A resurgent AC Milan side will welcome fellow Serie A side Genoa to the San Siro as they look to book their name in the final eight of the Coppa Italia.

Serie A giants AC Milan are in fine form ahead of their last 16 tie in the Coppa Italia against Genoa. The Rossoneri will be looking to make it four wins on the trot in all competitions and head deeper into the Italian football pyramid’s premier cup competition.

Stefano Pioli’s side had a horrid December that saw them eliminated from Europe and also cede ground in the Scudetto title race. They have, however, picked up their form of late and are now within touching distance of defending champions Inter Milan at the top of the table.

Milan will now take a breather from the league to welcome a struggling Genoa side to San Siro. The visitors are struggling in the 19th spot and have bigger fish to fry than putting on a dream run in the competition.

The Rossoneri began their 2022 with a fine 3-0 win over Venezia. Genoa, however, suffered a 1-0 reversal to Spezia. Both teams could not have gone into the match with differing runs of form.

On paper, the match should see both teams ring in the changes to their starting XI. With Serie A games scheduled for the upcoming weekend, both teams could rest some of their players for the game. Even on paper, Milan have a clear advantage not just in form and morale but also in quality. Whether it will hold up on the field remains to be seen.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Simon Kjaer, Alessandro Plizzari and Pietro Pellegri are AC Milan’s absentees, for the match. Franck Kessie, Fode Ballo-Toure and Ismael Bennacer are all away at the Africa Cup of Nations and will also miss the game.  The game also gives Pioli the chance to rest first XI stars, Alessio Romagnoli, Davide Calabria and Samu Castillejo.

The three players tested positive for COVID-19 and will need to return a  negative test before taking to the field. Thankfully for the Rossoneri, Fikayo Tomori tested negative on Wednesday and is available to feature. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended following his red card in last season’s cup clash against Inter Milan.

With Ciprian Tatarusanu having just recovered from COVID-19, Milan could start the game with their first-choice shot-stopper, Mike Maignan in goal. The Frenchman is a reliable presence in goal and will prove to be the last line of defence in Stefano Pioli’s  4-2-3-1 setup.

Maignan is likely to be protected by a back four of Pierre Kalulu, Matteo Gabbia, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez. Gabbia has been linked with a move away from San Siro this month, and it remains to be seen if this will be his last hurrah for the red and black.

Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic will be entrusted with winning the midfield battle on the night. The duo will form the double-pivot that will seek to establish Milan’s foothold in the game.

Alexis Saelemaekers looks likely to keep hold of his starting spot at right wing while Ante Rebic is set to occupy the other flank. Daniel Maldini could play through the middle, replacing Brahim Diaz in the starting lineup. Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, has been ruled out, allowing Olivier Giroud to lead the line.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Kalulu, Gabbia, Tomori, Hernandez; Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, Maldini, Rebic; Giroud

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Genoa

Genoa also have several players missing on the night. With an eye on escaping relegation, it will not come as a surprise if Andriy Shevchenko chooses to rest some of his best players. The AC Milan legend has his work cut out at Genoa, who continues to struggle. It is difficult to see the Ukrainian pull one out of the hat at his former home stadium.

Il Grifone will take to the field sans Andrea Cambiaso and Nikola Maksimovic. Laurens Serpe tested positive for COVID-19 and is set to miss out. Domenico Criscito only recently came out of isolation, and it remains to be seen if he will get the nod to start. Davide Biraschi looks set to miss out, while Valon Behrami and Yayah Kallon are doubts. Nicolo Rovella, meanwhile, is now available to feature.

Andriy Shevchenko has to make do without a host of his experienced players. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Andriy Shevchenko enjoyed many years winning games for AC Milan at the San Siro. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Shevchenko looks set to deploy his side in a 3-5-2 formation on the night. Salvatore Sirigu will start in goal behind the back three of Johan Vasquez, Mattia Bani, Leo Skiri Ostigard.

The five-man midfield will hand the visitors enough numbers to battle Milan’s double pivot. The quintet of Mohamed Fares, Paolo Ghiglione, Filippo Melegoni, Milan Badelj and Manolo Portanova will start behind the front two of Mattia Destro and Caleb Ekuban.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Sirigu; Ostigard, Bani, Vasquez; Portanova, Melegoni, Badelj, Ghiglione, Fares; Ekuban, Destro

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Key Stats

  • Both teams have faced off 128 times in their history. Milan have won 58 of the matches while Genoa comes in at a distant second with 28.
  • AC Milan have lost just once to Genoa in their last ten meetings in all competitions.
  • AC Milan have never failed to qualify for the last eight of the Coppa Italia in their last 16 attempts. Genoa, meanwhile, will be playing in the last 16 of the competition for the first time in 13 seasons.
  • Genoa have a poor record at the San Siro and have only won twice in their last 19 games at Milan’s home ground.
  • Genoa have won just one of their last 19 games in all competitions. Incidentally, it came in the previous round of the Coppa Italia against Salernitana.

Player to Watch

Olivier Giroud

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: Olivier Giroud of France celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between France and Moldova on November 14, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud looks set to lead the AC Milan frontline on the night. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The French veteran continues to be a dependable target man despite his advancing age. Giroud is an excellent striker who uses his experience to the fullest. A force to be reckoned with in the air, he also makes use of his physicality to bring Milan’s midfield runners into the game.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the equation, Giroud is Milan’s senior-most forward on the night. The 35-year-old has often stepped up to the plate, and it will be no surprise if he ends up making the difference on the night.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-0 Genoa

Both sides met six weeks ago in what was a comfortable win for Milan. Little has changed since, and a repeat performance could be on the cards. Milan certainly have the quality and, even with several players absent, have resources to take to the field.

With the Coppa Italia representing Milan’s best chance of a cup outie the league, the Rossoneri will be well advised to do what it takes to secure the victory. Milan have won the competition five times 2/in their history, but the last time they went all the way was in 200-03. A win on the night will leave them just three wins away from glory.

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