AC Milan host Fiorentina at the San Siro on Sunday for the final day of the Serie A season. With Juventus having secured their seventh successive title success with a draw away to Roma last weekend, there is little more left to play for in the top half of the table other than final points tallies.
Milan will, however, be aware that, whilst they cannot catch local rivals Inter - who are eight points ahead of them in fifth - Atalanta are just a point below I Rossoneri in seventh, so Gennaro Gattuso’s side have the incentive of securing a sixth-place finish on Sunday.
Whilst that falls far below what was expected of Milan at the start of the season, following a summer of heavy spending and big-name arrivals, it would provide a platform to build upon for next term. Their crushing defeat to Juventus in the Coppa Italia final is likely to still be haunting those in the Milan camp.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, have had a typically middle-of-the-road campaign. Whilst the Viola are some way off the ‘big six’ of the division in terms of quality and stature, they have pulled themselves up to eighth in the table to once again set themselves among the ‘best of the rest’.
Sunday’s game provides a showdown between two sides who are just four points apart in the league table, with each sure to be keen on finishing the season strongly with a win.
Milan’s recent run of patchy form has very much reflected their place in the Serie A table, and largely explains why they have fallen short of those above them this season.
Following the devastating 4-0 defeat to league champions Juventus in the Coppa Italia final in Rome, Milan returned to league action four days later with a performance and result which demonstrated the tough recovery process from a cup final defeat.
Franck Kessie gave Gattuso’s side a 1-0 lead over Atalanta in the match as Milan sought to surge back to winning ways and expel the disappointment of their cup agony.
Red cards to Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi and Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo soon followed, however, before Atalanta fired a dramatic 92nd-minute equaliser past Ginaluigi Donnarumma to once again leave Milan floored. The Rossoneri will be determined to secure three points this weekend to cleanse the bitter taste of disappointment before the season’s end.
Fiorentina have endured a similarly hit-and-miss run of form in recent weeks which has seen Stefano Pioli’s side struggle for consistency, despite some positive results.
Bizarrely, the Viola have had a player sent off in three of their last five outings, with the opposition having a player dismissed in the other two. A 4-3 defeat to Lazio saw both sides have a man red carded, before Fiorentina sunk to a 1-0 defeat away to Sassuolo and once again finished the match with ten men.
A 3-0 win over title-chasing Napoli provided a great boost to the Florence-based side a week later, providing arguably the high point of the season at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. A narrow 3-2 success away to Genoa followed, before another dismissal the following week compounded a 1-0 defeat at home to Cagliari for Pioli’s side.
As with the four points which separate the two sides in the Serie A table, the previous meeting between Milan and Fiorentina this season further reflected the close proximity between the teams this term.
Fiorentina took the lead on home soil through a Giovanni Simeone strike on the 71st minute, before a quick-fire reply from Milan substitute Hakan Calhanoglu brought the sides level once more.
The teams could not be separated in Florence, with that clash in December suggesting that Sunday’s match at the San Siro could once again see a tight and closely fought affair.
Fiorentina’s hopes for success on the final day of the Serie A season could largely depend on the goal scoring potential of their number nine, Giovanni Simeone. The Argentine forward, son of Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, scored the opener when the two sides met earlier in the season.
Rossoneri stepping 🆙 preparations for final game of the season. Read the report and click through the gallery: https://t.co/6Sp8S0KXUC— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 17, 2018
A Milanello si lavora su agilità, cross e tiri in porta: 🔜 #MilanFiorentina
Leggi il report e guarda la gallery 📝📸: https://t.co/e1FRWuhf1p pic.twitter.com/dt3REOtuHs
The striker has further proved his abilities against the big sides since, as his remarkable hat-trick stunned Napoli in his side’s 3-0 win over the title challengers last month.
Simeone is likely to provide the prime attacking threat for the Viola once more this weekend, and Milan’s defence must contain the South American if they are to avoid an upset at the San Siro. Captain Leonardo Bonucci must assume the defensive responsibility of keeping Simeone quiet for Gattuso’s side.
Milan have a relatively full squad to select from on the final day of the season, with right back Andrea Conti the only absentee from Gattuso’s side following a knee operation.
The Rossoneri will, however, be without the suspended Riccardo Montolivo following the midfielder’s red card against Atalanta in Milan’s last outing, whilst forward Fabio Borini also misses out through suspension due to a high accumulation of yellow cards.
Fiorentina have a similar lack of injury concerns, with attacker Simeone Lo Faso the only player side-lined with a fractured fibula.
First choice midfielder Jordan Veretout also misses out of this weekend’s match, however, due to the red card which he received in stoppage time of his side’s 1-0 defeat to Cagliari last weekend.
Whilst both sides will be looking to bounce back from recent disappointments and improve on an inconsistent run of results with a win on the final day of the season, it is Milan who have the greater incentive to win, with Atalanta breathing down their necks and the need to hit back following their humiliating cup final defeat.
Gattuso’s side will be typically motivated by the flamboyant club legend and very keen to end the campaign on a high ahead of a surely brighter future next season.
Score prediction: Milan 3-1 Fiorentina