Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Prediction: AC Milan vs Atalanta

Verdict: Draw

Best odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: Unibet

Following consecutive losses, AC Milan confront a significant challenge to their diminishing title aspirations this Sunday evening as they welcome the formidable Atalanta BC to San Siro.

While Milan currently hold a seven-point lead over their Lombardy counterparts in the Serie A standings, Atalanta’s recent streak of five consecutive league victories signals a narrowing of the gap between the two teams.

AC Milan

Despite a 3-2 defeat on the night, Milan successfully advanced past the Europa League playoffs on Thursday, having carried a three-goal advantage to Rennes following their dominant performance in the first leg of the knockout tie.

Rafael Leao once again found the back of the net in France, but Benjamin Bourigeaud’s hat-trick resulted in a second consecutive loss for the Rossoneri. Nevertheless, their 5-3 aggregate triumph secured their place in the last 16 of UEFA’s secondary competition, where they will face Czech side Slavia Prague.

While Milan have amassed 52 points at this juncture of a Serie A campaign for the third time in four seasons – a tally equaled only once in the previous 16 – their faint hopes of securing the Scudetto suffered a significant blow last weekend in nearby Monza. In a tumultuous 4-2 defeat, Luka Jovic, currently enjoying his finest form since joining the club last summer, tarnished his record by receiving a red card for violent conduct. The loss, in which the home side scored twice in the dying moments, marked the first time they had overcome their regional rivals.

Despite trailing second-placed Juventus by only two points, Milan’s traditional adversaries Inter Milan have established a nine-point lead at the summit. With elimination from the Coppa Italia by Sunday’s opponents, the Europa League stands as their best opportunity to secure silverware this season.

This weekend, Milan not only aim to repel their visitors and maintain or extend their seven-point lead, but also seek to avoid suffering defeats in both Serie A encounters against Atalanta for the first time in 16 years.

Team News

Following last week’s defeat to Monza, Stefano Pioli is expected to field a full-strength lineup against Atalanta, despite the team’s recent midweek journey to Brittany.

The Milan head coach has received a boost with the return of Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori, and captain Davide Calabria to full training. While Calabria might even feature in the starting lineup on Sunday, Kalulu and Tomori, who were sidelined for a longer period, may be included on the substitutes’ bench.

With Jovic serving a suspension due to his previous dismissal in the league, Olivier Giroud’s position upfront remains undisputed. The French striker has notched 12 Serie A goals this season, leaving him just one short of equaling his best tally in Italy’s top flight.

Atalanta

Although Atalanta have only secured victory in three of their last nine league encounters with Milan, they emerged as 3-2 victors in December’s reverse fixture, with Ademola Lookman scoring twice. Additionally, Teun Koopmeiners’ decisive brace in a recent Coppa Italia clash secured La Dea’s spot in the cup semi-finals.

This should grant Gian Piero Gasperini’s side a psychological advantage, especially after securing a sixth consecutive win last week against opponents fighting relegation in Serie A.

Following their commanding 3-0 victory over Sassuolo, where Koopmeiners found the net, Atalanta face a crucial stretch of fixtures in the coming weeks. After the match against Milan, they are set to take on Inter next Wednesday, followed by a visit from fellow top-four contenders Bologna at the beginning of March.

In the past five matchdays, Atalanta lead the league in points (15), goals scored (17), and goals conceded (two). Despite Lookman’s absence, they managed to score as many goals as in their previous 11 league games.

Engaged in a battle to secure Serie A’s fourth Champions League spot – although Italy could potentially earn a fifth spot if teams like Milan progress to the latter stages of European competitions – Atalanta are currently experiencing a strong run of form, but they anticipate tougher challenges ahead.

In Friday’s Europa League draw, Gasperini’s team—having topped their group and thus avoiding the playoffs—was paired with Sporting CP in the last 16.

Team News

Milan’s loanee Charles De Ketelaere has enjoyed a remarkable start to 2024, and the Belgian will be looking to build on his impressive record of six goals and six assists since joining the Bergamo side on loan.

Another key player for La Dea, Teun Koopmeiners, has scored seven of his nine goals away from home this season and is poised to reach double figures for the second consecutive campaign. So far this season, the Dutch midfielder has been directly involved in three goals from two games against Milan.

The visiting team may also welcome back Lookman to their formidable frontline following his participation in the Africa Nations Cup final with Nigeria. However, the 26-year-old winger is still contending with an ankle issue, which may keep him out of contention a while longer.

Conclusion

On one hand, Milan’s worrying form at the moment can only work in Atalanta’s favour, but on the other, the seven-time European champions do possess more quality in their ranks and will be playing in front of their own crowd. All factors considered, a draw feels very likely.

Verdict: Draw

Best odds: 5/2

Bookmaker: Unibet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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