Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 6/10
AC Milan will be playing host to Torino at the San Siro on Tuesday evening, in the 10th round of the 2021-22 Serie A season. It will be a contest between two teams with very different aspirations for the campaign.
Having stuck in the title race for a long time last season only to see city rivals Inter lift the trophy in the end, AC Milan seem determined to do better this time, and for the moment, it looks quite good. Being one of the two undefeated teams in the Serie A so far, the Rossoneri trail Napoli on mere goal-difference as both sides have 25 points from nine matches – an outstanding achievement, but it remains to be seen if either can maintain that level of form throughout the campaign. They already have a significant advantage over Inter in third on 18 and AS Roma in fourth on 16.
Naturally, these numbers can give a pretty accurate feel for the form of Stefano Pioli’s team. Since drawing 1-1 away to Juventus on September 19th, Milan have beaten Venezia 2-0 at home, Spezia 1-2 away, Atalanta 2-3 away, Verona 3-2 at home, and Bologna away by 2-4.
The match in Bologna was an exciting one, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic managing to score at both ends of the pitch. Raphael Leao and Davide Calabria gave Milan a two-goal lead in the first half, which Ibrahimovic cut in half with an own-goal early in the second and set the stage up for Musa Barrow to equalize in the 52nd minute. However, Ismail Bennacer restored Milan’s lead with six minutes to go, before the veteran Swede set the final score on the stroke of time.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Champions League is completely different. With half the group stage gone, Milan lost 3-2 away to Liverpool, 1-2 at home to Atletico Madrid, and 1-0 away to FC Porto. Consequently, they sit bottom of Group B without points, and their chances of progressing to the knockout stages are extremely slim.
Left-back Theo Hernandez missed the last three matches through a positive COVID-19 test, but he’s now back in training and should be available for selection. The same goes for midfielder Franck Kessie who missed the Porto match through suspension and the match in Bologna with a cold, and his return is likely to mean Sandro Tonali returning to the bench.
On the other hand, there are a number of players who won’t be ready to play. Forward Ante Rebic (ankle), attacking midfielders Brahim Diaz (COVID-19) and Junior Messias (thigh), fullback Alessandro Florenzi (knee) and goalkeeper Mike Maignan (wrist) are all unavailable. Further more, they’ve been joined on that list by winger Samu Castillejo who picked up an injury against Bologna on Saturday.
Pioli will likely start Ibrahimovic ahead of Olivier Giroud upfront again, but without Rebic, Castillejo, Diaz and Messias, it remains to be seen who lines up in support behind the 40-year-old striker. Most likely it’ll be the trio of Leao, Rade Krunic and Alexis Saelemaekers.
The competition has stiffened somewhat in the last few seasons in the Serie A, and with that in mind it would be a huge surprise for Torino to be involved in any kind of battle for European places. They are where they arguably want to be right now – in the middle of the table, and maintaining that status should be enough for their campaign to be thought successful.
At the moment, Ivan Juric’s team are in 12th place with 11 points, the same tally as Verona in 11th and Sassuolo in 13th, one less than Bologna and Empoli in ninth and 10th, respectively, and one more than Udinese in 14th.
In accordance with their position in the table, Torino’s form hasn’t been bad lately. The last six matches saw them record a 0-1 victory away to Sassuolo, a 1-1 draw at home against Lazio, a 1-1 draw away to Venezia, a 0-1 defeat at home to Juventus, a 1-0 defeat away to Napoli, and a 3-2 win over Genoa at home.
In that last match, Juric selected Antonio Sanabria to start upfront ahead of Italy international Andrea Belotti who had just returned from injury, and it paid off as the 25-year-old Paraguayan scored the opening goal in the 14th minute. Torino’s lead was doubled by Tomasso Pobega on the half-hour mark, but Genoa bounced back after the break through Mattia Destro in the 69th. It eventually turned out that Josip Brekalo’s 77th-minute strike for Torino put the match out of the reach of the visitors, even though Felipe Caicedo pulled one more back for them three minutes later.
It should be noted, when talking about Torino, that their defence seems to have improved significantly this season. They’ve conceded 10 league goals so far – only Napoli (3), Milan and Roma (9 each) have conceded less.
Midfielder Rodrigo Mandragora underwent knee surgery a few days ago and will be out of action for quite a long time yet. Fullback Cristian Ansaldi suffered a thigh problem against Genoa, and though he hasn’t been ruled out completely, he is a major doubt for the San Siro trip and his capability to play on either flank will surely be missed if he isn’t deemed fit in the end.
Ola Aina should be the man to start in Ansaldi’s place on the left, and Belotti may prove fit enough to start this time after making a substitute appearance against Genoa.
With all due respect to Torino, this is exactly the type of match Milan simply have to win if they have any hopes of finally lifting the Serie A title after more than a decade. They possess the quality needed, there can be no doubt about that.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 6/10
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