Serie A returns as league leaders AC Milan look to continue their high flying start to the season as they welcome Fiorentina to the San Siro.

AC Milan are the team to keep your eyes on this season, thanks to an impressive start to the season. After a thumping 3-1 win versus Napoli, the Rossoneri travelled to France and earned a point versus Lille in the Europa League. Milan would be hoping to get back to winning ways after that draw.

They host Fiorentina who have been somewhat of a “bogey team” for them in the previous few seasons. Milan have only won 5 of their last 18 matches versus Fiorentina. Piolo’s men would be hoping to look past that record and extend their lead at the top.

Cesare Prandelli, best known for Italy’s run to the Euro 2012 finals,  is currently at the helm of 15th placed Fiorentina, after they sacked Giuseppe Iachini earlier this month. Prandelli suffered a defeat to Benevento in his first match. However, it is still early days in the season and Fiorentina would be hoping to turn their fortunes around soon. A result versus Milan would require an extremely good performance, but it is not impossible.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Former Fiorentina manager, Stefano Pioli has a selection headache for Milan. Zlatan Ibrahimovic limped off the game versus Napoli and remains sidelined. Raphael Leao will also fail to make Milan’s squad, while Alexis Saelemaekers will face a late fitness test.

Davide Calabria and Alessio Romagnoli are expected to return to the Milan team that played versus Lille in France. Franck Kessie will replace the 20 year-old Sandro Tonali and partner Ismael Bennacer in midfield.

Several injuries up front will force Pioli to rotate. Ante Rebic will lead the line-up for the second game running. Mid-week’s goal scorer, Samu Castillejo is expected to start again. Hakan Calhanoglu will retain his playmaking role and Brahim Diaz could earn a rare start for an impressive cameo versus Lille. A lot will depend on Saelemaekers’ fitness, who remains to be a doubt.

With main man Ibrahimovic unavailable, it will be interesting to see how Milan approach this game. A lot of Milan’s goals came from crosses with Ibrahimovic at the receiving end. In his absence, Milan will have to look to play more with the ball and look to break down Fiorentina, who will try to prevent giving them space and time on the ball.

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

Fiorentina

With newly appointed, Prandelli in charge of things, Fiorentina would hope to string a good run of results and gain momentum. A game versus Milan is probably the last thing needed at this point.

Prandelli, unlike Pioli, nearly has a fully fit squad. While Franck Ribery and Giacomo Bonaventura picked up knocks last week, they are both in contention to feature for Fiorentina. With the former AC Milan midfielder, Bonaventura, especially keen on making an impact.

With Prandelli still tinkering with his new team, it is hard to predict his team. However, Sofyan Amrabat and Gaetano Castrovilla are likely to start in the middle of the park. Nikola Milenkovic and Cristiano Biraghi will field the full-back roles, with Igor Julio at the centre. Patrick Cutrone is likely to compete with Dusan Vlahovic for a start.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dragowski; Biraghi, Igor, Pezzella, Milenkovic; Castrovilli, Amrabat; Ribery, Bonaventura, Kouame; Vlahovic.

Key Stats

  • Only Milan and Atletico Madrid are still without defeat in the top five European leagues since football resumed post-lockdown – with 20 unbeaten games for the Rossoneri.
  • Milan have scored in each of their last 28 league matches – only between December 1972 and December 1973 have Milan been on a longer such streak in Serie A. With that record set at 29 consecutive games, few would bet against them matching it when Fiorentina come to town this weekend.
  • Milan have won only five of their last 18 games against Fiorentina in Serie A – losing seven – after previously racking up seven consecutive wins between 2008 and 2011.
  • Only Juventus (78) have more wins than AC Milan (72) versus Fiorentina
  • This is the second time that AC Milan have won 20 points in 8 matches in the 3 points for a win era. The last time they managed this was in the 03/04 season where they went onto win the league.

Player to Watch

Hakan Calhanoglu

In the absence of Zlatan, Milan will rely on their star playmaker Calhanoglu to run the show. Calhanoglu has produced a couple of decent performances in recent time, but the stage is set for him in this one. His creativity will be key in Milan breaking Fiorentina down and Calhanoglu is likely to be involved in the goals scored by Milan.

Calhanoglu is a player that racked up 12 key passes in the game versus Hellas Verona, and 5 in the game before that. Needless to say, the Turkish midfielder exudes creativity and will be a key figure for the Rossoneri.

Prediction

AC Milan 1-0 Fiorentina

Milan have scored 19 goals in the league this season, 10 of which have been scored by talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The next top scorer in the team is the injured Raphael Leao and the penalty taker Franck Kessie, with 2 goals each. It will be interesting to see how Milan cope with these absentees and whether they can continue to produce results.

With Fiorentina likely to attempt to set up defensively, it wont be easy for Milan to score goals. A closely contested game is on the cards, but an AC Milan victory seems to be on the cards.

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