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Match Preview: Milan and Fiorentina Meet On Opening Weekend

Milan and Fiorentina are set to do battle as they raise the curtain on their 2015-2016 Serie A campaigns.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Milan's last Serie A match was a 3-1 victory against Atalanta May 30th. In the 85 days between that match and Milan's 2015-16 league opener Sunday against Fiorentina, much has changed for the Rossoneri. From new signings to the promises of new investors and a new stadium, a busy summer is about to conclude and the real games are about to begin. At least for a few months, the rumors and speculation can take a backseat to the actual games. Calcio is finally back, and not a minute too soon.

Projected Milan Eleven

Projected Fiorentina Eleven

Talking Points

Sinisa Mihajlovic's First Serie A Game With Milan

Since Mihajlovic was hired, he has used words like "intensity," "desire" and "sacrifice" to describe how his team will play. The time for words is now over; the time for action has come, and it will be fascinating to see what this team actually looks like in a competitive game against quality opposition. Fiorentina will not be an easy game for Milan, but it shouldn't be an extremely tough one. A game like this—where the opponent is beatable, yet very capable—could be the perfect litmus test for Mihajlovic's men. It will be revealing to see how Milan stack up against a quality side. Mihajlovic has stated numerous times his Milan should always be the aggressor. This game will be an indication if they can transmit this mentality on the road, especially against a tough Fiorentina side.

Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano To Make Their Serie A Debuts

Bacca and Adriano are two strikers with a track record of scoring in Spain and Ukraine, respectively, and have also had success finding the back of the net in European competition. It will be intriguing to see how these two adapt to the pace of Serie A, and, more importantly, to playing with each other. We saw flashes of brilliance between the Colombian and the Brazilian during the preseason; will it carry over to Serie A?

Midfield Performance

Since the defence was addressed with the signing of Romagnoli, the midfield has been the area of the squad most in need of a renovation. With rumoured advances for sexy names like Axel Witsel, and the talk of a potential Roberto Soriano arrival, this may be the final chance for Milan's current midfielders to show they are up to par. Nigel de Jong's spot in the 11 is virtually locked in, but the arrival of another midfielder could slash the minutes of players like Bertolacci, Bonaventura and Montolivo. The season opener against Fiorentina could be the perfect time for Milan's midfielders to make a statement to management that they can get the job the done.

Key Matchups

Nigel De Jong vs. Borja Valero

The majority of games are won and lost in the midfield.  Even though it's a cliche, it's a pretty accurate one. On Sunday Milan will come face to face with one of Serie A's best midfielders, the silky Spaniard, Borja Valero. Valero excels at dictating the tempo of a match and loves to pull the strings from midfield, spraying passes from touchline to touchline. On most nights he is what makes the Viola tick. On the Rossoneri side of the ball is Nigel de Jong, one of Serie A's best holding midfielders, a pitbull of a player who loves to tackle, intercept, and create turnovers. One would be hard pressed to find two more opposite midfielders in Serie A, and during Sunday's game they will clash often. It is fair to say that the winner of this match up will go a long way to helping his team toward victory. If de Jong can use his pressing and tackling abilities to limit Borja Valero's influence on the match, Milan have a great chance of taking three points with them on their way out of Florence.

Nikola Kalinic and Khouma Babacar vs. Alessio Romagnoli and Rodrigo Ely

Milan's two young central defenders will have a tough test against Fiorentina. Sousa's newly implemented 4-2-3-1 revolves around a lone target man up top whose main objective will be to bang in goals from inside the box. Sousa's two options are the 6-foot-3-inch Sengalese forward Khouma Babacar or the 6-foot-2-inch Croatian Nikola Kalinic. Borja Valero will be looking to find their striker's head with their crosses all night. Ely and Romagnoli will have to excel in the air and keep those two towering strikers at bay in order to neutralize Fiorentina's attack.

Carlos Bacca vs. Fiorentina's Defense

When Bacca's old club Sevilla faced off against the Viola in the semifinals of last season's Europa League, it ended in disaster for Fiorentina. Sevilla cruised to the final with victories of 3-0 and 2-0. Bacca scored the first goal of the second leg, and killed off any hope for a Fiorentina comeback. Throughout both legs, Bacca was a thorn in Fiorentina's side, causing havoc with his incisive running and quick link-up play. Will Bacca be able to do the same thing in his Serie A debut?