As it stands, AC Milan are just one match away from a Coppa Italia final. To get there, they must first defeat Lega Pro outfit Alessandria on Tuesday night.
The Rossoneri won the first leg of their cup semi-final 1-0, giving them an advantage to hold onto ahead of the return encounter at the San Siro. However, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side must guard against complacency to seal victory.
Alessandria competed fairly well with Milan in the first leg in spite of their being several rungs below their more illustrious opponents in the Italian football league structure. Indeed, the only real letdown for Angelo Gregucci’s men was a lack of composure in the final third.
Plenty has changed since their meeting on Jan. 26, however. While Alessandria have dropped out of the promotion places in Lega Pro, the third tier of Italian football, Milan have gone undefeated in their last six, winning four in Serie A.
Some of the Rossoneri’s recent performances, such as the 3-0 win over Inter in the Derby della Madonnina on Jan. 31 and the recent 1-1 draw away to Napoli in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the San Paolo, were impressive, suggesting an increasing team spirit and organisation.
Mihajlovic will no doubt rest several key players for Tuesday’s match with an eye on equally crucial league fixtures as his side chase Champions League qualification through a top-three finish.
However, with a slender one-goal advantage to maintain, he must ensure the attitude is correct if Milan are to secure the win in this Coppa Italia semi-final tie. If they were to do so, the club would move even closer to their first piece of silverware since 2011's Supercoppa Italiana.
Date: Tuesday, 1 March
Time: 8 p.m. GMT (3 p.m. ET)
Venue: San Siro, Milan, Italy
TV Info: Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Live Stream: Bet365
Milan 1-0 Torino
Napoli 1-1 Milan
Milan 2-1 Genoa
Milan 1-1 Udinese
Palermo 0-2 Milan
Alessandria 1-2 Bassano Virtus
Alessandria 1-1 Pro Piacenza
Albinoleffe 1-3 Alessandria
Cremonese 2-1 Alessandria (Coppa Italia Lega Pro)
Alessandria 1-1 Lumezzane
Team News and Predicted Lineups
Milan are likely to stick with their preferred 4-4-2 system for this clash, though some important players will be on the bench.
Christian Abbiati has been the goalkeeper for the Coppa thus far, and that is likely to continue, allowing Gianluigi Donnarumma—who celebrated his 17th birthday on Thursday—to rest.
Alongside the youngster, the likes of Alex, Riccardo Montolivo, Juraj Kucka, Andrea Bertolacci and Giacomo Bonaventura are also set to be rested, with those coming into replace them more in need of game time.
Alessio Romagnoli suffered from flu in recent weeks but could be brought back into the fold to partner Cristian Zapata at the heart of defence. Meanwhile, according to Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia), M'Baye Niang was "involved in a car accident at the weekend and is injured." As such Mario Balotelli should start alongside Carlos Bacca up front.
Alessandria lined up in a 4-3-3 in the first leg and will likely do the same again on Tuesday night, with Riccardo Bocalon—who scored the winning goals in their quarter-final win over Spezia—starting as the lone striker.
He will be supported from wide by Manuel Fischnaller and Manuel Marras, though both wingers will also have a duty to get back and defend as Gregucci’s side quickly transition into a 4-5-1 shape when on the defensive.
Milan (4-4-2): Christian Abbiati; Ignazio Abate, Cristian Zapata, Alessio Romagnoli, Luca Antonelli; Keisuke Honda, Andrea Poli, Jose Mauri, Kevin-Prince Boateng; Mario Balotelli and Carlos Bacca.
Alessandria (4-3-3): Gianmarco Vannucchi; Roberto Sabato, Leonardo Terigi, Santiago Morero, Nicolo Sperotto; Ferdinano Vitofrancesco, Adriano Mezavilla, Gianluca Nicco; Manuel Fischnaller, Riccardo Bocalon and Manuel Marras.
Players to Watch
After joining last summer from Parma, 19-year-old Jose Mauri has made just three appearances for Milan this season, all in the Coppa Italia. He needs more game time to prove his talent, and he may get just that on Tuesday night.
With the Rossoneri lacking bite in midfield outside of the dynamic Kucka, a strong performance against Alessandria would help Mauri make his case for more regular first-team football.
In the first leg, Gianmarco Vannucchi made several vital saves to keep Alessandria in the tie. At just 20 years of age, he showed real promise in that performance. A similar display will be required on Tuesday if his side is to have any chance of progression.
All odds via Oddschecker.