Riding a three-match winning streak, Milan's match Saturday against Atalanta will provide an opportunity for a few fringe players to show Sinisa Mihajlovic what they can do.
Milan will be welcoming the international break after Saturday's match, as it will allow for some of the six injured players to get back to full fitness. The Rossoneri will be without Jeremy Menez, Diego Lopez, Mario Balotelli, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Bertolacci and Alex for the match because of injuries. Giacomo Bonaventura is suspended for the match.
With so many players out of commission, Mihajlovic will have some important decisions to make. Who should he include in his starting XI for the important match ahead of the break? Below is a starting line-up that could work well for the Rossoneri Saturday.
- Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma — With the way Donnarumma has performed in his three matches as the No. 1 goalkeeper, the goal is his until someone can make a case to remove him. Diego Lopez is injured, so Christian Abbiati is now the backup. Sitting with him on the bench will be Alessandro Livieri, an 18-year-old (two years older than Donnarumma) goalkeeper on the Primavera squad.
- Right Back: Mattia De Sciglio — It is hard to watch Ricardo Kishna's goal for Lazio Sunday and not blame De Sciglio in part. He did not do enough to take away the angle, and he gave the attacking player too much space. But overall, De Sciglio has had a solid season.
- Center Back: Philippe Mexes — Rodrigo Ely and Cristian Zapata have been inconsistent, and with Alex injured, the responsibility of teaming up Alessio Romagnoli will fall on Mexes. He has stepped up when called upon this season. He scored minutes after replacing Alex Sunday.
- Center Back: Alessio Romagnoli — Romagnoli has more potential than he has shown, but he is playing better than he did early in the season. He is making about 10 defensive plays per game, and Milan's defense has been stellar with Romagnoli leading a line in front of Donnarumma.
- Left Back: Luca Antonelli — Early on, Antonelli was one of Milan's best players. The Rossoneri have been playing well defensively. Antonelli has been a mainstay on the backline for Milan, so he needs to keep putting in consistent matches.
- Right Midfielder: Juraj Kucka — Kucka has been an interesting player to watch since his arrival from Genoa. With Bertolacci out, he will play an important role Sunday.
- Central Midfielder: Riccardo Montolivo — Nigel De Jong or Riccardo Montolivo? It is a tough choice, of course, but the cards have to favor Montolivo right now. He is one of Milan's best-performing players this season, despite a poor start. The captain will need to keep improving to keep his place in the squad.
- Left Midfielder: Jose Mauri — This is where choices start to differ. It is likely Mihajlovic will go with Andrea Poli, but Mauri is a good option in this situation. The former Parma midfielder has yet to get a chance with mil and, but he has the ability to make a difference.
- Right Wing: Alessio Cerci — The move to a 4-3-3 formation has given Cerci the opportunity to make an impact, as he is able to line up on the wing and combine with Carlos Bacca to get forward. Cerci has always been a talented player, one who probably erred by moving to Atletico Madrid. He was given ample time to show his ability with Milan during the second half of last season, but not so much this year until Mihajlovic made the change. Now, he is being given the opportunity to assert himself as the top choice on the right over Keisuke Honda and poor, poor Suso.
- Left Wing: M'Baye Niang — This is the pivotal chance for Niang, as written the other day. The 20-year-old impressed on loan at Genoa last season and looked good in the summer for Milan. But a broken metatarsal delayed the start of his season. He comes back at a perfect time, shortly after the formation change. Niang should fit well into a left-sided attacking role. If he can show the loan to Genoa helped him raise his game, Saturday could be the start of something special.
- Striker: Carlos Bacca — Bacca has been on fire, scoring three goals in four matches for Milan, bringing his total for the season to six. The Colombian is tied for third in the league in goals, three behind leader Citadin Eder. Milan is finally starting to see the spark in Bacca that made his 21 million euro purchase from Sevilla a no-brainer.
This is how the aforementioned lineup would situate itself on the pitch.
- Andrea Poli — It will be between Poli and Mauri for a starting midfield position. If Mauri gets the edge, Poli could come on for him or Kucka late and play a key role in preserving a lead or pushing forward.
- Nigel De Jong — If Montolivo starts to struggle late in the match (always a possibility with Milan's captain), look for De Jong to make an appearance.
- Keisuke Honda — Honda will almost certainly see time against Atalanta, with Cerci giving way.
- Davide Calabria — Milan only has three healthy fullbacks at the moment. If Mihajlovic looks to make a move at the position late, he could do the straight swap with Calabria for De Sciglio or pull Antonelli and move De Sciglio to the left.