AC Milan will hope to consolidate their place atop the Serie A standings when they travel to Sardinia to face relegation-threatened Cagliari on Saturday night.
Serie A leaders AC Milan travel to struggling Cagliari on Saturday, seeking to extend their unbeaten streak to ten games across all competitions. The hosts could slip back into the drop zone this weekend if they lose their third successive league game.
Cagliari have struggled for goals in recent weeks, having suffered back-to-back defeats without scoring against Lazio and Spezia. The results brought an end to their mini-revival, which saw them go on a five-game unbeaten run, collecting nine points in the process. The Sardinians are still above the dreaded relegation zone, but only by three points, having played a game more.
Given their dismal attacking return this term, they may struggle to pose a danger to the Rossoneri. The Islanders have one of the worst home league records this season (W2 D6 L6) and have won only one of their last nine top-flight games in their own backyard. So they will need to be on top of their game if they are to have any chance of claiming even a point this weekend.
Meanwhile, Milan will look to enter the international break in pole position for the Scudetto. Stefano Pioli’s men have struggled offensively since the turn of the year. They have failed to win a single league game by more than one goal since their 2-1 defeat to lowly Spezia in January, a scenario aggravated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury.
However, they have shown incredible defensive resilience and tenacity to ensure they overtake city-rivals Inter in the title race in recent months. Milan will certainly be heavy favourites heading into this encounter against a struggling Cagliari, whom they beat 4-1 at the San Siro in the reverse fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Cagliari will miss the services of key trio Nahitan Nandez, Kevin Strootman and Marko Rog, all of whom remain sidelined with knee injuries. Defenders Damir Ceter and Sebastian Walukiewicz (hip) are also out injured, meaning manager Walter Mazzarri is unable to make many changes to his team ahead of the visit of AC Milan.
Gli Isolani look set to start the game in their usual 3-5-2 formation in an attempt to outnumber AC Milan in the middle of the park. Aggression, compactness and balance will be the key if Mazzarri’s men are to pull off a surprise here.
Alessio Cragno will start in goal behind a three-man defence of Matteo Lovato, Edoardo Goldaniga and Giorgio Altare, who will look to hold off threats from Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao.
The width in attack will come from the wing-back duo of Dalbert Henrique and Raoul Bellanova, who will also be needed to double back during the defensive phases. Midfielder Daniele Baselli tested positive for COVID-19 late on Friday, so it will be Razvan Marin joining Alessandro Deiola and Alberto Grassi to form a midfield trio.
Cagliari have struggled to create much for their forwards in recent games, so the onus is very much on top-scorer Joao Pedro – who has bagged ten league goals this term but has drawn a blank in his last five outings – to provide the goods in the final third. He will form a double act up top alongside Leonardo Pavoletti.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Cragno; Goldaniga, Lovato, Altare; Bellanova, Grassi, Marin, Deiola, Dalbert; Pavoletti, Pedro
Unlike his counterpart in the Cagliari dugout, Stefano Pioli almost has a clean bill of health in the injury department, with Tiemoue Bakayoko the only injury concern for the Italian coach. It means that rotation from the win against Empoli is probable.
Mike Maignan is a certainty in goal, and AC Milan will be set up in Pioli’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him. Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu are the likely central defensive pairing, with the latter having scored a brilliant left-footed curler that proved the difference last time out against Empoli.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) March 17, 2022
Theo Hernandez is expected to step in at left-back ahead of Alessandro Florenzi after returning from a one-match suspension. Davide Calabria will be preferred on the opposite side. Both of them will pose a threat going forward down their respective flank.
Sandro Tonali will keep his place in midfield and will pull the strings from deeper areas alongside Ismael Bennacer. In front of the double pivot, Franck Kessie will be stationed in the free role behind the striker to add physicality, initiate the press and push Milan into advanced positions.
Rafael Leao has been in electric form this season. He will continue to offer creativity, direct running, and explosiveness from the left-wing, while Junior Messias operates down the right. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is pushing hard for a start after returning to full fitness, but Olivier Giroud could continue to spearhead the attack after starting in each of the last three games.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Kalulu, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Messias, Kessie, Leao; Giroud
- AC Milan are unbeaten in 16 of their last 17 matches on the road against Cagliari in all competitions (W10 D6).
- The Rossoneri have not tasted defeat in the last seven away Serie A matches (W5 D2).
- AC Milan have not conceded a single goal in their last three games, registering back-to-back shutout victories.
- Cagliari have lost their last two games without finding the back of the net, while three of their last five games have resulted in fewer than three goals.
- Milan have emerged victorious in their last two league games 1-0 (against Napoli and Empoli). They last won three in a row back in May 2021.
Player to Watch
How has Deschamps not selected @_OlivierGiroud_ ?
Giroud left Chelsea as Deschamps suggested. Milan are 1st place & Giroud is leading scorer in all comps including BIG goals.
⚽️⚽️ v Inter
⚽️ v Napoli
⚽️⚽️ v Lazio
⚽️ v Roma
Giroud deserved to be in the squad. pic.twitter.com/iAeduO7scF
— Dubois (@CFCDUBois) March 17, 2022
The 35-year-old had a relatively slow start to his AC Milan career, but as the season has progressed, the former Arsenal striker is increasingly becoming a vital component of their title push, scoring some crucial goals this term. With eight goals this season, the Frenchman is Milan’s joint-top scorer in the league, along with Leao and Ibrahimovic.
The veteran striker is currently in red-hot form, having scored five goals in his past eight outings for AC Milan in all competitions, and he will undoubtedly be looking to add to his season tally against Cagliari on Saturday.
Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan
With Milan’s free-flowing and intense style of play shifting to a more cautious approach as the Scudetto race heats up, every Serie A match for Pioli’s side is certain to be hard-fought given the high stakes at play. Cagliari will be keen for all three points in order to move further clear of the relegation zone.
However, it is hard to see the hosts coming away with anything from this fixture against an in-form Milan side that should have enough quality in their arsenal to break down their Sardinian opponents. A routine 2-0 win for the Rossoneri could be on the cards, although it could turn out to be a cagey contest.