MX23RW : Saturday, November 28 13:43:27| >> :120:5554:5554:
Oct 29, 2020 at 5.55pm UK at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
AC MilanAC Milan
3-0
Sparta PragueSparta Prague
Diaz (24'), Leao (57'), Dalot (67')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Dockal (28'), Lischka (36'), Pavelka (52')

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

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League encounter between AC Milan and Sparta Prague, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

AC Milan's campaign to win the Europa League for the first time continues on Thursday with a home fixture against Czech Cup winners Sparta Prague at San Siro.

The Serie A leaders beat Celtic 3-1 in Glasgow in their opening Group H game. Sparta, however, had an opening night to forget as they were drubbed 4-1 at home by Ligue 1 high-flyers Lille.


Match preview

AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma pictured in July 2020© Reuters

First European goals from Rade Krunic and former Manchester City starlet Brahim Diaz preceded a late third from Norwegian forward Jens Petter Hauge, as Milan returned from their trip to the Scottish champions with maximum points last week.

Hauge, who played against the Rossoneri for Bodo/Glimt in the qualifying phase and subsequently signed for the club, tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake of that tie, but it was the positive result for dominant goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma which has sent shockwaves through Italy.

Partly due to Donnarumma's absence, Milan were held at home by Roma in a 3-3 thriller on Monday, as their relentless winning run finally came to an end. His replacement, ex-Fiorentina stopper Ciprian Tatarusanu, appeared overwhelmed by the size of his task in replacing the Azzurri number one and made a number of disconcerting errors as the Giallorossi fought back to snatch a point.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic again bagged a brace, as he continues an apparently personal crusade to prove that age is just a number while dragging his side back to the summit of the Italian game.

Stefano Pioli fielded Ibrahimovic up front at Celtic Park but may be tempted to give the Swedish star a rest against Sparta as he endured a wearying 90 minutes against Roma just three days previously.

Otherwise, Pioli took the opportunity to field fringe players such as Hauge, Krunic and Diogo Dalot, on loan from Manchester United, and is likely to do the same throughout the group phase.

AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli pictured on October 17, 2020© Reuters

Thursday's opponents were reduced to 10 men midway through the first half against Lille, going on to equalise through skipper Borek Dockal before succumbing to numerical disadvantage after the break.

Ladislav Krejci was the man red-carded in that defeat, though he is one of a number of Sparta players that boasts Serie A experience, having had a four-year stay with Bologna which ended in the summer.

In addition, David Hancko is on loan to Sparta from Fiorentina and Ondrej Celustka had a brief stay at Palermo back in 2010, while striker Libor Kozak was the 2012-13 Europa League top scorer - with eight goals - during an otherwise barren spell at Lazio.

Sparta's already towering task in taking down Serie A giants Milan, however, was surely made insurmountable by the Czech government's declaration of a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That has seen football in the country shut down entirely, with matches halted for a minimum of three league rounds. The visitors, therefore, have not played any domestic football since a win against Jablonec in early October and are left standing at the top of the table, with six wins from six.

Although this is now the club's 38th successive European campaign, Sparta have lost all of their last five European away fixtures and have just one victory in their last 10.

In stark contrast, Milan boast phenomenal recent form. This is the seven-time European champions' third appearance in the Europa League group stage - all of which have come in the last four seasons - and their home record in the competition is largely positive, with a record of eight wins from 11 games.

AC Milan Europa League form: W
AC Milan form (all competitions): WDWWWD

Sparta Prague Europa League form: L
Sparta Prague form (all competitions): WWWWWL


Team News

AC Milan's Diogo Dalot in action with Celtic's Albian Ajeti in the Europa League on October 22, 2020© Reuters

Donnarumma, Hauge and defender Matteo Gabbia are observing quarantine rules and will be unavailable. Mateo Musacchio is nearing fitness, while Ante Rebic is still injured.

Diaz, Krunic and Dalot are all likely to return to the XI as Pioli refreshes his lineup after Monday's Serie A exertions.

For the visitors, Krejci is suspended, while Hancko, rising star Filip Soucek and Lukas Stetina are injured. Defender Celustka and Under-21 international Dominik Plechaty are both doubtful.

Experienced winger Adam Hlousek will vie for a start behind striker Lukas Julis.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Tatarasanu; Hernandez, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Dalot; Bennacer, Tonali; Krunic, Diaz, Castillejo; Leao

Sparta Prague possible starting lineup:
Heca; Hanousek, Lischka, Vitik, Sacek; Travnik, Pavelka; Vindheim, Dockal, Moberg Karlsson; Julis


SM words green background

We say: AC Milan 3-1 Sparta Prague

Whichever team Pioli names - even potentially without Donnarumma or Ibrahimovic - it is vanishingly improbable that this will be the day on which Milan's 26-game unbeaten run ends.

Rafael Leao is in scintillating form, creating and scoring goals at will, while the Rossoneri's supporting cast has more than enough ingenuity to pick apart an increasingly rusty and dispirited Sparta side.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win 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.Home Win:curl

ID:419718:cQx

Who will win Thursday's Europa League clash between AC Milan and Sparta Prague?

AC Milan
Draw
Sparta Prague
AC Milan
0.0%
Draw
0.0%
Sparta Prague
0.0%
0
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Celtic's Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrates scoring against Riga in the Europa League on September 24, 2020
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1AC Milan86201981120
2SassuoloSassuolo85302091118
3Roma85211911817
4Juventus84401761116
5Inter Milan84312013715
6Napoli85031610614
7Atalanta BCAtalanta84221814414
8Lazio84221313014
9Hellas VeronaHellas Verona8332107312
10CagliariCagliari83141417-310
11Sampdoria83141213-110
12SpeziaSpezia82331115-49
13BeneventoBenevento83051120-99
14Bologna83051314-19
15Fiorentina82241013-38
16Udinese8215711-47
17Parma8134816-86
18Torino81251420-65
19Genoa8125716-95
20Crotone8026619-132

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