AC Milan kick off their season and Serie A campaign against Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium. The Rossoneri are entering the season with great expectations after finishing second in Serie A last season and finally making their return to the coveted Champions League. Europe’s ‘sleeping giant’ seems to finally be waking up, and they must start the 2021/22 season off with a bang.
AC Milan Begin Serie A Season Against Sampdoria
A common theme for Milan over the years has been injuries, and it’s no different this campaign. First off, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be missing. There is currently no date set for his return, although it’s believed to be sooner than expected. The Swede led Milan’s scoring charge last season, and they fell from first in the league to hovering in the top four spots every time he went down. Ibrahimovic may be in his twilight years, but his importance to the team cannot be understated.
The second injury is with one of Milan’s most consistent stars, Franck Kessie. The Ivoria scored 11 league goals last season from a holding midfield position, albeit most coming from the penalty spot. With that being said, he’s a leader on the pitch and Milan’s chosen penalty taker. He will miss the opener and perhaps the next match as well before the quick international break.
Expected XI for AC Milan
Mike Maignan will start in goal. He’s been solid throughout the pre-season, which is a positive sign. With this being said, he takes on the massive responsibility of stepping in Gianluigi Donnarumma’s shoes. A first match clean sheet, with a couple of strong saves, will have all the Milan faithful on Maignan’s side.
Luckily for Milan there are no defensive injuries. The defence is a strength of this team and they’ll be ready to go. Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria will man the full-back positions, while Fikayo Tomori and Simon Kjaer man the middle. They were a great unit all of last season and will be expected to be the same once again.
There will be two midfielders due to manager Stefano Pioli’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Ismael Bennacer will start after his bout with COVID-19. This is a massive relief for Milan, as Bennacer spent much of last season on the sidelines. Sandro Tonali, the young Italian who oozes unlimited potential, will be replacing Kessie. Tonali performed well in pre-season and will look to do the same in this match.
The three players behind the strikers is likely to beAlexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz and Rafael Leao. Milan have been in the market for a right winger, but are yet to make a move, which means Saelemakers is likely to start. Diaz fills in for the now-departed Hakan Calhanoglu, although Diaz took his game up a notch towards the end of last season. The left-wing position is a debate between Leao and Ante Rebic.
Olivier Giroud is likely to occupy the lone striker role. The French striker arrived in Milan with plenty of fanfare and will be a crucial part of the squad. Giroud scored a brace in their last pre-season game, and could have had a hat-trick if not for a shot hitting the post. Giroud, without a doubt, has what it takes to lead Milan’s line during Ibrahimovic’s absence.
AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Clearly Milan are not ready to field their best possible XI. With this being said, they’re still putting out a decent team that has experience playing with each other. Expect the Rossoneri to hold most of possession as well as to play stingy defence to stop counter-attacking opportunities.
The game may not be pretty, but Milan should walk away with three points.
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