AC Milan will look to end their Europa League group stage on a high and hope that other results go in their favour to allow them to finish top of Group H.
AC Milan travel to the Czech Republic to face Sparta Prague in their final game of the Europa League group stage. A win would put the Rosonneri hot on the heels of leaders Lille heels who also need a victory versus Celtic to secure top spot.
Milan have been in terrific form this season and will look to extend their recent winning streak. Sparta Prague, on the other hand, are playing for pride and would hope to cause an upset and earn a consolation win.
Having secured qualification, this match will prove to be an important one for the Milan players that do get rare opportunities to prove themselves. Coming into the game on the back of a 2-1 win over Sampdoria, the visitors will be looking to inflict pain upon Sparta Prague who lost 3-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Prague would look to make amends for the 3-0 derby loss at home on the weekend and hope to get a positive result in the Europa League.
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Sparta Prague’s European dream came to an end the last gameweek as they lost 2-1 to Lille in what was a narrow loss. Currently second in their domestic league, the Prague derby loss must have affected the players after missing out on an opportunity to go to the top of the table.
Sparta have been pragmatic in their approach this season, deploying back fours or back threes depending on the situation. Versus heavyweights AC Milan, Sparta can be expected to line up with a back 5 where Andreas Vindheim and Matej Hanousek are expected to offer width as wing-backs.
Sparta boss, Vaclav Kotal, has several absentees through injury with the likes of Adam Hlozek and Libor Kozak are unavailable. Borek Dockal and Ondrej Celutska also remain sidelined due to suspensions. David Moberg Karlsson is expected to fill in for the captain, Dockal, and expected to partner Lukas Julis upfront.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Nita; Vindheim, Hancko, Pavelka, Pleachaty, Hanousek; Travnik, Soucek, Krejci; Julis, Moberg Karlsson
With a busy run of fixtures coming up for AC Milan, a heavily rotated Milan squad would take part in the clash in the Czech Republic.
Goalkeeper, Ciprian Tatarusanu, is set to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma. Out of favour defender, Andrea Conti is expected to start as one of the full-backs along with Diogo Dalot. 21-year old, Matteo Gabbia, has caught the eye of his manager Pioli and in a game of heavy rotations, is likely to start as well.
With no Simon Kjaer or Alessio Romagnoli in the travelling squad, Leo Duarte is expected to feature against Sparta Prague at the heart of the Milan defence.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) December 9, 2020
Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic will continue to sit out and hope to return to the starting line up by the weekend. Rafael Leao handed a boost to Pioli by returning to training before the Europa League fixture. But Ismael Bennacer too will miss the game.
Rade Krunic and Sandro Tonali will replace the usual Kessie-Bannacer pairing in this match and hope to make a similar impact. The young duo will be accompanied by another host of youngsters who would look to form Milan’s attack. Jens Petter Hauge, Samu Castillejo and Brahim Diaz are all likely to start the game. Lorenzo Colombo could also be in line start as the centre-forward.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Conti, Duarte, Gabbia, Dalot; Krunic, Tonali; Castillejo, Diaz, Hauge; Colombo
- AC Milan have won 5 out of the 7 encounters versus Sparta Prague in a major European competition.
- Sparta Prague have only lost one of their last 17 Europa League group stage matches at home (11 Wins, 5 draws).
- AC Milan have had three different goal scorers from the bench in the Europa League, which is only bettered by Hoffenheim who have had 5 different scorers.
- Sparta Prague’s previous three home matches against Milan in major European competition have just seen one goal scored. Their last two meetings in Prague have both ended goalless.
- Milan have faced Sparta Prague more times without losing (P7 W5 D2) in major UEFA European competition than any other team.
Player to Watch
Samu Castillejo's last 3 appearances:
— The Milan Corner (@themilancorner) December 6, 2020
Castillejo has now scored in his previous three games in all competitions and the Spaniard looks in fine form. The 25-year old is looking to fight for a spot in the Milan starting XI and the recent performances will give him confidence.
With Pioli resting a lot of regulars for the game against Prague, the onus will be on Castillejo to deliver once again, while the hosts will need to be wary of the threat posed by him if they are to come out on top on Thursday.
Sparta Prague 1-2 AC Milan
Despite the expectation of a weaker side, Milan are likely to crunch a result from this difficult fixture considering the form they are in. Milan’s youngsters look in fine nick and will certainly be the reason behind this victory. The Rossoneri are building a really threatening and talented squad of youngsters, and it is difficult to see someone stop them at the moment.