Title challengers AC Milan will look to keep their unbeaten run in Serie A going when they travel to Fiorentina on Saturday night.
Italian giants AC Milan will look to keep their distance with the chasing pack when they take on Fiorentina in Serie A on Saturday. This season, the Rossoneri are unbeaten in the league and are level on points with early trendsetters Napoli at the top of the table.
Stefano Pioli’s side have won 10 of their first 12 matches, drawing the other two. As long as they keep up the form, a first Scudetto since 2010/11 appears possible. With the international break giving them a pause, the onus will be on the San Siro outfit to recalibrate their game and put up another good run of results.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, are in seventh place in the Serie A standings and appear to be on course to improve upon their 13th placed finish last season. With six wins already this season, they are nearing the nine wins they achieved last time around.
La Viola have one of the best young strikers in world football in Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbian could prove to be the difference-maker on the night if Milan give him freedom. Having lost their last game 1-0 to Juventus, Fiorentina will be keen to get their season back on track.
Milan, for all their dominance in the league, have struggled in the UEFA Champions League. There are enough chinks for Fiorentina to exploit, and it remains to be seen how they approach the game on their home turf.
With several games against lower half teams to come, Milan can set themselves up nicely should they secure all three points at the Artemio Franchi Stadium. A win for the Rossoneri could see them become the second team in top-flight history to win 16 away games in a single calendar year.
The match at the Artemio Franchi Stadium will be a nostalgic experience for Milan boss Pioli. The 56-year-old managed La Viola from 2017-2019 before taking over at Milan. The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
Vincenzo Italiano will have several players missing for the game either through suspension or injury. Erick Pulgar, Youssef Maleh, Aleksandr Kokorin and Matija Nastasic are all out injured.
— ACF Fiorentina English (@ACFFiorentinaEN) November 17, 2021
Star defender Nikola Milenkovic and Lucas Martinez Quarta are suspended for the game, handing Fiorentina more questions to answer. La Viola may be forced to use a makeshift centre-back pairing of Igor and Lorenzo Venuti with a slew of defenders out.
Thankfully it is not all bad news, and attacker Nicolas Gonzalez has recovered from COVID-19 and could feature on the night. The winger would add more bite to the Fiorentina attack led by Vlahovic, although he may not start on Saturday.
Vincenzo Italiano looks set to deploy a 4-3-3 system that uses the midfield to retain possession before hitting Milan on the counter. Pietro Terracciano seems set to start in goal behind the back four of Alvaro Odriozola, Venuti, Igor and Cristiano Biraghi.
The midfield trio is likely to consist of Uruguayan international Lucas Torreira, Gaetano Castrovilli and Giacomo Bonaventura. It is, however, upfront where Fiorentina’s strength lies with Vlahovic leading the line. He looks set to be flanked by Riccardo Saponara and Jose Callejon.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Terracciano; Odriozola, Venuti, Igor, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Torreira, Castrovilli; Callejon, Vlahovic, Saponara
Milan, meanwhile, are enjoying a season that could point to glory at least domestically. The Italians have several injury issues and will be without Davide Calabria, Mike Maignan, Junior Messias and Samu Castillejo on the night. Theo Hernandez, meanwhile, has served his suspension and is eligible for the game, provided he can shake off his injury. As things stand, the French international could still be involved. His availability would be a massive boost to Pioli and co.
Milan look set to persist with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has brought them much success this season. With starting goalkeeper Maignan out injured, veteran shot-stopper Ciprian Tatarusanu will continue in goal.
The internationals are back: #FiorentinaMilan awaits 💪
— AC Milan (@acmilan) November 18, 2021
He will be protected by the backline comprising Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori, Simon Kjaer and Theo Hernandez. The midfield will consist of a double pivot of Franck Kessie and Sandro Tonali. The duo will be entrusted with keeping the Fiorentina midfield busy.
This will give the trio of Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz and Alexis Saelemaekers the freedom to push forward. Playing behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the onus to create opportunities for the Swedish ace will be up to them.
Saelemaekers, for his part, has seen his form fall away in the last few weeks. The Belgian started the season brightly but saw himself dropped for the derby against Inter Milan. He looks set to return to the starting lineup this weekend and will need to pick up his form to keep the spot.
Milan has enough options to change the tide if needed with the likes of Ante Rebic, Ismael Bennacer and Olivier Giroud on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Tomori, Kjaer, Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic
- Milan are unbeaten away to Fiorentina since 2015. They lost the game in 2015 by a scoreline of 2-0 but have drawn three and won two since.
- Milan hold the edge over Fiorentina and have lost just two of their last 11 meetings against La Viola.
- Fiorentina won their last two home games 3-0. The last time they managed a longer streak was in 2018 under current Milan manager Stefano Pioli.
- Fiorentina are the only side in Serie A who are yet to draw a game in Serie A this season. (P12, W6, L6)
- A win will see Milan become the second Italian side to win 16 away games in a calendar year. The other team was Napoli, who managed 18 in 2018.
Player to Watch
The Portuguese winger has been sensational for AC Milan this season and has scored several key goals. His pace and trickery could prove to be a difficult combo for Fiorentina to crack, especially given their absentees in defence.
Leao has scored four goals and assisted in 12 Serie A games for the Rossoneri this season. With Saelemaekers struggling for form, the onus will be on the 22-year-old to step up. He has shown the ability to do the unpredictable in recent times, and Pioli & co. will be looking to him to deliver the goods on the weekend.
Fiorentina 1-3 AC Milan
Milan are in good form going into the game and have their best players upfront fit. Fiorentina arguably have the best striker in the league in Vlahovic at this moment in time. However, their absentees in defence could leave them shorthanded at the break.
This is especially true given the presence of Ibrahimovic, Diaz, Saelemaekers and Leao. Milan’s attacking prowess as a unit should see them sail through to a comfortable win against the home side this Saturday.