serie-a17 September 2022

AC MILAN v NAPOLI: KEYS TO THE MATCH

Attack, defence and set pieces: here's where the big match at San Siro may be decided

Two consecutive wins in the league and the Champions League, growing confidence and the desire to enjoy another great night of Serie A action. A few days after their clash with Dinamo Zagreb, AC Milan return to San Siro where they host Napoli. Lots of talking points, lots of tactical keys to read and also some notable absences to make up for. Let's take a look at how this match could be decided.


NEW SET-UPS
AC Milan v Napoli will be played without two star players Leão and Osimhen, and so both teams will be forced to change their attacking set-ups. At Ibrox against Rangers, Spalletti opted for a 4-2-3-1 with Kvaratskhelia-Zieliński-Politano supporting lone striker Simeone: it's the combination he will most likely return to at San Siro, a mix of pace and unpredicatability, which can be powered by Raspadori and Lozano. Pace itself is a hot topic for this match: Napoli are very skilled in making the switch from defence to attack, thanks to strong pressing and the ability to recover the ball in their opponent's half. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the Napolitan side has the most offensive recoveries in the league this season (60) and has taken the most shots after a change of possession (13). AC Milan, who are without Leão, will not have Ante Rebić or Divock Origi either. Pioli has the choice of either shifting Saelemaekers out left or playing Krunić in that same position to ensure more cover and physicality in the midfield. Otherwise the coach could opt for a different playing system to surprise the opponents, an option not ruled out in recent press conferences. De Ketelaere's contribution in both phases will be decisive: the offensive one to provide imagination and make up for Rafa's absence, and defensively to shield Lobotka and try to hurt Napoli with their favourite weapon, the high recovery


A GAME OF PAIRS
Not only will two five-star attacks (ranked first and second in Serie A) face off against each other at San Siro, but the two best defences from last season's championship will also be on the pitch. Napoli, despite losing Koulibaly, did not lose solidity thanks to the Min-jae Rrahmani pair, conceding few goals (only 5) and keeping 4 clean sheets in their first 8 matches of 2022/23. In AC Milan's ranks, on the other hand, the Kalulu-Tomori pair conceded a little more than at the end of last year, but at the same time, match after match, they are regaining their solidity. Last year's two matches ended with very small margins (0-1 Napoli in the first game, 0-1 AC Milan in the return), a clear sign of the balance that reigns between the two teams but also of the defences' ability to prevail. This match will be a game of pairs, above all on the outside channels: Di Lorenzo will have the task of containing the likes of Theo Hernández while Calabria, on the other side, will have to try to limit the flair of Kvaratskhelia, the real surprise of this season so far. 


'HEAD' TO 'HEAD'
Napoli scored 12 headed goals last season and opened the current one by scoring a further three in this way; four out of 13 in the league came from corners, two of which were scored by Kim Min-jae, who must therefore be handled with greater care. Set-pieces are a strong point for Spalletti's side, who won at San Siro in December 2021 thanks to Elmas's curling strike from Zieliński's corner. 

At the same time, the Rossoneri are the team that has conceded the most headed goals in the current Serie A season (three) and they made their debut against Udinese by conceding a clinical headed goal from a corner, scored by Becão. These episodes can disrupt the balance and, in a fixture that sees them as underdogs on paper, the Rossoneri can also try to surprise by playing to their own strengths. 


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