AC Milan will be hoping to strengthen their hold at the top of the Serie A table when they lock horns with Atalanta at San Siro on Saturday evening.

AC Milan will be aiming to make it four wins in four games across all competitions when they play hosts to Atalanta at San Siro in Matchweek 19 of the 2020/21 Serie A this weekend.

After a blip against reigning champions Juventus, AC Milan are back to winning ways and have defeated Torino (once each in the league and Coppa Italia) and Cagliari in their last three games. The Rossoneri’s return to winning ways has seen them open up a three-point lead over second-placed Inter Milan and will be hoping to extend it further with a victory.

Atalanta, on the other hand, are stationed in the sixth place in the Serie A standings, just a point below Napoli in third. After a run of four wins in all competitions, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have drawn their last two matches against Genoa and Udinese in the league and will be aiming to bring that run to an end and push up the table with a win on Saturday.

The corresponding fixture between Milan and Atalanta last season had ended in a 1-1 draw with Duvan Zapata cancelling out an early goal from Hakan Calhanoglu. And ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday at San Siro, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Hakan Calhanoglu is unavailable for AC Milan against Atalanta (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Hakan Calhanoglu is unavailable for AC Milan against Atalanta. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

AC Milan have been treated with some very good news on the roster issue front heading into Saturday’s game as Theo Hernandez, Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic are all back after missing the last few games due to coronavirus. However, Hakan Calhanoglu remains sidelined while Alessio Romagnoli and Alexis Saelemaekers are both suspended for the game.

In addition, Ismael Bennacer and Matteo Gabbia are also out injured. Stefano Pioli is likely to make a few changes that beat Cagliari last time out. No alterations will be made in goal, though, with Gianluigi Donnarumma the undisputed starter between the sticks.

Davide Calabria ought to start on the right flank while the returning Hernandez should slot in on the left and look to provide a constant outlet with their overlapping runs. Simon Kjaer will be the leader of the Milan defence in Romagnoli’s absence and will have youngster Pierre Kalulu as his partner.

Franck Kessie and Sandro Tonali will form the double pivot in the middle of the park for Milan. The former will look to provide the forward thrust and drive from the centre while the youngster will essay the role of a deep-lying playmaker. The creative onus, though, will be on the shoulders of Brahim Diaz, who should slot in as the No. 10 in Calhanoglu’s absence.

Samu Castillejo should get the nod on the right while Rafael Leao could start on the left ahead of Jens Petter Hauge, who underwhelmed last time out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be the man leading the AC Milan attack, with the fit-again Rebic and January signing Mario Mandzukic providing options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kalulu, Kjaer, Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Castillejo, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic

Atalanta

Unlike his counterpart in the AC Milan dugout, Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini does not have a large number of injury-enforced absentees ahead of the trip to San Siro. Mario Pasalic remains sidelined, though, while Alejandro Gomez continues to be frozen out as he searches for a new club this month.

Atalanta will line up in their usual 3-4-1-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini as they look to halt Milan’s momentum in the league. There will be several changes made to the starting XI that took the field in the 1-1 draw against Udinese earlier this week.

Berat Djimsiti ought to come into the three-man backline in place of Jose Luis Palomino to partner Rafael Toloi and Cristian Romero, who will look to keep a close watch on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao’s movements.

Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens should be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. The duo will be responsible for providing the width going forward, but will need to be wary of the threat posed by their opposite numbers, who carry great threat while pushing forward themselves.

Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon should return to the starting XI with the duo tasked with shielding the defence by cutting out any threat before it fully develops. The creative onus will be on the shoulders of summer signing Matteo Pessina, who will look to support and fashion chances for the strike partnership of Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina; Ilicic, Zapata

Key Stats

  • AC Milan have a poor record against Atalanta of late, having won just one of their last ten meetings versus La Dea in Serie A (D3 L6).
  • Atalanta are undefeated in their last 6 away matches against AC Milan in all competitions.
  • AC Milan are undefeated in 29 of their last 30 matches in Serie A.
  • Atalanta forward Josip Ilicic has been involved in six goals in his last five games against AC Milan in Serie A (three goals and three assists).
  • AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli has won six of his 14 previous Serie A meetings with Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini (D4 L4).

Player to Watch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Embed from Getty Images

Having only recently returned from a lengthy layoff, the Swedish maverick showed no signs of rust as he dragged AC Milan to a win over Cagliari earlier this week with a match-winning brace. In just eight Serie A outings, Ibrahimovic, at 39 years of age, has plundered 12 goals at a rate of one every 52 minutes.

In fact, only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals than the AC Milan frontman in the league this term. So, it goes without saying that Stefano Pioli will once again look to the giant Swede to deliver the goods in the final third agaist Atalanta.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-1 Atalanta

Atalanta have an exceptional record against AC Milan recently, especially at San Siro. However, there are winds of change blowing within the Rossoneri camp, who have shown great strength and resilience to emerge from difficult situations and open up a lead at the top of the Serie A standings.

With the likes of Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata well-rested after not starting in midweek, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men will certainly take the game to the league leaders, who will be without their defensive leader Alessio Romagnoli.

But, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s form coupled with the return of Theo Hernandez ought to give the hosts the edge, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts Milan to pick up a hard-fought victory.

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