MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 29: Krzysztof Piatek of AC Milan celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Coppa Italia match between AC Milan and SSC Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 29, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

AC Milan and AS Roma match-up on Sunday in what promises to be an exciting battle for fourth place. Fourth place secures a berth in next year’s edition of the Champions League, a competition that AC Milan has failed to appear in since 2014. Roma, on the other hand, made a Cinderella run to the semi-finals last season and are currently awaiting their knock-out round fixtures versus FC Porto. Both teams have different storylines, but nonetheless, both equally want to qualify.

AC Milan Travel to Roma in Battle For Fourth Place

Milan’s Form

The Rossoneri are on solid form thus far in 2019. A 2-0 win over Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 set the tone for the year. This game, however, was followed up by a loss. The loss came to Juventus in the Suppercoppa final due to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, making it difficult to fault the Rossoneri after they held tight for the majority of the match. Three more clean sheets have followed in a win over Genoa, a draw against Napoli, and another win over Napoli.

Milan’s most recent 2-0 victory against Napoli showed nothing but positives. It was the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, and now Milan are onto the semi-finals. New signing Krzysztof Piątek secured a brace in the first half, the only two goals of the matches. In addition, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Gigio Donnarumma had dominant displays and shut down any and every Neapolitan attack.

 

Donnarumma returning to the form he had pre-contract dispute has been the main reason Milan have returned to winning ways. He failed to keep a clean sheet in Serie A from August to November, resulting in several draws. His presence in the back also creates more confidence for the outfield players, knowing one error will not spell doom.

Roma’s Form

The Giallorossi cruised in their first match of the year versus Serie C side Virtus Entella. They showed signs of struggle in their 3-2 over Torino, but they held strong and still won.

Their next game, however, showed all their weaknesses. Roma broke out to a 3-0 lead by the 40th minute over Atalanta, only to squander it and draw 3-3. Their attack looked great in the first half, then it became stagnant along with their defence.

Roma’s last game was a complete nightmare. They fell 7-1 to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. As the scoreline suggests, Roma’s defence was poor. Fiorentina have a youthful and exciting attack, but a Champions League quality side should never be conceding seven goals in a single match. To make matters worse, Roma did, in fact, use all their first-choice defenders. In another troublesome statistic, Roma held 63% of ball possession. This clearly shows that their attack was not able to muster anything against an average back four.

Midfielder Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi are suspended for the weekend’s fixture. This leaves Roma with options such as the inconsistent Lorenzo Pellegrini and the ageing Daniele De Rossi. Furthermore, star striker Edin Dzeko may too face suspension for appearing to spit at the referee during the Fiorentina match.

Players to Watch

Piątek is the obvious choice for Milan. After a big money move and a better start than one can imagine, the Poland international is primed to start once again. He was able to toy with Napoli’s defence that employs the great Kalidou Koulibaly, so what might he do versus a defence that just conceded seven goals in a single match? Piątek will be even hungrier knowing the implications of this match.

Stephan El Shaarawy should be monitored closely for Roma. Il Faraone was once the Rossoneri’s golden boy, and their continued support for him is clear. It’s always a spectacle to watch a player go up against their former teams. In addition to this, however, El Shaarawy will be relied upon heavily to carry the load in Roma’s attack. Patrick Schick has been largely disappointing, and Javier Pastore and Nicolò Zaniolo aren’t goal scorers. Both Davide Calabria and Ignazio Abate kept Lorenzo Insigne quiet in Milan’s two matches versus Napoli, so El Shaarawy has a tough task in front of him.

Prediction

With Milan coming off a 2-0 victory over Napoli and Roma looking sloppy in an awful 7-1 loss, Milan should enter this game as favourites. Piątek will look to continue to amaze the Rossoneri faithful, so expect him to score. A rested Suso will also cause Roma’s defence problems throughout the game

Final Prediction: Roma 0-2 AC Milan

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