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Preview: AC Milan vs Napoli – prediction, team news, line-ups

AC Milan vs Napoli Preview

AC Milan and Napoli renew hostilities on the continental stage when both sides clash for their Champions League quarter-final first-leg encounter at San Siro Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Rosonerri were held to a goalless yet eventful stalemate in front of their supporters by a lowly Empoli side last weekend.

However, it was not enough to knock them out of the top four as they remain fourth on the Serie A standings with just one point separating them from local rivals Inter Milan in fifth.

Napoli returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over relegation-threatened Lecce, consolidating their spot at the Serie A summit.

With the Scudetto nearly wrapped up, Luciano Spalletti’s side can shift their focus to the Champions League, where they will fancy their chances of going all the way.

Match Preview

While their Scudetto defence has gone off script, the Rosonerri have navigated through obstacles on their path to the Champions League quarter-final for the first time since 2012.

Seeking their eighth triumph in Europe’s most prestigious tournament, Milan secured a narrow 1-0 aggregate victory over Antonio Conte’s toothless Tottenham Hotspur side in the last 16.

Being held to a goalless draw by a bottom-half side is not the best preparation for a Champions League encounter.

But their previous 4-0 league success over Napoli should prove a confidence booster heading into Wednesday’s contest.

Rafael Leao (2), Brahim Diaz, and Alexis Saelemaekers delivered the goods as Pioli’s men handed the Partenopei their heaviest defeat this season, leaving the midweek encounter poised to serve up another enthralling contest.

Despite landing such a psychological blow, repeating that success on the continental stage could be tricky, as Napoli will be keen to set the record straight.

Milan have already exited the Coppa Italia, so the Champions League is their only avenue to end the campaign with silverware in their coffers.

They have only lost one of their nine all-Italian match-ups in Europe (W4, D4), so they will fancy their chances of thwarting the soon-to-be Serie A champions in their first-ever European meeting.

However, they will have a fight on their hands, having won just one of their last nine home games against Napoli in all competitions (D3, L5) since the 2018/19 campaign.

Their paltry three wins from their last 16 Champions League knockout stage matches since the 2007/08 campaign (D4, L9), where they have failed to score in ten, also plays into Napoli’s hands.

Despite dominating possession in their weekend contest, Spalletti’s side have Lecce’s profligacy in front of goal to thank for coming away with all three points.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo gave the Partenopei the lead inside the first 20 minutes, but the hosts responded seven minutes after the half-time interval.

However, Antonino Gallo then put the ball in his own net, which turned out to be the goal that handed Napoli their 24th victory of the season.

Turning their attention to their European ambition, Spalletti’s side will feel they have a score to settle with Milan following their humiliating defeat at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The Gli Azzurri have won and lost one game each against fellow Italian clubs outside of domestic football, but their record against Milan should boost their aspirations.

In addition to winning five of their previous nine battles with the Rosonerri at San Siro, Napoli have also won each of their last three away games against Milan, including a 2-1 victory earlier this season.

However, those three wins – their best-ever such run against them – came in the league, with Napoli failing to win any of their last five away games against Milan in cup competitions (D2, L3).

The tournament’s highest goal scorers will be looking to add to their 25-goal tally, with only Bayern Munich (8) winning more games than Spalletti’s side (7) in the competition this term.

Team News

Stefano Pioli has no major injury concerns heading into the midweek contest, with only the versatile Pierre Kalulu expected to miss the clash with a calf problem.

His absence leaves veteran Simon Kjaer and youngster Malick Thiaw to slug it out for a chance to partner Fikayo Tomori at the heart of the Milan defence.

After making several changes to his starting line-up against Empoli, which backfired, Pioli is expected to field his regulars on Wednesday evening.

Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud should start the game while Brahim Diaz also returns, hoping to replicate his superb performance against Napoli earlier this month.

Giroud is Milan’s top Champions League scorer this term with four goals, but Napoli have four players on equal tally as the Frenchman, including Victor Osimhen, Piotr Zielinski, Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori.

Spalletti had previously claimed that his highly sought-after striker Osimhen could pass the fitness test ahead of the midweek encounter after being sidelined with a thigh problem.

However, the clash could come too soon for the Nigerian international, as well as his deputy Simeone who picked up a knock against Lecce.

Raspadori, who led the line in the Lecce clash, could retain his starting berth in the Argentine’s stead should he fail to recover in time for Wednesday’s clash.

AC Milan potential starting line-up:

(4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Fikayo Tomori, Simon Kjaer, Theo Hernandez; Sandro Tonali, Ismael Bennacer; Brahim Diaz, Rade Krunic, Rafael Leao; Olivier Giroud.

Napoli potential starting line-up:

(4-3-3): Alex Meret; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Min-Jae Kim, Amir Rrahmani, Mario Rui; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski; Hirving Lozano, Giacomo Raspadori, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

We Say: AC Milan 2-1 Napoli

Napoli were far from their best when these two Italian heavyweights clashed in the league, but a more end-to-end affair could be on the cards with both sides now knowing what to expect from each other.

However, Spalletti’s side will miss their top goal scorer and his deputy, which could blunt their sharp, prolific, free-flowing attack, which should play nicely into Milan’s hands.

The Rosonerri will fancy their chances, but unlike their last date, this continental matchup should deliver a more closely contested game riddled with goals while Pioli’s side narrowly edge a win to set up a tantalising tie decider in Naples next week.

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