AC Milan will be gunning to kickstart their 2020/21 Serie A campaign on a winning note when they play hosts to Bologna on Monday night.

The 2020/21 Serie A season got underway this weekend, with the final fixture of Matchday 1 set to be played on Monday night at San Siro, as AC Milan lock horns against Bologna.

After a stuttering start to the 2019/20 campaign, Milan recovered well under Stefano Pioli and were the most in-form team post-lockdown, finishing sixth in the Serie A. The Rossoneri have been in good form heading into the new season, having won each of their four friendlies, before beating Shamrock Rovers 2-0 in the UEFA Europa League second round qualifiers.

Bologna, on the other hand, ended last season in twelfth place, two places below the finish they had achieved in 2018/19. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men won just one of their previous eight Serie A outings in the run-in last season. They will be hoping to arrest that dip and start the new season strongly when they travel to San Siro on Monday.

AC Milan thrashed Bologna in the corresponding fixture last season, with goals coming from Alexis Saelemaekers, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ismael Bennacer, Ante Rebic and Davide Calabria, while Takehiro Tomiyasu scored the only goal for the visitors. And ahead of their latest meeting on Monday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Steadying the ship at AC Milan. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Steadying the ship at AC Milan. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Milan will welcome Ante Rebic back into the squad for the game against Bologna after he missed the midweek Europa League encounter due to suspension. However, they will continue to be without Alessio Romagnoli, Mateo Mussachio, Andrea Conti and Rafael Leao.

No major changes are likely to be made to the team that eked out a hard-fought win over Shamrock Rovers. Gianluigi Donnarumma ought to continue in goal, with new signing Ciprian Tatarusanu on the bench. The Rossoneri are expected to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, with the backline of Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Matteo Gabbia and Theo Hernandez shielding Donnarumma.

Ismael Bennacer has grown into a key component of the team and ought to continue in the midfield double pivot. Partnering him will be Franck Kessie, who will look to provide the forward thrust from the centre. The playmaking duties will fall onto the shoulders of Hakan Calhanoglu, who scored in the win over Shamrock Rovers.

With Rebic available, he is expected to walk back into the side on the left flank. Alexis Saelemaekers, who failed to make much of an impression, should drop out, with Samu Castillejo continuing on the right wing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic ought to be the man leading the AC Milan attack on Monday night.

New signings Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz will hope to get some minutes from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

Bologna

The visitors have no injury issues at all heading into their first game of the season. However, manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will be unable to call upon seasoned campaigner Gary Medel, who is suspended for the tie. Like AC Milan, Bologna, too, are expected to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lukasz Skorupski starting in goal.

Sinisa Mihajlovic will be looking for a win against his former employers (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Sinisa Mihajlovic will be looking for a win against his former employers (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Lorenzo De Silvestri and Mitchell Dijks ought to be the two full-backs, who will have license to push forward and provide width during the attacking phases. At the heart of the defence will be Danilo and Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was on the scoresheet the last time Bologna faced Milan.

Captain Andrea Poli will hold the fort in the centre of the park for the Rossoblu. With no Medel, 22-year-old Nicolas Dominguez is in contention to partner him the double pivot, ahead of the likes of Mattias Svanberg and Jerdy Schouten. Roberto Soriano will slot in as the No. 10 and look to make an impact in the final third of the pitch.

Riccardo Orsolini will slot in on the right flank and will look to capitalise on any vacant spaces left behind by Milan’s attack-minded left-back Theo Hernandez. Musa Barrow, who finished the last season as Bologna’s top scorer in Serie A with nine goals despite joining only in January, will slot in on the left flank.

Spearheading the attack for the visiting side against Milan will be 38-year-old Argentine ace Rodrigo Palacio. Federico Santander will be an option from the bench for Mihajlovic to call upon.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Skorupski; De Silvestri, Danilo, Tomiyasu, Dijks; Dominguez, Poli; Orsolini, Soriano, Barrow; Palacio

Key Stats

  • AC Milan and Bologna have already faced each other 144 times in their history. The Rossoneri have the clear upper-hand in the head-to-head record with 68 wins, compared to Bologna’s 38 victories (D38).
  • Milan have a vastly impressive record at home against Bologna. They have racked up 42 wins in 72 matches on their own backyard, while losing just 13 times (D17).
  • Following the 2-0 at Shamrock Rovers, Milan are now unbeaten in their last 14 fixtures across all competitions (W10 D4). The last time they went on a longer such run was in 2008 under Carlo Ancelotti (16).
  • Bologna, on the other hand, have won just three of their last 15 fixtures in all competitions (D5 L7).
  • Milan have lost their opening day fixtures of the Serie A in the last two seasons. They have never lost three consecutive opening day matches in their history. Bologna, on the other hand, have won just one of their first league game of a season in the last ten years (D4 L5).

Player to Watch

Hakan Calhanoglu

Living up to expectations, finally (Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Living up to expectations, finally (Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

While the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic grabbed the limelight, the role that Hakan Calhanoglu played in Milan’s resurgence in the second half of the last season cannot be understated. The Turkish playmaker was easily one of the best performers in Serie A post lockdown. He was directly involved in 14 goals during this period (6 goals, 8 assists) – more than any player in the league.

And, he has started the new season with a bang, scoring and assisting a goal each in the Europa League game against Shamrock Rovers earlier this week. For Milan to enjoy a good season, Calhanoglu’s form will be critical. And the manager will be hoping that the 26-year-old carries on from where he left off last time out.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-0 Bologna

Milan boast a very impressive record against Bologna, especially at home and have won the last four matches against the Rossoblu at San Siro, including a 5-1 trouncing last season. Under Stefano Pioli, they are looking the part and going up against Bologna, who had one of the worst defensive records in Serie A last season, they should be able to bag a straightforward win on Monday.

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