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

Sports Mole previews the Europa League action as Arsenal travel to face AC Milan in the first leg of their last-16 encounter at San Siro.

AC Milan welcome Arsenal in the last 16 of the Europa League on the back of a 13-game unbeaten run under coach Gennaro Gattuso, who will be aiming to take full home advantage over a beleaguered Gunners side.

Arsene Wenger's men have lost five of their last six games in all competitions and will now be looking at the Europa League as a way of somehow salvaging their faltering season.


AC Milan

The face of AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarunna is censored by the ball during their 1-1 draw with Lazio on February 13, 2017© SilverHub

After a testing start for new boss Gattuso, AC Milan have been making real strides since Christmas and are undefeated since the turn of the year.

Since losing to Atalanta two days before Christmas, Milan have managed to pick up nine wins and four draws from 13 contests in all competitions and now occupy seventh spot in the Serie A standings.

Milan are into the last 16 after dispatching Ludogorets Razgrad with ease in the round of 32, and now host Arsenal after recording an impressive 2-0 away win at Roma in the club's last league outing.

AC have already taken part in 12 Europa League fixtures this term after starting qualifying early. The club have lost just once in their last 20 UEFA Cup and Europa League games at San Siro, having produced 16 victories and three draws. This season, Milan have have won five and drawn one of their six home games in the competition.

Milan fans will be delighted at being back in Europe after a four-year absence, although the knockout phases of European competitions have been difficult for them in the past.

AC have won just one of their last six last-16 ties, all of which have come in the Champions League. That one success came against Arsenal in 2011-12, when Milan put seven goals past the Gunners without conceding in either of the two legs to reach the quarter-finals.

Frontman Andre Silva will be heading into the contest with talk of potential transfer interest from Arsenal doing the rounds. The young forward has struggled at Milan under Gattuso, but has already contributed with some key goals during the earlier stages of the competition.

The fixture at San Siro will mark Milan's first game since the tragic death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori last weekend. The commanding centre-back had spent five years with AC's youth team as a youngster.

Recent form: WWDWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW


Arsenal

Big Shkodran Mustafi in action during the Premier League game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal on March 4, 2018© Offside

The Gunners are heading to Italy with the same, age-old questions being asked as to whether or not the club's future still lies under the guidance of Wenger.

Arsenal currently find themselves on a four-game losing streak, which has included humbling losses that saw them twice surrender tamely to Manchester City - once in the EFL Cup final and then in their following clash at home in the Premier League.

Those two problematic defeats were bookended by losses to minnows Ostersunds FK in the second leg of their last-32 clash and a most recent 2-1 defeat away at Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.

Travelling to face Milan, what is arguably most troubling about the situation in North London is the manner of those defeats, courtesy of showings that have seen the Gunners offer little in the way of resistance, despite completing two major signings in the shape of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan during January.

Aubameyang will be missing on Thursday given his cup-tied status, but Mkhitaryan will be heading into this clash aiming to rewrite some of the poor form he showed at Manchester United, in a competition that actually proved fruitful for the winger last season.

Arsenal were fairly clinical during the group stages as they won four of their six autumn games to win Group H. Wenger's men then went on to knock out Ostersunds in the round of 32 over two legs, the second of which seems to have triggered a poor run of results for the Gunners after a 2-1 defeat at home.

Despite that defeat, the Gunners have been impressive on the road and have won five of their last six away trips either in the UEFA Cup or Europa League. The club's only loss during that run came against Cologne during this term's group stage.

Should Wenger want to at least ease some of the strain around the Emirates, winning the Europa League now realistically remains the club's only option of securing Champions League football next term. To do that, beating a rising AC Milan across two games is just the start, with a number of other impressive European sides potentially waiting in the wings.

Recent form:WLWLLL
Recent form (all competitions): LWLLLL


Team News

Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin in action during his side's Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion at the Emirates Stadium on October 1, 2017© SilverHub

Gattuso has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game and the only doubt comes courtesy of Andrea Conti, who will have to prove his fitness late on.

AC should start with three in attack as Patrick Cutrone, Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso aim to continue their flourishing partnership.

As for the Gunners, Danny Welbeck is likely to lead the visitors up top following Alexandre Lacazette's injury and in the absence of Aubameyang.

Nacho Monreal is doubtful for the clash, which could present an opportunity for Sead Kolasinac at left-back, while Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey are both expected to return after being rested over the weekend.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone, Calhanoglu

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere; Ozil, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan


Head To Head

These two sides have met each other twice during the Champions League last 16. Arsenal were able to progress during 2007-08 following a goalless home draw and a memorable 2-0 away win in Milan.

AC enacted revenge in the next meeting, however, as they dispatched the Gunners both home and away, scoring seven in the process in 2011-12.

Outside of Europe's elite competition, Milan beat Arsenal 2-0 on aggregate during the 1995 Super Cup, having drawn in London before going on to seal victory on Italian soil.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: AC Milan 2-2 Arsenal

Milan head into this game full of confidence after a long unbeaten run in all competitions, and they will be aiming to put to bed some questions surrounding their form during the knockout stages. San Siro has often been a testing place to come for visitors on the continental stage, and Gattuso will be quietly confident of his side gaining an advantage in the first leg.

Wenger comes into the clash full of defiance and with a major point to prove, as Arsenal's season stands on the brink of collapse. The Frenchman has often come up with answers at the right moments and he will be hoping for a response in Milan.

Arsenal have the creativity to cause the hosts issues, but it is hard not to see the Gunners' defence being broken inside 90 minutes on the road. Arsenal could, however, grab themselves a vital away goal or two to take back to the Emirates.


ID:320302:

Who will win the first leg of the Europa League last-16 clash between AC Milan and Arsenal on Thursday?

AC Milan
Draw
Arsenal
AC Milan
68.3%
Draw
4.9%
Arsenal
26.8%
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Mesut Ozil in action during the Premier League game between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal on March 4, 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CLiverpool32282270254586
2Manchester CityMan City32213881334866
3Leicester CityLeicester32167960312955
4Chelsea321661057441354
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd321410851312052
6Wolverhampton WanderersWolves321313645341152
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd32121193332147
8Arsenal32111384741646
9Tottenham HotspurSpurs32129115144745
10Burnley32136133645-945
11Everton32128124047-744
12Crystal Palace32119122837-942
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle32119123343-1042
14Southampton32124164155-1440
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton32712133444-1033
16West Ham UnitedWest Ham3286183856-1830
17Watford32610162949-2028
18Aston Villa3276193660-2427
19Bournemouth3276193054-2427
20Norwich CityNorwich3256212560-3521

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