AC Milan take on Cagliari at the San Siro as the Rossoneri target back-to-back wins to keep momentum in the Serie A season.

AC Milan got off to a winning start in Serie A with a narrow victory over Sampdoria on the opening matchday. Stefano Pioli will be hoping to keep this run going as they head into the season’s second game. Brahim Diaz, who re-signed on a two-year loan deal, provided the crucial goal against Sampdoria.

Pioli was instrumental in building a confident squad as AC Milan were brilliant all across 2020. However, in 2021 this side struggled plenty, and the manager has tried to rejuvenate the team over the summer. Consistent results would be required to gain full confidence and to mount a considerable challenge on all fronts.

Milan will aim to win at the weekend to head into the international break with confidence. They have their much-awaited return to the Champions League to look forward to, along with some mouthwatering clashes in the league against Lazio and Juventus.

Cagliari, meanwhile, have a task at hand against Milan and will aim to get their season up and running. However, Milan are not favourable opposition to the club, with their horrible form in recent years against the Rossoneri clear proof of that.

Cagliari have finished 14th or below in each of their last four Serie A seasons. If they have to better that record, results are required against opponents of similar or lower levels. For instance, they should have been winning against Spezia, but only managed to be held 2-2 on the opening matchday courtesy of captain Joao Pedro’s brace.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Pioli would want his side to be more actively creating chances in games. The club have lost the spark in creation after Hakan Calhanoglu left for rivals Inter. However, the Turkish star’s departure will help Brahim Diaz seize the opportunity and become Milan’s chief creator.

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On the injury front, Frank Kessie will miss this clash after a training ground injury. The Ivorian will only be back after the international break. He joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recovers from a serious knee injury. However, Pioli will likely make only one change from the last game, with Ismael Bennacer replacing Rade Krunic.

Sandro Tonali will keep his place in midfield and lineup alongside Bennacer. Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori will take up the central defensive positions, with Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria lining up as the full-backs. The latter’s inclusion means new signing Alessandro Florenzi will have to wait for his debut.

Rafael Leao will keep his place on the left side of attack, meaning Ante Rebic could best be on the bench. Brahim Diaz in the No.10 role and Alexis Saelemaekers from wide right attacking could all support Olivier Giroud up front.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud

Cagliari

Cagliari manager Leonardo Semplici will be without first-choice goalkeeper Alessio Cragno for this clash with Milan after he suffered a muscle injury two weeks ago. Serbian stopper Boris Radunovic will deputise in his absence again.

Cagliari received injury boosts after the returns of Charalaampos Lykogiannis and Razvan Marin, who have recovered from calf and ankle problems suffered recently. However, Marin will find a place in the starting lineup while the former will be on the bench.

Furthermore, with Joao Pedro a sure starter upfront in attack, he will be joined this time by Leonardo Pavotelli in a two-man front line with wing-backs Dalbert and Nahitan Nandez tasked with pumping in the crosses for the duo to attack.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Radunovic; Ceppitelli, Godin, Carbonni; Nandez, Marin, Strootman, Deiola, Dalbert; Pavoletti, Pedro

Key Stats

  • Milan have not conceded a single goal in their last five Serie A matches against Cagliari.
  • Milan have lost only three of the last 39 meetings with Cagliari at the San Siro.
  • Milan have kept a clean sheet in their last six Serie A matches.
  • Cagliari have not scored against Milan in their last five matches in all competitions.
  • Cagliari are winless in their last 17 games against Milan at the San Siro in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Brahim Diaz

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Diaz has an interesting career up ahead of him. Playing for AC Milan is a prestigious opportunity for any player and the Spaniard needs to take chances with both hands. After spending last season under the shadow of former star Calhanoglu, the former Manchester City ace has the opportunity to become Rossoneri’s chief creator.

His goal against Sampdoria may have been the difference, but the creative midfielder needs to take that strike as a precursor to the season ahead and improve his numbers. Doing so against smaller or comparatively weaker opposition is a must for Diaz to grow prominently in his role at the club.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-0 Cagliari

The visitors have a dreaded recent record against Pioli’s side. There’s no indication this will change over the weekend as Cagliari are fully expected to lose all three points here. Unlike before, this could be a low scoring game for Milan, with the club only creating fewer chances lately. The likes of Diaz, Leao and Giroud possess the ability to punish this Cagliari defence. A 2-0 win for the Rossoneri could be on the cards, although it could turn out to be a cagey contest.

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