Buzzing from a mammoth Champions League win in midweek, Milan head to the Stadio Via del Mare to encounter Lecce in their final Serie A game ahead of November’s international break. Let’s look at our match preview for this contest.
Lecce seemed to be on their way to arresting a five-game winless league streak last weekend when Pontus Almqvist fired them 1-0 up at Roma. However, Sardar Azmoun and Romelu Lukaku scored in stoppages to turn the nail-biting showdown at the Stadio Olimpico on its head and inspire Jose Mourinho’s team to a 2-1 victory.
Suffering two sucker punches in the capital added insult to injury after second-tier Parma crashed Robert D’Aversa’s troubled side out of the Coppa Italia last week, running out 4-2 victors at this venue. Lecce’s underwhelming cup exit forms part of their woeful seven-match winless run in all competitions (D2, L5).
D’Aversa’s bid to arrest that run this weekend looks somewhat far-fetched. Milan put a rough patch firmly behind them on Tuesday with a morale-boosting 2-1 home win over Paris Saint-Germain. Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud got Stefan Pioli’s lads off the mark in this season’s Champions League, blowing the so-called ‘group of death’ wide open.
In addition to reigniting their pursuit of the knockout stages, Milan put an emphatic stop to a disastrous run of three defeats in four competitive outings beforehand (D1). However, there’s no room for complacency, as they start this round six points adrift of Serie A leaders Inter.
Lecce’s rip-roaring five-game form in Serie A at the start of D’Aversa’s tenure (W3, D2) seems like remote history. Six consecutive league matches without a victory have demoted Giallorossi to the bottom half of the table. For the sake of argument, they’re now only five points clear of 18th-placed Hellas Verona.
Goals have been at a premium for Lecce. Since a 2-0 home triumph over Salernitana on September 3, they have netted one goal or fewer in six successive league contests. Against this backdrop, the Puglia outfit established a two-goal cushion in this corresponding fixture last term, only to let Milan get away with a 2-2 draw.
Player to Watch: Lameck Banda
Nikola Krstovic remains the club’s top goalscorer this season, but Banda is the man of the moment. He has mustered two assists in his last two appearances.
While losing 1-0 to Juventus and drawing 2-2 against Napoli could’ve been considered setbacks, last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to Udinese was an unmitigated disaster for Scudetto-bidding Milan. After back-to-back scoring blanks at home in Serie A, Saturday’s trip to Via del Mare could be a blessing in disguise.
Before squandering a two-goal lead at Napoli, Milan had won all four league travels outside their hometown this season. Moreover, Puglia has been a happy hunting ground for Rossoneri as they’ve not lost any of their last five away encounters against Lecce in the top flight (W2, D3).
Home and away, they’re unbeaten in ten straight clashes against their upcoming rivals (W6, D4) since slipping to a 1-0 loss at this stadium in 2006.
Player to Watch: Rafael Leao
Slotting home a superb overhead kick against PSG could be what the doctor ordered for Leao, who hasn’t scored in his last six Serie A outings. His stunning solo goal initiated Milan’s comeback in this match-up last season.
Lecce will be without Albanian defender Kastriot Dermaku and Danish forward Jeppe Corfitzen, who are out injured. Marcin Listkowski has recently struggled with illness, but there’s a chance he could make the matchday squad.
Meanwhile, Milan’s injury crisis is subsiding. After Christian Pulisic, Theo Hernandez, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to the fold versus PSG, Samuel Chukwueze is on the verge of recovering from injury. But Marco Sportiello, Mattia Caldara, Pierre Kalulu, Marco Pellegrino, and Ismael Bennacer are still out.
Lecce vs Milan Potential Lineups
Lecce (4-3-3): Wladimiro Falcone; Valentin Gendrey, Federico Baschirotto, Marin Pongracic, Antonino Gallo; Hamza Rafia, Joan Gonzalez, Iber Ramadani; Gabriel Stefezza, Remi Oudin, Nikola Krstovic.
Milan (4-3-3): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Malick Thiaw, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Yunus Musah, Tijjani Reijnders; Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud, Rafael Leao.
Lecce vs Milan Prediction
Pioli’s backline hasn’t fared well lately, but Lecce’s scoring woes should offer Milan some respite. The sides did share the spoils here last season, but the visitors seem in far better shape to take home all three points this time.
Prediction: Milan Win
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