MX23RW : Wednesday, June 23 06:48:16| >> :600:2718573:2718573:
Feb 13, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio Alberto Picco, La Spezia, Italy
SpeziaSpezia
2-0
AC MilanAC Milan
Maggiore (56'), Bastoni (67')
Vignali (23'), Bastoni (25'), Erlic (58')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Dalot (65')

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

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Serie A clash between Spezia and AC Milan, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Continuing their pursuit of a first Scudetto in a decade, AC Milan travel to meet Serie A surprise package Spezia on Saturday, seeking a win which can keep them clear of the chasing pack.

Ahead of a potentially defining run of fixtures in the next month, the Rossoneri will take on Vincenzo Italiano's overachieving side at Stadio Alberto Picco following a welcome return to winning ways.


Match preview

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring against Crotone in Serie A on February 7, 2021© Reuters

League leaders Milan will conclude a trio of games versus bottom-half clubs against Spezia this weekend, with an upcoming series of crucial clashes lying just ahead in their tightly-packed schedule.

In the next few weeks, Stefano Pioli's men will encounter San Siro co-tenants and chief title rivals Inter, Roma and then Napoli in the league, with a two-legged Europa League tie against Red Star Belgrade to negotiate in between.

Still sitting two points above Inter despite a couple of recent reverses, Milan have bounced back from a testing spell in which they lost 3-0 at home to Atalanta and exited the Coppa Italia in the quarter-finals, by beating Bologna and Crotone in successive Serie A rounds.

Amid talk of a contract extension which could potentially take him into his 41st year, the Rossoneri's inimitable striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made history last Sunday, by reaching the mark of 500 career club goals.

Netting a double in the 4-0 win over bottom side Crotone, the 39-year-old Swedish star took his seasonal tally to 14 in the league - two behind Cristiano Ronaldo and just one short of the totals of Ciro Immobile and Romelu Lukaku in an absorbing battle for the Capocannoniere crown.

One of Ibra's key supply lines has been playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu, who has racked up an impressive seven assists in Serie A since early December - a joint-high figure in the top five European leagues with Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman. The talented Turkish midfielder's return to fitness has been welcomed gladly by Pioli, as his squad has been hit with several absences - most of whom have now returned just ahead of a particularly challenging period.

As they prepare to visit La Spezia this weekend, Milan can travel in the knowledge that they have not yet been defeated away from home in Serie A this season - with a remarkable record of nine wins and one draw away from Stadio Giuseppe Meazza so far. In fact, in the league, the Rossoneri are on a 17-match unbeaten streak on the road since losing a year ago, 'away' to Inter.

Spezia manager Vincenzo Italiano pictured in January 2021© Reuters

In contrast to their illustrious visitors' results in recent times, Spezia's home record has been woeful since their first-ever promotion to the top flight last summer. Vincenzo Italiano's side have accumulated only six points on home turf - though they did start the season hosting games in Cesena - meanwhile registering just one victory.

In all though, the Ligurian outfit have proved something of a revelation - especially to the hordes of pundits who condemned them as mere relegation fodder at the season's outset. The first team to collect more than 20 points after 21 games of the season on their Serie A debut since Siena in 2003-04, they have adapted with apparent ease to the rigours of the elite level - also reaching the Coppa Italia quarter-finals last month.

The Aquilotti are currently in 16th place in the standings, six points above Cagliari in the drop zone, so are far from safe yet, but they continue to pick up valuable points against the odds.

Last week, Spezia won 2-1 at the Mapei Stadium against top-half side Sassuolo, ending a three-match winless streak. Coming from a goal behind, Italiano's team sealed three precious points through Emmanuel Gyasi's 78th-minute winner, as they continue to cope admirably in the absence of top scorer M'Bala Nzola.

The French striker aside, young midfielder Tommaso Pobega has arguably been Spezia's standout performer, with the Milan loanee apparently attracting interest from Premier League clubs amid talk of the Rossoneri bringing their 21-year-old primavera product back into the fold in the summer.

Though Spezia have an option to make the player's move permanent, Milan have a counter-option to secure his services for the future and are expected to take advantage of that clause since Pobega has regularly impressed while scoring five goals so far.

On his most recent meeting with his parent club, Milan came out on top 3-0 at San Siro in October, so Pobega will hope to make a greater impression on events this time around, as he bids to secure both his future and Spezia's Serie A survival.

Spezia Serie A form: WWDLLW
Spezia form (all competitions): DWLLLW

AC Milan Serie A form: LWWLWW
AC Milan form (all competitions): DWLLWW


Team News

Fikayo Tomori pictured in AC Milan gear on January 23, 2021© Reuters

Milan must tweak their back four due to the suspension of right-back Davide Calabria, who is likely to be replaced by Diogo Dalot, while Simon Kjaer remains a doubt, so Fikayo Tomori should keep his place alongside Alessio Romagnoli in central defence.

There are also doubts over the availability of Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz, so Franck Kessie is expected to be joined by Ismael Bennacer, who has been suffering from illness recently, in Stefano Pioli's midfield pairing.

Hakan Calhanoglu will return to the XI, probably at the expense of either Ante Rebic or Rafael Leao, as Milan take a step closer to regaining a full strength squad.

Home boss Vincenzo Italiano can bring Tommaso Pobega straight back into his lineup after serving a suspension last week - with Leo Sena missing out. However, defensive mainstay Claudio Terzi is set to sit out due to an injury sustained against Sassuolo, requiring Julian Chabot to join Martin Erlic in the centre of the back four.

Strikers M'Bala Nzola and Roberto Piccoli are still injured too, so Andrey Galabinov is favourite to lead the line, with support from Emmanuel Gyasi and Kevin Agudelo out wide.

Spezia possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Vignali, Erlic, Chabot, Bastoni; Maggiore, Ricci, Pobega; Agudelo, Galabinov, Gyasi

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Dalot, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic


SM words green background

We say: Spezia 1-3 AC Milan

Not only is there a gaping gulf in stature between these two clubs, but the combination of their respective home and away records leads to only one probable outcome on Saturday.

Now nearing full availability once again, Milan can flex their range of attacking resources to flatten the plucky challenge of a spirited Spezia side and put Inter under pressure to match their result 24 hours later.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 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.Under 3.5:data


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