It’s crunch time in the Champions League ‘group of death’ as Milan and Borussia Dortmund go head-to-head at the San Siro. Tuesday’s showdown in northern Italy has all the makings of a ‘make or break’ fixture as only three points separate top from bottom in an evenly-poised Group F.
Despite lacking numerous first-team stars, Milan eked out a precious 1-0 home win over Fiorentina at the weekend, courtesy of Theo Hernandez’s first-half penalty. In a game highlighted by Stefano Pioli’s admirable leap of faith that saw 15-year-old Francesco Camarda become the youngster player to appear in a Serie A game, Rossoneri halted a four-game winless league streak (D2, L2).
After barely preserving their place in the top four domestically, Milan must brace themselves for another mammoth task. Pioli’s side got off the mark in the last Champions League round, coming from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on home turf. That result didn’t only see Rossoneri’s net first European goals this season but also lifted them a point off second-placed PSG.
Depending on Les Parisiens’ result against Newcastle United, this could be the end of the road for Milan in the Champions League should they lose here. Unlike the Italians, Dortmund can seal progression into the knockouts with a win here. After a brace of wins ‘to nil’ against the Magpies, Edin Terzic’s men come into proceedings as group leaders.
However, Dortmund’s potential loss at the San Siro would blow Group F wide open ahead of the final matchday.
Following back-to-back 1-0 home defeats to Juventus and Udinese, Milan have won their last two outings at the San Siro by a single-goal margin. Rossoneri’s home resurgence can inspire confidence within the Italian camp, increasing the likelihood of maintaining an impressive all-time record against German opponents on home soil (W12, D4, L2).
Ominously, one of the two German clubs to have beaten Rossoneri at the San Siro is Dortmund. But their last three home encounters against Bundesliga sides have ended 2-2. It should give Pioli an added incentive to get Milan back to winning ways and register consecutive Champions League triumphs for only the second time in his managerial career.
Player to Watch: Olivier Giroud
Giroud’s thumping header helped Milan topple PSG last time out. The Frenchman will be looking to pick up where he left off after missing out on Saturday’s league match due to suspension.
Like Milan, Dortmund enjoyed a triumphant weekend in domestic action as they overhauled a 2-0 deficit to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-2 at Signal Iduna Park. However, their recent form has zig-zagged, with their last five competitive games fluctuating between victories and defeats (W3, L2).
Dortmund’s rollercoaster spell diminishes the possibility of another draw following a tepid 0-0 affair in the reverse fixture. It’s a virtual certainty that this won’t be a low-scoring contest. Three of Dortmund’s last four away matches have seen over 2.5 goals and both teams scoring, highlighting the potential for an action-packed encounter.
Player to Watch: Niclas Fullkrug
Milan must pay attention to Fullkrug, who has been in scintillating form ahead of this game, scoring in his last three club appearances. That run includes his deadlock-breaking first-half strike in a 2-0 Champions League win against Newcastle in the previous round.
Giroud’s return to the fold is not the only good news for Milan, as there’s a decent chance that Rafael Leao can make the squad. The Portuguese ace is on the verge of recovery after spending the last two weeks nursing his hamstring injury.
Leao’s return would be massive, considering Milan will be without Simon Kjaer, Pierre Kalulu, Noah Okafor, Ismael Bennacer, and Yunus Musah.
Visiting Dortmund cannot call upon the services of Felix Nmecha, Niklas Sule, and Thomas Meunier. Question marks are still hanging over the heads of Marcel Sabitzer, Sebastian Haller, and Karim Adeyemi.
Milan vs Borussia Dortmund Potential Lineups
Milan (4-3-3): Mike Maignan; Theo Hernandez, Fikayo Tomori, Malick Thiaw, Davide Calabria; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tijjani Reijnders, Tommaso Pobega; Christian Pulisic, Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud.
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Gregor Kobel; Ramy Bensebaini, Nico Schlotterbeck, Mats Hummels, Julian Ryerson; Emre Can, Salih Ozcan; Julian Brandt, Marco Reus, Donyell Malen; Niclas Fullkrug.
Milan vs Borussia Dortmund Prediction
The math is simple for Milan – you win and stay in the qualification picture or you lose and wave goodbye to Europe’s elite competition. Dortmund are no pushovers, but a raucous San Siro atmosphere could inspire Rossoneri to a much-needed triumph.
Prediction: Milan Win
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