MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) European NAP heads to Italy this weekend.
AC Milan v Atalanta | Saturday 23rd December 2017, 17:00 | BT Sport
AC Milan were spoken about as potential title winners in some quarters following a lavish spending spree. Whilst the Scudetto might not have been the number one target from the club’s new hierarchy, Champions League qualification certainly was.
So few would have foresaw the embarrassment that’s followed the Rossoneri this season. AC are the only team to have failed to beat Benevento. They’re the only team other than Benevento who have lost at Verona and they’re the only team other than Benevento who have failed to score against Torino at home.
Last weekend’s shocking 3-0 reverse at Verona – who sat just one spot off rock-bottom with only two wins to their name – was as bad as the scoreline suggested. Hellas lost both of their starting forwards to injury inside the first 32 minutes but never looked like losing control after breaking the deadlock.
Milan have now fallen behind in seven Serie A matches this season, and lost on every occasion. They may have enjoyed almost 68% of possession and fired in 30 shots to their hosts’ six but lacked identity, inspiration and invention and post-match Rino Gattuso spoke about mental fragility and a lack of conviction, areas he intends to work on with his players.
Milan’s rotten run
The result and performance was so bad that there was even talk of Vincenzo Montella coming back to the club only a few games after his departure. Nevertheless, Gattuso’s had the side in lockdown all week, hoping to focus their minds ahead of Saturday evening’s meeting with near neighbours Atalanta.
Returning to the San Siro on Saturday, Milan will aim to claim only a second success in six on home soil and they’ll have to make-do without the suspended Suso and Alessio Romagnoli; Gattuso may have to change formation as a result.
The hosts have failed to score in four of their last five on home soil and have also been beaten in six of seven winless meetings with top-half sides this season so it’s difficult to find faith in the underperforming Rossoneri.
Atalanta to provide tough opposition
Atalanta might not be hitting the dizzy heights of last season but the Bergamo-based club are now unbeaten in four following a thrilling 3-3 draw with Lazio. Gian Piero Gasperini has also overseen a stalemate with Torino and routine victories over struggling Genoa and Benevento.
The visitors provide plenty of attacking punch – failing to score just once this season on their travels, at Inter – and although their W1-D3-L4 away record appears unremarkable, three of those four losses came at sides above them in the Serie A standings.
Indeed, Atalanta have lost only three league games since August, have been beaten only once in six Serie A meetings with Milan and have also recorded clean sheets in their last three visits to face the Rossoneri at San Siro. With that in mind, the 49/50 from BlackType on Atalanta +0.25 in the Asian Handicap market holds plenty of appeal.
AC Milan v Atalanta – Atalanta +0.25 Asian Handicap (49/50 BlackType)