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Apr 21, 2021 at 5.30pm UK
AC MilanAC Milan
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Raspadori (76', 83')
Duricic (60')

Preview: AC Milan vs. Sassuolo - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: AC Milan vs. Sassuolo - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Serie A clash between AC Milan and Sassuolo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

With their San Siro curse now broken, AC Milan host mid-table Sassuolo on Wednesday evening, still seeking to secure a long-awaited return to the Champions League - providing they accept the invitation.

Their visitors, meanwhile, have all but assured their top-half Serie A status following Saturday's success against Fiorentina and arrive in the second city aiming for a third win on the spin.

Match preview

After a string of unforced errors on home territory, which have starved Milan of the chance to fight for the title with relentless rivals Inter during the run-in, Stefano Pioli's side were more than relieved to scrape over the line against Genoa at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday.

Achieved by virtue of Gianluca Scamacca's unfortunate own goal - plus a pair of desperate goal-line clearances in the closing stages - the Rossoneri's 2-1 win now leaves them nine points adrift of their table-topping foes.

Thoughts at Milanello have long since turned to keeping the closing pack at bay, with their sole objective to secure Champions League football after an absence of eight long years - of course, only if the European Super League does not get off the ground.

Their overdue triumph last weekend put a pause on some sluggish home form since the turn of the year, as Milan had failed to take maximum points at in their previous five home games in all competitions. In fact, before beating Genoa, their previous San Siro success had come as long ago as the beginning of February.

While they have the best away record by far in Serie A this season, Pioli's men have won just seven of 16 league matches on home turf, but that strange combination of results has still seen Milan equal their Serie A points tally from the entire 2019-20 campaign with seven games yet to play.

On Sunday, top-scoring talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was absent again, as the Swedish star had previously been sent off against Parma for insulting the referee.

Becoming increasingly peripheral of late - due to a string of injuries, illness and suspensions - the veteran striker has watched on as deputies such as Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic have struggled to fill the goalscoring void. With January signing Mario Mandzukic - a more obvious like-for-like replacement - only now recovering his full fitness, the route to goal against Sassuolo may rely on Milan's leading man staging another spectacular comeback.

Having succumbed to inconsistency in the second half of what seemed set to be a stellar season, Sassuolo finally put together successive Serie A wins for the first time since October last weekend.

Though they are well set for another top-eight finish this season, in recent weeks the Neroverdi had started to stall. However, a narrow victory over struggling Benevento ended a three-game winless run, before their 3-1 comeback win against free-falling Fiorentina on Saturday propelled them five points clear of nearest challengers Verona.

Though the Tuscan side took the lead just before the break, top scorer Domenico Berardi - only just back from another spell on the treatment table - was introduced at half-time and subsequently converted two quickfire penalties to put Roberto De Zerbi's men ahead. As if to celebrate his recently confirmed permanent deal with the club, on-loan Maxime Lopez then made the points safe with his second Serie A strike late on.

As a regular fixture in the top half of the standings over recent years, Sassuolo have built a reputation for enterprising football - even against the top sides - and will now travel to Milan in a confident mood.

Italy international Berardi was on target the last time these two clubs met in December - though his side lost 2-1 that day despite having 68% of the possession - and will fancy his chances of closing the two-goal gap to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Capocannoniere standings on Wednesday.

AC Milan Serie A form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

AC Milan form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Sassuolo Serie A form:
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W

Team News

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to the Milan squad on Wednesday, after serving a suspension last week, so should replace Rafael Leao at centre-forward.

While defender Davide Calabria and young forward Daniel Maldini are set to miss out again for the Rossoneri, coach Stefano Pioli has no other injury concerns, as Alessio Romagnoli returned to the bench last time out.

In Calabria's continued absence, Diogo Dalot will hope to unseat Pierre Kalulu at right-back, with Ismael Bennacer again having to fend off the claims of Sandro Tonali for a role in central midfield.

Though striker Francesco Caputo could still remain sidelined for Sassuolo - along with Kaan Ayhan (COVID-19) and long-term injury victim Filippo Romagna - star man Domenico Berardi returned to spectacular effect at half-time on Saturday and can now start.

Primavera product Giacomo Raspadori should continue up front for the visitors, as Caputo misses out, while Italy international Manuel Locatelli is expected to come back into the XI for Pedro Obiang.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

Sassuolo possible starting lineup:
Consigli; Muldur, Chiriches, Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Lopez, Locatelli; Berardi, Djuricic, Boga; Raspadori

We say: AC Milan 2-1 Sassuolo

Now they have finally taken maximum points on their home patch for the first time in months, Milan can double up in midweek, as renewed confidence and the return of 'King Zlatan' as a focal point could prove decisive factors.

Sassuolo have less on the line on Wednesday, with a top-half finish all but assured, and may find themselves with plenty of the ball but none of the points.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data

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