AC Milan are looking to maintain their excellent run of form as they travel to Stadio Paolo Mazza to face SPAL on Wednesday.

AC Milan have had a promising restart to their Serie A campaign, following a three-month break from football due to coronavirus. After being knocked out of the Coppa Italia earlier this month, they have registered two back to back wins in the league, with their most recent victory coming against AS Roma on Sunday.

The two wins have helped the Rossoneri maintain their challenge for a Europa League place. And heading into this fixture, they are just six points behind fifth-placed Roma and three points behind sixth-placed Napoli.

Securing another win, therefore, could certainly pressure on those two Italian giants, who have endured a disappointing campaign so far. For SPAL, however, it is a completely different story.

The minnows are dawdling at the bottom of the league table, with just 18 points on the board. Although there are still ten games remaining, they have very little chance of actually initiating a turnaround, having notably lost both of their league games since the restart.

At the same time, SPAL having nothing to lose means they can potentially pose a tricky test for a Milan side desperate to extend their winning run to three games. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this key fixture on Wednesday.

Tactics & Team News

SPAL

Despite their obvious shortcomings in terms of individual quality in the team, SPAL players are known for their hard work and commitment. Coach Luigi Di Biagio’s compact 4-4-2 setup, in that regard, certainly brings the best of their work ethic, with the system often focusing on creating a rigid defensive setup.

epa04817241 Luigi Di Biagio, head coach of Italy, reacts during UEFA European Under-21 Championship match between England and Italy at the Ander Stadium, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 24 June 2015. EPA/PETER POWELL .

Can Di Biagio’s men pull off an upset this midweek? (Photo by EPA/PETER POWELL )

Biagio will look to use a similar method against AC Milan this time out. The central defensive combination of Francesco Vicari and Felipe, in particular, are expected to defend deep, with additional support from the full-backs Thiago Cionek and Arkadiusz Reca, thus creating the first block of their defence.

In midfield, Biagio could opt for more defensive-minded players, thus paving the way for Mirko Valdifiori to replace Simone Missiroli. The veteran midfielder is set to partner Alessandro Murgia in the double-pivot. But, SPAL might also be looking for creative inspiration from the wider areas of the pitch.

That is why both Mattia Valoti and Marco D’Alessandro are pushing for a start, after impressing against Napoli in the last match. However, they are expected to operate in a compact setup, offering support to the central midfielders in the second line of press.

And finally, the SPAL attack is set to spearheaded by Alberto Cerri and top-scorer Andrea Petagna, who has already found the back of the net 12 times this season. His productivity could be critical for his team, given the low amount of chances they are likely to receive this midweek.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Letica; Cionek, Vicari, Felipe, Reca; D’Alessandro, Murgia, Valdifiori, Valoti; Petagna, Cerri

AC Milan

AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli is most likely to retain his 4-2-3-1 setup, but could one or two changes in personnel, especially with the coach keeping one eye on important fixture against Lazio on Saturday.

Alexis Saelemaekers, in particular, is expected to receive a rare start following his impressive performances. He could replace Samu Castillejo in the right-wing position, with Hakan Calhanoglu being a guaranteed starter on the opposite.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to be available for selection (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to be available for selection (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images)

Pioli, in his online press conference, has suggested that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been training well and could be included in the side that will travel to Ferrera. But, we shouldn’t expect any changes in the starting lineup, when it comes to the number nine slot, with Ante Rebic more than expected to get the nod ahead of Rafael Leao.

In midfield, Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer have created a solid foundation and should retain their place in the double-pivot. They could be complemented by Lucas Paqueta operating in the number ten slot. The Brazilian should return to the starting lineup at the expense of Giacomo Bonaventura, as part of Pioli’s rotations.

And finally, in defence, the Rossoneri are missing out on the services of Mateo Musacchio and Leo Duarte through injury. However, given the way Simon Kjaer and Alessio Romagnoli have performed in recent weeks, we shouldn’t expect any changes in central defence.

However, coach Pioli could be leaning towards Davide Calabria at right-back, at the expense of Andrea Conti while Theo Hernandez is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Paqueta, Calhanoglu; Rebic

Key Stats

  • SPAL have registered more defeats (20) than any other team in Serie A this season.
  • AC Milan have scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches against SPAL 2013 in all competitions
  • Only Cagliari (10th), Bologna (11th), Fiorentina (14th) and Udinese (15th) have conceded fewer goals than SPAL in the wrong end of Serie A table so far.
  • AC Milan have scored the joint least number of goals in the top half of Serie A table, along with Chievo Verona, finding the back of the net only 34 times.
  • Six of those goals, however, have come in the last two matches, with Milan being one of the most in-form teams in Serie A at the moment.

Player to Watch

Ante Rebic

Croatia's forward Ante Rebic poses before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

A superstar in the making? (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the turn of the year, Rebic has been starting to live up to his full potential for AC Milan this season. He has already netted eight goals in just 13 league matches so far, which has been critical to the Rossoneri‘s swift recovery under Pioli.

Indeed, Rebic has the makings of a top-quality attacker, whose aggression, tenacity and productivity have added another dimension in AC Milan’s offensive unit. And those traits could once again be useful as the Italian giants look to breach the SPAL defence this midweek.

Hence, it could be imperative for the opposition to keep a close eye on the Croatian international, who is more than capable of making a huge difference in any fixture.

Prediction

SPAL 0-2 AC Milan

Pioli making a few tweaks to his starting lineup could pose an intriguing test for the more fringe players in the side. But it is a challenge they are likely to overcome, especially with the likes of Rebic, Hernandez and a host of other top-quality players being in an excellent run of form. Hence, we expect a comfortable 2-0 win for the visitors in this one.

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