The Viola’s defeats to Salernitana and Udinese shouldn’t give the Rossoneri a false sense of security: in addition to being a vital match for both sides, AC Milan v Fiorentina will undoubtedly be a high-quality showdown from both a technical and tactical perspective. Various Diavolo and Viola players have shone in Serie A this season, with many of them being among the best in their respective positions in Italy. Plenty of exciting duels await, then, and we’re taking a look at the best ones coming up.
THEO HERNÁNDEZ v CRISTIANO BIRAGHI
Let’s start with a high-level comparison on the left flank. These are two full-backs who know how to contribute in attack and are leaders in their respective sides. But they have more in common than just this. Indeed, both have scored four goals in the league this season and last found the net in January, and both are leading the way in their respective sides in terms of number of crosses: 105 for Hernández, 243 for Biraghi. The Frenchman is also the Rossoneri player who has provided the most assists this campaign (six) and been on the end of the most fouls (65). The Italian, meanwhile, is the Viola player with the most appearances in Serie A this season (33 out of a possible 34 games) and has also made the highest number of passes in the opposition half of the pitch. Therefore, it’s a duel of considerable importance when it comes to the two sides’ build-up play.
FIKAYO TOMORI v NIKOLA MILENKOVIĆ
Both born in 1997, the Englishman and the Serb (who was suspended for the reverse fixture) are among the best centre-backs in Serie A and vital pillars for their respective sides. This is reflected in their defensive stats: they’re the standout figures in their teams for tackles, clearances and interceptions, with Fikayo leading the way when it comes to shots blocked too. However, beyond this, they sit at top spot when it comes to number of passes, both in general and in their own half. When we talk about AC Milan and Fiorentina, then, all roads go through Tomori and Milenković.
RAFAEL LEÃO v NICOLÁS GONZÁLEZ
Another match-up between two up-and-coming players who are also full internationals for their respective countries (González won the 2021 Copa América with Argentina). Leão, who scored his first Serie A goal against the Viola, and González, in his first year in Italy, are enjoying what could be described as real breakthrough seasons. AC Milan’s No.17 has nine goals (another would see him become the fifth Portuguese player to reach double figures in a single Serie A season) and four assists to his name, while he’s also the Rossonero who has had the most shots (64, equally distributed between efforts on and off target) and attempted the most dribbles. In terms of the latter, González is the leading figure in the Fiorentina squad, and he’s also suffered the most fouls and registered the most assists. He also performed well in the Viola’s recent matches against Inter and Napoli: he set up Torreira to score in the 1-1 draw against the Nerazzurri and, in addition to finding the net (out of his four away goals this season, this is the only one he’s bagged on the road), provided an assist for Ikoné in the 3-2 win in Naples.
SANDRO TONALI v LUCAS TORREIRA
Two tireless midfield warriors who are very much in contention to be included in the 2021/22 Serie A team of the season. Both the Italian from Lodi and the Uruguayan from Fray Bentos, who returned to Italy last summer after spells at Arsenal and Atlético Madrid, have enjoyed excellent seasons. The winning goal at the Olimpico was another brilliant moment for Tonali, who is the youngest midfielder to have scored at least three goals in the Italian top flight this season. Furthermore, Sandro is the Rossonero who has made the most starts (30 out of a total of 32 appearances) and played the most passes in the opposition half of the pitch in the current league campaign. At San Siro, where, as previously mentioned, he’s already scored this season, Torreira could make his 100th Serie A appearance. If he plays, he’ll be up against a side that he’s yet to find the net against in 449 minutes. Only against Lazio (535) has the Uruguayan played more minutes without scoring in Serie A.
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