Despite Milan's recent upturn in form, there was one bump in the road that all Milanisti were dreading. Beating the likes of Palermo and Genoa is all well and good, but the true test as to whether this team can cut it at the top end of the table will be to face Napoli away at the San Paolo on Monday. Napoli's visit to the San Siro in October is a match Milan supporters worldwide will still want to forget, as the Partenopei strolled to a 4-0 victory so comfortable that swathes of fans exited the stadium after just 60 minutes in response to the Rossoneri's pitiful showing. Whilst this Napoli side is arguably the strongest in the league right now, there is no excuse for conceding four goals to them at home. However, the reverse fixture is on altogether more favourable terms for Milan.
Milan have lost just 1 in 10 matches coming into this weekend, and will be in decidedly better spirits than the Neapolitan club, who suffered a 1-0 loss to leaders Juventus at the weekend, as well as succumbing to Spanish side Villarreal in the Europa League midweek. If there were a good time to face Napoli this season, it really is now. Milan's unbeaten run has been neither stylish nor spectacular, yet the Rossoneri have undeniably been efficient and the same mentality will need to be in full effect to beat Napoli. Nullifying the threat of Gonzalo Higuain, who leads the race for the Capocannoniere award with 24 goals in 25 games, will be paramount as the powerful Argentine has scored almost fifty percent of his side's goals this season, and they've struggled to offer the same threat in his absence. Milan must also look to put the shackles on midfield playmaker Jorginho, whose ability to dictate the play from a deep position is key to Napoli's free flowing possession game.
Whilst it seems unrealistic to expect a win from this match, Milan can come away satisfied simply with having given a good account of themselves, and a good result is certainly not out of the question for the Rossoneri. Milan have become a lot harder to beat than the last time the two faced off, and with some sensible planning this should hold true again on Monday. Milan might well be without Alessio Romagnoli, however, as the young centreback missed training this week due to illness. Whilst Alex has impressed this season, the thought of Cristian Zapata or Philippe Mexes filling in for Romagnoli is undoubtedly a terrifying one. The burden will fall upon the midfield to provide the necessary cover to ensure Milan stop Napoli, and also to forwards Carlos Bacca and M'Baye Niang to provide a counter-attacking threat at the other end.
Milan: 4-4-2 - Gianluigi Donnarumma; Ignazio Abate, Alex, Cristian Zapata, Luca Antonelli; Keisuke Honda, Riccardo Montolivo, Juraj Kucka, Giacomo Bonaventura; M'Baye Niang, Carlos Bacca.
Napoli: 4-3-3 - Pepe Reina; Elseid Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Kalidou Koulibaly, Faouzi Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Marek Hamsik; Jose Callejon, Gonzalo Higuain, Lorenzo Insigne.
It's hard to predict a win for this match, so a draw seems an appropriate mixture of optimism and realism. Carlos Bacca will bail Milan out with a goal on the break.
Napoli 1-1 Milan