We're back in Bergamo. 133 days since the Rossoneri secured their return to the Champions League with a win at the Gewiss Stadium, AC Milan are taking on Atalanta. The game at the Gewiss Stadium concludes a tricky run of fixtures for Stefano Pioli's men, which then gives way to the international break. This is a must-win game if the Rossoneri want to keep pace at the top. Let's take an in-depth look at the game with our Preview.
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Following a defeat to Atlético - but also victories over Venezia and Spezia - AC Milan will be looking to get back on track with a win over the Nerazzurri. Should the Rossoneri win, they would equal their best-ever start to a Serie A season (after seven games) in the three-points-per-win era. AC Milan have only picked up 19 points from a possible 21 on one occasion: 2003/04.
AC Milan have no players suspended. Zlatan Ibrahimović is confirmed to be out, alongside Florenzi who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee yesterday due to a meniscus problem. There is good news for the Rossoneri, however, with the return of Simon Kjær and, especially, Júnior Messias, who is yet to make his debut in an AC Milan shirt.
"We’ve had the chance to recover, with both ourselves and our opponents having played a lot of matches recently," said Stefano Pioli on the eve of the match. "We want to produce a good display and play our cards. It’s a six-pointer and, while we have great respect for Atalanta, we also have a lot of belief in our qualities. I expect them to be determined and focused. It’s a Champions League worthy showdown."
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After a stuttering start, Gasperini's men have hit a bit of form in their recent outings, as shown by their win in the Champions League over BSC Young Boys in midweek and three games unbeaten in the league with wins against Salernitana and Sassuolo and a draw with Inter last time out. The Nerazzurri, who are currently in sixth place on eleven points, are once again looking like one of the top sides in Italian football after summer, which saw very few new arrivals at the club. The Dea made up for the departures of Gollini and Romero by signing Musso from Udinese and Demiral from Juventus. The transfer window ended with the return of Zappacosta to the club and the arrival of Koopmeiners from AZ.
The Nerazzurri have found a bit of continuity in terms of personnel but different points of reference compared to the recent past and, like the Rossoneri, will have no players missing through suspension. Gasperini went with a 3-4-2-1 against both Inter and Young Boys with very few personnel changes: Musso in goal, a back line of Tolói, Demiral and either Palomino or Djimsiti on the left of that back three. Zappacosta and Gosens, who picked up an injury against YB and is unavailable, flanked a midfield pairing of De Roon and one of Freuler or Koopmeiners in the middle. Pessina and Malinovskyi have supported the lone striker Zapata.
"We’re coming into the game on the back of two energy-sapping games, but we came out of them well and with credibility. Results are the consequence of performances," said Gian Piero Gasperini yesterday. "We’ve shown that we’re going through a good spell. AC Milan have made great strides forward: they’re doing well and they’re picking up results thanks to their displays on the pitch. Pioli has done a fantastic job. We’ll face them with great determination, and it’ll be an important match for both teams."
Pioli and Gasperini have faced off 16 times in Serie A - the Rossoneri coach leads with seven wins to five - and the two sides have met 120 times in the top flight. AC Milan currently lead the overall head-to-head (52 wins to Atalanta's 25) and are also ahead in the record of matches played in Bergamo (24 wins to 14). As mentioned previously, the last time the two sides met at the Gewiss Stadium was 23 May; the Rossoneri won 2-0 thanks to two Frank Kessie penalties, which saw the Rossoneri secure Champions League football for the first time in seven years. That win was the best-possible revenge for the 3-0 defeat at San Siro in the girone d'andata or the heavy 5-0 loss in Bergamo at the end of 2019. In recent days, we took a look back at a previous meeting between the Diavolo and the Dea at what was then known as the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. That 2-1 victory for the Rossoneri in the 2004/05 season came about thanks to goals from Ambrosini and Pirlo.
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Marco Di Bello will referee the match as he takes charge of his 126th Serie A fixture. Di Bello has refereed the Rossoneri on ten occasions, including the wins over Udinese (2-1 in November 2020) and Lazio (3-2 in December 2020). This will be Di Bello's first game involving either side as a referee in Serie A this season; the last time he refereed the Nerazzurri was in February 2021 (Atalanta 4-2 Napoli). Assisting him will be Baccini and Cecconi as linesmen, Doveri as the Fourth Official and Abisso (with Vivenzi) on VAR duties.
Atalanta v AC Milan is the final game of Serie A matchday 7, the final round of fixtures before the international break. The matchday began on Friday with Cagliari 1-1 Venezia. Yesterday, it was Salernitana 1-0 Genoa, Torino 0-1 Juventus and Sassuolo 1-2 Inter. Today's schedule began with Bologna v Lazio at 12:30 CEST. At 15:00 CEST, we have Sampdoria v Udinese and Verona v Spezia, while Fiorentina v Napoli and Roma v Empoli take place at 18:00 CEST.
Here are the current Serie A standings: Napoli 18 points; Inter* 17; Milan 16; Roma, Fiorentina 12; Lazio, Atalanta, Juventus* 11; Empoli 9; Bologna, Torino* 8; Udinese, Sassuolo* 7; Verona, Sampdoria, Genoa*, Venezia* 5; Spezia, Salernitana* 4; Cagliari* 3. (* = one game more )
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