AC Milan, coming off of a hard-fought draw against Napoli, will take on Parma Calcio on Wednesday night (3:45 EST, 8:45 BST). The Rossoneri have been in incredible form lately: the club has not lost since the season resumed, and it dropped just two points against the trio of Lazio, Juventus and Napoli.
While Milan is arguably in the best form in the league (along with Sassuolo and Atalanta), Parma has struggled since Serie A’s sudden return. The club, which admirably fought its way up from Serie D after bankruptcy in 2015, has picked up just 5 points in its last 7 matches.
Parma has an average defense (44 goals against) and an average attack (44 goals for), resulting in the club sitting in 12th place with a goal differential of 0. They tend to play close, scrappy matches, in which the club sits back and relies on its centre backs and CDM to hold off the opposition. On average, Parma controls 44.9% of possession, third-worst in the league.
Milan should be able to control the ball easily in this match given Parma’s defensive style, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a world-class hold-up striker, will have many creative opportunities. Milan’s attack will be best-suited to attack down Parma’s right flank, as Riccardo Gagliolo, a talented left back, will be a deterrent to whomever plays on the right wing, likely Lucas Paquetá in the absence of Samu Castillejo and Alexis Saelemaekers.
Offensively, Parma’s leading goalscorer, Danish international Andreas Cornelius, will be out with an injury. Cornelius has scored 11 of his side’s 44 goals, and either Mattia Sporcatti or Jasmin Kurtic will likely take his place at forward. Against Bologna, Parma’s first match without Cornelius, the club switched from their usual 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1. Look for Milan’s opponent to keep this change, as Milan’s recent offensive outburst (17 goals in their last 6 matches), will force Parma to play even more defensively than normal.
Parma’s tendency to play close games, combined with Milan’s strong defense may result in this match being more tightly contested than some want to believe. However, Calcio’s -16.3 Expected Goal Differential (according to FBRef.com) suggests that the club has been extremely lucky this season, as their actual goal differential is 0, as stated earlier.
As AC Milan’s push for European competition continues, look for the club to control the match and come away with their third win in four matches. Excluding Atalanta, five of Milan’s last six opponents are scrappy, mid-table teams, and staying mentally tough and resilient will be crucial to finishing the season strong.