Empoli v AC Milan, the final 90 minutes of football in 2021. It's a finely-poised away trip against one of the in-form sides in Serie A. The Rossoneri will need to work hard against Andreazzoli's men if they're to come away with all three points. With just a few hours to go until kick-off at the Castellani, we have analysed all of the most interesting individual duels.
GUGLIELMO VICARIO V MIKE MAIGNAN
Two goalkeepers, the Empoli man wears 13 on his back while Mike wears 16. Two atypical numbers for two 'keepers that put their respective teams at ease. Guglielmo Vicario, in his first season with Empoli, has played 18 Serie A matches to date with 30 goals conceded and three clean sheets. His save percentage stands at 69%, putting him seventh among Serie A goalkeepers. Mike Maignan return from a hand injury, which he sustained in October, in record time: he has made 12 league appearances, conceded ten goals and kept five clean sheets. The Frenchman also has the third-highest save percentage in the league: 76%.
PETAR STOJANOVIĆ V THEO HERNÁNDEZ
Two adventurous full-backs. Petar and Theo are currently experiencing opposite levels of form: the Slovene is playing well, while Pioli's man seems to be in a bit of a slump. Stojanović leads the way at Empoli for attempted dribbles (45), duels (62) and passes completed in this opposition half (385). Hernández, meanwhile, has a Club-high five assists and 25 fouls received. Both players have scored once in the league this season; this is a high-class duel.
NEDIM BAJRAMI VS BRAHIM DÍAZ
We have two young number 10s facing off at the Castellani. The Albanian, who starred last season as the Tuscan side won promotion from Serie B, is putting up some good numbers in the top flight too. Despite not always starting - he has been used as a substitute in eight matches this season - he has excelled with 81 crosses, two assists and three goals, boasting a perfect record from the penalty spot (2/2). Brahim Díaz is slowly regaining confidence and rhythm after contracting Covid but he already has three goals and three assists in the bag this season. In contrast to Bajrami, who has made eight substitute appearances, Brahim has come off the bench on twelve occasions. But Stefano Pioli is well aware of his quality and guile.
SAMUELE RICCI VS SANDRO TONALI
Two central midfielders with a big future; the Empoli man was born in 2001 and the Milanista in 2000. They have come across one another before as part of Paolo Nicolato's Italy U21 side and could go on to feature heavily for the Azzurri's first team. Ricci excels with his attempted passes (688) and interceptions (23) - two stats that exemplify his ability in both phases of the game. On matchday 6, he scored against Bologna to bag his first goal in Serie A. Sandro, meanwhile, is a key fixture in Stefano Pioli's side, having featured - as a starter or a substitute - in each of the Rossoneri's first 18 league matches. Tonali leads the Rossoneri with crosses completed (65) and also fouls committed (20, along with Kjær).
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