AC Milan are ready for a big night of league football at the Stadio Maradona against Spalletti’s in-form Napoli side. It’s a match between two teams fighting it out at the upper end of the table but which comes too soon to be considered decisive. The Rossoneri are heading into it on the back of three consecutive draws across Serie A and the Coppa Italia, while the Azzurri are riding high following their late win against Lazio in Rome. There’s a lot of anticipation and plenty of talking points, and here’s our Match Preview as we wait for kick-off.
LATEST FROM MILANELLO
There’s positive news to report ahead of the big showdown: Zlatan Ibrahimović, who hasn’t featured since coming off in the first half of AC Milan v Juventus on 23 January, is back in the squad. Compared to the team’s last Serie A match against Udinese, Ismaël Bennacer is also in contention to play after serving his suspension. Alessio Romagnoli, who was forced off in the Coppa Italia derby after picking up a muscle problem, won’t be available. After missing AC Milan v Inter through suspension, Sandro Tonali is likely to regain his place in midfield. Hernández and Díaz will miss AC Milan’s next fixture if they get booked (as will Romagnoli when he returns).
“Napoli are in great form and possess really good quality, but so do we,” said Stefano Pioli on the eve of the game. “From now on, every match will be a crossroads. 33 points are up for grabs and it’ll be a real roller coaster; we need to fly high to fight for the top positions until the end. Tomorrow, we’ll need to be composed and well-prepared. There will be a fiery atmosphere and the game will be an exciting one for both us and Napoli.”
LATEST FROM NAPOLI
With nearly their whole squad available, Napoli are in an ideal position heading into tonight’s game. Only Tuanzebe and Malcuit are out, with Frank Anguissa and Hirving Lozano having returned to group training during the week. They will presumably start on the bench. The Cameroonian is one of two Azzurri players who are one booking away from suspension; the other is Diego Demme. Napoli haven’t lost since 22 December in Serie A (a 1-0 home defeat to Spezia) and, following two consecutive draws, returned to winning ways in the league against Lazio last Sunday.
“We’re in the best possible condition to play and I’m feeling positive,” said Spalletti in his pre-match press conference. “We know that there’s a great deal at stake; we have the opportunity to make our careers immortal. It’s possible for our opponents to be stronger than us, but it’s difficult to see them being more motivated. We want to go for it and dream a little.”
In such an important match in terms of the league table and confidence, the Rossoneri are looking to record their second consecutive win away to Napoli in Serie A for the first time since 1981. Indeed, AC Milan won on their last trip to Naples in November 2020. Coach Pioli is looking to put an end to a personal hoodoo: he’s yet to beat Luciano Spalletti during his coaching career. The best defence in the league – Napoli’s with just 19 goals conceded – will be coming up against the best attack away from home – AC Milan’s with 31 goals.
The experienced Daniele Orsato will be the man in the middle for the showdown at the Stadio Maradona. It’ll be his 254th Serie A fixture and the 30th time he’s refereed a game involving the Rossoneri in the Italian top flight. He first did so when the Diavolo faced Siena in February 2008, while his last AC Milan match was the Rossoneri’s defeat to Lazio in Rome on 26 April 2021. The Diavolo’s record when he’s been the referee is as follows: ten wins, eleven draws and eight defeats in 29 games.
Napoli v AC Milan will bring matchday 28 in Serie A to a close. The latest round of fixtures began with Inter 5-0 Salernitana on Friday evening, while Udinese 2-1 Sampdoria, Roma 1-0 Atalanta and Cagliari 0-3 Lazio were the results yesterday. On Sunday, the following games are scheduled (all times CET): Genoa v Empoli (12:30), Bologna v Torino (15:00), Venezia v Sassuolo (15:00), Fiorentina v Hellas Verona (15:00) and Juventus v Spezia (18:00).
This is the current league table: Inter 58, Napoli 57, AC Milan 57, Juventus 50, Atalanta 47*, Roma 44, Lazio 43, Fiorentina 42*, Hellas Verona 40, Sassuolo 36, Torino 33*, Bologna 32*, Empoli 31, Udinese 29*, Sampdoria 26, Spezia 26, Cagliari 25, Venezia 22*, Genoa 17, Salernitana 15**. (* one game in hand, ** two games in hand).
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