AC Milan will resume their Serie A duties after a short winter break when they take on AS Roma, who have fallen well out of the running in the title race.

AC Milan’s new year motto will be not to repeat the mistakes they made this time last year. Back in January 2021, the Rossoneri were leading the charts in Serie A, only to fall off the pace owing to a young squad lacking in experience, giving neighbours Inter Milan the impetus to go and win the championship.

This time, they are trailing their local rivals in what looks like a tightly contested Serie A race. Milan find themselves four points behind Inter after playing 19 games this term. They lost ground to the Nerazzurri after a minor stutter along the way, during which time they drew to Udinese and lost to fellow title rivals Napoli.

Milan did make amends just before the break with a comfortable win over Empoli, which might have kept them just about in the title chase. Considering there is exactly half the season pending, Milan have plenty of time to cover the ground and will hope for many slip-ups from Inter.

Their visitors to San Siro are a struggling AS Roma side that have found themselves thoroughly out of the running for the Scudetto. They have recorded just one victory from their last five league clashes, which came against fellow top-four hopefuls Atalanta.

However, fans were left disgruntled after Roma failed to break away with a win over Sampdoria. On Jose Mourinho’s plan, a top-four finish must be a priority. There is no better way to start the resurgent run than with a win over Milan, especially considering they have struggled to get results away from home this season.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

The short winter break has given AC Milan the chance to get some of their key players back to fitness. Key forward Ante Rebic, having fought with injuries all season, has finally returned to full training alongside Rafael Leao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Davide Calabria is also back and will have to contest for a place at right-back with Alessandro Florenzi. However, Ismael Bennacer, Franck Kessie, and Fode Ballo-Toure are all missing since they have joined their respective nations for the Africa Cup of Nations.

In the absence of Kessie and Bennacer, Stefano Pioli will have to choose the pairing of Sandro Tonali and Tiemoue Bakayoko in the central midfield. There is also concern with a new COVID case within Milan’s camp, although the identity of the player is yet to be revealed.

Out in front in the attacking unit, Leao, Brahim Diaz and Alexis Saelemaekers should take up the attacking spots, while Ibrahimovic should be the contender to lead the line.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali, Bakayoko; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic

AS Roma

There is a coronavirus problem in the Roma camp, with Borja Mayoral, Chris Smalling, and Daniel Fuzato testing positive for the virus. Lorenzo Pellegrini should return, which could help him form a final third partnership with Nicolo Zaniolo and Tammy Abraham upfront.

Abraham should be ready to start despite being involved in a car crash trouble. A back three should be installed ahead of Rui Patricio in goal, with Gianluca Mancini, Marash Kumbulla and Roger Ibanez likely to be those players.

For this clash, Mourinho might prefer to field for a midfield five, including wing-backs. Rick Karsdorp and Matias Vina should start in the wing-back roles, while Bryan Cristante, Jordan Veretout and Pellegrini will start as the central midfield trifecta, with Pellegrini expected to assume a more advanced role.

Zaniolo and Abraham should lead the unit out in front in a two-fold attack, with Mourinho looking to target a somewhat weakened defence in the absence of Simon Kjaer.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Kumbulla, Mancini, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Pellegrini, Cristante, Veretout, Vina; Zaniolo, Abraham

Key Stats

  • AC Milan have scored at least two goals in their last four matches against Roma in all competitions.
  • AC Milan have won their last two league games versus AS Roma and could win three matches in a row against the Giallorossi in Serie A for the first time since 1996.
  • Roma have scored at least two goals in eight of their last ten away matches in Serie A
  • Roma have registered only one victory in their last five Serie A matches.
  • Roma suffered 12 away defeats in 2021, only enduring more losses on the road in 1949 and 1950.

Player to Watch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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The big Swede is back in the fold and probably fit following enduring some struggles this season with injuries and fitness. The short winter break has given Ibrahimovic a head-start and he will look to kick off 2022 in style to keep Milan in the hunt for the Serie A title.

Milan need his goals and leadership in the front line, and Stefano Pioli will hope to get the best out of Ibrahimovic in 2022. The Rossoneri have a huge task at upheaving Inter Milan off their perch at the top and warding off a chasing pack led by Napoli. Ibrahimovic needs to keep fit and show his quality in the second half of the season, starting with a great performance against Roma.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-1 AS Roma

It will certainly be a tight contest on paper, although AC Milan could be expected to take the points here judging by their form before the break. AS Roma can score the odd goal in these games, but they might find it hard to do so against a strong looking Milan defence.

Milan’s midfield and forward line not being overly affected by the Africa Cup of Nations departures or COVID-19 infections should give them confidence before they host Roma. Milan are expected to win here and be a firm contender in the title chase, while Roma will end up ruing more lost points in their quest for a top-four place.

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