Lunchtime on the lagoon for the Rossoneri: the team’s first away match of 2022 will be against newly promoted Venezia, with the Diavolo set to play in one of Italian football's most fascinating settings for the first time in several years. Coach Pioli’s men need to remain focused as they look to build on their excellent start to the new year following Thursday’s success against Roma. We're approaching kick-off with our usual Match Preview:
LATEST FROM MILANELLO
The same players that were available for Thursday’s great victory over Roma will be at the Coach’s disposal against Venezia. The team’s next fixtures will also have to be kept in mind, with both Hernández and Tonali one booking away from suspension. Compared to the match against the Giallorossi, the main questions are whether Bakayoko or Krunić will start in midfield and who out of Ibrahimović or Giroud will get the nod up front.
"We will need a solid and serious performance, we will have to move a lot and keep our width. Venezia are well drilled, fast and technical," said Coach Pioli on the eve of the match. "The team has a sense of responsibility and unity, they work with desire and passion: our strength is the group. This game and the next ones will be difficult, we need to be very careful. We have to think about us, not the others, and then towards the end of the season we will take stock."
LATEST FROM VENEZIA
The Lagunari are set to play their first match of the new year, with their game against Salernitana on Thursday having been postponed. Ebuehi, Peretz and Vacca will all be absent, as will former Rossonero Caldara and Tessmann, both of whom are suspended. Aramu and Heymans are one booking away from suspension for a Venezia side that will head into tomorrow’s game on the back of a two-point haul (draws against Juventus and Sampdoria) from their last six matches. While they’re four points above the relegation zone, they’re looking to turn their form around.
"AC Milan are doing very well and are a fantastic team; they were exceptional against Roma," said Paolo Zanetti on the eve of the game. "We need to perform at a maximum. If we don’t, given the difference between the two sides, it becomes difficult."
The Rossoneri are set to the scenic setting of Penzo for the first time since 24 February 2002. That day, AC Milan ran out 4-1 winners thanks to goals from Kaladze, Contra and Javi Moreno (x2). The last meeting between the teams (they’ve faced each other a total of 25 times in Serie A) took place on 22 September last year: it was a tough midweek encounter for Coach Pioli’s men, who, on the back of an away draw against Juventus, secured a 2-0 victory following finishes from Brahim Díaz – his very first goal at San Siro – and Theo Hernández. For the second successive year, the Diavolo’s first away match of the calendar year will be against a newly promoted side: on 3 January 2021, AC Milan beat Benevento 2-0, with Kessie and Leão getting on the scoresheet.
LATEST FROM SERIE A
Venezia v AC Milan will be refereed by one of the most experienced officials in Italian football, namely Massimiliano Irrati. The 42-year-old has taken charge of 136 Serie A matches and is set to officiate a match involving the Rossoneri for the first time this season. Indeed, he last refereed an AC Milan fixture on 6 January 2021, when the Diavolo took on Juventus at San Siro. In total, he’s been the man in the middle for eight AC Milan matches (none for Venezia until now), with the Rossoneri winning four, drawing three and losing just one of those games. The linesmen will be Colarossi and Scarpa, while Meraviglia will perform the role of fourth official. Mazzoleni will be joined by Baccini in overseeing VAR.
Matchday 21 in Serie A will mainly take place on a single day: Sunday 9 January. Venezia v AC Milan will get things underway at 12:30 CET, after which the following games will be played: Empoli v Sassuolo at 14:30 CET; Udinese v Atalanta and Napoli v Sampdoria at 16:30 CET; Roma v Juventus and Genoa v Spezia at 18:30 CET; Hellas Verona v Salernitana and Inter v Lazio at 20:45 CET. Two fixtures will be played at later dates: Torino v Fiorentina on Monday 10 January (17:00 CET) and Cagliari v Bologna on Tuesday 11 January (20:45 CET)
These are the current league standings: Inter* 46; AC Milan 45; Napoli 40; Atalanta* 38; Juventus 35; Fiorentina*, Roma, Lazio 32; Empoli 28; Bologna*, Hellas Verona 27; Torino*, Sassuolo 25; Udinese**, Sampdoria 20; Venezia* 17; Spezia 16; Cagliari 13; Genoa 12; Salernitana** 8. (* = a game in hand; ** = two games in hand).
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