Following another defeat in Europe, Scudetto-holders AC Milan will travel to Hellas Verona on Sunday to resume their Serie A title defence.
The Rossoneri, who were defeated by Chelsea for the second time in less than a week, must first defeat teams that are currently in the bottom three and have a new manager if they hope to advance further in the Champions League.
AC Milan lost a man early in their attempt to avenge last week’s defeat to Chelsea in London when defensive stalwart Fikayo Tomori was sent to the stands after only 18 minutes against his former team at San Siro.
The hopes of the seven-time European champions reaching the knockout stage for the first time since 2014 hang by a thread, but before they resume their continental quest, they have a pair of seemingly uncomplicated domestic matches to play.
AC Milan must travel to Veneto before playing local underdogs Monza the following week in an effort to build on recent victories over Empoli and Juventus, the latter of which came at San Siro last Saturday thanks to a close-range goal from Tomori and Brahim Diaz’s lone wonder.Milan must travel to Veneto before playing local underdogs Monza the following week in an effort to build on recent victories over Empoli and Juventus, the latter of which came at San Siro last Saturday thanks to a close-range goal from Tomori and Brahim Diaz’s lone wonder.
The reigning champions have the most shots from high turnovers (20), the most goals from such turnovers (4), and the most direct attacks (28) of any team in Serie A this season. However, they are only fifth in the table, three points behind the leaders Napoli.
By winning nine of 13 games away from home this season, Stefano Pioli’s team is still the only one without a loss in 2022. In addition, victory over Verona would mark the first time in club history that they had won at least seven of their opening 10 games in three straight seasons.
The fact that Hellas has dropped five of their last seven Serie A games against AC Milan, including the last three, is almost the least of their issues right now as they linger in the bottom half of the division.
The club’s board lost patience with Gabriele Cioffi after his dismal performance in just five points from nine league games under his leadership, with their lone victory coming against winless Sampdoria. The coach was only hired in the summer after Igor Tudor left for Marseille.
Verona had dropped each of Cioffi’s final four games before being defeated by a stoppage-time goal against Salernitana, and the last time they had dropped five straight Serie A games, they were relegated at the end of the season in 2018.
Salvatore Bocchetti, a former defender, was named the team’s new manager earlier this week, indicating that the Hellas administration wasted no time in filling the vacant position in the dugout.
Bocchetti, a 35-year-old rookie, has worked briefly as Tudor’s assistant and as Primavera coach for the Gialloblu, but he has now accelerated to the top position at a challenging time: After hosting powerful Milan the previous week, Verona will play an improving Sassuolo team the following week. Verona is giving up goals at a rate of almost two per game.
This weekend, Stefano Pioli will once again have to improvise when selecting his starting XI due to a lengthy injury list.
Because there aren’t many opportunities for Pioli to switch up his lineup, Sandro Tonali in central midfield should be in the starting lineup. The Italian international’s two goals at Stadio Bentegodi in May, which went a long way toward helping his team win the Scudetto last season, were his only Serie A goals. Ivan Ilic and Darko Lazovic from Serbia, as well as defensive duo Diego Coppola and Pawel Dawidowicz, are expected to miss out for the home team.
Salvatore Bocchetti, the new manager of Verona, may start Colombian defender Juan Cabal at the back while Federico Ceccherini serves a suspension for his stoppage-time dismissal in Salerno last week.
It is unknown whether Bocchetti makes significant changes to the final lineup selected by his predecessor, but Thomas Henry, who has scored just two goals this season, is still expected to start at the front.
Hellas Verona possible starting lineup:
Montipo; Hien, Gunter, Cabal; Faraoni, Tameze, Veloso, Doig, Hrustic, Verdi; Thomas Henry
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Tomori, Gabbia, Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Krunic, Diaz, Leao; Origi