A mouthwatering clash will greet us at the Stadio Olimpico in as AS Roma take on AC Milan, with both teams eyeing big wins this weekend.

The buzz around new AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho lasted a few weeks, but is now starting to fizz out. The Giallorossi are coming back to their old stride of disappointing performances and failing to keep up the pressure at the very top. Due to a string of bad results, the capital club are already trailing league leaders Napoli by nine points entering this weekend.

A late win over Cagliari would have boosted their confidence heading into the latest round of fixtures. Before that, Roma played out a tense draw against Napoli, ending the perfect start to the season for the Serie A leaders. However, the narrow defeat to Juventus the week before might have pushed them away from the title race.

Despite an unbeaten run at home in the league, the mood inside the Roma camp is not a happy one. Mourinho’s recent comments on the quality of the squad might have left some with a sour taste, particularly after their severe loss to Bodo/Glimt in the UEFA Europa Conference League. The club, however, are very much in the title mix and to remain in such a position, they need results, starting with a victory over Milan.

Milan are in a better place in Serie A, level on points with Napoli at the top and second only on goal difference. Like their counterparts in Naples, the Rossoneri are yet to lose a game in the league this season, winning nine so far.

A win would temporarily take them above Napoli in the standings, with the current leaders left with a game in hand. Like Napoli, Milan have dropped points just once this term as they drew against Juventus. Since that clash, Stefano Pioli’s men have won their six subsequent games leading to the Roma clash.

They remain in a difficult position in their UEFA Champions League group, with the game against FC Porto next week set to determine their fate in the competition. Milan also have the blockbuster clash with Inter Milan next weekend before the next international break kicks in.

The Roma clash is an all-important one for Pioli and Milan. While their impressive run so far has been good, dropped points against Mourinho’s side could be a blow in the Serie A title race with Napoli. They will be targeting a win and end the weekend at the very top of the table.

Team News & Tactics

AS Roma

Leonardo Spinazzola and Chris Smalling are the only notable absentees for Jose Mourinho ahead of the clash with AC Milan. The expectation is the Portuguese manager will field an unchanged side following the win over Cagliari. Many of those stars underperformed in the first half but recovered well to win in the second period.

Mourinho might look to make minor tweaks to his side to increase the output from his attacking players. For instance, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has not been at his best lately, might be dropped to the bench, with Stephan El Shaarawy likely to start in his stead.

One minor concern will be the form of striker Tammy Abraham. The former Chelsea forward has gone an entire month without scoring, and with the lack of a reliable alternative to the Englishman, the situation could become worrisome.

Borja Mayoral and Eldor Shomurodov are largely out of favour, meaning Abraham will certainly have another chance to finish the month on the scoresheet, right at the death. Otherwise, if Mourinho decides to keep faith in the side that beat Cagliari, it would largely be an unchanged XI.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Patricio; Karsdorp, Mancini, Ibanez, Vina; Cristante, Veretout; Zaniolo, Pellegrini, El Shaarawy; Abraham

AC Milan

The injury and illness waves have hit AC Milan as Stefano Pioli had to endure the past few weeks without some of his influential stars. Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez are inching closer towards starting games after their bout with COVID-19 in recent times.

The pair could be in contention against AS Roma, with Pierre Kalulu and Rade Krunic the players likely to be dropped to the bench. Pioli still has to deal with some other important stars being injured. Samu Castillejo, Alessandro Florenzi, Junior Messias, Ante Rebic and Mike Maignan are all out of this clash with their respective injuries.

Pioli must also decide on his choice to lead the line between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud. The final decision will be crucial as the Frenchman has picked up form in recent games, while the Swede has a tremendous record against Roma, and he could well be the preferred choice.

Apart from those proposed changes, the lineup might largely comprise of recognised starters under Pioli this season, while Simon Kjaer is also expected to return after midweek rotations.

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

Key Stats

  • AC Milan are unbeaten in Serie A this season, with consecutive victories in their last six league games.
  • Milan have lost just one of their last seven matches against AS Roma under Pioli.
  • Milan are the sixth side ever to claim nine victories from their opening ten games in Serie A history.
  • Roma are undefeated in their last nine home games in Serie A
  • Roma have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven home games in Serie A.

Player to Watch

Theo Hernandez

Embed from Getty Images

The returning full-back certainly boosts Milan’s defensive and attacking options, and Stefano Pioli could be a bit relaxed over the troubled flank. In his absence, the left side of the pitch has faced problems, with Rafael Leao failing to link up well with Pierre Kalulu.

With the forward line now a bit more settled than before, Hernandez will be able to send in customary crosses into the area with target men Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in sight. The Frenchman, in particular, will be a key player to give Milan better options in attacking the ball.

Prediction

AS Roma 1-1 AC Milan

This one is a cagey contest in the making; there is not much room for attacking football with these ultra-defensive teams. Both teams have shown tightness at the back this season, a trend that should continue when they meet at the Stadio Olimpico.

We are expecting AC Milan and AS Roma to share the points, which should give Napoli a boost of confidence to win their next fixture and open up a small gap to Milan at the top. As for Roma, the result will put Mourinho under pressure as fourth place will be under threat from Atalanta, who sit just a point apart in fifth place heading into the ongoing round of fixtures.

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