TACTICAL boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to pick out his favourite value fancies from Thursday night's Serie A match-up between Milan and Spal.
Milan v Spal | Thursday 31st October 2019, 20:00 | Premier Sports
Struggling Milan host Spal on Thursday night as newly-appointed head coach Stefano Pioli continues to search for a first win in charge of the Rossoneri. A disappointing draw against 10-man Lecce in his opening game was followed by a poor performance at Roma, where AC were flattered by a 2-1 defeat, leaving them languishing in 13th.
With only three wins in nine league games, it has been a shocking start to the season for Milan despite a summer of investment, and things will need to improve quickly.
Visiting the San Siro are 19th-placed Spal, who earned a commendable point against high-flying Napoli at the weekend. Riding their luck, a goal from Jasmin Kurtic helped the underdogs to a 1-1 draw. However, their away form is particularly poor, and Spal are yet to find the net in four away league games this season.
An out-of-sorts Milan side do offer up an opportunity for Leonardo Semplici’s side, but if Milan’s class shines through, it is hard to see past three points for the Rossoneri.
Milan’s problem have been getting the most out of their array of attacking talent, and particularly in finding the best combinations in the starting XI up front. Coming up against a defence that will sit deep and try and frustrate, the Rossoneri will need to be at their creative best.
Spal have conceded 16 goals, in line with their Expected Goals against (xGa) of 15.49, showing that they will likely allow their opposition chances. However, in facing Napoli on Sunday, they restricted the title contenders to an xG of 0.90, a promising sign ahead of their meeting with Milan.
It took Fabian Ruiz’s introduction from the bench to increase the tempo for Napoli to try and break down the resilient defence, and lacking tempo has been a problem in many games for Milan this season. The arrival of Rafael Leao has helped alleviate this issue on one flank, but attacking midfielders Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu have struggled to have the required impact, and their lack of tempo has been particularly evident in performances against deep-lying defences.
Krzysztof Piatek should return to the central striking role, with the Polish striker in need of a goal to kick start his season. Although Piatek has managed three goals, two have come from the penalty spot, and he is underperforming his xG by 2.01. However, he has historically been more clinical, and does have the class required to improve this record if continuing to find himself in the right places.
Although coming up against a compact side, Milan should be able to create overloads out wide, with the full backs pressing high, allowing Milan’s creative midfielders space to drift inside and create more centrally. If they are able to utilise these positions, and at an increased tempo, they will be able to present Piatek with plenty of crossing options, something the Polish striker will relish.
The main threat will come down the Milan left, with Theo Hernandez at full back averaging 1.2 key passes, and it awaits to be seen who Pioli opts to start ahead of him in attack. This avenue will bring the most joy for Milan, and if Piatek is to start and offer a better focal point up front than Calhanoglu, Hernandez will be able to make the most of his crossing ability further forward, and target the Spal defence.
Available at 7/5 (SkyBet), Piatek does appeal to score anytime, despite his indifferent form. He is finding himself in the right positions, and up against a leaky Spal defence, it is the perfect game for the Polish striker to kick on and prove his worth to the new Milan manager.
Play your cards right
The referee for the night is Marco Piccinini, who as shown 20 yellow cards in his four Serie A games so far this season. Factoring in the ill-discipline of both sides, it makes the cards markets an appealing prospect on Thursday AC have seen 26 yellow cards and five reds, whilst SPAL have racked up 26 yellow cards and one red.
Spal will look to break up Milan attacks with fouls and any time they’re caught out of shape, tactical fouls will add up. Milan also need to be careful not to be caught out of shape, and breaking up any Spal counter attacks will be necessary for Pioli’s side.
Milan have been guilty of losing their discipline in a number of matches this season as they become frustrated in their lack of cutting edge, and with a toxic atmosphere beginning to grow on match days at the San Siro, any frustrations could easily boil over onto the pitch, and further compound this ill-discipline.
Averaging 14.4 fouls (Milan) and 12.9 (SPAL) respectively, the statistics, as well as nature of the game, points in the direction over cards. Available at 19/20 (Bet365), each time to have Over 1 Card appeals.