Ahead of relegation strugglers Hellas Verona's visit to the San Siro on Sunday, Milan once again find themselves in crisis mode. Just as Milanisti began to believe that Sinisa Mihajlovic's side had turned a corner, last weekend's insipid draw away to minnows Carpi left any optimism over Milan's performances dead in the water. In short, what should have been a relatively insignificant clash for Milan, against Serie A's last-placed side, is now a crucial match for the Rossoneri, and as such, anything other than a win would be utterly disastrous.
Inconsistency has been a recurring problem for Milan both this season and last, with Milan often turning in contrasting performances from week to week. This inability to put together a consistent run of positive results has made it almost impossible to gauge the progress being made under the current coach - and even harder to predict which team will turn up on the day. Will we see the dominant Milan side that swept aside Lazio and Sampdoria with relative ease, or the anxious and unexciting side that failed to overcome the likes of Atalanta and Carpi?
Sinisa Mihajlovic appears set to continue with the 4-4-2 formation utilised against Carpi and many of the key figures in the team look likely to retain their places in the side for this fixture. This match could see the return of both Andrea Bertolacci and Mario Balotelli to the side, with the duo set to be named on the bench following their return from injury. Both of them have proved big misses for Milan, and Bertolacci in particular was finally beginning to show his worth prior to the injury he picked up against Lazio. Mihajlovic also looks likely to hand an opportunity to out-of- favour Nigel De Jong instead of Juraj Kucka, whose performances as of late have been less than inspiring.
Poor finishing cost Milan a win against Carpi in the last round, and the Rossoneri's hopes of winning this match rest heavily on the strike partnership of Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano. These two have failed to provide a consistent goalscoring threat this season, with Adriano often proving wasteful and Bacca seriously out of form. The impetus is on Bacca in particular to make the difference, as the Colombian is now without a goal in his last 4 Serie A matches, last finding the back of the net against Lazio at the beginning of November.
There is reason for optimism, however. Milan's problems this season pale in comparison to those faced by their opponents, Hellas Verona. The Veneto-based side are without a win so far this season in Serie A, and start this round of fixtures adrift at the bottom of the standings with just 6 points from 15 matches. Verona's defensive record is unsurprisingly the worst in the league, with a goal difference of -15, and they have been even less effective going forward. Nonetheless, they will be buoyed by the return of last season's capocannoniere Luca Toni, who found the back of the net in the same fixture last season. Despite his advancing years, Milan must be wary of the World Cup winner as he could provide the goal-scoring spark that Verona have lacked so far this season.
There can be no room for complacency on Milan's part, even when facing the worst team in the league. If last week's draw against Carpi was a bump in the road, then a similar result against Verona could de-rail Milan's season entirely. Winning here is absolutely imperative, and should Milan fail, then serious questions will have to be asked.
Milan: 4-4-2 - Gianluigi Donnarumma; Ignazio Abate, Alex, Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia De Sciglio; M'Baye Niang, Nigel De Jong, Riccardo Montolivo, Giacomo Bonaventura; Carlos Bacca, Luiz Adriano.
Verona: 4-2-3-1 - Pierluigi Gollini; Jacopo Sala, Matteo Bianchetti, Vangelis Moras, Eros Pisano; Federico Viviani, Leandro Greco; Pawel Wszolek, Artur Ionita, Luca Siligardi; Luca Toni.
Milan are undoubtedly the better team and ideally would make light work of a side like Hellas Verona. It's unlikely to be that easy; however, Milan should come away from this with a win. Carlos Bacca will end his goalscoring woes in style.
Milan 2-0 Verona