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Preview: AC Milan vs. Genoa - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: AC Milan vs. Genoa - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between AC Milan and Genoa, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Second-placed AC Milan welcome mid-table Genoa to San Siro on Sunday, as they seek to reverse the damaging home run which has cost them a shot at the Scudetto.

The Rossoneri got their bid for a Champions League return back on track last week, as they saw off relegation-threatened Parma despite going down to ten men, while the Grifone slipped to defeat at outgoing champions Juventus.

Match preview

Even without getting his name on the scoresheet, Milan's larger-than-life talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominated the headlines following last Saturday's 3-1 win over Parma, as the Swedish star was shown a needless red card on the hour mark for apparently insulting the referee.

As electrifying as his form - and that of his younger, vibrant attacking colleagues - was before the turn of the year, Ibrahimovic's dismissal was the latest in a string of unforced errors which have starved Stefano Pioli's side of the chance to take the fight for the title to relentless rivals Inter in the spring.

Now 11 points adrift of their table-topping foes, the Rossoneri's thoughts have turned to keeping the closing pack at bay - with the aim being solely to secure Champions League football after an absence of eight long years.

Some particularly sluggish home form in 2021 has continued of late, seeing Milan fail to take maximum points at San Siro in their last five games there in all competitions. In fact, their most recent success on home soil came as long ago as the beginning of February, against Serie A whipping boys Crotone.

Only bottom-half battlers Benevento, Cagliari, Parma and Torino have won fewer home matches this calendar year, while Pioli's men have conceded 21 goals at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza throughout this campaign - in Milan's history only twice before have they conceded more at this point in the season.

Therefore, they will be in no doubt that victory is a must this weekend, as they encounter a side they have beaten in four of their last six league meetings - drawing the reverse fixture 2-2 in December.

Following five wins from their first eight games under current head coach Davide Ballardini, after he took the reins from Rolando Maran in December, Genoa have won only one of their last nine.

Defeat to Juventus last week leaves them 13th in the table, though Serie A survival has realistically already been assured as they sit 10 points clear of the drop zone. After picking up five points in their three previous games, the side which have lost only to Inter, Roma and now Juve since early January can look forward to a serene conclusion to the campaign.

Having celebrated his 100th game in charge of the club earlier this month - spread across four spells since his first experience in the Grifone hotseat back in 2010-11 - Ballardini has become a specialist in avoiding demotion, but may now be afforded the rare chance to build towards next season.

Genoa's Euros-bound veteran Goran Pandev is also nearing a landmark with the club, as if the former Inter striker features at his old headquarters on Sunday, it will be his 150th Serie A appearance for the Ligurian side. The North Macedonia captain made his debut in August 2015 and has made the most top-flight appearances for the club in the intervening period - followed by current goalkeeper Mattia Perin, on 125.

The pair's experience - plus the growing goal threat of Gianluca Scamacca, who has three goals and one assist from his past three outings - could be invaluable as they look to turn over Milan this weekend and challenge old rivals Sampdoria for a top-half finish next month.

AC Milan Serie A form:
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

AC Milan form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

Genoa Serie A form:
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • L

Team News

Milan forward Mario Mandzukic - yet to score for the Rossoneri - could be handed a rare start against Genoa, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic must serve a controversial suspension on Sunday. After arriving in January, the former Juventus striker has struggled for fitness, but will be keen to press his claims for a contract renewal if afforded the chance.

Portuguese starlet Rafael Leao, who scored against Parma after returning from a muscle injury, is also in contention to lead the line, but could alternatively switch to his preferred spot out wide.

Stefano Pioli will be without the injured defensive pair Alessandro Romagnoli and Davide Calabria again - though the latter could be back in action as soon as next week after recovering from an operation on his right knee - so Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu are expected to retain their places in the home side's back four.

On-loan wing-back Davide Zappacosta is among those expected to miss out for Genoa this weekend, with fellow wide men Luca Pellegrini and Lennart Czyborra also struggling to be ready.

Captain Domenico Criscito is suspended for the trip to the second city, so Edoardo Goldaniga could come into Davide Ballardini's three-man defence, while Paolo Ghiglione is favourite to deputise on the undermanned left flank. Miha Zajc was benched in favour of Nicolo Rovella against Juventus but is likely to return to the midfield.

Meanwhile, up front, Goran Pandev is set to continue his productive partnership with in-form Gianluca Scamacca, as top scorer Mattia Destro remains consigned to the bench.

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Kalulu, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Leao

Genoa possible starting lineup:
Perin; Goldaniga, Radovanovic, Masiello; Biraschi, Zajc, Badelj, Strootman, Ghiglione; Pandev, Scamacca

We say: AC Milan 2-1 Genoa

Having seemingly stabilised since their Europa League exit last month, an overworked Milan squad are now benefitting from the extra rest and time on the training ground enjoyed by Inter during the past few months.

Seven goals in their last three games suggests that their goalscoring issues are at an end and they can now take the chance to improve a weak home record with victory over fast-fading Genoa.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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