Empoli host AC Milan at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Thursday in Serie A clash between two sides who are enduring indifferent starts to the season.
Empoli have struggled at the start of this season and find themselves just above the relegation zone. The Azzuri have struggled to grind out results so far, losing three of their first five Serie A games, with one win and one draw also on their record.
From their four league games so far, the Rossoneri have won one, drawn two and lost one. It has certainly not been the ideal start for Gennaro Gattuso, and the Italian will hope to see improvements as his side makes the trip south to face Empoli.
Thursday's match is an opportunity for both sides to kick off their uninspiring early form and begin to catch up those who are already breaking clear of them in the upper parts of the table.
Empoli began their Serie A campaign in with a positive 2-0 victory over Cagliari on home soil, before losing out to Genoa in a 2-1 defeat away from home. A draw with Cheivo 0-0 steadied the ship, however two straight defeats followed.
The second loss of the season was compounded in a 1-0 home defeat to Lazio before crumbling against Sassuolo in a 3-1 away loss. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side will be hopeful to avoid a third successive defeat when they face off against AC Milan at Stadio Carlo Castellani on Thursday evening.
Milan’s opening match of the campaign didn't go to plan at all as they slipped to a 3-2 defeat away to last season’s runners-up Napoli. A first win of the season followed, with a 2-1 victory over Roma.
A 1-1 draw away to Cagliari halted Milan, before the secured their second win of the season as they defeated Dudelange in a narrow 1-0 victory in the Europa League last Thursday, Gattuso's side then let a late flourish from Atalanta stop them from securing a second victory of the domestic campaign as they drew 2-2 on Sunday.
If the previous meeting between the two sides is anything to go by, Thursday's match could prove to be another game full of goals.
In the encounter between Milan and Empoli at the San Siro back in April, the away side produced a impressive 70 minutes as Levan Mchedlidze and Mame Baba Thiam scored before Milan's Gianluca Lapadula scored to make the final 25 minutes a tense battle, before Empoli secured a 2-1 away victory.
The game, however, was not limited to just a few chances, there were a total of 39 shots on goal collectively, resulting in three goals.
Gonzalo Higuain vs. Domenico Maietta
Gonzalo Higuain will undoubtedly be the danger man for the away side on Thursday night, after scoring two goals in his opening four games in a Milan shirt. The Argentine star set to provide Milan’s primary goal threat after his loan move from Juventus.
Veteran defender Domenico Maietta will have his work cut out for him against the striker on Thursday evening. After Empoli's start Maietta, 36, will have to be on top form in order to keep the striker quiet.
Empoli will be without the likes of Lorenzo Polvani, Luca Antonelli, Manuel Pasqual and Alejandro Rodriguez, who suffered a cruciate ligament rupture.
Milan will still be without veteran midfielder Riccardo Montolivo still out for Gattuso’s side, while full backs Andrea Conti and Ivan Strinic are also sidelined for Thursday evenings meeting with Empoli.
Empoli have struggled defensively since the start of the season and that may come to bite the Azzuri. Their shaky defence will need to be on top form or they will be punished for it.
The threat of star striker Gonzalo Higuain is bound to count for at least one goal, the Argentinian has scored two goals in four games since his summer move.
Prediction: Empoli 0-2 AC Milan