AC Milan will be hoping to retain their place at the top of Serie A table when they lock horns with Sampdoria on Sunday.

AC Milan will be in the hunt for all three points when they travel Stadio Luigi Ferraris to face Sampdoria on Sunday. The Italian giants have been one of the best-performing teams in Europe this season and are coming on the back of a six successive away wins in the league for only the third time in the club’s history.

One of the main features in Stefano Pioli’s remarkable Milan side is their ability to score goals. The Rossoneri have netted 21 goals in just nine matches while they can also break the record of scoring in 29th successive league matches if they find the back of the net against Sampdoria this weekend.

The Blucerchiati might just be the ideal opposition as well, as they are yet to keep a clean sheet in any of their last seven matches in all competitions. The hosts are also winless in the last five matches, with their most recent triumph coming against Salernitana in the third round of Coppa Italia.

Such a disappointing run of form sees Sampdoria sit 11th in the table, but Claudio Ranieri will be aware that causing an upset against league leaders Milan could give his side the much-needed boost in confidence. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer assessment of their chances of doing so, in this highly important Serie A fixture this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Sampdoria

Ranieri’s men play with an interchangeable 4-2-3-1 formation that can shift into a 4-1-4-1 or even a 4-4-2 depending on the situation. In either way, the idea will be to sit deep and invite pressure from the opposition as Sampdoria have done quite often this season, notably attaining the third least amount of possession in Serie A.

Ranieri will be looking to end the season on a high (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)

Can Ranieri  (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)

A 4-4-2 seems more appropriate in this fixture, with two banks of four providing cover to goalkeeper Emil Audero. It won’t be surprising to see Sampdoria playing narrowly between the two lines, offering very little space for Milan to not only build-up from the back but also ease their transition game. The attacking midfielder could thus join the striker – creating the first line of press.

Maya Yoshida is pretty much a guaranteed starter at the heart of the four-man backline but Ranieri could recall Lorenzo Tonelli this weekend, even though the ex-Leicester City boss does have the option of deploying Alex Ferrari as well as Omar Colley. These two will be further aided by the two full-backs in Bartosz Bereszynski and Tommaso Augello.

Yoshida and Tonelli are primarily strong in physical and aerial duels but it will be interesting to see whether or not that will be enough to thwart the in-form Milan forwards. Nevertheless, the central midfield duo of Morten Thorsby and Albin Ekdal could play a key role in offering additional support.

Meanwhile, in the attack, Ranieri is missing out on the services of Keita Balde. So, Jakub Jankto will continue to deputise for the winger on the left flank while Antonio Candreva starts at right midfield.

It essentially means that the onus will be on veteran forward Fabio Quagliarella to provide the productivity, though he is set to receive additional support from Gaston Ramirez operating as a number ten. These are also expected to play a key role in Sampdoria’s first line of press.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Audero; Bereszynski, Yoshida, Tonelli, Augello; Thorsby, Ekdal; Candreva, Ramirez, Jankto; Quagliarella

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AC Milan

There are doubts lingering over the fitness of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic with coach Pioli confirming earlier this week that he doesn’t expect the Swede to recover from his muscle injury in time. His absence should, therefore, pave the way for Ante Rebic to spearhead the AC Milan attack on Sunday, especially with Rafael Leao also missing.

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

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

The Serie A giants are, however, heading into this game on the back of a strenuous midweek fixture against Celtic so there will be changes in the offing for the visitors.

Especially in the creative department, we expect both Samu Castillejo and Jens Petter Hauge to return to the bench, despite scoring against Celtic on Thursday. They should make way for Alexis Saelemaekers and Brahim Diaz. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, is likely to retain his place in the number ten role.

There could be an alteration in midfield too with Rade Krunic being replaced by Ismael Bennacer. The Algerian star should once again form the double-pivot alongside Franck Kessie. These two are set to play a key role in the second line of press, though they are expected to enjoy a lot of possession this weekend.

And finally, in defence, Pioli could be forced to continue with Matteo Gabbia due to Simon Kjaer’s injury against Celtic. Gabbia should, therefore, form the central defensive pairing alongside Alessio Romagnoli, with Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria operating as full-backs and Gianluigi Donnarumma retaining his place in goal.

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

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Key Stats

  • Sampdoria have lost 64 Serie A matches against AC Milan, only versus Inter have they suffered more defeats in the top-flight.
  • After winning all of their three games played in October, Sampdoria have collected two points in four matches in November 2020.
  • Sampdoria have scored in each of their last 12 Serie A home matches: the last time Blucerchiati enjoyed a longer such streak was in September 2010 (13).
  • In case of a goal, AC Milan will set their record of scoring in consecutive Serie A games (30). In fact, the Rossoneri equalled the previous such streak established between 1972 and 1972 (29) in the last matchday against Fiorentina.
  • AC Milan have won their last six away league games; the Rossoneri have only managed a longer such streak twice in their history in Serie A: in 1993 under Fabio Capello (9) and in 1964 under Nils Liedholm (7).

Player to Watch

Hakan Calhanoglu

Focus. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Focus. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Hakan Calhanoglu has been arguably the second most important player for AC Milan in their majestic start to the campaign. He has been one of the best performing playmakers in Europe’s top five leagues, averaging almost four key passes per game. His exceptional tally in Serie A is higher than any other player in the league this season.

In midweek, Calhanoglu also scored his 18th free-kick goal since the start of the 2013/14 campaign, becoming the only player since Lionel Messi to achieve that feat. And with Leao and Ibrahimovic likely to miss out, the Turkish international will once again become a vital asset in Milan’s attack this weekend.

For Sampdoria, keeping Calhanoglu will be imperative if they are to have any hopes of putting an end to Milan’s exceptional scoring record in the league this season. They also need to avoid making any silly fouls outside the box, knowing the playmaker’s prowess from set-pieces.

Prediction

Sampdoria 1-2 AC Milan

AC Milan are unlikely to be fazed by the absence of Ibrahimovic and Leao this weekend, especially against a Sampdoria team who have lacked sharpness and solidity in recent weeks. The Rossoneri also have an excellent record away from home, though the absence of Simon Kjaer could serve as a major blow in the defensive department.

Nonetheless, the visitors shouldn’t find any difficulty in dominating the game this weekend and we expect them to seal a 2-1 victory at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

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