AC Milan will be aiming to return to winning ways in the UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with LOSC Lille at Stade Pierre Mauroy on Thursday.

Matchday four of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League kicks off on Thursday and one of the most exciting fixtures of the evening will come our way from Stade Pierre Mauroy where LOSC Lille host AC Milan in what will be the battle of the top two in Group H.

Indeed, Lille, who are unbeaten in the Europa League so far, are perched at the top of the group with seven points from three games (W2 D1). Christophe Galtier’s side have lost just one of their 14 matches in all competitions in the 2020/21 season, with their latest fixture ending in a 4-0 win over Lorient in Ligue 1.

AC Milan are second in Group H, with six points from three matches (W2 L1). Stefano Pioli’s men have made a strong start to the season and like Lille, have lost just once in all competitions so far, although that did come in the reverse fixture against their opponents on Thursday. The Rossoneri beat Napoli 3-1 in their last game and will be out for revenge when they take the field in France.

With Sparta Prague lurking behind in third, a win will be essential for both Lille and Milan as they look to take a step towards qualifying for the knockout stages. And ahead of their latest meeting this midweek, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Lille

Renato Sanches will be unavailable for Lille (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Renato Sanches will be unavailable for Lille (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Lille will be without the services of former Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches for the game, while Zeki Celik could also miss out with an ankle problem. The hosts are also sweating over the fitness of Luiz Araujo but will be boosted by the return of Boubakary Soumare, who made the bench against Lorient at the weekend.

Jose Fonte, Reinildo and Burak Yilmaz were unavailable for selection at the weekend due to suspension, but will be in contention to feature on Thursday. Galtier should set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation against Milan, with the impressive Mike Maignan lining up in goal.

Jeremy Pied and Domagoj Bradaric are expected to be the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, while the returning Fonte should pair up with Sven Botman at the heart of the Lille defence. This backline will be shielded by the midfield double pivot of Benjamin Andre and Soumare, who is likely to start in place of Xeka on Thursday.

The creativity will come from the wide duo of Jonathan Ikone and Jonathan Bamba, who will look to make the most of the spaces left vacant by the attack-minded Milan full-backs. These two will act as the supply-line of chances for the strike partnership of Jonathan David and Yusuf Yazici, who scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Maignan; Pied, Fonte, Botman, Bradaric; Ikone, Andre, Soumare, Bamba; David, Yazici

AC Milan

AC Milan have been hit with a hammer blow heading into Thursday’s game as in-form superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out due to an injury he sustained against Napoli at the weekend. Apart from the Swede, the visitors are likely to be without Rafael Leao and Mateo Musacchio as well.

Stefano Pioli, who will not be on the touchline on Thursday, owing to the fact that he has coronavirus, will make some changes to his regular starting lineup as has been the case for the Europa League matches this season. No alterations will take place between the sticks, however, with Gianluigi Donnarumma the undisputed starter.

No Zlatan for Milan (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

No Zlatan for Milan (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Three of the back four that started at the weekend are likely to be retained as well, with Simon Kjaer, Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez all expected to feature from kick-off once again. There will be a change at right-back, though, as Diogo Dalot is in line to replace Davide Calabria.

Franck Kessie ought to keep his place in the midfield double pivot for the Rossoneri. However, he may be in for a change of partners, with the talented Sandro Tonail likely to start ahead of Ismael Bennacer, who has been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester City. Brahim Diaz is in line for a start as the No. 10 ahead of Hakan Calhanoglu.

Samu Castillejo should come in for Alexis Saelemaekers on the right flank while summer signing Jens Petter Hauge could be in line for his first start for Milan on the left side after scoring against Napoli at the weekend. With Ibrahimovic unavailable, Ante Rebic is expected to slot in as the centre-forward.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Castillejo, Diaz, Hauge; Rebic

Key Stats

  • AC Milan have lost both of their last two European meetings against Lille. The Rossoneri have lost three in a row to the same team in Europe on just two occasions previously – four games vs Ajax between 1974 and 1995, three games vs Arsenal between 2012 and 2018.
  • Lille beat Milan 3-0 in the reverse fixture at San Siro earlier this month. It was the Italian outfit’s worst-ever home defeat in European competitions.
  • A defeat on Thursday would see Milan lose two group games on the bounce in a major European competition for the first time since December 2006.
  • Lille are without a win in their 14 home matches (D7 L7) in any European competition (qualifiers excluded). Their last win in such a fixture came against Gent in Europa League in 2010.
  • AC Milan have won all of their seven away games across all competitions this season. The Rossoneri have scored at least two goals in each of those fixtures.

Player to Watch

Jonathan David

The Canadian international had been on the radars of a number of top clubs in Europe including Arsenal this past summer, after a blistering 2019/20 season with Belgian outfit Gent, which saw him bag 23 goals and 10 assists in 43 matches across all competitions.

However, he ended up moving to Lille, although he has since endured a rather slow start to life in France, having had to wait for as many as 14 games to score his first goal for the club. But now that he got that first one out of the way this past weekend against Lorient, the 20-year-old David will want to kick on and go on an extended goal-scoring run.

Prediction

Lille 2-1 AC Milan

Both Lille and AC Milan have made impressive starts to the campaign, sitting second and first in their respective leagues, while occupying the top two spots in Group H of the Europa League.

However, Milan were completely outplayed by Lille the last time these two sides met. Add to that, the Rossoneri will also be without the services of talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is likely to be a major dent to their chances of a win here.

It could be closer than the reverse fixture at San Siro, but without Ibrahimovic, Milan are at a disadvantage. And with Jonathan David starting to click, Lille could end up clinching an important victory on Thursday night.

Leave A Comment...

*