Defending champions AC Milan host Bologna at San Siro in Serie A on Monday, looking to bounce back from a minor hiccup at Atalanta last time out.

AC Milan host Bologna in Serie A on Saturday afternoon in what could prove to be an intriguing Serie A clash. While the hosts have not had the best of starts to their title defence, having earned a win and a draw from their opening two matches, they showed champions’ mettle last weekend.

Milan were not in full swing against Atalanta last time out, needing a spectacular equaliser from Ismael Bennacer to salvage a point from the feisty encounter and extend their unbeaten run.

Having said that, Stefano Pioli will be pleased with a point against a European regular and with the Rossoneri’s resilience on that difficult away trip. However, the AC Milan boss will want his attacking players to be more precise in the final third since there were plenty of opportunities to win the game last time out.

The Scudetto holders return to their fortress at San Siro this weekend, having won seven of their last eight league matches on home turf. They will face a struggling Bologna side who have yet to taste victory this season, picking up one point from their opening two Serie A outings. The Greyhounds endured an underwhelming 2021/22 Serie A campaign and finished the season in 13th place.

Bologna earned their first point of the campaign in a 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona last Sunday, but they came close to claiming all three points after Riccardo Orsolini’s well-worked goal was ruled out for offside late on in the game. Manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will be hoping to kick on from what was a relatively positive showing last time out.

However, their task at hand does not get any easier as they face the reigning champions away from home on the weekend. The visitors will be encouraged by their performance in the corresponding fixture last season, when they earned a credible draw in a dreary 0-0 stalemate, although they were beaten comprehensively 4-2 on their own patch.

And ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at how both sides could line up and what tactics they could employ on the night.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

Despite an impotent attacking display last time out, Stefano Pioli looks set to keep faith with the same XI here, although new recruit Charles De Ketelaere may earn his first start after shining off the bench in the first two games, with Brahim Diaz likely to be the one to make way for the Belgian wonderkid.

There is no looking past Mike Maignan between the sticks, with the Rossoneri lining up in Pioli’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. Pierre Kalulu is likely to partner Fikayo Tomori at the heart of the Milan backline, flanked by the enterprising full-back duo of Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria down the left and right flanks, respectively.

Ismael Bennacer in the box-to-box midfield role has been the highlight of Milan’s short season thus far, as shown by impressive statistics and passing the eye test. The Algerian has seamlessly stepped into Franck Kessie’s shoes and is arguably even an upgrade thanks to his ability to drive with the ball and manoeuvre his way out of tight spaces through his dribbling. Sandro Tonali looks set to rekindle his partnership, with Bennacer in the midfield double pivot.

Junior Messias is going through a rough patch as he was guilty of missing a few sitters last time out and will look to make amends with his performance here, slotting down the right flank, whereas Rafael Leao will look to rediscover his goal-scoring touch off the left.

Meanwhile, Belgian sensation De Ketelaere will look to create chances for his teammates from the No. 10 role. Ante Rebic will once again spearhead Milan’s attack, but he must start performing on a consistent basis, with Olivier Giroud and Divock Origi breathing down his neck for a starting berth.

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

Bologna

Much like his counterpart in the AC Milan dugout, Bologna boss Sinisa Mihajlovic is unlikely to make drastic changes in his starting eleven with no fresh injury concerns ahead of this fixture against his former club, but there will be one forced change up front.

Bologna look set to turn out in a 3-4-1-2 formation on the night. Lukasz Skorupski ought to be the man guarding the Bologna goal and will likely be a busy man given the rampant nature of Milan’s attack.

Denso Kasius and Andrea Cambiaso should continue as the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. The same goes in central defence, with Gary Medel, Kevin Bonifazi, and Lorenzo De Silvestri likely to keep their respective spots in the back three.

The likes of Nicolas Dominguez and Jerdy Schouten will have to be at their best to curb AC Milan’s creative influences in the middle of the pitch. Roberto Soriano will be the attacking-minded presence in the middle of the park. The 31-year-old looks set to provide the creative spark and will play behind the strikers.

In attack, Marko Arnautovic is proving exactly why he was linked with a move to Manchester United earlier this summer with his strong start to the season and became the first Rossoblu player since Roberto Baggio 25 years ago to score in both of Bologna’s opening two Serie A games. He remains the biggest attacking threat for Bologna and will lead the line.

However, Orsolini, who was a threat throughout the Verona game last time out, will be sorely missed by Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side as he serves a three-match ban after receiving a straight red card late in the game for a risky high-foot tackle towards the end of the game. Thankfully, Mihajlovic has a number of options to partner with Arnautovic up top, but Nicola Sansone could get the nod over Antonio Raimondo or Musa Barrow.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Skorupski; Medel, Bonafazi, De Silvestri; Cambiaso, Schouten, Dominguez, Kasius; Soriano; Arnautović, Sansone

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

Rafael Leao has laughed off criticism of his below-par performances in the first two weeks of the season and the forward is likely to bounce back on Saturday amid rumours of a blockbuster move to Chelsea.

One of the fastest players in Serie A with his gliding pace, the 23-year-old was a clutch player for Milan during the title run-in last term, as the winger finally exploded onto the scene. It is now all about consistency for him to truly become a world-class player.

With the supply chain of Charles De Ketelaere and Ismael Bennacer, Leao will be itching to get on the scoresheet against Bologna to get off the mark in the new season.

Key Stats

  • AC Milan have lost only one of their last 25 Serie A meetings against Bologna (W16 D8), last losing in January 2016 by a 1-0 narrow scoreline, when the current Bologna head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was in the Milan dugout.
  • AC Milan are undefeated in their last 18 Serie A matches (W12 D6), which is the longest unbeaten run currently ongoing in the Big-5 European Leagues.
  • Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men have struggled defensively of late, conceding two or more goals in three of their last five league outings.
  • Stefano Pioli’s side have won their last four home matches in Serie A.
  • Bologna are currently struggling to perform away from home, having claimed just one win from their last 11 Serie A matches on the road.

Prediction

AC Milan 3-1 Bologna

Bologna face an uphill task against a formidable AC Milan outfit. The away side will rely heavily on Marko Arnautovic to hurt the Rossoneri in the final third, and the Serie A veteran may well come up with the goods. There are plenty of goals on offer as neither side has been convincing at the back this season, though the hosts will have the upper hand in this game.

Milan failed to replicate the goalscoring exploits of the opening-day victory over Udinese when they were held to a 1-1 draw away at Atalanta last weekend. However, given the quality of their attacking contingent both on the pitch and off the bench, they have been backed to find the back of the net on a consistent basis here, and are expected to come out with a comfortable victory on Saturday.

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