AC Milan welcome SPAL to the San Siro on Saturday evening for their final outing before the Serie A winter break kicks in.
Both sides have been enduring a tough period in the league and Milan, in particular, are desperate to claim three points heading into the two-week layoff. Gennaro Gattuso's men are currently on a five-game winless run with many people suggesting failure to beat a struggling SPAL side could spell the end of his reign in charge.
After a really encouraging start to the season for I Biancazzurri they have been extremely poor of late and are without a win since October 20. However, they still find themselves four points above the drop zone in what seems destined to be a season of scrapping for Serie A survival.
Check out 90min's preview for the match below.
Where to Watch
|When is Kick-Off?||Saturday 29 December|
|What Time is Kick-Off?||19:30 (BST)|
|Where is it Played?||San Siro|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Eleven Sports 1 UK|
Gattuso has a few selection headaches to mull over following a string of poor performances, which means a number of players could be axed from his starting XI for Saturday's clash.
The Italian will certainly be missing star man Suso who is still recovering from a muscular issue - the Spaniard had racked up four goals and eight assists before injury struck.
Other notable absentees include Argentine midfielder Lucas Biglia, ex-Sunderland forward Fabio Borini and Giacomo Bonaventura, who recently had an operation on his injured knee that is expected to keep him out of action for nine months.
Mattia Caldara - linked with a Chelsea move in the summer - is another long-term absentee following a medial ligament injury.
SPAL have very few injury issues to deal with following the busy festive period - with only ex-Arsenal defender Johan Djourou expected to miss the clash with a thigh problem.
|Milan||Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Calhanoglu, Kessie, Bakayoko, Castillejo; Higuain, Cutrone.|
|SPAL||Gomis; Cionek, Vicari, Felipe; Lazzari, Schiatterella, Valdifiori, Valoti, Fares; Antenucci, Petagna.
As the two sides have been competing in different tiers of Italian football for much of their existence, the history between the clubs has been brief. SPAL have been reformed a number of times due to bankruptcy issues and under their latest name (SPAL 2013) - they have met Milan just twice.
Milan have convincingly won both matches racking up an aggregate score of 6-0 and will be hoping for another comfortable victory to ease the growing discontent surrounding Gattuso and the club.
Neither side will look back at recent results with any fondness at all, both are without a win in their previous five games in all competitions and are desperately struggling to find the back of the net.
Milan in particular have been receiving heavy criticism in Italy due to their lack of results and style of play. I Rossoneri are expected to challenge, perhaps not for the title, but at least be pushing the chasing pack somewhat close.
Gattuso's men find themselves slumped in 6th place, 13 points behind second placed Napoli and incredibly 22 points off the leaders Juventus as they approach the half-way stage of the season. After a five-game winless run and being unable to score in their previous four-league matches for the first time since 1984, there is huge pressure to perform on Saturday against a struggling SPAL side.
SPAL have had similar problems finding the net, scoring just twice in their last five fixtures and failing to win since October 20 in what has been a dreadful couple of months for Leonardo Semplici's team.
Here's how each team has performed in their last five fixtures.
|Frosinone 0-0 Milan (26/12)||SPAL 0-0 Udinese (26/12)|
|Milan 0-1 Fiorentina (22/12)||Napoli 1-0 SPAL (22/12)|
|Bologna 0-0 Milan (18/12)||SPAL 0-0 Chievo (16/12)|
|Olympiakos 3-1 Milan (13/12)||Genoa 1-1 SPAL (09/12)|
|Milan 0-0 Torino (09/12)||Sampdoria 2-1 SPAL (04/12)|
Status and history of the two clubs would suggest that Milan should run out comfortable winners, especially playing at the San Siro. However, Gattuso's players seem bereft of any confidence in recent weeks and have looked very lacklustre. The positives for Milan however, are that their defence has looked solid recently - and SPAL don't score many goals themselves.
Expect a tense, tight and cagey affair as the San Siro crowd inevitably emits their discontent which could translate into another lethargic display for I Rossoneri. One goal either way could swing this match and Gonzalo Higuain needs to step up.
Prediction: Milan 1-0 SPAL