Having closed the Champions League chapter, 270 minutes remain to be played in Stefano Pioli's AC Milan season. Three matches in which it will be fundamental to collect the maximum amount of the points on offer, to reach an important place and to finish strongly. The opponent will be Sampdoria: the Doriani are already relegated to Serie B, but the standings will not stop Stanković's team from expressing themselves to the full on such a prestigious stage as San Siro. We approach the kick-off by offering three keys to interpreting the 36th matchday.
THE DESIRE TO BOUNCE BACK
Restarting after the end of a dream, such as the European one, but also after a bitter relegation. AC Milan and Sampdoria arrive at San Siro with a common desire for a comeback, to put the results of last behind them. For the Rossoneri this must translate, first of all, in finding the way to goal after three games without a goal: beating the Blucerchiati would mean continuing the success against Lazio, so far the only one of the month, and filing the stop in La Spezia as an isolated setback. Closing at best a season of ups and downs - but still full of meaningful moments - is an important goal and the approach to the match in San Siro will have to be optimal from the start. Against a team that will play with a light and clear mind, with no table pressure, it will be fundamental not to misinterpret the match.
START STRONG AND FINISH STRONGER
At San Siro, the team that has scored the most goals in the first half-hour will face the one that has conceded the most in the dying minutes. We have seen the importance of a strong start, and opening the scoring in the first few minutes would be crucial for AC Milan, who have always won in the league when they have scored in the first 15 minutes of play, including the first leg at the Marassi. A key, to generate immediate chances, could be the numerical superiority on the flanks for the Rossoneri, given the usual 3-4-1-2 used by the Doriani. A sprightly start is not necessarily a guarantee of a great final result, although the precedents in this regard speak in our favour. AC Milan have scored plenty in added time - six league goals this season, including two in the last three games - and they take on Sampdoria, the team that has conceded the most (eight, including five in 2023). In order to have a great finish, especially in the event of a deadlocked game, the impact of the substitutes will also be crucial: the Saelemaekers-Messias duo, author of the last three Rossoneri goals coming off the bench, should be kept an eye on in this sense.
EVERYTHING THROUGH THE MIDDLE
Midfield pairs of intensity and quality. On one side Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunić, on the other Tomás Rincón and Harry Winks. So much of the play of the San Siro match will come down to the midfield pairs, 'protected' in different ways by Pioli and Stanković's tactical set-ups. If AC Milan will rely on their usual 4-2-3-1, with Díaz ready to act as a classic trequartista, Sampdoria will certainly flank the midfield pair with two outfielders - Augello and Zanoli are among the most present in recent months - and tend to reinforce that protection with a physical trequartista (Đuričić, who scored in the first leg, starts ahead of Cuisance in the rotation). The Rossoneri score a lot from open play (84% of league goals, no one has done better in Serie A), but in a game where they are unlikely to be able to rely on counter-attacks - another statistic in which Pioli's side have excelled this season - the performance of the duo in the midfield will be crucial in terms of build-up and possession.
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