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Serie A Matchweek 21 preview: AC Milan vs. Crotone (Sun - 15:00h. CET; 14:00h. GMT) - Team news, possible lineups

The gulf in class and standing could hardly be wider on Sunday, as Serie A's top and bottom teams meet at San Siro.

League leaders AC Milan are expected to make short work of basement side Crotone this weekend, with the chasing pack gaining momentum behind them, while the visitors will arrive in the second city short of both hope and inspiration.

Match preview

Milan sit atop the Serie A standings, two points clear of city rivals Inter after a bounce-back victory in their last outing at Dall'Ara, against Bologna, righted the ship following a 3-0 home reverse to Atalanta.

The Rossoneri's 2-1 win was effectively sealed by a powerful Franck Kessie penalty and the Ivorian midfielder has already equalled his record for goals in a single Serie A season - with seven, as last achieved in 2018-19. Incidentally, he has also scored twice at Crotone in the past - both from penalties - including his first goal for Milan in August 2017.

Looking to move on from the controversy engendered by his ugly spat with Romelu Lukaku in the Milan derby, Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed another spot kick in the first half - though Ante Rebic sharply fired home the rebound to spare his blushes - so may even consider ceding penalty-taking responsibility to Kessie in the future.

After a breathless start to the season, Milan have now lost two of their last three home league games, following a series of 13 without defeat. Stefano Pioli's men could hardly have asked for a preferable opponent as they look to break that trend this week, as they have won four of their five encounters with modest Crotone in the top flight - keeping a clean sheet in each of the last three, including September's 2-0 victory at Stadio Ezio Scida.

Boasting a league-high record of seven clean sheets in their 20 games so far, Milan's defence has been an underrated aspect of their success this term, with Simon Kjaer and Alessio Romagnoli - when both fit - proving a steadying influence in front of dominant goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Furthermore, Kessie and Ismael Bennacer - badly missed in recent weeks - have expertly shielded when their full-backs raid forward.

The emphasis on Sunday afternoon though will be entirely on the Rossoneri attack to sweep aside their humble opposition, with the back line perhaps allowed the luxury of a watching brief.

Rooted to the bottom of the table just after the halfway stage of the season, Crotone certainly have their work cut out to keep in touch with the clubs above them, but are also far from adrift yet - sitting just four points shy of 17th-placed safety.

Last week, they slumped to a 3-0 home defeat against fellow strugglers Genoa, but it is their form outside of Calabria that gives most cause for concern.

Currently on a run of four successive away defeats, Giovanni Stroppa's side have picked up the fewest points on the road of any side within the top five European leagues this season - just two. They are also one of only two teams yet to win a single league game away from home, alongside Bundesliga basket case Schalke.

Given their relative lack of resources, few will be surprised at the Squali's travails to date, but Stroppa must be particularly dispirited by the fact that Crotone remain the only team in Serie A that have failed to gain points after going behind this season.

While revealing a lack of confidence - and perhaps even character - in adversity, it naturally follows that going a goal down at San Siro would likely prove fatal to any hopes of an unexpected point on Sunday.

AC Milan Serie A form: WLWWLW
AC Milan form (all competitions): WDWLLW

Crotone Serie A form: LLLWLL

Team News

The long-awaited return of Ismael Bennacer to the Milan starting lineup, after coming on as a substitute in Bologna last time out, could take place against Crotone, with Sandro Tonali the man potentially making way in midfield.

As Simon Kjaer and Brahim Diaz are expected to remain out through injury, Fikayo Tomori and Ante Rebic should keep their places in the first XI.

Playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu is set to come back into the side after recovering from COVID-19, so either Alexis Saelemaekers or Rafael Leao may miss out, while new signing Mario Mandzukic remains an option on the bench.

Arguably Crotone's star man, Junior Messias, will be sorely missed as he serves a suspension, while winger Adam Ounas (thigh) and midfield veteran Luca Cigarini (calf) remain sidelined too. Pedro Pereirasuffered a calf injury against Genoa and might be forced to sit out the trip north.

With Messias unavailable, Giovanni Stroppa's attacking pair will consist of new recruit Samuel Di Carmine, who arrived from Verona last week, and Nigeria striker Simy, with Emmanuel Riviere set to feature as a second-half substitute.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

Crotone possible starting lineup:
Cordaz; Magallan, Marrone, Djidji; Rispoli, Benali, Zanellato, Vulic, Reca; Di Carmine, Simy

Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea 

 

 

 

 

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