Fruitless in Europe, AC Milan will look to keep their Serie A title charge going when they travel to the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara to take on Bologna.

Italian giants AC Milan return to Serie A action this weekend after enduring another forgettable night in the UEFA Champions League. Stefano Pioli’s side are undefeated in the Italian top flight but have seen nothing but defeat in Europe.

Milan are currently two points off Napoli at the top of the table. With the Gli Azzurri set to take on a wounded Roma, this could be the week where Milan could potentially catch up with the early trendsetters. The tally of 22 points from the opening eight games is the club’s best start since the turn of the century. A win on Saturday will see them equal the record set by the club in 1954-55 when they won eight of their first nine matches in a Serie A season.

Bologna, meanwhile, start the week in the eighth position in Serie A. They are on a good run of form themselves and are unbeaten in their last four home games, winning three. Milan, on paper, are the better side but face a potential banana skin in the I Veltri. The match will also be a homecoming of sorts for Pioli who managed Bologna from 2011 to 2014. The home side have not beaten Milan at their patch since the 2001-02 season, a run that the Rossoneri will be keen to extend.

It promises to be an interesting game that pits a team that looks to be unstoppable in the league with another keen to exhibit their top half credentials. We at The Hard Tackle take a look at how both sides could line up and what tactics they could employ on the night.

Team News & Tactics

Bologna

Sinisa Mihajlovic will be without the services of Kingsley Michael who injured himself after coming off the bench against Udinese. He will join Kevin Bonifazi on the sidelines as he continues to recover from a calf injury.

Bologna star Jerdy Schouten has trained with the team of late and is in contention to feature. However, the chances of him doing so as a starter appears remote. With no other absentees, Mihajlovic looks set to deploy his 3-4-2-1 system that has looked excellent when it clicks.

Lukasz Skorupski will continue to keep his position in goal. Adama Soumaoro, Luis Binks and Arthur Theate form the back three. Lorenzo De Silvestri and Aaron Hickey will be tasked with guarding the wings where Milan have some of their best players. With a back three being employed, Bologna could attempt to outnumber the Milan players in deep areas.

Mattias Svanberg and Nicolas Dominguez will be tasked with holding the fort in midfield. A task that will prove difficult if Ismael Bennacer is in the mood. The better they can perform, the more dangerous Bologna’s attack can be.

The duo of Roberto Soriano, Musa Barrow look set to provide the creative spark and will play behind Marko Arnautovic who looks set to start up front. Arnautovic has scored seven goals in 13 appearances this season but failed to find the net in his last two matches. Containing him will help Milan go a long way in stifling the Bologna attack. It remains to be seen if Nicolas Viola will make his debut against Milan.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Skorupski; Theate, Binks, Soumaoro; Hickey, Svanverg, Dominguez, Silvestri; Soriano, Barrow; Arnautovic

Fruitless in Europe, AC Milan will look to keep their Serie A title charge going when they travel to the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara to take on Bologna

AC Milan

Stefano Pioli welcomed back Zlatan Ibrahimovic last week but has a host of decisions to make this time around given the players unavailable to him. Both Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez have been ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19. To add to his woes, Pioli will also be without the trio of Mike Maignan, Junior Messias and Alessandro Florenzi.

Pioli also confirmed that Franck Kessie will not be available either given he is suffering from flu. Ante Rebic’s ankle is still hurting and striker Pietro Pellegri has some inflammation. While Ibrahimovic may be fit, it is debatable if Pioli will throw the Swede into the mix from the start. With Olivier Giroud available, it makes more sense for the veteran ace to start off the bench.

Given the absentees, it makes sense for Pioli to not experiment and deploy a formation he knows well. Ciprian Tatarusanu looks set to start in goal and the 35-year-old will have big boots to fill. The onus to protect the veteran in goal falls to the very promising centre-back partnership of Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori.

Fode Ballo-Toure looks set to replace Hernandez on the left while Davide Calabria will start on the other flank. Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali look set to rekindle their partnership in midfield.

Both Alexis Saelemaekers and Rafael Leao will be tasked with providing the width and also forming the creative spark for Milan’s attacks. Rade Krunic looks set to replace Diaz in the central attacking role with Olivier Giroud starting upfront. Despite the absentees, Milan have a solid side that can take the battle to their opponents. Whether they can pull it off this time remains to be seen.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Ballo-Toure, Tomori, Kjaer, Calabria; Tonali, Bennacer; Leao, Krunic, Saelemaekers; Giroud

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Key Stats

  • AC Milan are just one of the two unbeaten teams still in the Italian top flight.
  • AC Milan have won 10 of their last 11 matches against Bologna in all competitions.
  • AC Milan have recorded 13 league wins on the road in 2021. A win against Bologna will see them equal the record tally for away wins in a year in club history from back in 1964 (14).
  • No other team in the top half of the Serie A table have conceded more goals than Bologna this season. (15)
  • Bologna have not defeated Milan on home soil since 2001/02. A run that has seen them lose 11 times.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

Embed from Getty Images

The young Portuguese winger has shown himself to be a game-changer for Milan. His stunning performances have seen the Rossoneri win games this season. A tricky attacker, he has an eye for the sensational and is capable of making something from nothing. With Brahim Diaz out, the onus to create chances will fall on Leao and Saelemaekers. The former is the more dynamic of the duo and capable of the spectacular.

Bologna could find it hard to shackle the 22-year-old if he is on top form. A bright start from Leao could see Milan seize the initiative early on. How well he can run in behind the Bologna defence could make the difference on the night.

Prediction

Bologna 0-2 Milan

Despite the players missing, Milan do have the quality to see the match through. Thankfully the club’s centre-back pairing is intact, meaning Tatarusanu has a proven defensive wall ahead of him. The Rossoneri have it in their tank to see out Bologna and anything short of three points should be considered a failure.

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