Both AS Roma and AC Milan were in the top four and in the position to secure Champions League qualification until Matchday 30. But Juventus had a 15-point penalty suspended on Thursday, resulting in the Old Lady climbing the Serie A table to third place and pushing Roma out of the Champions League picture for the moment. They now sit fifth behind Milan on goal difference.
The new trial in the Juventus case has been ordered, but that is expected to not conclude before the end of this campaign. Hence, any penalty would be for the following season.
The development has significantly raised the stakes for the league encounter between Roma and Milan this weekend. Meanwhile, a draw in Rome will be celebrated by the blue side of Milan, who are separated by just two points on the sixth.
Last 5 games
What makes this clash even more interesting is the fact that both Jose Mourinho and Stefano Pioli are juggling league commitments alongside their magical European run. Roma progressed to the semi-finals of the Europa League with a comeback win over Feyenoord, while Milan stunned Italian leaders Napoli in the Champions League to set up a Milan derby in the semi-finals.
But both sides have not let this impact their respective league forms. The 3-1 defeat at Atalanta on Monday was disappointing but before that, Roma managed three consecutive league wins. Milan, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last four league games and outclassed Leece 2-0 in their latest fixture. The resilient win against Napoli in Europe will also give them the confidence to win another high-profile clash.
Loss: 1-3 vs Atlanta
Win: 4-1 vs Feyenoord
Win: 3-0 vs Udinese
Loss: 0-1 vs Feyenoord
Win: 1-0 vs Torino
AC Milan: 4th
Win: 2-0 vs Leece
Draw: 1-1 vs Napoli
Draw: 1-1 vs Bologna
Win: 1-0 Napoli
Draw: 0-0 vs Empoli
Head to Head
Milan have enjoyed playing against the Giallorossi in recent years, remaining unbeaten in their last six Serie A meetings.
In the last meeting in January, Roma had to dig deep to avoid another defeat against Milan. The Rossoneri headed into the last 10 minutes of normal time with a 2-0 lead. But Roma came back from the dead in a rainy San Siro to score twice to snatch a point. Roger Ibanez cut the deficit in half with a headed goal from a corner in the 87th minute, before Tammy Abraham pounced on a rebound to draw level three minutes into stoppage time. Pioli pointed out his team’s lack of ‘focus’ for conceding two goals from set plays.
Roma faithful will be sweating on Paulo Dybala’s fitness going into the game after the Argentina international suffered an ankle injury against Atalanta. He found the tie levelling goal in the Europa League last week. Chris Smalling and Diego Llorente also sustained injuries in the past week. After the defeat in Bergamo, Mourinho suggested the results are being impacted by the growing injury list.
Olivier Giroud, who missed a penalty against Napoli in the Champions League before slotting home from close-range, will have to continue carrying goal-scoring responsibility, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains unavailable. Davide Calabria, though, will return from his suspension.
Patricio, Mancini, Kumbulla, Ibanez, Spinnazola, Matic, Cristante, Zalewski, Pellgrini, Abraham, Solbakken
AC Milan: 4-2-3-1
Maignan, Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez, Krunic, Tonali, Diaz, Bennacer, Leao, Giroud
Players to Watch
The Roma captain was their only bright park in the 3-1 defeat at Atalanta. At 2-0, Pellegrini gave his side a lifeline with a beautiful finish, but a mistake from Rui Patricio restored the home side’s two-goal lead. Minutes later, the Italy international stepped up again and came close to finding another goal but his free-kick bounced off the post.
The Portuguese winger has returned to his devastating best just at the right time for Milan. In the Champions League, he left Napoli defenders chasing before picking Giroud for an easy finish, then Leao added a brace to his tally four days later in his side’s 2-0 win against Leece. He has already scored 12 league goals, and in the form he is, I’d be surprised if he isn’t among the goals against a Roma side that will be forced to make changes to their backline amid an injury crisis.
Both Milan and Roma have enjoyed playing in the big games this season, and this tie will be no different. How the ageing legs of Nemanja Matic absorb pressure from dynamic midfielders Ismaël Bennacer and Sandro Tonali in the early stages will set the tone for the fixture. But it’s tough to see any stand-out reason to pick an obvious winner, hence going for a stalemate. Roma 1-1 Milan.
The kickoff is at 16:00 GMT Saturday at the Stadio Olimpico.