AC Milan will be hoping to consolidate their place inside the Serie A top four when they take on Lazio at Stadio Olimpico on Monday.
We are about to enter the final month of the 2020/21 season, which means the action is frantic and coming at us at a relentless pace. In Italy, Matchday 33 will draw to a close on Monday with the marquee fixture of this round, as Lazio play hosts to AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico.
Lazio have endured a difficult 2020/21 season, with a top four finish unlikely. Heading into the latest round of fixtures, the Biancocelesti are seven points adrift of fourth-placed Atalanta, with Europa League qualification seeming like their best hope to secure European football. However, Simone Inzaghi’s men have been formidable at home, winning each of their last nine at Stadio Olimpico.
AC Milan, on the other hand, have been an enigmatic team this season. Looking quite imperious in the first half of the season, it looked like the Rossoneri would not only return to the Champions League in style, but also possibly win the Serie A title. However, their campaign has gone pear-shaped since the turn of the year, and they are now perilously looking over their shoulders, with 5th placed Napoli just three points adrift.
The reverse fixture, played at San Siro back in December, saw AC Milan eke out a narrow 3-2 win over Lazio courtesy an injury-time winner by Theo Hernandez. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Simone Inzaghi does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of AC Milan. On Monday, the Lazio manager will be bereft of the services of just two first-team players, with Luiz Felipe (ankle) and Gonzalo Escalante (muscle injury) sidelined.
While the absence of Felipe is somewhat concerning, Inzaghi has enough cover in his squad to cover for the the Brazilian. In his stead, Stefan Radu ought to start alongside Patric and Francesco Acerbi in the three-man central defensive unit, which will provide cover to former AC Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Up ahead in midfield, the onus will be on Lucas Leiva to keep a lid on Hakan Calhanoglu’s output, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto will provide the forward thrust from the middle of the park. Manuel Lazzari and Adam Marusic will be the two wing-backs, who will be in-charge of providing the width in the final third.
Finally, the Lazio strike partnership will be formed by Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa for the umpteenth time this season. Correa will play off of Immobile, who will take up more dangerous positions inside the AC Milan box.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Reina; Patric, Acerbi, Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Leiva, Alberto, Marusic; Correa, Immobile
Unlike his counterpart in the Lazio dugout, Stefano Pioli has been handed quite a boost on the team news front ahead of the trip to Stadio Olimpico. On Monday, the AC Milan manager will only have to make do without one first-team player, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing out of the travelling squad.
Pioli did mention in his pre-match press conference that Ibrahimovic is recovering well, but the game against Lazio has come too soon for him. The good news, though, comes in the form of the availability of Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer, both of whom have recovered from minor knocks.
Hernandez should, therefore, start on the left side of the AC Milan defence, while Bennacer will be stationed in the midfield double pivot alongside Franck Kessie. The Rossoneri’s backline will likely be completed by Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori, meaning Alessio Romagnoli will miss out again. In goal, there is no looking past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Interestingly, it looks like Mario Mandzukic could be set to lead the line for AC Milan against Lazio, with Rafael Leao moving out to the left flank. Leao’s new role means Ante Rebic could be deployed on the right wing, with Hakan Calhanoglu a certainty in the no. 10 role.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Rebic, Calhanoglu, Leao; Mandzukic
- AC Milan have won each of their last two Serie A games against Lazio, their longest streak of wins versus the Biancocelesti since 2009 (a run of three).
- Lazio have not kept a clean sheet against AC Milan in a Serie A game since February 2012 (2-0 win). Since then, the Rossoneri have found the net in 17 such games in a row (1.8 goals per game on average).
- AC Milan have won 13 Serie A away games this term; they could become the first team to win 14 of their first 16 games on the road in a single Serie A season. Inter Milan are currently the fastest team to reach 14 away wins – in 17 games in 2006/07.
- Lazio have won each of their last nine home games in the top-flight; they could win 10 home games in a row for the third time in their Serie A history, after 1937 and 1974.
- Ciro Immobile has scored six goals in 12 matches against AC Milan in Serie A, including two goals in the two most recent such games. The Italian international has also scored a hat-trick against the Rossoneri at Stadio Olimpico in September 2017.
Player to Watch
At a time when just about every AC Milan player seems to be faltering, it is Franck Kessie who has kept up his levels quite superbly. The Ivorian does not seem to put a foot wrong in matches, which, in turn, allows the Rossoneri to remain in control of the proceedings game after game.
At the same time, Kessie will also pose a threat with his ghosting runs in and around the Lazio box. Meanwhile, his record against the Biancocelesti, is quite impressive, with Kessie scoring three goals in six matches against Lazio in Serie A; against no team has he netted more in the competition. With the AC Milan forwards not quite being clinical, the onus could well be on him to deliver the goods.
Lazio 1-2 AC Milan
This is a match that will have the finest of margins determining the final result. The midfield battle will hold the key and this is where Franck Kessie & co. could come out on top. With their position in the Serie A standings becoming more precarious by the day, this will be the game in which AC Milan finally step up. Expect a closely-contested affair that should see the visitors beat Lazio 2-1.