AC Milan will be looking to tighten their hold on the Serie A summit when they welcome Bologna to San Siro on Monday night.

Italian giants AC Milan will return to Serie A action on Monday night, knowing that they can tighten their hold on the summit with a win over Bologna.

A series of excellent results of late have seen the Rossoneri move to the top of Serie A with eight games to go. Stefano Pioli’s side is well placed to secure their first Scudetto since 2011, and the onus is on them to do their part on the field.

Milan currently hold a three-point lead over Napoli in the second spot but have their destiny in their own hands, as winning all their remaining games should see them secure the championship.

Bologna, however, have little to play for and will arrive at San Siro without a win in their last four games. The minnows are certainly there for the taking, and the onus is on Milan to take the game to the visitors.

Stefano Pioli’s men have, however, shown themselves capable of shooting themselves in the foot. Whether the game against Bologna will turn into a banana skin or just another stepping stone to a 19th league title 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

Monday will be a special night for Stefano Pioli, who is set to manage his 100th Serie A game for Milan. He has won more points per game in the league than any other manager in the club’s history and can strengthen their hand regarding a much-awaited Serie A title.

The 56-year-old is likely to deploy Milan in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Mike Maignan is the sure starter in goal behind a backline of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori and Lucas Hernandez.

With key games against Atalanta and Inter Milan to come, star midfielder Franck Kessie appears set to be rested. Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali should thus start in the double pivot. How well the duo performs on the night could determine which way the match swings.

Simon Kjaer is the club’s only long-term absentee, and Pioli has no other major injury concerns. Daniel Maldini has recovered from an illness but is unlikely to make the starting XI.

Alexis Saelemaekers is out of form and looks set to start on the bench once again. Junior Messias is likely to get the nod on the right flank, while Rafael Leao occupies the other wing. Brahim Diaz is expected to return to the lineup as the attacking midfielder for the night.

Olivier Giroud has proven to be an inspired signing for AC Milan, and he is expected to lead the line on the night against Bologna. Despite his advanced age, he remains a potent option and could cause the Bologna defence several problems.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Messias, Diaz, Leao; Giroud

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Bologna

Kingsley Michael remains a long-term absentee for Bologna, while Nicolas Dominguez will miss out due to injury. The return of Federico Santander will, however, boost the visitors.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side have failed to win any of their last three games, also failing to find the back of the net in any of them. They will be keen to get back to winning ways and look set to turn out in a 3-4-3 formation on the night.

Lukasz Skorupski will start in goal behind a back three of Arthur Theate, Gary Medel and Adama Soumaoro. The midfield four more or less selects itself. The quartet of Mitchell Dijks, Mattias Svanberg, Jerdy Schouten and Aaron Hickey will feature on the night.

Svanberg and Schouten will be tasked with holding the fort in the middle of the pitch, allowing Dijks and Hickey to serve as wing-backs. Dijks and Hickey could also drop back and form a back five should Milan turn up the pressure.

Roberto Soriano and Riccardo Orsolini are likely to start behind Marko Arnautovic, who is expected to lead the line against Milan. The Austrian ace is the club’s top striker this season and could cause Fikayo Tomori issues if he is allowed to do so.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Skorupski; Soumaoro, Medel, Theate; Hickey, Schouten, Svanberg, Dijks; Soriano, Orsolini; Arnautovic 

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Key Stats

  • AC Milan are unbeaten against Bologna in their last 12 Serie A games. They have won 11, drawing one in that run.
  • AC Milan have won their last five home games against Bologna in the league. The last time the Rossoneri lost was in 2016, when they lost 0-1 on the night.
  • AC Milan have won more games by a margin of 1-0 (11 games) than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues.
  • The game will be Stefano Pioli’s 100th Serie A game in charge of AC Milan. He currently averages 2.04 points per game for the Rossoneri, the highest average points per game for a Milan coach in the three-point for a win era.
  • A win will take AC Milan to 69 points from 31 games in the league. This will be their third-best point tally for the club since the 1994-95 campaign.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

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The Portuguese international has enjoyed a scintillating season where he has often come out on top. His ability to take players on, coupled with the electric pace, makes him a difficult player to pin down.

Leao found the back of the net in the reverse fixture earlier this season, a match that AC Milan won 4-2. Leao has not seen the back of the net since the 1-1 draw against Udinese in February. With just a few more games to go before the season ends, there is no better time than now for the 22-year-old to re-discover his scoring touch.

Prediction

AC Milan 2-1 Bologna

AC Milan have won their last three Serie A matches by a 1-0 margin, while Bologna have failed to find the back of the net in their three games. It promises to be a cagey affair that will likely open up more in the second half.

Stefano Pioli’s men, however, possess quality in abundance, and it should prove telling on the field. This should ultimately shine through and help the Rossoneri secure all three points on the night.

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