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Dec 11, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
AC MilanAC Milan
Beto (17')
Perez (25'), Deulofeu (55')
Success (90+5')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Ibrahimovic (90+2')
Castillejo (87'), Florenzi (90+5')

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

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

Though they crashed out of Europe in midweek, AC Milan lead the Serie A standings approaching the halfway stage, and will visit Udinese on Saturday seeking to maintain their slim advantage at the top.

Tuesday's loss to Liverpool consigned the Rossoneri to concentrate only on domestic matters from now on, while their next opponents made a change in the dugout after being beaten by promoted Empoli the day before.

Match preview

The combination of a Milan defeat and Atletico Madrid's simultaneous win over Porto saw the Serie A leaders slump out of the Champions League this week, finishing rock-bottom in a competitive Group B.

Against a club they had previously faced in two finals - during the Rossoneri's last golden period, over a decade ago - Stefano Pioli's side again demonstrated their European inexperience in several key positions, and ultimately went down 2-1 at San Siro despite taking the lead through Fikayo Tomori.

Nevertheless, back-to-back league wins had helped Milan into the driving seat domestically over the week prior, and they have picked up an impressive total of 38 points from 16 Serie A matches so far - their best tally at this stage since 2003.

Ahead of their trip north to the Friuli, Pioli and company have also won away from home on 16 separate occasions during 2021, with only Napoli's remarkable feats in 2017 having topped that tally since the turn of the century.

Among the league's top scorers so far - currently finding the net at a rate of more than two goals per game - Milan have shared the goalscoring burden around in the frequent absence of their ageing strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud, with 14 different names making the scoresheet in Serie A this term.

Only European champions Chelsea (16) have had more so far in the top five European Leagues, demonstrating the size of the task set to face ailing Udinese this weekend.

With just 16 points to show from as many league games, Udinese are drifting down the Serie A standings, amid a run of just one win from their last 13 top-flight fixtures.

Head coach Luca Gotti, therefore, was getting that familiar sinking feeling - as his side fell away badly last term only to rally and stay afloat in the end - before being sacked earlier this week.

The former Chelsea assistant will be replaced by Gabriele Cioffi as interim manager, as notorious owner Gino Pozzo decided to strike before things turned from bad to worse at the Dacia Arena.

Undoubtedly, an inability to turn one point into three has played a significant role in costing Gotti his job, and Udinese's seventh draw of the season arrived in improbable style last Thursday evening.

After taking a two-goal lead at Lazio, the Zebrette were then pegged back and eventually trailed 4-3, before Tolgay Arslan struck deep into stoppage time to secure an incredible 4-4 result.

Though Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring in Udinese's next fixture, away to Empoli, it seemed as though history was repeating itself all over again when they conceded a 49th-minute equaliser, but they crumbled to a 3-1 defeat against the Serie B champions, which ultimately saw Gotti's reign brought to an end.

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

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

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

Team News

Stefano Pioli has seen his attacking options limited by several injuries in recent weeks, but Milan are hoping to have winger Samu Castillejo - now back in full training after a thigh problem - Rafael Leao and centre-forward Olivier Giroud available on Saturday.

However, Ante Rebic and Pietro Pellegri are still doubtful due to muscular issues, while full-back Davide Calabria is yet to make his return.

Of course, defensive mainstay Simon Kjaer will miss several months with a recently sustained ACL injury requiring reconstructive surgery, so Fikayo Tomori should continue to team up with Alessio Romagnoli at the back. Pioli is expected to dip into the transfer market next month to add cover at the heart of his back four.

Alessandro Florenzi will once again go head-to-head with Pierre Kalulu for the right to fill Calabria's boots, while Alexis Saelemaekers and Ismael Bennacer - both on the bench versus Liverpool - will hope to start.

For possibly his only league game in charge, with Paco Jemez apparently waiting in the wings, Udinese's interim boss Gabriele Cioffi will be pleased to welcome Rodrigo Becao - who has scored his only two goals for the Bianconeri versus Milan - back to fitness after an adductor problem.

The Brazilian could therefore start in the home side's defence on Saturday night, while both Walace and Nahuel Molina are back from bans to take their place in the squad - and quite probably the first XI.

Attacking midfielder and occasional support striker Roberto Pereyra (shoulder) is set to remain sidelined, though, as six-goal top scorer Beto leads the line up front.

Udinese possible starting lineup:
Silvestri; Samir, Becao, Nuytinck; Molina, Arslan, Makengo, Walace, Udogie; Deulofeu; Beto

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Florenzi, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Krunic; Ibrahimovic

We say: Udinese 1-2 AC Milan

While Udinese are second only to Brighton for draws in the top five Euro leagues since October, they are unlikely to emerge with even a point from their encounter with the leaders, who will be eager to return to winning ways on Saturday.

Milan may lack the nous to succeed at the elite level, but their rebuild over recent years should still help them challenge for the Scudetto next spring, and increasing squad depth means they can brush off their hosts even with several men down.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 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 1.5:data

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