Best odds: 12/5
AC Milan are scheduled to play host to Lazio at San Siro in a very important Serie A contest on Saturday afternoon. Both teams desperately need the points on offer and will do whatever they can to get them.
The Rossoneri achieved huge success by reaching the semifinals of the Champions League, where they’ll face city rivals Inter Milan later this month. Getting there took beating the newly crowned Italian champions Napoli in the quarterfinals, and they did so over two legs, right after beating them in the Serie A as well.
However, Milan’s participation in next season’s Champions League is currently in doubt. Unless they go on to beat Inter along with whoever wins the other semifinal, Real Madrid or Manchester City, they’ll need to finish inside the top four, and with five games left to be played, they’ve dropped out of that elite bracket for the time being. Stefano Pioli’s men are sixth with 58 points, two less than fourth-place Inter, and on the same tally as fifth-place Atalanta.
The problem that got Milan where they are is an inability to return to winning ways that has been plaguing their efforts recently. Since thrashing Napoli in early April, they’ve only won once, drawing the other four games they’ve played. Looking at their last-six run in all competitions, it includes a 1-0 win over Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League clash, a 1-1 draw away to Bologna, a 1-1 draw in the second leg against Napoli, a 2-0 home win over Lecce, a 1-1 draw away to Roma, and a 1-1 draw at home against relegation-bound Cremonese.
Pioli won’t be able to call upon veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as midfielder Tomasso Pobega, but the rest of the squad should be at his disposal.
Mike Maignan will be the man in goal, with Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori as the two centre-backs, flanked by Theo Hernandez on the left and Davide Calabria on the right. Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali are expected to pair up in the middle of the park, with the trio of Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz and Rafael Leao playing behind striker Olivier Giroud.
The team that will have been saddened the most by the confirmation of Napoli as the new Italian champions is Lazio, though they probably never expected to pose a serious challenge anyway. Napoli built up quite an advantage over the rest of the league very early in the campaign, and simply wasn’t realistic to expect anyone to come close late on.
Be that as it may, Lazio’s attention will now turn to securing a place in the remaining three spots leading into the Champions League. They’re still second to Napoli with 64 points to their name, one more than Juventus in third, four more than Inter, and six more than Atalanta and Milan. With five rounds to go, the task is obviously not done yet, and this trip to Milan will be seen as crucial, a chance to ward off a troubled direct rival.
Lazio’s European campaign hasn’t been as successful as Milan’s. They were knocked out of the Europa Conference League by Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the round of 16, but if they manage to qualify for next season’s Champions League, they certainly won’t be too bothered about that.
In the last six matches they played, Maurizio Sarri’s men beat Monza away by 0-2, Juventus at home by 2-1, Spezia away by 0-3, lost 0-1 at home against Torino and 3-1 away to Inter, and eventually bounced back with a 2-0 home win over Sassuolo.
Midfielder Danilo Cataldi is Sarri’s only injury worry, and he’s likely to miss this game even if he hasn’t yet been ruled out completely.
Ivan Provedel will be in goal, with former Milan man Alessio Romagnoli pairing up with Nicolo Casale in the heart of defence. Elseid Hysaj should come into the side and play on the right defensive flank, with Adam Marusic switching to the left again. Cataldi’s place at the base of midfield is likely to be filled by Marcos Antonio, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto between the boxes. Upfront, Ciro Immobile should be supported by Felipe Anderson and Mattia Zaccagni.
This will be a difficult match for both sides, especially Milan who need to win it to make it count, unlike Lazio, who would be content with not losing. And given the Rosseneri’s recent struggles to win matches, the visitors will likely end the contest with a smile.
Best odds: 12/5
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