Serie A Matchweek 17 preview: Cagliari vs. AC Milan (Mon - 20:45h. CET; 19:45h. GMT) - Team news, possible lineups

Still at the Serie A summit, AC Milan took one step closer to a possible double with cup success in midweek, ahead of their trip to struggling Cagliari on Monday.

The Sardinian side sit just two points above the relegation zone and on a winless streak of 10 games - including five consecutive defeats across all competitions.

Match preview

Milan immediately bounced back from a dispiriting defeat to Scudetto challengers Juventus last week, with consecutive home wins over Torino in league and cup.

The two teams first met on Saturday evening at San Siro, with Milan putting their first Serie A defeat of the season behind them courtesy of a 2-0 victory - decided by strikes from the versatile Rafael Leao and midfield lynchpin Franck Kessie, who reliably scored from the spot.

A relatively regulation win for the injury-hit Rossoneri was significantly marked by the return of their towering talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the closing minutes.

Just days later, Ibrahimovic made his first start in nearly two months, as Milan needed a penalty shoot-out to finally get the better of the same opposition and book their place in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals - securing a mouthwatering tie against city rivals Inter.

At the Sardegna Arena on Monday evening, 'King Zlatan' should be ready to reclaim his Serie A throne, as he looks to pick up from where he left off - having hit the net ten times in just seven matches.

Furthermore, Hakan Calhanoglu, who has just one league goal so far but has laid on six assists and created countless other opportunities, is also expected back in the starting XI after a recent ankle problem.

The pair - who are so integral to the club's hopes of finally ending Juve's domestic hegemony this season - could help Stefano Pioli's side to equal a club record this week. Milan have now scored in each of their last 18 away games in Serie A - only once have they ever put together a longer streak on the road, with 19 between March 1992 and April 1993.

Ibrahimovic has also scored in each of his last six league games against Cagliari, so it may well be the perfect time for the Swedish superstar to make his top flight comeback.

Teetering on the brink of crisis, Cagliari are attempting to emerge from a painful run of form that has left them 16th in the standings and in threat of being sucked into the grind of a relegation battle.

Former Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco's team often please the eye, but are too brittle in defence. The Isolani's last league victory dates back to early November and patience with their manager's protestations is gradually wearing thin.

Also eliminated from the Coppa Italia on Thursday - comfortably beaten 3-1 by Atalanta's shadow side at the Gewiss Stadium - Cagliari have lost each of their last four Serie A matches, which represents their worst run since 2013.

The contrast with 2019-20 is stark, as after 17 rounds last term, the Sardinians were on 29 points - this year they have totalled 14 in the equivalent period.

Talented winger Riccardo Sottil - a scorer in the cup exit during the week - has publicly claimed the squad are convinced that Di Francesco can turn things around and will keep the faith.

On Monday, Cagliari must rally together and demonstrate all their collective strength, as the club have won only one of their last 16 home games against Milan, losing nine.

Cagliari Serie A form: DDLLLL
Cagliari form (all competitions): DLLLLL

AC Milan Serie A form: DWWWLW
AC Milan form (all competitions): WWWLWD

Team News

Still suffering the effects of a spate of injuries and illnesses, the Rossoneri arrive in Cagliari facing several important absences. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is fit to lead the line for Stefano Pioli's side.

The former Ajax star's timing is impeccable, as Rafael Leao is suspended and Ante Rebic self-isolating. Midfielder Rade Krunic also remains in quarantine, but Pioli hopes to have Ismael Bennacer and Alexis Saelemaekers (both thigh strains) back in action.

Centre-back Matteo Gabbia (knee) is in doubt too, while it has been confirmed that Milan will also be without Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu, both of whom tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Home coach Eusebio Di Francesco has some selection concerns of his own, with Marko Rog out for the season, Paolo Farago and Zito Luvumbo injured, plus centre-backs Ragnar Klavan and Andrea Carboni (both COVID-19) also out of contention.

High-energy midfielder Nahitan Nandez is still suspended after his red card in the defeat to Benevento, so Adam Ounas could start in the three supporting out-of-form Giovanni Simeone up front.

Cagliari possible starting lineup:
Cragno; Zappa, Godin, Walukiewicz, Lykogiannis; Nainggolan, Marin; Sottil, Pedro, Ounas; Simeone

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Romagnoli, Kjaer, Dalot; Kessie, Tonali; Castillejo, Diaz, Hauge; Ibrahimovic

Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea  




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