Earlier in the season, these two sides met when both were in the top three, occupying the final two Champions League positions. A 1-0 win for the Giallorossi on the day meant AC Milan had dropped down to fifth place, sending Montella’s side into a downward spiral in the League table after a great start to the season.
Five months later, both clubs are still battling out for a place in Europe next season, albeit in different competitions. Roma’s somewhat challenge for the Scudetto has fallen apart after a derby defeat to Lazio last week, which saw them drop down to third with a game in hand tonight against Milan. An inconsistent Rossoneri – lead by Vincenzo Montella who’s been subject of recent criticisms – have struggled since the Chinese takeover, failing to win in their last three games yet crucially still holding a three point advantage over Inter for the final European spot in the League.
With four games left for both sides, Sunday’s clash is crucial as question marks start to be raised over both manager’s jobs come the end of the season.
As mentioned, Roma won the home tie of this fixture earlier in the season. Last season’s fixture at the San Siro saw the Giallorossi come away victorious again with a 3-1 win. Milan’s last victory in the home fixture of this game came in the 2014-15 season but with one victory in five years over their rivals, it’s clear who the favourites are for the game.
“We need to be more determined than last time out. We tend to struggle against sides that are clammed up and go on the counter-attack, whereas more open teams that go for the win will leave more spaces. It allows my own lads to express their qualities better.
“Roma and Atalanta are actually easier games to prepare for players, because they bring more motivation. We need to get more points than we did in the reverse fixtures.”
“If we finish second, it’ll be like winning the Scudetto. Finishing third means we’ve done a great job. We continue working to give Roma and its fans an international visibility. Third place is a noble position.”
“I have seen the right reaction. The team is disappointed and bitter, something that I can feel too. Clearly what counts is the work and after every setback, the next game becomes fundamental to understand your quality and effort.”
AC Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Zapata, Paletta, De Sciglio; Pasalic, Sosa, Fernandez; Suso, Lapadula, Deulofeu.
Roma (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Emerson, Manolas, Fazio, Juan Jesus; De Rossi, Paredes; Salah, Nainggolan, El Shaarawy; Dzeko.
Players to Watch
Gianluca Lapadula: ‘Sir William’ is pegged to receive his third straight start on Sunday, spearheading the Rossoneri attack flanked by Suso and Gerard Deulofeu. Lapadula, who has appeared mostly as a substitute in his debut campaign with Milan, has shown the tenacity and tendency to grab goals seemingly from out of nowhere. In 23 Serie A appearances this season, the 27-year old has only notched 940′ of action, but has managed to make the most of his time on the pitch – 6 goals (one per 157 minutes), 3 assists. On Sunday, his link-up play and overall movement will be the key for Milan if they hope to get on the scoresheet and achieve a positive result.
Edin Dzeko: A striker reborn, Dzeko’s revival in his second season in the Capital has been nothing short of impressive, returning to his once prolific form that made him a household name at Wolfsburg and Manchester City. Standing on a gaudy 25 goals, the Bosnian is currently tied with Torino’s Andrea Belotti for the capocannoniere race, clearly making him Roma’s main offensive outlet. Service is no concern for the 31-year old who has the midfield support to feed him on the regular, while also enjoying the steady supply of crosses swung in from skilled wingmen Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy. Sunday will likely be one of the Giallorossi’s most pivotal matches given the European implications, but there is the individual award in Italy’s Golden Boot that is no doubt an honor Dzeko hopes to add to his mantle. From here on out, Roma will ride their star striker so expect Dzeko to bring it come kickoff at San Siro.