AC Milan will kick off their 2022/23 UEFA Champions League campaign when they make the trip to Austria to face Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday night.

AC Milan will travel to Austria to take on Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday night, hoping to start their UEFA Champions League campaign with a flourish after an underwhelming showing last season. Milan are in Group E alongside Salzburg, Chelsea FC, and Dinamo Zagreb.

The hosts are aware that they will face a difficult test when they begin their campaign at the Red Bull Arena, but Matthias Jaissle’s charges are currently enjoying their good form at the moment and are brimming with confidence.

After losing a game in the second round of the new Austrian Bundesliga season, Salzburg have embarked on a six-game winning streak, conceding only once during that stretch. Meanwhile, the Austrian club will strive to reproduce their performances in their UEFA Champions League group last season, with their sights set on trying to nick a second-place finish this year.

The Austrian giants will also be boosted by their heroics in last season’s Champions League group phase, where they advanced to the knockouts for the first time, suffering an 8-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. They remained unbeaten in their four home matches in the Champions League last term and will be bid to pull off an upset in Tuesday night’s encounter against AC Milan.

As for the visitors, after a sluggish start to their domestic season in which they dropped points against Atalanta and Sassuolo, Stefano Pioli’s side produced a magnificent effort to dispatch their local rivals, Inter, 3-2 at San Siro.

The reigning Serie A champions are unbeaten in their last 21 league games, which is the best ongoing record in Europe’s top five leagues. While there is no disregarding their domestic dominance, there may be some doubts surfacing from last season’s disappointing performance in the Champions League.

The Rossoneri finished rock-bottom of a group that included Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, and FC Porto, managing just one victory in a dire group stage campaign. To be fair, AC Milan entered last year’s competition after an eight-year absence. So, they can be excused for being out of touch, although they will certainly look to improve on it given that they have evolved into a more robust outfit under Stefano Pioli.

Team News & Tactics

Red Bull Salzburg

Red Bull Salzburg will be without the services of Mamady Diambou (ankle), Sekou Koita (ankle), Justin Omoregie (thigh), Kamil Piatkowski (thigh), Samson Tijani (leg), and Ignace van der Brempt (ankle), while Luka Sucic (groin) is also doubtful and will not feature in this game. So it is safe to say Matthias Jaissle is dealing with a host of pressing concerns ahead of welcoming AC Milan.

Red Bull Salzburg are renowned for the plethora of players that have benefited from their development system over the years. And as usual, they have drained a lot of talent to Europe, such as Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen, and Karim Adeyemi, among others.

Despite this, the hosts will be no pushovers as their conveyer belt continues to produce new wonderkids season after season. Die Roten Bullen have a near-flawless domestic record but will be up against a different class of opposition this midweek.

Red Bull Salzburg are expected to deploy a 4-4-2 formation, with Phillip Kohn starting behind a back four of Amar Dedic, Oumar Solet, Maximilian Wober, and captain Andreas Ulmer. Jaissle can also call upon summer signing Strahinja Pavlovic in defence to provide freshness if needed.

When attacking, however, this 4-4-2 tends to reorganise itself as 4-1-2-1-2, with Dijon Kameri pushing up as a number ten, Nicolas Seiwald dropping as a six, and Nicolas Capaldo and Maurits Kjaergaard coming inside to act as number eights.

To make up numbers in midfield, full-backs Dedic and Ulmer often push up to maintain the width in advanced areas. Salzburg play two strikers up top in order to ensure that they always have multiple avenues of attack available to them.

Both Noah Okafor and Fernando make different kinds of attacking movements, with the latter dropping and the former moving in behind, stretching opposition defences with his speed and ability to isolate defenders in 1v1 situations. Fernando is Red Bull Salzburg’s top scorer with four goals, so Benjamin Sesko will have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Kohn; Dedic, Solet, Wober, Ulmer; Capaldo, Seiwald, Kjaergaard; Kameri; Fernando, Okafor

AC Milan

Unlike his counterpart in the Red Bull Salzburg dugout, AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has far lesser availability issues to deal with. Rade Krunic (strain), Alessandro Florenzi (muscle injury) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee surgery) are the only players ruled out here.

Stefano Pioli is unlikely to tinker with the side that beat Inter Milan on Saturday, at least not too heavily. Mike Maignan will take his usual place in goal for AC Milan after producing a string of spectacular saves against Inter last time out.

The Rossoneri will line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Pioli favours more often than not. Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu will form the central defensive pairing, flanked by the customary full-back duo of Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria.

Up ahead in midfield, the onus will be on Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali to wrest control of the game and set a quick tempo. Despite starting over the weekend, Olivier Giroud will lead the line for AC Milan against Red Bull Salzburg once again, with the veteran striker set to be supplemented by Rafael Leao, Charles De Ketelaere, and Junior Messias.

Alexis Saelemaekers is an alternative to Messias, but the Belgium international is likely to be used as an impact substitute. Meanwhile, Divock Origi is another player who will be targeting significant minutes here and will hope to impress off the bench when AC Milan visit Salzburg.

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

Key Stats

  • This will be only the third European encounter between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Milan, with the previous two taking place in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League group stage. Milan won both meetings that season on their way to the final.
  • Milan have only lost one of their past 11 meetings with Austrian sides in major European competitions (W8 D2), a 2-5 setback to SK Rapid Wien in the 1957/58 European Cup.
  • The Rossoneri have won each of their last five European games against Austrian teams by a combined score of 16-2, most recently defeating FK Austria Wien 5-1 in the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League.
  • No Austrian side has ever beaten an Italian opponent in the UEFA Champions League in 10 previous meetings (D2 L8).
  • Stefano Pioli have won just one of their last nine UEFA Champions League matches (D2 L6).

Player to Watch

Rafael Leao

Rafael Leao, who was the subject of interest from Chelsea this past summer, is currently in dazzling form and grabbed a brace and an assist to round off a fine display in Derby di Milano. Last season’s Serie A MVP proved once again why his form is important for the Rossoneri’s success this term, and he is starting to hit world-class levels of consistency.

Leao was a nightmare all evening for the Inter Milan defence this past weekend with his enterprising dribbling, bursts of pace, and unmatched trickery. Any chance Red Bull Salzburg have of causing a shock will rely on how well they can nullify the threat from the 22-year-old, whose link-up with Olivier Giroud is critical for Milan’s offense.

Prediction

Red Bull Salzburg 1-2 AC Milan

Both teams come into this game in good form, with Red Bull Salzburg enjoying a five-game winning streak in the Austrian Bundesliga and AC Milan having defeated city rivals Inter Milan in the Derby Della Madonnina. Thus, this could be a very interesting match and a tight contest, with AC Milan’s defence proving to be quite porous in the opening months of the new season.

However, Milan are one of the favourites to top their group and are a better team on paper. They will look to begin their European campaign on a positive note, and The Hard Tackle backs Stefano Pioli’s side to get the job done here with a narrow 2-1 win.

Leave A Comment...

*