Cagliari’s meeting with table-topping Milan at Sardegna Arena will serve to round off Sunday’s Serie A action. Both sides are embroiled in keenly-contested battles, albeit their seasonal goals have contrasting natures.
Cagliari’s wheels have seemingly fallen off in March, with a brace of overwhelming defeats to Lazio and Spezia curtailing their momentum. A poor run of form threatens to undo the Islanders‘ impressive six-game unbeaten league streak between mid-January and late February (W2, D4).
Unlike their relegation-battling hosts, Milan are on the lookout for their first Scudetto since 2010/11. Stefano Pioli’s men have built on a heroic 1-0 win away to Napoli in their top-table six-pointer by dispatching bottom-half Empoli courtesy of the identical scoreline last time out.
Walter Mazzarri’s players appeared to be on course to stage a stunning second-half-of-the-season comeback before a brace of clear-cut defeats ‘to nil’ brought them back down to earth. Since 18th-placed Venezia sit only three points adrift and have a game in hand, Cagliari face an uphill task to secure top-flight survival beyond May.
After suffering a 3-0 loss to Lazio in their most recent Serie A home outing, the Sardinians could draw a blank in back-to-back league matches at Sardegna Arena for the first time since May 2021. With no side heading into this matchday outside the drop zone netting fewer Serie A goals than Cagliari (28) this season, that prospect is not far-fetched by any stretch of the imagination.
Pulling off an upset will require Cagliari to defy their embarrassing 17-game H2H home record against Milan. The Islanders only won once in that 17-match sequence (D6, L10), while they haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last 11 Serie A meetings at Sardegna Arena.
It’s been a while since Milan came this close to conquering Serie A. Going into the final nine rounds of fixtures, the Rossoneri boast a three-point lead on second-placed Napoli, with reigning champions Inter already lagging four points behind.
Unbeaten in their last seven Serie A matches (W4, D3), Pioli’s men are in firm control of their Scudetto bid. As bizarre as it may sound, playing outside San Siro could benefit Milan. They’ve won a league highest average of 2.35 goals per away league fixture this season (W10, D3, L1).
Since going down 4-3 at Fiorentina in November, Milan have won five of their subsequent seven Serie A away matches (D2). Ruthless in front of goal, Rafael Leao and co have netted a league-high 32 goals on the road this Serie A season. Indeed, they are the only team in Italy’s top-flight to have hit a 30-goal milestone in away league action so far.
Cagliari vs Milan Predicted Lineups
Cagliari Potential Starting (3-4-1-2): Alessio Cragno; Edoardo Goldaniga, Matteo Lovato, Charalampos Lykogiannis; Raoul Bellanova, Razvan Marin, Alessandro Deiola, Dalbert Henrique; Gaston Pereiro; Leonardo Pavoletti, Keita Balde Diao.
Milan Potential Starting (4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer; Alexis Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao; Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Player to Watch
Having Zlatan Ibrahimovic fit and firing has been seldom for Pioli this season. However, the Swede has regained full fitness and will likely register his first Serie A start since limping off the pitch against Juventus in late January.
Ibrahimovic’s return to the starting XI could spell disaster for Cagliari. The 40-year-old striker has tallied eight goals and four assists in his 13 Serie A appearances against the Sardinians.
Ibrahimovic single-handedly ripped Cagliari apart in this exact fixture last season. His match-winning brace handed Milan a comfortable 2-0 victory at Sardegna Arena in 2020/21.
Despite experiencing an injury-riddled season, the Sweden international is still Milan’s joint-top scorer in Serie A with eight goals.