An excellent week in both league and cup sees third-placed AC Milan in buoyant mood ahead of Sunday’s early kickoff at home to struggling Sampdoria.
The Scudetto contenders followed Serie A victory in the Derby with smooth progress to the Coppa Italia semi-finals, so will be intent on extending that streak at San Siro against a Samp side which posted just their sixth win of the season last weekend.
Capping a fine few days which have got their February off to a flier, Milan reached the last four of the Coppa Italia for the third time in four seasons with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Lazio on Wednesday evening.
After the mercurial Rafael Leao got the Rossoneri off the mark against Maurizio Sarri’s men, French forward Olivier Giroud bagged his second brace in the space of four days to seal a semi-final clash with city rivals Inter next month.
That two-legged encounter will be awaited keenly by fans of both teams and neutrals alike, following last Saturday’s absorbing Derby della Madonnina, in which Stefano Pioli’s side bravely came from behind to end Inter’s long unbeaten league run – Giroud striking twice in the final 15 minutes.
As a result, Milan have earned 52 points so far in Serie A – lifting them within one of their Nerazzurro rivals, having played a game more – and the second city giants have only managed such an impressive tally at this stage three times previously since the turn of the century.
On all but one of the previous occasions they went on to lift the title, but of course last year they faded to finish distant runners-up behind Inter.
Despite stumbling a little more frequently than they have been accustomed to at San Siro this season – including a recent 2-1 reverse at lowly Spezia – the Rossoneri have found the net at a rate of more than two goals per game and can boast the league’s second most prolific attack.
Pioli will hope to deploy such firepower to its maximum effect in the coming weeks, as Milan embark on a softer streak of fixtures – they face Salernitana and then Udinese after hosting Sampdoria – which precede the start of a March schedule which sees them play the first leg of their cup semi and travel to Scudetto rivals Napoli.
Returning to a familiar face in the dugout, Sampdoria finally brought a halt to their five-game losing streak last weekend, when they stunned mid-table Sassuolo 4-0 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Following the doomed reign of former boss Roberto D’Aversa, a comeback for former Samp favourite Marco Giampaolo had the desired effect in his second game back at the helm, as old stagers Francesco Caputo and Antonio Candreva scored at either end of the match, and January signings Andrea Conti and Stefano Sensi found the net in between.
Though his journey since leaving Marassi back in 2019 has seen his stock seriously devalued, Giampaolo hopes that a return to Genoa will help restore his reputation following unmitigated failures at both Milan and Torino.
However, his task of building on three much-needed points, which took the Blucerchiati five clear of the drop zone, will be a particularly tough one – even if Sampdoria have avoided defeat in their last two league clashes with the Rossoneri at San Siro.
Seeking to prolong that run to three successive matches for the first time since 1987, the Ligurian outfit – who lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture on the opening day – will surely need to ride their luck and hope to withstand the attacking might of their hosts.
AC Milan Serie A form:
AC Milan form (all competitions):
Sampdoria Serie A form:
Sampdoria form (all competitions):
We say: AC Milan 2-0 Sampdoria
Though recent arrivals may have freshened things up at the club, Sampdoria have failed to score in either of their last two away matches in Serie A, and could be set to do so for three successive games for the first time since 2018.
Milan have begun to recover from the loss of defensive lynchpin Simon Kjaer in the back four, and with Giroud possibly starting one of his hot streaks, there is significant potential for goals up front.