13 home games against AC Milan, against none of the teams they have faced at least five times in this period have they won fewer matches.
- Fiorentina have lost five Serie A games at Franchi Stadium this season, they have never lost more in their first 12 home games in a season in the competition.
- Since Stefano Pioli joined AC Milan as a manager, the Rossoneri have kept seven clean sheets, more than any other team in this period in Serie A.
- AC Milan are the only team yet to draw an away match in Serie A this season.
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Since rejoining AC Milan in January, Ibrahimovic has become the primary centre-forward for the club, having already featured in six Serie A matches. He has scored only two goals, one of which came against Inter in the Milan derby.
And with Milan struggling in February, the onus will be on the Swedish number nine to provide the threat going forward. Unfortunately, at the age of 38, he is not the most agile striker, but he can certainly cause problems for the Fiorentina defence with his lethal finishing and ability from long-range.
Ibrahimovic certainly needs to perform well if Milan are to have any hopes of securing all three points from this fixture.
Fiorentina 0-1 AC Milan
AC Milan have performed quite well defensively since the arrival of Pioli. And we expect the visitors to retain yet another clean sheet this weekend even though Fiorentina did score five goals in their last match. We also expect Milan to squeeze a narrow win like they have numerous times this season.