AC Milan have it all to do against Hellas Verona as Inter Milan lay down the gauntlet in the Serie A title race.

AC Milan fans would have enjoyed a myriad of emotions as Inter Milan faced off against Empoli on Friday night. The defending champions trailed by two goals within the first 30 minutes and appeared to have conceded the title to AC Milan.

However, a stunning comeback saw them prevail 4-2 and overtake the Rossoneri in the league standings. All eyes will be on the red half of Milan as they look to do their part in a closely-fought Scudetto race. Stefano Pioli’s men have it all to do when they travel to Venetia to face Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Milan are currently unbeaten in their last 13 Serie A games and have their fate in their own hands. As long as they win all of their remaining games or match Inter’s results, they will be crowned champions of Italy for the first time since 2011.

Verona, for their part, have blown hot and cold this season. They are a tricky side and could be a potential banana skin should Milan not turn up on the night. The onus is now on Pioli’s men to show mettle and see their two-point advantage take them through.

Milan have worked hard and have also experienced their share of luck to get where they are today. Anything less than the Scudetto will be seen as the Rossoneri choking under pressure. Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi holds memorable moments for Milan fans, and they could yet add another to that list should they prevail on Sunday.

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

Team News & Tactics

Hellas Verona

Verona are currently on a run that has seen them fail to win consecutive games in 13 attempts. They are coming off the back of a 2-1 win over Cagliari and will be keen to upset the applecart against Milan. The visitors start as the favourites, but Verona have what it takes to punish them.

The Gialloblu currently sit ninth in the Serie A table and have little to play for. The chance of them making European football is unlikely, and the most they can hope for is to have their say in the title race.

Igor Tudor’s side have no injuries or suspensions to worry about and will have a full-strength side to choose from. With home support to boot, the Venetian side will pose a threat. Tudor is likely to set his side up in a 3-4-2-1 formation that will look to crowd the midfield and seize the initiative in the centre of the park.

Lorenzo Montipo will start in goal behind the back three of Nicolo Casale, Koray Gunter and Federico Ceccherini. Darko Lazovic and Davide Faraoni will start at wing-back and will have a busy night. The latter, in particular, will need to nail his positioning and avoid getting caught out by Theo Hernandez or Rafael Leao. The last thing he needs to do is leave space behind him for Leao to run into.

Ivan Ilic and Adrien Tameze will go up against Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer and could get stuck in. Who wins this midfield battle could dictate the outcome of the game. Antonio Barak and Gianluca Caprari will start behind Giovanni Simeone and will look to seize advantage of any mistakes by either Fikayo Tomori or Pierre Kalulu.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Montipo; Casale, Gunter, Ceccherini; Faraoni, Tameze, Ilic, Lazovic; Caprari, Barak; Simeone

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AC Milan

With key games coming in thick and fast, Stefano Pioli has a near full-strength side at his disposal to choose from. Apart from Simon Kjaer, who is out for the season, no other first-team player is missing for Milan. The return of Alessandro Florenzi will add further depth to the roster.

Milan will, in all likelihood, welcome back Ismael Bennacer to the starting XI alongside Sandro Tonali. This will free up Franck Kessie to operate further upfield. Such a setup certainly offers Milan more flexibility when it comes to crafting goalscoring opportunities.

Pioli will do well to keep his defence intact. The Milan manager is likely to persist with his 4-2-3-1 formation on the night. Mike Maignan is a sure starter in goal with a back four of Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez ahead of him.

The duo of Tonali and Bennacer will act as a double pivot, aiming to help Milan seize control of the midfield. Doing so will free up the trio of Rafael Leao, Kessie and Junior Messias to push forward. The trio will be tasked with creating chances for veteran striker Olivier Giroud who is expected to lead the line.

The aforementioned playing XI is Milan’s best team at the moment and playing them together week in, week out will help them ride the momentum through to the end of the campaign. Of the two wings, Milan are likely to overload their left flank where Leao and Hernandez have built up a good rapport. Kessie’s darting runs into space will add yet another dimension to a rather inconsistent Milan offence.

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

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Key Stats

  • Both teams have faced off 59 times so far in the league, with Milan securing 28 wins and Hellas Verona ten. The Gialloblu have not beaten Milan since 2017.
  • AC Milan have done the double over Hellas Verona just once (2001/02) since the three points for a win era commenced.
  • A win for AC Milan will see them win three away games in a row against Hellas Verona for the first time in Serie A history.
  • Hellas Verona have failed to win consecutive Serie A games in their last 13 attempts.
  • AC Milan are currently on a 13-game unbeaten run in Serie A. Only Liverpool have outdone them in the top five European leagues.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

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The Portuguese winger has been a key player for AC Milan this season and will be counted on to deliver in the remaining games this season. Leao’s directness, coupled with his pace, makes him a difficult player to mark and Hellas Verona could have their hands full on the night.

The 22-year-old scored the winner against Fiorentina last time around, ensuring that the Rossoneri have their Scudetto fortunes in their own hands. He has delivered consistently for Milan in clutch situations and could yet have more chapters to write in this season’s story. It will not come as a surprise if Leao is the man who will make the difference at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Prediction

Hellas Verona 0-2 AC Milan

Nothing less than a win will do for AC Milan, and they will be keen to begin the game on the front foot. Their 13-game unbeaten streak hints at a side that is capable of churning out results, and it should be more of the same on Sunday. As long as Milan get the first goal of the night, it should be a comfortable win for Stefano Pioli’s men. Nerves could creep in the longer Verona continue to keep the visitors out.

Given the difference in quality and momentum, not to mention what is at stake, The Hard Tackle believes it will be a regulation win for Milan that will take them back to the Serie A summit.

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