Thursday, December 9, 2021

Prediction: AC Milan vs Napoli

Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: Betfair

AC Milan are set to welcome Napoli to the San Siro stadium on Sunday for a game that’s officially a part of round 27 of the 2020-21 Serie A campaign, though for Napoli it will be league match number 26.

AC Milan

It has mostly been a great season for the Rossoneri. They spent a large part of it at the top of the table, giving off a strong feeling that they could finally break the long reign of Juventus over Italian football, but things haven’t been going that well lately and they’ve relinquished the lead to Inter Milan, sitting six points behind their city rivals. Inter have 62, Milan 56, Juventus are third with 52, AS Roma fourth with 50, and Atalanta are fifth with 49. Milan are definitely not out of the title race, but they do have a lot to do between now and the end of the campaign. A win over Napoli would be a good start.

Stefano Pioli’s team have shown mixed form in the league recently, winning three, drawing one and losing two of their last six matches in the Italian top flight. Those three games they failed to win are obviously the main reason for their drop from the top, especially the one they lost 0-3 to Inter. Before that, they beat Crotone at home by 4-0 and shockingly lost 2-0 away to Spezia, and afterwards, they beat Roma away by 1-2, drew 1-1 at home with Udinese, and beat Verona away by 0-2.

The last match Milan played to date, however, was a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United on Thursday, in the first leg of their meeting in the round of 16 of the Europa League, after they saw of Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade in the round of 32.

Team News

Pioli won’t be able to call upon Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the blow that the absence of the brilliant Swede in his attack represents can hardly be overstated. What’s more, Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic won’t be playing either. It means that the Milan boss will have to select his forwards from the list containing Rafael Leao, Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Rade Krunic and Samu Castillejo – all good players in their own right, but hardly at the level shown over the years by the injured trio. Hakan Calhanoglu hasn’t been ruled out as of yet, but he is a doubt.

At the back, there will be no Alessio Romagnoli, while left-back Theo Hernandez is a doubt, too. Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori could line up alongside Simon Kjaer again in the heart of defence, flanked probably by Diogo Dalot and Davide Calabria.

But if Calhanoglu and Theo are fit, both should walk straight into the starting XI.

Napoli

After four consecutive seasons of successful Champions League qualification, Napoli finished seventh last term and they’re still struggling to find their way back into the top four. At the moment they are sixth, only two points behind Atalanta, but as has already been said, they have a game in hand and are very much in that race.

Their last-six record in the Serie A reads the same as that of Milan – three wins, one draw and one defeat. They lost away to Genoa by 2-1 in early February, then they beat champions Juventus 1-0 at home, lost 4-2 away to Atalanta, beat Benevento at home by 2-0, drew 3-3 away to Sassuolo, and eventually beat Bologna 3-1 at home last week.

But unlike Milan, Napoli have finished their European campaign for the season after losing out on aggregate to Granada in the round of 32 of the Europa League. The Spanish side won the first leg 2-0 and it proved enough for them to progress, given that Napoli won the second by 2-1.

Team News

Head coach Gennaro Gattuso doesn’t have nearly as many issues with his team as Pioli, though he will be ruing the ACL injury suffered by Faouzi Ghoulam last week. The left-back won’t play again this season, and his place in the team is expected to be occupied by Elseid Hysaj. 

Striker Andrea Petagna missed the last four league games and both Europa League legs against Granada with a thigh problem. Like Ghoulam, he is unavailable for Sunday, but the rest of the squad are all in contention.

Kalidou Koulibaly will be marshalling the defence, with Allan controlling the midfield line. Upfront, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne are both nailed-on starters.

Conclusion

With all due respect to Napoli, Milan should have enough in their locker to settle this match in their favour in normal circumstances, and with Inter playing away to relegation battlers Torino on the same day, they can hardly afford not to. But given the number of players missing from their ranks through injury, especially the high-quality ones upfront, the game probably won’t see too many goals.

Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: Betfair

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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