Originally posted on Top-soccer.com
With back-to-back wins under their belt, Milan will look to make it three on the spin when they travel to face Spezia on Saturday.
Following their surprise 3-0 defeat to Atalanta, the Rossoneri have been given a more comfortable fixture list. They come into this game having earned a very comfortable, and expected 4-0 win over struggling Crotone, and prior to that, overpowered Bologna in a 2-1 road victory to ensure they remain on top of the table. However, their city rivals Inter have been relentless in their pursuit, leaving just a two point gap between the two sides, and that means that the top spot has changed hands repeatedly this season.
In addition, reigning Scudetto holders Juventus have been slowly inching up the table, and although the Bianconeri are seven points behind, anyone would be foolish to count them out. After all, they didn’t win nine consecutive Scudetti just by chance, and although they’ve had their bad points – for instance, their 3-0 home loss to Fiorentina – La Vecchia Signora are still deservedly among the teams expected to battle for the league title this season. With Juventus and Inter both facing tricky tests against Napoli and Lazio respectively, Milan will naturally look to take advantage here to potentially open up a larger lead over the chasing pack.
Meanwhile, Spezia, who are featuring in the top flight for the first time in their history, sit in 16th place. Six points separate Vincenzo Italiano’s side from the drop zone, meaning that they’ve built up a slight buffer for themselves. The Aquilotti are the clear underdogs here, but do come into this match on a rich vein of form. In their most recent tie, Spezia picked up a well-earned road win over Sassuolo, and they’ve won three of their last six games. That includes a shock win against Napoli, again on the road, followed by another victory versus Sampdoria. So far, they’ve earned 21 points at this juncture, which is the most of a debutant in Serie A since Siena in the 2003/2004 campaign.
Furthermore, Italiano’s troops aren’t strangers to pulling off more surprises, as they dumped Roma out of the Coppa Italia, and in their Serie A meeting just four days later, gave the Lupi a really hard time at the Stadio Olimpico. Paulo Fonesca’s men saw their one-goal advantage ended by Spezia three times as the minnows were not going to give up without a fight, and it was a late,late goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini that finally put the tie to bed and prevented Roma from suffering from what would have been a humiliating second consecutive defeat.
Spezia have shipped 38 goals so far, which is hardly surprising, but what’s impressive is they don’t have the worst defense in the league. They have picked up a couple of clean sheets along the way, and that notably shutting down Atalanta – which is no easy feat considering La Dea were last season’s top goalscorers and are prolific again in front of goal this time around.
That’s something that Milan certainly will keep in mind as they look to pick up three points and potentially move five points clear of Inter. The Diavolo have been quite excellent, not just in attack, but in defense – they have eight clean sheets to date, which is more than any other Serie A side. In addition, their road record is simply outstanding. The Rossoneri haven’t lost an away Serie A game since December 2019, when they were beaten by Atalanta, meaning that it’s been well over a year that Pioli’s men came back home empty-handed.
This tie will be a very special one for veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who could potentially break two records should he find the back of the net. With 14 goals, he’s just one away from becoming the oldest player to score at least 15 in a single campaign, which will break a 70-year record set by Silvio Piola.
In addition, the 39-year-old Swede may become the first player since the turn of the century (and millennium, in fact) to net against 80 different teams in Europe’s top five leagues. And Spezia just so happens to be the 99th team he’s faced in his long career that has seen him play for all three of Italy’s biggest sides (Milan, Inter, and Juventus), PSG, Manchester United, and Barcelona.
Overall, this will be Milan’s third meeting with Spezia, and not surprisingly, it’s the Rossoneri who hold the head to head advantage. Their first encounter was in the Coppa Italia back in 2014, where they picked a comfortable 3-1 win. Their second saw them cruise to a 3-0 win at the Stadio San Siro, so they naturally will be expected to get the job done here. Milan have already been eliminated from the Coppa Italia, meaning that the Scudetto is now the only domestic trophy they can win, and it’s quite clear that is Pioli’s objective.
It’s been a decade since a team other than Juventus won the Scudetto. That could potentially end this season, especially with both Milan and Inter having very strong campaigns. The question is, will the Rossoneri be able to keep it up, or will they run out of steam? Their battle for the Scudetto is far from over, and so they will not want to drop any points against the smaller sides – including upcoming opponents Spezia.
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