Serie A returns to action this Sunday as leaders AC Milan travel to newly-promoted Benevento as they look to stay on top of the table.

AC Milan will look to start the New Year on a positive note after a phenomenal 2020 for the Rossoneri. Indeed, AC Milan lost just four times in the entirety of the previous calendar year, with only one of those four losses coming in the current campaign. They will take confidence from this record and look to push for the Scudetto starting from their trip to Benevento.

AC Milan suffered a small blip in form after suffering disappointing draws versus the likes of Parma and Genoa. However, with the champion-like mentality that they have shown time after time under Stefano Pioli, they lifted themselves to impressive wins against Lazio and Sassuolo.

Benevento, on the other hand, have endured a successful return to the Serie A after two long years in the second division. Filippo Inzaghi has had a telling impact on this team as they are placed 10th in the Serie A having lost just once in their last seven outings. Ths hosts went into the winter break with two wins on the trot and will be looking to spoil Milan’s party come Sunday.

AC Milan’s trip to the dauntless Benevento offers an exciting game for the neutrals. And even though it looks easy on paper, it certainly won’t be the case when the players step onto the pitch.

Team News & Tactics

Benevento

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Filippo Inzaghi, who will be relishing the challenge against the club where he had his most successful stint as a player, is without three players for the game. Central defender Luca Caldirola is the pick of the absentees, having already featured in 9 games this season. Christian Maggio and Iago Falque also join the defender on the sidelines.

Benevento are expected to line-up in their typical “Christmas Tree” formation with Gianluca Lapadula expected to be the lone striker. Artur Ionita and Gianluca Caprari are expected to offer Lapadula support as the duo that operates behind him.

Benevento’s excess presence in the midfield area is key to their game and their midfield trio will have to be at their best to dominate Milan’s sensational double pivot. Riccardo Improta, Pasquale Schiattarella and Perparim Hetemaj are mainstays in this Benevento midfield and are expected to retain their spots.

In the absence of Caldirola, Kamil Glik is expected to be partnered by Alessandro Tuia in central defence. Meanwhile, Federico Barba could slot in at left with Gaetano Letizia, who scored a wonder goal versus Juventus, at right-back. Lorenzo Montipo should continue in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Montipo; Letizia, Glik, Tuia, Barba; Improta, Schiattarella, Hetemaj; Caprari, Ionita; Lapadula

AC Milan

Stefano Pioli has the important task to keep this Milan team going with city rivals Inter Milan hot on their heels. Milan will be hoping to continue their good form this season in 2021 too as they kick things off with a nervy trip to Benevento.

Pioli is without several key first-team members in this clash. Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to be protected by the manager and is expected to be gradually eased back into action. Milan deserve a lot of credit for keeping a good run of results coming despite their frontman’s absence.

Key midfielder Ismael Bennacer remains sidelined with Alexis Saelemaekers and Samu Castillejo also doubts for the trip to Benevento. Matteo Gabbia is also ruled out, while left-back Theo Hernandez, who has notched up crucial goals this season, is suspended for this match.

Milan have done well to deal with all the absentees throughout the season and should continue to do so. Simon Kjaer is back in contention after the winter break and should start centrally alongside captain Alessio Romagnoli. Diogo Dalot is expected to slot in at left-back for Hernandez, while Davide Calabria ought to operate on the right.

Franck Kessie has also regained fitness and is expected to start alongside young talent, Sandro Tonali. Hakan Calhanoglu is expected to essay the No. 10 role yet again, with Rafael Leao up ahead of him as the lone striker. Ante Rebic should start on the left, with Brahim Diaz on the right.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Dalot; Kessie, Tonali; Diaz, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Leao

Key Stats

  • AC Milan have scored at least 2 goals in each of their last 16 games, and are unbeaten in their last 26 league games.
  • Benevento won their first Serie A point back in 2017 versus AC Milan with a 2-2 draw after 14 consecutive defeats in their first season in the top-flight.
  • Benevento have the opportunity to win two games at home for the first time since 2018 if they beat AC Milan. Meanwhile, Milan are unbeaten in their last 14 games on the road (W10, D4), their longest run since 2004.
  • AC Milan are unbeaten when playing their first game of the calendar year away from home (W8, D1), with their last such loss coming versus Lazio in 1997.
  • AC Milan have been winning at both half time and full time in 8 of their last 9 away Serie A matches.

Player to Watch

Hakan Calhanoglu

With Benevento fielding a rather packed midfield, Calhanoglu’s presence and creativity in the middle of the park become extremely crucial for AC Milan’s success. The Turkish international has been an essential figure for the Rossoneri in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and will be expected to take responsibility once again.

Calhanolgu’s most recent performance versus Lazio was one to remember, as the Turk notched up a goal with two assists to go with it. It was a stellar performance by Milan’s playmaker and he will look to emulate that once again.

Prediction

Benevento 1-2 AC Milan

AC Milan have been in terrific form this season and with Inter Milan breathing down their neck, they have to make sure to take all three points from this fixture with the game against Juventus looming large over their heads.

Benevento’s win against Genoa had some fortune to it without a doubt as they created very little. However, Inzaghi’s men have not been the easiest opponents to defeat. Milan’s trip to Benevento won’t be easy but they should ultimately succeed in earning all three points from this match.

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