AC Milan got back to winning ways on Saturday as they comfortable beat Bologna in front of a sold-out San Siro. However, there is no time to celebrate the win as the Rossoneri will face Sassuolo on Tuesday evening.
It was indeed a routine win for Milan against Bologna as Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud got on the scoresheet. The Rossoblu had zero shots on target and the Rossoneri are inevitably buzzing with confidence.
As said, though, there is no time to dwell on the win as a clash at Sassuolo awaits tomorrow evening. A clear example of how tight the schedule is can be acknowledged in the fact that Stefano Pioli didn’t even have a press conference.
Game date: Tuesday, August 30
Kick-off time: 18:30 (CEST)
Venue: Mapei Stadium
Referee: Giovanni Ayroldi (VAR: Banti)
There are, unfortunately, two additional injuries for Pioli to take into consideration for tomorrow’s clash. Ante Rebic is struggling with a back injury and Divock Origi is battling an inflammation. It should be noted that both have been left out as a precaution.
Given that there are just three days between this clash and the one against Bologna, Pioli is expected to make a heavy rotation. In total, there should be five changes to the XI and it says a lot about Milan’s depth, given that it’s still a strong lineup.
Veterans Alessandro Florenzi and Simon Kjaer should get the chance at the back, with the latter making his first start in nine months. Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez will keep their spots in the backline as they are in good physical condition.
In the midfield, Ismael Bennacer will play from start and that makes sense considering just how important he has been thus far. Tommaso Pobega will make his first start and this means Sandro Tonali will get some rest.
Despite the positive full debut, Charles De Ketelaere will most likely be back on the bench as Brahim Diaz is set to get a chance. After three disappointing performances, Junior Messias will (finally) be dropped in favour of Alexis Saelemaekers. The rest of the XI will remain unchanged amid the aforementioned injuries.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Pobega, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao, Giroud.
Sassuolo earned a respectable 11th-place finish last season under the management of Alessio Dioniosi. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they chose to stick with the 42-year-old this season even if the start has been a mixed bag.
In three games, the Neroverdi have registered one win, one draw and one loss. Domenico Berardi, who recently signed a long contract with the club, was the hero against Lecce as they won by the odd goal.
It could be an interesting season for Sassuolo, having signed Augustin Alvarez (linked with Milan in the past), Andrea Pinamonti and Kristian Thorstvedt for the attack. On the other hand, the likes of Gianluca Scamacca, Giacomo Raspadoria and Francesco Caputo have left.
It’s logical to expect at least a few changes to the starting XI, given the tight schedule, but Dioni’s XI will be rather similar to last time out. This obviously means that the already mentioned Berardi and Pinamoni should start.
Probable Sassuolo XI (4-3-3): Consigli; Toljan, Erlic, Ferrari, Rogerio; Frattesi, M. Lopez, Henrique; Berardi, Pinamonti, Kyriakopoulos.
Head to head
It’s impossible to forget the last time Milan faced Sassuolo, seeing as they secured the 19th Scudetto with a 3-0 win at Mapei Stadium. It was a fantastic clash from start to finish and the atmosphere was electric, with 18k Rossoneri fans present (out of a total 21k).
Giroud and Kessie were the goalscorers, leading the line in what was probably the most comfortable win of the 2020/21 season. Considering how much was on the line for such a young team, that is quite astonishing when you think about it.
The head-to-head record in recent years is relatively balanced, with three wins for Milan and two for Sassuolo in the last five encounters. It’s worth noting that all of the Rossoneri’s wins came away from home, and the losses at San Siro.
➤ AC Milan have won their last six Serie A away games against Sassuolo, winning their 19th Serie A title in this fixture last season. The Rossoneri have never won seven consecutive top-flight away games against an opponent before.
➤ Sassuolo and Milan will face each other for the fourth time in a midweek Serie A game: Sassuolo have won twice (both 2-1 at San Siro in January 2015 and April 2021), but lost the only game at Mapei Stadium (1-2 in July 2020).
➤ Sassuolo won against AC Milan in the first half of last season’s Serie A, after six consecutive seasons without a win against them in the first part of the competition — only Eusebio Di Francesco won two times in a row (2013/14 and 2014/15)
➤ Having drawn their last Serie A match (2-2 v Spezia), Sassuolo could draw two league games in a row for the first time since December 2021 (against Napoli and Spezia back then).
➤ AC Milan are unbeaten in their last 19 Serie A matches (W13 D6) – in the three points for a win era, only twice have they had a longer unbeaten run: 20 between March and November 1999 and 27 between June 2020 and January 2021.
➤ Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi has scored 10 goals against AC Milan, his best victim in Serie A: he has scored twice in his last four appearances against them, after remaining scoreless in previous seven.
➤ Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi and Milan’s Rafael Leao (eight goals and eight assists each) are two of the three players to have been involved in the most Serie A goals in 2022 (16, level with Ciro Immobile).
➤ Milan’s Olivier Giroud scored a brace against Sassuolo in Serie A in the last MD of last season; against no other side has he had more goals in the competition so far.
Ones to watch
Given that there are quite a few changes to the XI, it will be interesting to see the likes of Pobega and Saelemaekers tomorrow. Both did well off the bench against Bologna and Pioli must be able to count on them this season. Let’s see if they can rise to the occasion.
Giroud has good memories from Sassuolo away and due to the injuries of Rebic and Origi, his presence is even more important. However, he will also need to preserve some energy for the derby against Inter on Saturday, and thus the balance will be interesting to follow.
As for Sassuolo, Berardi is obviously their danger man and he will need to be kept under close observation. Pinamonti is an Inter product and he will surely be eager to score against Milan, but he will face tough opposition in Kjaer and Tomori.
It won’t be an easy game, especially given the rotation (there are bound to be some hiccups), but Milan are still huge favourites to win. Mike Maignan has a good chance of getting another clean sheet, let’s just say that.
Sassuolo 0-3 AC Milan