Serie A Preview: AC Milan v. Sassuolo

Date: Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kickoff: 10:00 AM ET (USA) / 15:00 CET (ITA)

League Position: Milan (13), Sassuolo (5)

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy

Well, we didn’t lose last round, but one point wasn’t enough to raise our league position. Hey, we’re still performing better than Juventus (in Italy) though!

Our new nemesis heads to San Siro this week looking to continue their good form. Sassuolo still boast a talented attack but their defensive improvements have then sitting in the Europa League places for the moment.

You all will remember the Neroverdi fondly as the side that finally sent Max Allegri packing, not that Milan have excelled in his absence. They’ve put in some potent performances against us since their rise to Serie A and I don’t see why this weekend should be any different. I don’t have to tell you, but our days of looking past the Sassuolo’s of the world have long since passed.

Tale of the Tape

Last 6 Serie A matches

Sassuolo: DDWDLW

The set piece stats are actually in our favor this week! Sort of… We’ve scored 4 and Sassuolo have conceded as many. We’ve given up 5 already but Sassuolo have converted just one free kick so far this season.

The 4 free kicks they’ve conceded count for half all the goals they’ve given up though. Sassuolo’s scoring hasn’t been overly impressive so far this season but their defense has performed better than many would have thought. Milan have conceded 14, and that difference is enough to keep us in the bottom half.

In just 8 rounds these two sides have been presented with yellow or red cards on 50 different occasions. Discipline (or lack thereof) can obviously change a game dramatically and both sides will want to kick their habit of gifting the other team the advantage.

Honestly our major statistics all line up closely with Sassuolo. Possession, pass success, and number of passes are very similar for both teams. But in the attacking and defensive thirds, it’s obvious we’ve been outplayed by the visitors this year. Nothing has changed, we have plenty of possession in the midfield, but zero ideas.

Missing Pieces

Word is that Balotelli is fighting to get fit for this match, but the likelihood that he plays a major role is slim. Bertolacci, our best performer from last round is also doubtful, along with Bacca who has been the closest thing we have to a consistent source of goals. Menez and Niang remain injured.

Sassuolo are really only missing young Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan. Wait, Ghanaian? Yes. Ghanaian.

Possible Line-up

Diego Lopez

Abate – Zapata – Romagnoli – De Sciglio

Poli – Montolivo – Kucka

Cerci – Luiz Adriano – Bonaventura

Mihajlovic has been experimenting with the 4-3-3, so I will as well. But with our current crop of players, I don’t really like it.

Starting in attack, I’d feel much better about this with Bacca or Balotelli as the center forward. Adriano’s been a real flop for me so far, but he’s the only true striker I assume will be fit to start this Sunday. Bonaventura has had success playing further forward so I’m OK with that, and the take your pick between Cerci and Honda on the right.

In midfield, Montolivo seems to be pretty stuck in at this point, and the options to flank him are mostly middling talents like Poli and Kucka. More technical players like Suso and Mauri don’t seem to be a major part of the manager’s plans.

Our backline isn’t dreadful, and he does have choices at fullback with Calabria and Antonelli available. Romagnoli is the future right? So he’s in. Zapata is unfortunately still the present.

Finally, a lot has been made of Diego Lopez’s “struggles” but he can hardly be blamed for Milan’s position. Could he have done better on Baselli’s near post effort last round? Sure, but show me a Milan player (or coach) who couldn’t have.

What to Watch for:

Danger Man – Sassuolo’s 11 goals have come off the feet of 8 different players, with journeyman Floro Flores leading the pack with 3. I still have to choose Berardi though. The man has absolutely owned Milan in his time in the top flight and with just 1 goal so far on the season, I fear he has his favorite target locked firmly in his sights.

Donnarumma – After discussing Diego Lopez above, looks like it’s time to acknowledge that he appears to be on the bench for today’s match. And while Abbiati might seem to be the more logical choice to spell him, it’s actually going to be 16-year old Gianluigi Donnarumma. I don’t get this at all, especially with a shaky defense in front of him. As I said before I really don’t think Diego Lopez has been the problem, but I’m rooting for the kid to have a good match obviously. I’ll especially be paying attention to how he commands his box and deals with our kryptonite: set pieces.

About Dave Lamb

Dave Lamb is a lifelong Milan supporter, public school teacher, and aspiring stand-up comedian living in Boston. You can follow him on twitter @DaveLambComedy

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