High-flying AC Milan will be keen to continue the good start to the season when they face off against struggling Spezia this weekend.

Italian giants, AC Milan will look to keep their good start to the season going against a struggling Spezia side in their Serie A clash at the Stadio Alberto Picco on Saturday.

The Rossoneri have won four of their first five games in the league this season and are currently just two points off the top of the table. A win on the night will see them keep abreast of Napoli and Inter Milan at the summit. With 13 points in five games, the San Siro outfit have put up one of their best starts to a season this century.

Spezia’s form couldn’t be any more different. The minnows are currently in their second season in the Italian top flight and have so far won just once. Spezia showed off their credentials against Juventus last weekend. They were just half an hour away from securing a famous win before the Turin giants turned around the game thanks to goals from Federico Chiesa and Mathijs de Ligt.

Milan will be keen to pay back Spezia for the 2-0 loss suffered in February. The match is a potential banana skin and needs to be negotiated with minimal fuss. A win will hold them in good stead ahead of the upcoming UEFA Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid.

It promises to be an intriguing game full of possibilities for both sides. Either team can do with the three points and it promises to be a good game at the Alberto Picco. Whether Spezia can repeat their performance from last season or Milan will this time be up for the challenge remains to be seen.

Team News & Tactics

Spezia

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The Italian minnows go into the game sans a number of players who are unavailable. La Aquile were without Kevin Agudelo, Martin Erlic, Victor Kovalenko, Ebrima Colley, Arkadiusz Reca and Leo Sena on Wednesday and will need to make do without them against Milan.

Thiago Motta’s side can still be dangerous on their day and Milan will need to be alert and make their opportunities count. The manager’s style, however, leaves his side open to counters, something Milan can exploit to their advantage. The Rossoneri showcased their clinical edge against Liverpool at Anfield this month and this bodes poorly for Spezia who are desperate for points.

Jeroen Zoet will start in goal while Petko Hristov and Dmitris Nikolaou will form the centre-back pairing. The duo will be flanked by Kelvin Amian on the right and Simone Bastoni on the right.

Jacopo Sala and Salva Ferrer look set to form the double pivot in midfield and will be tasked with helping Spezia win the midfield battle. It will prove to be a tough task should Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer turn up on the day.

Midweek goalscorer Jannis Antiste looks set to keep hold of his spot up front. He will be ably supported by skipper Guilio Maggiore behind him and on-loan Emmanuel Gyasi on the left. Eddie Salcedo should start on the right. Spezia also have the impressive Rey Manaj and M’Bala Nzola who can come off the bench to cause Milan problems.

With Simon Kjaer missing for Milan, Motta could plot to take the game to their opponents in a more direct approach. Just how well they can control Milan’s midfield could prove to make all the difference on the day.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Zoet; Amian, Nikolaou, Hristov, Bastoni; Ferrer, Sala; Salcedo, Maggiore, Gyasi; Antiste

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AC Milan

The Rossoneri have a number of players out injured for the tie. Rade Krunic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Simon Kjaer, Davide Calabria and Alessandro Florenzi are all ruled out for the visitors.

Thankfully for Stefano Pioli, veteran striker Olivier Giroud is expected to feature after returning to training earlier this week. Croatian Ante Rebic has led the line in recent weeks and is expected to hold onto his spot against Spezia.

Milan is expected to make a raft of changes to the side that overcame Venezia midweek. Franck Kessie, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez are all expected to return to the starting XI. The trio’s return will give Milan the dynamism and solidity needed to overcome their opponents.

Rebic looks set to be supported by the trio of Brahim Diaz,  Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers in the final third. The double-pivot of Ismael Bennacer and Kessie should give Milan the solidity they need to win the midfield battle.

The biggest loss in the night will be of ace defender Simon Kjaer. The Dane has been a rock at the back for the Italians and his absence will be felt. In Tomori they do, however, have an exciting young defender who can possibly inherit the role. Whether the former Chelsea star will steps up and make himself counted remains to be seen.

Tomori looks set to partner Alessio Romagnoli in the centre of the defence. The duo could be flanked by Hernandez on the left and Pierre Kalulu on the right. The impressive Mike Maignan meanwhile is a sure starter in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Kalulu, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Rebic

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Key Stats

  • Milan have picked up 13 points from their first five games this season, a tally they have matched or bettered just twice this century.
  • Both teams have faced off nine times in their history, with each side winning four games.
  • Milan are undefeated in 26 of their last 28 away games. They, however, faced defeat in the corresponding fixture last season.
  • The Rossoneri have been solid at the back this season, conceding just twice in their first five Serie A games. Alongside Napoli, they have the joint best defence in Serie A this term.
  • Spezia, meanwhile, have conceded 13 goals in five games and have the joint second-worst defence in the league this season.

Player To Watch

Alexis Saelemaekers

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The Belgian midfielder was instrumental in breaking down Venezia midweek and could be set for an interesting duel with Simone Bastoni on the flank. Saelemaekers will need to step up and make himself count against a side Milan struggled against last season.

Bastoni is strong and is quick to start off Spezia’s counters. Saelemaekers will need to put in a shift both in attack and defence to nullify his impact on the wing. The Belgian’s vision and passing ability could be called into action on the day. Just how well the 22-year-old performs could set the tone for his side’s attacking performances.

Prediction

Spezia 1-2 AC Milan

Spezia despite their defensive troubles, but are a threat going forward on their day. With Simon Kjaer absent, they could cause the Rossoneri backline problems. Stefano Pioli’s side too can take advantage of what has been a leaky defence this season to show off their clinical side. Ante Rebic has proven himself to be a reliable marksman so far and as long as Milan take their chances, they should come away with all three points.

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