Preview: AC Milan vs. Udinese

Preview: AC Milan vs. Udinese

Still top of the pile in Serie A despite a surprising setback last weekend, AC Milan seek to extend their two-point lead when they host Udinese on Friday evening.

Having salvaged a draw in Salerno last Saturday, the Rossoneri will play just before second-placed Inter, so can place pressure on their rivals by beating a side that picked up a point against Lazio last time out.

Though a subsequent defeat for Inter took the edge off their embarrassment, Milan’s 2-2 draw at Salernitana last weekend represented the first time in six years that the team atop the Serie A standings had failed to beat the side at the bottom.

With more than 40 points separating the sides before kickoff, the visitors lived up to expectations when taking the lead through Junior Messias, but goals from the Granata’s Federico Bonazzoli and Milan Djuric put the Granata ahead in their first game under new boss Davide Nicola.

Ultimately, a powerful strike from forgotten man Ante Rebic – whose season has been plagued by injury – helped Stefano Pioli’s men to at least add a point to their tally; with the result taking on a more acceptable hue after Scudetto challengers Napoli also drew at lowly opposition on Monday.

Before a crucial clash with Luciano Spalletti’s side early next month, Milan will face the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final tie with Inter next Tuesday, but must first get back to winning ways in the league.

Held 1-1 by Udinese in December’s reverse fixture – when injury-plagued striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck in stoppage time to rescue a point – the Rossoneri have gone unbeaten against the Friuli side since Pioli took charge in 2019.

Furthermore, they have lost just once at home to Friday’s opponents from their last 14 league meetings in Milan, so will naturally start as strong favourites.

Udinese’s goal in the clubs’ most recent encounter came from previously potent top scorer Beto, but the Portuguese forward has since registered just a single Serie A strike as the Bianconeri continue to slide towards relegation trouble.

Following a 4-0 reverse at Hellas Verona in their last away fixture, they have now gone three successive road trips without scoring for the first time since 2019, and have won just twice outside of Udine this term.

Though a brief upturn in results experienced when coach Gabriele Cioffi was promoted to the manager’s job has tailed off fairly quickly, the Friulani were in fact a little unlucky not to take maximum points against Lazio on home soil last Sunday.

Gerard Deulofeu’s early strike set the Zebrette on the way towards victory against a visiting side hampered by fatigue from their Europa League jaunt to Porto and also missing star striker Ciro Immobile.

After conceding an equaliser on the stroke of half time, though, Udinese saw Nahuel Molina’s stoppage-time attempt thump against the crossbar and away to safety, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw – leaving them 16th in the standings and just three points above the bottom three.

With at least one game in hand on most of their relegation rivals and many years experience of extricating themselves from such scrapes, few would expect Cioffi and company to be cast down to Serie B when May rolls around, but they also face Roma and Napoli within the next month so could be set to struggle for a while yet.

AC Milan Serie A form:
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AC Milan form (all competitions):
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Udinese Serie A form:
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We say: AC Milan 1-0 Udinese
They may have been held by struggling opponents last week, but having racked up league goals at an average of two per game this term, Milan are almost certain to score against a far from watertight Udinese back three.

Perhaps more pertinently, the Rossoneri have kept successive clean sheets in their last three league and cup games as hosts, so the Tomori-Romagnoli partnership has been particularly effective on home soil.

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