It is an all-Italian affair as the champions of Serie A last season, AC Milan takes on the presumptive champions of Serie A this season, Napoli in the highly awaited UCL Quarterfinal clash.
The two Italian giants collide with each other for the first time on a European stage in the first leg of the quarterfinal tie at the San Siro.
Napoli bounced back after the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Milan themselves, winning the league fixture against Lecce 2-1 with goals from Politano and Di Lorenzo.
With only three losses in the league, Napoli sits on top of the Serie A table in pole position to secure their first Scudetto since the days of Diego Maradona.
Luciano Spalletti’s men have had a sensational run in Europe as well, having won 7 of the 8 games played, which included wins against the likes of Liverpool and Frankfurt.
Milan on the other hand have had a disappointing season so far. The 7-time Champions League winners were riding high after securing their first Scudetto in a decade last season, but they clearly failed to capitalize on the momentum.
Pioli’s side currently sits fourth on the Serie A table, fighting for a European spot. They’re 22 points behind the table toppers Napoli.
Poor defensive form and limited attacking threats have seen Milan’s attack mostly being restricted to Portuguese star Rafael Leao. The midfield has still looked toothless since the departure of Frank Kessie.
Last 5 Results
Napoli would’ve been riding the waves of supreme confidence heading into the fixture, if not for the massive 0-4 bump against Serie A champions Milan. However, Spalleti’s men bounced back immediately, securing all three points in their next fixture against Lecce. With form clearly on their side, Napoli enters the match with four wins and a single loss in their last five fixtures.
In what has been the story for the Italian giants all season, Milan couldn’t capitalize on their massive boost of confidence yet again, which resulted in the team dropping points to a 14th-placed Empoli. Pioli’s men enter the match with one loss, three draws, and a single win in their last five outings.
Win: 2-1 vs Lecce
Loss: 0-4 vs Milan
Win: 4-0 vs Torino
Win: 3-0 vs Frankfurt
Win: 2-0 vs Atalanta
Draw: 0-0 vs Empoli
Win: 4-0 vs Napoli
Loss: 1-3 vs Udinese
Draw: 1-1 vs Salernitana
Draw: 0-0 vs Tottenham
Going into the fixture with only a single injury in the squad wouldn’t have appeared to be a dire situation for Napoli. However, the player in question is the star forward, Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian has by far been the best striker in Italy, and arguably one of the best strikers in the world. He started in Napoli’s shambolic display against Milan on the former’s home turf. The 24-year-old will be a key miss for the Napoli side.
Milan enters the fixture with a couple of injuries to their camp, the most crucial one being center-back Pierre Kalulu’s. The Frenchman sustained an injury while on international duty for France’s U21 side and is rumored to return in the Milan outfit this weekend against Bologna. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the other name on the list of injured players for Milan. The latter’s absence however wouldn’t weigh much as Ibrahimovic has not been listed in the UCL squad for Milan anyway.
SSC Napoli –
Meret (GK), Rui, Kim Min-Jae, Rrahmani, Di Lorenzo, Zielenski, Lobotka, Zambo-Anguissa, Kvaratskhelia, Simeone, Lozano
AC Milan –
Maginan (GK), Hernandez, Tomori, Kjaer, Calabria, Tonali, Bennacer, Leao, Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Giroud
Head To Head
The two Italian giants are meeting for the first time in a European competition. However, being long-time domestic rivals, the two teams have clashed heads a total of 31 times, out of which 12 results have gone in favor of Napoli, whereas Milan have won 8. Both teams have shared the spoils a total of 11 times.
Milan won the last bout between the two, having annihilated Napoli 4-0 at the latter’s home, with goals from Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, and Alexis Saelemaekers.
Napoli was the team to take away three points the first time they locked horns with Milan this season. The match that ended 2-1 in favor of the Neapolitans saw goals from Politano, Giroud, and Di Lorenzo.
Where Will The Game Be Decided?
In the absence of star man Victor Osimhen, the spotlight will be on the Georgian winger who has terrorized defenses all season, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. With a G+A tally of 22, the 22-year-old has been a revelation for Napoli this season.
That said the leaky Milan defense that has to be the primary area of concern for Milan fans.
Fikayo Tomori hasn’t had the best of seasons with Milan so far, and the absence of Pierre Kalulu only adds up to the defensive woes of Milan. Tomori paired up with a 36-year-old Simon Kjaer definitely doesn’t give the highest of confidence to Milan supporters.
The odds were highly in favor of league leaders Napoli when the draws were initially announced. However, Osimhen’s injury and Napoli’s 0-4 defeat at the hands of Milan have now shifted the odds, making the outcome hanging in the balance.
That said, despite the recent results, calling Milan the favorites to win the tie is a long shot.
The midfield trio of Lobotka, Zambo-Anguissa, and Zielinski has easily been among the best in Europe. Having conceded only 21 goals in 29 league games, Napoli’s defense has been rock solid and hard to breach. The difference in quality could prove to be too much for Milan at a stage as big as the UCL, thus we fancy Napoli going into this fixture.
Napoli 2-0 AC Milan
Napoli to win: 17/10
Milan to win: 24/13
Despite Napoli being the favorite to win, the bookies have struggled to come forward with a clear winner. With that in mind, opting for different markets with both teams to score might not be the most surprising course of action.
- By UniBet. At the time of writing.
The game kicks off at 20:00GMT at San Siro, Milan.