AC Milan could move to within a game of securing the Serie A title should they defeat Atalanta at the San Siro on Sunday.

Italian giants AC Milan control their Serie A destiny and could take a giant leap towards the Scudetto with a win over Atalanta at home. Stefano Pioli’s men hold a two-point lead over arch-rivals Inter Milan at the top of the table with two games to go.

The Rossoneri are in good form and came back well against Hellas Verona last weekend to keep hold of their lead at the summit. With nothing apart from the title to play for, Pioli’s side can put all of their eggs in the one basket, heading into the final two matches of the campaign.

Milan have not won Italian football’s biggest prize since 2011, and they will have only themselves to blame should they bottle under the pressure this season. More so, potentially getting one over their biggest rivals will make it all the sweeter. The home side have been fortunate with injuries of late and will have all of their major players available and raring to go.

Atalanta, meanwhile, have dropped away in recent weeks but still represent a formidable threat should they get going. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are not known for sitting back and will take the game to their opponents, as they look to clinch a top-six finish in Serie A.

It should be a fairly open game between two sides who like to push forward in numbers. It will come as a surprise if the game ends scoreless on the night. It promises to be another key game in what is shaping up to be a tight title race. Whether Milan will hold their nerve or let Atalanta hand over the initiative to Inter remains to be seen.

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

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Stefano Pioli has a near full-strength side at his disposal and is expected to go in with a strong playing XI. The Milan boss has preferred to use a 4-2-3-1 formation whenever possible and is unlikely to deviate from it.

Veteran defender Simon Kjaer is the only major absentee for Milan and is set to sit out for the rest of the campaign. However, the Rossoneri have a solid defensive record in 2022 and have conceded just nine goals since the turn of the new year. With Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu having formed a strong centre-back partnership, Milan can go into the game full of confidence.

Mike Maignan is a sure starter in goal and will start behind a back four of Theo Hernandez, Kalulu, Tomori and Davide Calabria. Hernandez and Calabria will have to be alert and will need to get forward whenever space opens up. This will make life easier for the players ahead of them in the attack.

Sandro Tonali was the hero of the game last time around and will be upbeat going into this contest. He will partner with Ismael Bennacer as part of a double pivot and will be tasked with securing the midfield battle. This will also allow Franck Kessie to play in the No. 10 position, making use of his ball-carrying abilities and vision to great effect.

Rafael Leao is a sure starter on the left wing with Alexis Saelemaekers set to keep his spot on the other flank. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still a bit rusty, and Oliver Giroud will be expected to start ahead of the Swede. With Ante Rebic also hitting form at the right time, Pioli certainly has options to deploy upfront.

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

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Atalanta

The visitors will be without Giuseppe Pezzella and Rafael Toloi who are both out injured. Josip Ilicic is also a doubt for the game, and this will give Gian Piero Gasperini something to ponder about.

The Italian boss is likely to implement a 3-4-2-1 system that will get the most out of the players at his disposal. Juan Musso will start in goal behind the back three of Jose Luis Palomino, Merih Demiral and Berat Djimsiti. The three will have to keep their shape intact to prevent Leao and Giroud from running in behind them.

Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon will be tasked to go up against Tonali and Bennacer. Who wins this battle could decide the flow of the game. This will allow Davide Zappacosta and Hans Hateboer to put pressure on the Milan full-backs. Teun Koopmeiners will be tasked with crafting opportunities for Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel, who will both start upfront.

Atalanta play an expansive attacking game and are unlikely to change it against Milan. This should make for an open game where both sides will have enough opportunities to find the net.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Musso; Djimsiti, Demiral, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Frueler, Zappacosta; Koopmeiners; Muriel, Zapata

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Key Stats

  • AC Milan have won just three of their last 13 Serie A games against Atalanta. The Rossoneri have, however, won the last two and have the edge when it comes to recent form.
  • Atalanta are currently unbeaten in their last seven visits to the San Siro. AC Milan have not defeated Atalanta at home since 2014.
  • This will be the first time that AC Milan will have broken the 80-point barrier since they last won the title in 2010/11.
  • Atalanta have won 12 away games in Serie A this season, the highest ever in their history in the top flight. Only AC Milan have won more away games this season in Serie A.
  • AC Milan have faced the fewest shots in Serie A in 2022 (154). Only Liverpool (8) have conceded fewer goals than the Rossoneri (9) in the top five European leagues this calendar year.

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

Embed from Getty Images

The Portuguese international has been the attacking lynchpin for Milan this season and has stepped up massively in the last few weeks. Despite not finding the back of the net as often as he would have liked, Leao continues to craft opportunities for others.

With Atalanta set to play an attacking setup, Leao will certainly have space to run into behind them and work his magic. There should be no shortage of opportunities, and the onus will be on the Milan ace to make the most of it. It is a given that most of the Rossoneri’s best chances will come through the 22-year-old.

Prediction

AC Milan 3-1 Atalanta

While it promises to be an open game, Milan are a more balanced outfit and are also in the midst of a better run of form. They also have more to play for and will be aware that anything short of their best could prove detrimental.

Rafael Leao is also in top form and seems hungry to see the title race through. Milan will start with all guns blazing, and it will come as no surprise if they race into an early lead. Given Atalanta’s defensive frailties, it should prove to be a fairly comfortable win for the home side.

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