Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 7/10
Round nine of the 2020/21 season in the Serie A is up this weekend. There will be several rather interesting and potentially important matches played, such as the one between surprise second-place Sassuolo and last term’s Europa League finalists Inter Milan, or the one between Napoli and AS Roma at the stadium which is set to bear the name of the great Diego Armando Maradona soon.
As for the league leaders AC Milan, they will welcome Fiorentina to San Siro as they aim to continue the brilliant run which could lead them to the first Scudetto since 2011.
It will indeed be a decade since the seven-time European champions last won the national title, and they’ve gone through some turbulent times since then. But now, led by the apparently indestructible Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they are finally on the right track to recapture at least some of their former glory.
The incredible Swede, at the age of 39, has scored 10 of Milan’s total of 19 league goals so far, playing only six matches. However, the Rossoneri will have to do without him when Fiorentina come to visit.
Milan top the table at the moment with 20 points from the possible 24, two more than Sassuolo, the surprise of the campaign so far. The last time they had this tally after eight matches was in 2003/04, and they went on to win the title that season – certainly an encouraging sign for Stefano Pioli and his men. The last six league outings saw Milan win four times and draw twice. They are yet to taste defeat in the competition this term.
As has been said, Ibrahimovic won’t be able to lead the attacking line for Milan in this game. He limped off with a hamstring problem in the win over Napoli last week. Even though initial reports suggested he could be ruled out for quite a while, the veteran striker himself dismissed such claims and expressed a strong belief he would be back in action after two weeks at the most.
In the absence of Zlatan, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao are likely to start and together with Samu Castillejo and Alexis Saelemaekers, could form an interesting ‘front four’ in a 4-2-3-1 setup. That is providing Saelemaekers is deemed fit enough to start, having recovered from an ankle issue only recently.
It’s quite a different story for the Viola. While Milan look to be on the right track, Fiorentina are showing no signs of getting anywhere near the level they were at when the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Predrag Mijatovic and Manuel Rui Costa wore their shirt.
The club sacked Giuseppe Iachini from the post of head coach earlier this month and appointed Cesare Prandelli instead, but Prandelli’s only league game in charge so far saw the team fall to a disappointing 0-1 home defeat to Filippo Inzaghi’s Benevento.
Overall, Fiorentina have only managed to book eight points from as many matches this season, and that tally has them in 15th place at the moment. They won only one of their last six games in the league, drawing two and losing three.
The one bit of good news for Prandelli is that he has practically the entire squad to choose from for the Milan trip. Ex-Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura is back from a minor knock he picked up last week, as is veteran winger Franck Ribery.
It will be interesting to see if the coach gives Dusan Vlahovic a start upfront or chooses Christian Kouame instead.
There’s no escaping the fact that Fiorentina go to San Siro as the underdogs, even with Ibrahimovic unavailable for the home side. Milan should be able to take advantage of the Viola’s current troubles to book fresh three points without major problems.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 7/10
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