Preview: Fiorentina vs. AC Milan
Apparently back on track after their dramatic mid-season wobble, AC Milan seek a fifth straight win on Saturday, when they visit Fiorentina at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The Rossoneri’s recent revival sees them back in the hunt to finish ‘best of the rest’ in Serie A, behind champions-elect Napoli, while their hosts have won three of their last four in all competitions to steady the ship.
They may no longer be in with a chance of successfully defending their Scudetto, but Milan have at least salvaged some pride over the past few weeks by stemming a sudden tide of goals past stand-in goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and winning their last three league games without conceding.
Also 1-0 victors in the first leg of their Champions League tie against Tottenham, the Rossoneri last leaked a goal at the start of February, when Derby della Madonnina defeat to Inter put the cap on a miserable spell at San Siro.
Since then, Torino, Monza and Atalanta have all been dispatched in Serie A, and after remodelling his defence to great success, coach Stefano Pioli was able to welcome back first-choice stopper Mike Maignan and the unmistakable figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic during last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the latter.
It was not to be a dream return for the 41-year-old, who has been out of action for many months with his latest serious injury, but he was on the field as a substitute when Junior Messias – recently redeployed as a wing-back in Pioli’s new 3-4-2-1 system – bagged Milan’s second against their Lombardy rivals.
Only four times in their long and illustrious history have the Rossoneri posted five wins in a row with five clean sheets – most recently in 2018 – but they may now fancy their chances of doing so at the Franchi this weekend.
Not only are Fiorentina far from prolific this term, Milan have won their last two league meetings with the Viola and have scored in eight straight Serie A matches against them.
Also beaten 2-1 in November’s reverse fixture, Fiorentina have in fact won only three of their last 16 home games against Milan – though they did manage a spectacular 4-3 win in the equivalent game last season, which featured braces by Ibrahimovic and Dusan Vlahovic.
Into the last 16 in Europe and soon to meet outsiders Cremonese in the Coppa Italia semi-finals, the Viola have enjoyed more success in cup competitions of late, but their league record in 2023 leaves a lot to be desired.
Only eight points clear of their 18th-placed hosts before Monday’s clash with Verona at Stadio Bentegodi, the Tuscan club were in danger of being sucked into an unlikely survival battle after six games without a win, but a decisive 3-0 victory lifted them up to 12th place in the table.
Despite starting on the bench, captain Cristiano Biraghi still made an impact by adding an 89th-minute strike to goals by ex-Hellas man Antonin Barak and Arthur Cabral. The latter had previously been on target in both legs of Fiorentina’s Europa Conference League playoff with Braga – which ended in 7-2 to Fiorentina on aggregate – and will now spearhead their attempts to achieve back-to-back league wins without conceding for the first time in three years.
However, renowned for their inconsistency under Vincenzo Italiano, they have conceded in eight consecutive matches at Stadio Franchi in Serie A, which represents the club’s worst such run since 2005.
Fiorentina Serie A form:
Fiorentina form (all competitions):
AC Milan Serie A form:
AC Milan form (all competitions):
We say: Fiorentina 1-2 AC Milan
Fiorentina (387) and Milan (351) are among the top four Serie A sides in terms of shots attempted this season, so there could be plenty of goalmouth action on Saturday evening – even if the visitors have tightened up at the back. Both teams should score at the Franchi, but Milan can gain revenge for a 4-3 reverse on their most recent visit.