AC Milan will be aiming to put pressure on Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A table when they take on Sampdoria on Sunday.

It has been a solid February for AC Milan. The Rossoneri started the month with a crucial 2-1 victory over their arch-rivals Inter Milan, a result that has left the Serie A title race wide open once again. It was followed by midweek’s 4-0 drubbing of Lazio in the Coppa Italia quarter-final.

Milan will now have the opportunity to extend their winning run to three games in all competitions when they play hosts to Sampdoria at San Siro this Saturday. Stefano Pioli’s men are heading into this game full of confidence, but there might be a sense of anxiety as well, knowing any mishap could tilt the title race back in favour of Inter.

The Rossoneri are currently third in the Serie A standings, level on points with second-placed Napoli and trailing league leaders Inter by just a point. However, their cross-town rivals do have a game in hand, which makes this a must-win encounter for the home side.

They will be up against a Sampdoria side coming back from a refreshing 4-0 victory over Sassuolo. It was their first win of the calendar year, one that helped them distance themselves a bit from the drop zone. The Genovese outfit are currently 16th in the league table, five points ahead of 18th-placed Venezia, who do have a game in hand.

Sampdoria are still under the influence of a potential managerial bloom, having recently appointed former AC Milan boss Marco Giampaolo. It could make the task tricky for Milan as they look to maintain their winning streak in Serie A this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

AC Milan are missing their premier left-back option in Theo Hernandez. The Frenchman was sent off in the last game, and his suspension could pave the way for Fode Ballo-Toure, although the Senegalese international’s availability remains in doubt, as he has only recently returned from his Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Davide Calabria is in line to replace Hernandez if Ballo-Toure fails to return in time. As for the rest of the backline, Fikayo Tomori should replace Pierre Kalulu at centre-back, thus renewing his central defensive partnership with Alessio Romagnoli. With The Hard Tackle expecting Ballo-Toure to recover his fitness before Sunday’s clash, Calabria remains a favourite to occupy the right-back position.

Ballo-Toure’s offensive endeavours could be crucial in adding width to the Milan frontline, whereas Calabria is expected to operate in a more conservative role on the opposite flank.

Meanwhile, in the midfield department, Stefano Pioli could persist with the double-pivot of Franck Kessie, and Sandro Tonali, who is likely to be preferred to Ismael Bennancer, given Milan need more control in possession against an opposition that are likely to defend deep in their lines.

Moving forward, Olivier Giroud should undisputedly lead the Milan frontline, having netted four goals in his last two matches. Not to mention, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still yet to recover from his injury, which makes the Frenchman a guaranteed starter in the team.

The former Arsenal striker should be aided by the creative trifecta of Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz and Rafael Leao, while Daniel Maldini and Ante Rebic are set to serve as alternatives in the final third.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Romagnoli, Tomori, Ballo-Toure; Kessie, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud

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Sampdoria

Since taking charge of Sampdoria, former AC Milan coach Marco Giampaolo has largely favoured his tried and tested 4-3-1-2 setup with two men leading the line, in the form of Francesco Caputo and new signing Sebastian Giovinco. They are expected to put pressure on the Milan centre-backs, denying them the opportunity to play out from the back.

Aiding the two centre forwards will be on-loan Inter Milan midfielder Stefano Sensi, who bagged a goal in the 4-0 win over Sassuolo. Sensi, in turn, could partner three players in the second line of press, involving Antonio Candreva, Morten Thorsby and the returning Albin Ekdal, who should replace Tomas Rincon in the starting eleven.

Ekdal’s role in the defensive midfield spot could be vital in breaking up Milan’s possession play, whereas the onus will be on Candreva and Thorsby to offer the drive and determination going forward.

Defensively, Giampaolo should remain unchanged, starting with the central defensive duo of Omar Colley and Alex Ferrari, while there is no looking past Bartosz Bereszynski and Nicola Murru for the full-back roles, thus completing the back four that will look to cover Emil Audero in between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Audero; Bereszynski, Ferrari, Colley, Murru; Candreva, Ekdal, Thorsby; Sensi; Giovinco, Caputo

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Key Stats

  • Sampdoria have lost 66 Serie A games against AC Milan, only losing more against Inter.
  • AC Milan are winless in their last two Serie A home games against Sampdoria and could fail to win three such matches in a row for the first time since 1987.
  • AC Milan have gained 52 points so far in Serie A this season, only having this many in the three points for a win three times previously: in 1995/96 (1st place), 2003/04(1st place) and 2020/21 (2nd place).
  • Sampdoria won 4-0 last time out against Sassuolo, last winning two league matches in a row in November and last keeping successive clean sheets in the competition in May 2021.
  • AC Milan have gained only one point in their last two Serie A home games and could fail to win three such matches in a row for the first time since last April when the last game in that run was against Sampdoria.

Player to Watch

Olivier Giroud

Chelsea's French striker Olivier Giroud attends a training session at Chelsea's Cobham training facility in Stoke D'Abernon, southwest of London on November 26, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group H football match against Valencia. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Main man for Milan. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud is the most talked-about figure in Italy right now, having exhibited excellent form in recent weeks. After joining from Chelsea in the summer, the experienced forward has netted ten goals in 22 competitive matches for Milan this term, with seven of those strikes coming in Serie A.

Giroud’s brace against Inter was vital in helping Milan get back into the title race, while the forward also helped the Rossoneri secure a comfortable 4-0 victory over Lazio in midweek. With Ibrahimovic still struggling with an injury, Giroud’s form could undoubtedly decide Milan’s fate in this weekend’s crucial match-up against Sampdoria.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-0 Sampdoria

AC Milan have looked a bit sloppy at home this year, but with Stefano Pioli expected to field a full-strength eleven against Sampdoria, coupled with their recent form, it is hard to imagine anything other than a comfortable victory for the Rossoneri this weekend.

As mentioned earlier, Olivier Giroud could play a vital role in this encounter, whereas the return of Fikayo Tomori could go a long way in strengthening the defensive ranks at Milan, up against a Sampdoria side still finding their identity under a new coach Giampaolo.

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