Sunday night in the nation’s capital all eyes will be on the Stadio Olimpico as AC Milan are the visitors to Rome to take on AS Roma in this highly anticipated clash.
Both teams are smarting after dropped points last weekend. AC Milan were dismantled and humiliated by local rivals Inter Milan at the San Siro 3-0, while AS Roma struggled to break down a stubborn Benevento side and came away from Campania with a point where realistically they had their eyes on all three.
On Thursday night, AS Roma advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League after defeating Sporting Braga 3-1 in the second leg of the last 32 tie in the Europa League. Advancing 5-1 on aggregate, it was a comfortable win for Paulo Fonseca‘s side, but it did have some moments in the second half with lapses in concentration. There were a few times where Roma would play out from the back against a Braga side who pressed high in the second half, a stray pass would go array and Braga would fluff their opportunity to grab a goal back. Against a different side that could be a different side.
Once again it was a re-jigged side with Rick Karsdorp and Jordan Veretout playing out of position in the backline. Karsdorp switched from RWB to the right-side centre-back and Veretout switched from centre midfield to play in the RWB role. In this game on Thursday, both players did an excellent job in the roles given to them.
Rick Karsdorp looks like a play re-born and revitalised this season under Paulo Fonseca and gave a brilliant display as one of the three centre-backs. Jordan Veretout gave a solid performance at RWB and switched roles in games as the tactics switched from 3-4-2-1 to 4-3-3 and back to 3-4-2-1. He was taken off when the score was at 2-0 and was given a rest before the important game at the weekend.
Thursday’s win against Sporting Braga did come at a cost with Edin Dzeko picking up a muscle injury and is ruled out for the next couple of weeks.
A final shout out to a performance from the Sporting Braga game was to Amadou Diawara, a player who has struggled to break into the first team. 9 Serie A appearance with 1 start this season in the league, but in the two Europa League games against Sporting Braga, Amadou Diawara was back to his best and put in two stellar displays in the centre midfield role.
Diawara was back to the performances from the early 2019/20 season where he was one of the first names on the team sheet. Amadou Diawara will have a big role to play for Roma in the latter part of the season.
Roma drew Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine in the Europa League round of 16 draws and like the previous round against Sporting Braga, Roma will be up against a former side coached by the current AS Roma Paulo Fonseca.
After a brilliant 2020 where AC Milan were proving all the doubters wrong and playing some brilliant attacking football, 2021 has been a different story. AC Milan have been knocked off the top of Serie A by bitter rivals Inter Milan and have been playing catch up in recent weeks. The excellent form of 2020 has surpassed them in 2021 and AC Milan have been a different side in the first two months of this year.
Heavy home defeats by Juventus, Atalanta and, Inter Milan have blotted the form of 2020 and the poor form hasn’t stopped there. A worrying 2-0 defeat away at Spezia started a winless streak of 4 games in all competitions. Two draws against Red Star Belgrade which AC Milan progressed via away goals, was followed up last weekend by an embarrassing display in the Milan Derby.
It has been a worrying start to 2021 for AC Milan, all the hard work done in 2020 could be slipping away in the first months of 2021 and AC Milan dream of the first Scudetto in a decade could be fading away quickly.
The key players to keep an eye on in the AC Milan side:
The Benjamin Button of Serie A, Zlatan Ibrahimović has been in fantastic form for AC Milan this season. In 13 Serie A appearances, this season Zlatan Ibrahimović has scored 14 goals and contributed 1 assist. But since his spat in the Coppa Italia against Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan form has dropped. He has not scored in his last two Serie A games; Zlatan has scored two braces in 2021 against Cagliari and Crotone but has not scored in the other 5 Serie A games in which he has featured in.
The second and final player to keep an eye on in the AC Milan side is Cote d’Ivoire international Franck Kessie. A Roma target in the summer of 2017, but the former Atalanta midfielder chose Milan instead of Rome for his next destination and joined on a two-year loan which became permanent in the summer of 2019.
Kessie has been involved in 10 Serie A goals in 22 league appearances with 7 goals and 3 assists. Franck Kessie has added goals to his game this season with 6 out of his 7 league goals coming from the penalty spot. The one downside to the Kessie game this season in Serie A is his discipline, 6 yellow cards picked up in 22 games is something Roma will play on. Kessie has already missed one game this season due to suspension.
PREDICTED XI |ROMA
Pau Lopez, Mancini, Cristante, Fazio, Karsdorp, Villar, Veretout, Spinazzola, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan, Borja Mayoral.
PREDICTED XI | AC MILAN
Donnarumma, Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez, Kessie, Tonali, Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic, Ibrahimović.
This is an important game for Roma, looking to get back to winning ways after a disappointing draw last weekend in the league against Benevento. Sunday game against a team who is low on confidence and struggling for form could be the perfect tonic for Roma to push for a top 3 finish in Serie A and finally win against a top 6 side.