How Milan could line up vs SPAL: Debut for loanee, injured trio replaced as Pioli sticks with 4-4-2

Pioli AC Milan

Milan face SPAL in the Coppa Italia round of 16 on Wednesday evening and Stefano Pioli is expected to make changes to his starting XI.

As our only real chance of winning silverware this season, the expectation is that the Rossoneri will take the competition seriously and put out a strong line-up.

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Further, after the win over Cagliari last weekend, it’s an opportunity to try and start to build some momentum and make winning a habit again.

That said, Pioli could also see it as an opportunity to make changes and rotate, perhaps with one eye on our clash with Udinese on Sunday.

Change between posts

There will be at least one enforced switch due to injury with La Gazzetta dello Sport noting how Gianluigi Donnarumma is currently sidelined and so his brother, Antonio, is expected to get the nod ahead of new signing Asmir Begovic.

Given the loanee hasn’t had a great deal of time to settle and get acclimatised to his new surroundings and teammates, it would perhaps be a risk to throw him straight in even if he is vastly experienced.

In turn, handing Donnarumma a starting berth is arguably the best solution, and it’s hoped that he can produce a solid performance while deputising for his younger sibling.

Debut for Kjaer?

As per Gazzetta dello Sport, Mateo Musacchio has sustained a bruised ankle and as a result he hasn’t been selected in the squad for the cup tie, as seen in the club’s tweet below.

Pioli’s options are limited and so unless he decides to go with youth and give Matteo Gabbia a run out after he impressed in pre-season but has since been snubbed, it looks likely that Simon Kjaer will make his debut alongside Alessio Romagnoli after he joined on loan this week, as confirmed by the club’s site.

Gazzetta add in the link above that Davide Calabria misses out with a calf injury and so Andrea Conti should step in at right back, with Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez potentially completing the backline.

Bonaventura back in

It’s also noted by GdS above that Hakan Calhanoglu is another absentee due to injury, and so it would seem like a sensible idea to make a simple adjustment and start Giacomo Bonaventura in his place.

The 30-year-old will no doubt be capable of offering more quality in the final third than his teammate with his creativity and goal threat, but ultimately it’s a question of whether or not he has the legs to put in a real defensive shift too to allow Hernandez to bomb forward and be a major threat down the left flank.

Ante Rebic could be an alternative option, but the expectation is that Bonaventura will likely get the nod.

Ibrahimovic rested, Piatek gets big chance

While it seems as though Zlatan Ibrahimovic has no problems with his fitness based on what we’ve seen from him thus far after he completed the full 90 minutes in Sardinia, it’s arguably not wise to ask too much of him either at this stage and give him a chance to rest in midweek.

While it would be smart to have him on the bench just in case we need a spark to see off SPAL and advance, him dropping out for this one could open the door for Krzysztof Piatek to get another chance to make an impact.

It’s been a real struggle for the Polish international so far this season as he’s managed just four goals in 18 games, and three of those were from the penalty spot. However, if Pioli sticks with a 4-4-2 and allows him to play off Rafael Leao, it could give him a big opportunity to prove he’s capable of rediscovering his goalscoring form.

It’s a set up that worked well for him at Genoa in terms of being partnered up top with a pacy forward who can stretch defences and create space for him in and around the box, and it’s hoped we’ll see that in this game.

In turn, that could be five changes from the win over Cagliari in total, as touted by MilanNews.it, who have gone with the following XI for Milan on Wednesday: (4-4-2) – A. Donnarumma; Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer, Bonaventura; Piatek, Leao.