AC Milan v Malaga Preview
San Siro, Milan
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Having stuffed five goals past Chievo at the weekend, AC Milan are flying higher than they have all season as they come into Tuesday’s crucial Champions League match against a Malaga side that could clinch first place in Group C with a win at San Siro.
BREAKDOWN: Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri couldn’t have wished for a better performance from his players ahead of Malaga’s visit in the Champions League. Having struggled to put the ball in the back of the net all season, the Rossoneri bagged five against Chievo on Saturday, each coming from a different player.
One of the goalscorers was Giampaolo Pazzini, who hadn’t tallied since September 1.
“I’m glad, and I hope it’s the first of many to come,” he told Corriere dello Sport following the match. “It had been a long time—too long, perhaps.”
Pazzini also praised Allegri for switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation as it allowed him to operate in a more advanced position. The Milan boss had been under considerable scrutiny in recent weeks, but the magnitude of Saturday’s win will no doubt have taken the pressure off somewhat.
“After a period of crisis we really needed a night like this, and [we] deserved it, too,” he told reporters after the 5-1 win over Chievo. “We still have to improve in some aspects, but we’re on the right track to achieve something in a season that did not start well.”
Malaga’s campaign could hardly have started better, which is rather surprising given the financial uncertainty that hung over the club’s preparations during the summer. They’ve managed to hit the ground running in all competitions, however, and have yet to both lose and concede in the Champions League.
A win at San Siro combined with a win or draw for Anderlecht against Zenit St. Petersburg would mean the Andalusian outfit would win Group C and punch their ticket to the Round of 16. Former Spanish international Joaquin scored the only goal of the first match between these two sides last month and also scored against Anderlecht on October 3.
ESSENTIALS: Milan are still without the services of forward Robinho, although the Brazilian has returned to full training. Luca Antonini has a thigh strain and misses out, as do Mattia De Sciglio, Djamel Mesbah, Rodney Strasser and Sulley Muntari. Daniele Bonera will be rested after serving a suspension against Chievo on Saturday.
Milan are presently 10th in Serie A, five points back of fifth-place Lazio and the final European berth.
Malaga forward Julio Baptista is unavailable through injury, as are defender Nacho Monreal and midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.
Malaga currently sit fourth in La Liga, two points back of third-place Real Madrid and 10 adrift of leaders Barcelona.
KEY BATTLE: Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy leads Serie A with eight goals this season and is the Rossoneri’s most in-form threat of goal. He’ll line up on the left side of the attack, which means he’ll be going up against Malaga right-back Jesus Gamez much of the night.
FORMATIONS: Allegri will likely keep the faith with his 4-2-3-1, using Pazzini up top with El Shaarawy, Bojan Krkic and Urby Emanuelson in support. Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini will deploy a 4-3-3 with Joaquin, Javier Saviola and Isco across the forward line.
BETLINE: AC Milan 23/20; Draw 12/5; Malaga 12/5. Milan have kept five clean sheets in their last six Champions League matches at San Siro.