AC Milan host Arsenal in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie on Thursday night, with the in-form Italian giants hoping to build a strong lead to take into the second leg.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side are unbeaten in their 13 games in all competitions, while they’ve not conceded in six consecutive outings which just shows how compact, organised and confident they are currently.
In contrast, Arsenal have lost their last four games, and as they continue to ship goals at the back, it really is a case of these two sides being on the opposite ends of the form spectrum.
Nevertheless, that shouldn’t mean that Milan will be complacent, and they’ll undoubtedly hope to take a commanding lead back to the Emirates for the second leg next week, while also looking to avoid conceding an away goal which could be crucial in the tie.
Alessio Romagnoli has been in fine form in the heart of the defence alongside Leonardo Bonucci, while Patrick Cutrone has surprised many with his impact so far this season, with the 20-year-old scoring 14 goals in 33 games in all competitions to emerge as Milan’s biggest goalscoring threat.
As for the visitors, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible in this competition and so that should see Danny Welbeck start up front for Arsene Wenger’s side with Alexandre Lacazette out with injury.
Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will undoubtedly be crucial in providing the creativity and spark in the final third, although Arsenal did suffer an injury blow on Wednesday with the news that injured Hector Bellerin hasn’t travelled with the squad, as per Sky Sports.
Regardless of Arsenal’s recent form, this promises to be an intriguing battle as Milan will be desperate to make a statement on the European stage and continue their transformation and progress under Gattuso.
Suso, Giacomo Bonaventura and Hakan Calhanoglu will look to pick holes in the Arsenal backline and in between the lines, with Cutrone the obvious threat up top as they’re at full strength for this one and will be well rested after the Milan derby was postponed at the weekend following the tragic death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori.
For Arsenal, they’ve conceded 41 goals in 29 Premier League games so far this season, giving them the worst record out of the top seven sides. Perhaps for Wenger, it will be about limiting any damage and ensuring that they’re in a decent position to advance when the two teams meet again at the Emirates.
Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone, Calhanoglu.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Ospina; Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere; Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Ozil.
Probable line-ups courtesy of Calciomercato.
Milan 2-0 Arsenal. It’s too difficult to ignore the current form the Rossoneri are in, and they’ll be fancied to win this first leg. They’ll need to in order to be in a good position for the reverse fixture, but if Gattuso sets his side up to get at Arsenal with intensity and pressing, it could force them to crumble given they’re completely devoid of confidence right now.