Stadio Carlo Castellani sets the stage for a curtain-raising 2024 Serie A showdown between relegation-battling Empoli and top-four hopefuls Milan. This contest will kick off a packed Sunday schedule as we look at our match preview.
Empoli fired another blank at the tail-end of 2023, drawing 0-0 at fellow relegation contenders 0-0. But despite extending their wasteful tally of non-scoring outings to a league-high 11, Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side can draw some confidence from commencing the new calendar year only one point adrift of safety.
As the division’s worst attack, Empoli, who only netted ten goals in 18 Serie A games in the first half of the season, will be out to defend with resilience. Although they last won a league match in November courtesy of a stunning 1-0 triumph at Napoli, Andreazzoli would probably sign up for a point here if offered before the kick-off.
Visiting Milan can’t settle for a draw. Stefano Pioli’s managerial future at the San Siro is under the microscope even though the Rossoneri squeezed past Sassuolo 1-0 in their last Serie A game of 2023 to solidify their position in an intense top-four race. Another morale boost arrived at the start of 2024.
Pioli’s mixed lineup excelled against Cagliari in midweek Coppa Italia action, putting the Sardinians to the sword to reach the quarter-finals. Luka Jovic ran the show, netting a first-half brace to inspire Milan to a thumping 4-1 victory. It’s also worth noting that teenage sensation Chaka Traore grabbed his first senior goal for Rossoneri.
As mentioned above, goals have been at a premium for Empoli this season. Their scoring woes have been particularly annoying at the Castellani, where they’ve only scored five times in nine Serie A games (W1, D2, L6). What’s worse, three of those five strikes came in a single match!
On that basis, it’s barely surprising Empoli headed in 2024 as the worst home side in the top-flight of Italian Football, having racked up a mere five points in the home setting. But they can at least hope to trouble the scoreboard here after finding the net in their last seven home league encounters against Milan. Yet, they’ve won none of those fixtures (D3, L4).
Despite being depleted by injuries and Africa Cup of Nations absentees, Milan must avoid a slip-up in Tuscany. Following Bologna’s 1-1 home draw against Genoa on Friday, Rossoneri have a decent opportunity to extend a four-point lead on the fifth place and perhaps preserve their faint Scudetto hopes.
However, to do that, Milan must rediscover their footing on the road after going winless on their last four Serie A travels (D3, L1). Alarmingly for Pioli, his men have capitulated at least twice on each occasion, amplifying the need for defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window. Since they’ve also netted precisely twice in all four matches, scoring shouldn’t be a problem.
Empoli can’t call upon Giuseppe Pezzella and Bartosz Bereszynski as both are still in the treatment room nursing injuries. Liberato Cacace is unavailable for selection after accumulating yellow cards. Question marks are still over the heads of Viktor Kovalenko and Simone Bastoni.
As for Milan, Pierre Kalulu, Malick Thiaw, Mattia Caldara, and Fikayo Tomori remain long-term absentees at the back. Noah Okafor and Tommaso Pobega are also on the sidelines, while Ismael Bennacer and Samuel Chukwueze left the camp for the impending AFCON.
Empoli vs Milan Potential Lineups
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Elia Caprile; Tyronne Ebuehi, Ardian Ismajli, Sebastian Walukiewicz, Sebastiano Luperto; Jacopo Fazzini, Alberto Grassi, Youssef Maleh; Tommaso Baldanzi; Nicolo Cambiaghi, Francesco Caputo.
Milan (4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Jan-Carlo Simic, Theo Hernandez; Yacine Adli, Tijjani Reijnders; Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Rafael Leao; Olivier Giroud
Empoli vs Milan Prediction
Milan seem well-positioned to maintain their mind-blowing record of avoiding defeat in every Serie A fixture at the Castellani. Pioli would appreciate a clean sheet for a change, but we expect Empoli to get on the scoresheet.
Prediction: Milan Win
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