An excellent end-to-end game could beckon as AC Milan take on Atalanta in the wake of their Champions League heartbreak against Atletico Madrid.

Italian giants AC Milan will look to put their midweek heartbreak against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League behind them as they take on Serie A bigwigs Atalanta. The game at the Gewiss Stadium promises to be an entertaining affair as two attack-minded sides go up against each other.

Atalanta put up a scintillating 2-2 draw against Inter Milan last weekend and will hope to go one better this time against the other team from the city. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side could consider themselves unlucky not to have taken all three points against Inter after an injury-time winner was chalked off by VAR. The display, however, showed just what the Bergamo-based outfit are capable of on their day.

On the other end is Stefano Pioli’s Milan who are themselves hurting from official decisions. The Rossoneri were hard done by two key refereeing decisions against Atletico and came away with nothing to show for their gargantuan effort. Milan are currently unbeaten in Serie A this season and have won five of their six matches so far.

Another win on the night will keep their good form going and stay in touch with table-toppers Napoli. A trip to Atalanta is never an easy task and Pioli’s men cannot afford to be ill-prepared. Three points on the night will take their tally to 19 points after seven games, a number they achieved last in 2003/04.

Atalanta and Milan faced off in the final fixture of their 2020/21 campaigns. The Rossoneri came out on top that night, a result that saw Atalanta drop to third in the final standings. Playing at home, they will be keen to avenge that defeat.

Milan are certainly a team on the rise and could be set for a bright future in the years to come. In Atalanta, they now face a real challenge. Gasperini’s men are rediscovering their form and are currently unbeaten in their last five games. Who will come out on top in this battle remains to be seen. We now take a look at how the teams could line up and what tactics they could employ on the night.

Team News & Tactics

Atalanta

Gasperini’s side go into the game on the back of some good form. However, they will have to make do without some of their more recognizable names. Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens are set to miss out due to injury.

The two players’ absence will prove critical given the battle on the wings. Not only will it stifle Atalanta’s attacking prowess but could hand the initiative to Milan’s impressive wide men to establish their authority. How well they can silence Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers could prove pivotal to how the game ends.

While there are absentees in defence, Atalanta will be glad to welcome back prolific goalscorer Luis Muriel. The Colombian was only outscored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku last season. As of yet, it remains debatable if he will start. But his presence does offer Gasperini a dependable option off the bench if needed.

Gasperini’s system makes full use of his wing-backs both in attack and defence. A bright outing for Joakim Maehle and Davide Zappacosta will make life easier for the home side. Remo Frueler and Marten De Roon will have the responsibility ton the midfield battle.

The better they manage to do that, the quicker they can unleash Matteo Pessina. The Italian can be the orchestrator who can get the best out of the impressive Ruslan Malinovskyi and Duvan Zapata upfront.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2):  Musso; Djimsiti, Demiral, Toloi; Maehle, Freuler, de Roon, Zappacosta; Pessina; Malinovskyi, Zapata

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AC Milan

The visitors will be without  Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rade Krunic, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alessandro Florenzi. Thankfully for Pioli Olivier Giroud and David Calabria returned against Atletico Madrid and are available.

Pioli looks set to go with his 4-2-3-1 system that works to great effect when used right. Simon Kjaer’s return is a welcome boost and the Dane could replace Alessio Romagnoli in defence. Fikayo Tomori was excellent against Atletico and continues to develop into a key player for the Rossoneri.

Franck Kessie let his side down midweek and the onus will be on him to make up for it. Having been sent off early against Atletico, he will not only be rested but also keen to prove a point. he could form the double pivot on the night alongside Sandro Tonali who will replace Ismael Bennacer.

Franck Kessie is a man in demand. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Franck Kessie has a point to prove. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Milan’s real strength however lies upfront. The trio of Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz and Alexis Saelemaekers are potent on their day and threatened to run away with the game against Atletico. There is little need for Pioli to rest them and with the international break set to occur next week, can afford to throw them into action from the go.

Hateboer and Gosens’ absence could pave the way for Leao and Saelemaekers to assert their dominance on the wings. It is an area that the Rosonneri could look to exploit given the ability of their wide-men.

Ante Rebic led the line well last time around and will be keen to improve upon his no show against Spezia. He can always be swapped out for Giroud if needed. The Croatian striker’s movement and mobility could see him edge out Giroud for the starter’s spot. Rebic’s high energy style will be needed against a mobile Atalanta unit.

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

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Key Stats

  • A win will see Milan pick up  19 points out of a possible 21 in their first seven games of a Serie A season. This is a tally they have reached just once, in 2003/04.
  • Both teams have gained seven points from their last three Serie A games. Milan have, however, scored more goals than their rivals this season.
  • The home side has triumphed just once in the last 10 meetings between the two sides. This came in the 2019/20 season when Atalanta won 5-0.
  • Both teams have faced off 127 times in their history. Milan has won the tie 56 times while Atalanta trails behind at 27 wins. The Rossoneri, however, have won just two of their last 12 games against their opponents.
  • Milan have won five out of their last 10 visits to Atalanta, losing just thrice.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

The Portuguese ace has been one of Milan’s standout players in recent weeks and could once again be the difference-maker against Atalanta. The fight and drive he showed despite being a man down against Atletico were extremely praiseworthy.

A difficult player to pin down, he is capable of doing the unexpected and could prove to be a terror down the left flank. His movement upfront could help pin down Zappacosta and Toloi, making a dent in Gasperini’s formation.

This could open up avenues for  Diaz and Saelemaekers to exploit alongside Rebic. Milan have shown excellent attacking nous and intelligence in recent games and Leao has been central to some of their best attacks. It will come as no surprise should he step up and be the main man against Atalanta.

Prediction

Atalanta 2-2 AC Milan

A full-strength Atalanta side would have gone into the match knowing well that Milan can be beaten. The draw against Inter last weekend showed the threat Gasperini’s side poses to the other top teams in the land.

While they will cause Milan problems, the absence of some key players especially on the flanks could hurt them dearly. It promises to be an entertaining game that could end all square at full time.

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