How Milan could line up vs Napoli: Boost for Pioli, key decision to consider for clash

Milan face another difficult encounter this weekend as we travel to Napoli on Sunday night looking to extend our impressive recent form in Serie A.

The Rossoneri have won four of five league games since the restart, with victories over Juventus, Lazio and Roma included in that streak as we’ve scored 15 goals and conceded just five.

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That has in turn allowed us to close the gap on fifth and sixth place to just two points, while we’ve also opened up a gap between ourselves and the chasing pack with eighth-placed Sassuolo now six points adrift.

With that in mind, it’s imperative that we continue to enjoy a strong finish to the campaign, and with Napoli within our sights as we look to try and secure a top-six finish and direct Europa League qualification, this weekend’s meeting could be decisive with six games to go thereafter.

So, how will Stefano Pioli line his side up for the crunch showdown?

Based on the tweet below from’s Antonio Vitiello, the Italian tactician tested a largely familiar XI in training at Milanello on Friday, with Gianluigi Donnarumma between the posts and a back four consisting of Andrea Conti, Simon Kjaer, Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernandez.

That’s the defensive unit that has played so well since the restart, and it’s a huge boost in itself if there are no fresh injuries to be concerned with to allow us to continue to build on that consistency and familiarity.

In midfield, it’s added that Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer are expected to continue as they will undoubtedly be crucial in this game too as they have been hugely influential in recent weeks, but then there is perhaps a little uncertainty in the final third.

Vitiello notes that Hakan Calhanoglu was involved in that XI in training, and given the Turkish playmaker was only fit enough for the bench against Juventus before coming on and giving us a timely lift as we secured a 4-2 win, it will be a huge boost for Pioli if his creative ace is available to start and has overcome his knock.

It’s difficult to ignore Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic’s recent form as so it’s no surprise to see them both named in the potential XI, but it’s suggested that Alexis Saelemaekers and Lucas Paqueta could be battling it out for a spot on the right flank.

With Mario Rui expected to start at left-back for Napoli, it may well make more sense to start the Belgian as he will be better equipped to nullify his attacking threat down the left flank while causing him problems too, whereas we saw Paqueta struggle to contain Juan Cuadrado in midweek and so a similarly defensive role on the wing could give him a possible headache again.

As seen in the graphic below, La Gazzetta dello Sport have gone with an identical starting line-up, with Saelemaekers getting the nod at the time of writing, although there is still time for that to change with the game not kicking off until Sunday night.

Given our recent form, the team largely picks itself at this point as we’ve seen a number of key individuals step it up and deliver across the pitch.

In turn, the only decision that will arguably be playing on Pioli’s mind is who starts on the right flank, and for the reason noted above, Saelemaekers over Paqueta could be the way to go.

Regardless of who starts though, we must show the same level of desire, energy and commitment this weekend if we want to continue what has been a superb run, as Napoli will be fully aware of the importance of this fixture and given the quality that they possess in their side, it certainly won’t be a straight-forward assignment.


Image courtesy of La Gazzetta dello Sport.


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