The resumption of Serie A after the International break finds the Rossoneri travelling to Verona to face Chievo at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.
Both sides currently sit in the top six and a win for either team could send them up to the heady heights of third place. Looking at the history of the game, everything seems to point for Milan coming away from the Bentegodi with at least a point, but nothing is ever simple for the Rossoneri.
Milan are unbeaten in the last 19 games in all competitions against the “Flying Donkeys” without conceding a goal in the last seven games. But if you are expecting a goal fest then a word of caution as the last three corresponding fixtures have all ended 0-0.
The coaches face each other for the fifth time in Serie A and Vincenzo Montella has yet to lose to Rolando Maran with the Milan coach having three wins and two draws.
This game also pitches two squads at complete opposites of the spectrum in terms of age. Milan currently have the youngest starting XI in Serie A with the average age of 25 years and 293 days, while Chievo have the oldest with their average at 31 years and 91 days.
Youth seems to be an integral part of Montella’s thinking and one player who made a massive impression in the last game against Sassuolo is 18 year old Manuel Locatelli.
With the unfortunate injury whilst on Azzurri duty to captain Riccardo Montolivo, Locatelli who became the youngest goal scorer in Serie A since the 2010/11 season seems set to start in the “regista” role in the middle of the three man midfield.
One thing Verona and Milan have in common; apart from being the settings for Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentleman of Verona” is one Valter Birsa.
The Slovenian international had an ill-fated time the Rossoneri making just 15 appearances scoring twice before a loan move to Chievo became permanent. But has flourished in Verona becoming the creative inspiration for the Gialloblu playing behind the strikers in a 4-3-1-2 system and is currently joint top in this season’s assist chart.
Chievo are currently undefeated at home in their last 11 games in Serie A at the Bentegodi, having conceded only two goals this season including an opening day win over Inter and a draw with Lazio. Milan meanwhile are looking to go five games undefeated for the first time since February.
For Verona, it has to be the fore mentioned Valter Birsa. Playing as a number ten, his passes and creativity will be vital to feed the strikers of Riccardo Meggiorni and Roberto Inglese and to test the Milan defence that has conceded nearly 1.5 goals per game.
As for the resurgent red and black, Gianluca Lapadula looks likely to replace Carlos Bacca in the starting line up as the Columbian recovers from his cross world travels.
Lapadula has the chance to prove that he is worthy of the number nine shirt; his pace and power should give the Chievo defence some trouble and hopefully with Locatelli pulling the strings in midfield will not be short of chances.
This is certainly no walk in the park for the Rossoneri. Chievo have proven to be a formidable foe in 2016, but this could be the perfect opportunity for Montella and his men to gain some confidence heading into the major battle at the San Siro next week v league-leaders Juventus.