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Match Preview: AC Milan vs Bologna F.C. 1909

The goal for the rest of the season is to reach fifth place. AC Milan plays another tricky, but winnable match.

Musa Barrow of Bologna FC looks on during the Serie A... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

Welcome to matchday thirty-four. This weekend, AC Milan will face Bologna F.C. 1909. The team from Bologna has one win, three draws, and a loss in their last five games (the win was against FC Internazionale). Earlier in the season, Bologna seemed like a Europa League challenger, however, they now sit ten points behind those spots. Siniša Mihajlović’s men seem destined for a mid-table finish. While not the worst result for a club of their stature, the slow decay of the season may leave some sour feelings. For Milan, it is crucial to not drop points in a fairly winnable match.

I am using a new player template resource from Football Slices. They create player radars with data from Football Reference. I am working to make my data more easily updateable, however, it is not right now. I am linking here to their glossary for all of the data you will see. Team data will still be from Wyscout.

Typical Bologna F.C. 1909 Formation and Tactics

Bologna plays in a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-3 that collapses onto itself in defense. That means that the wingers fall into line with the midfield two and the center attacking midfielder sits right in front of this line of four. Musa Barrow, their main pressing forward, is typically left alone when out of possession. This lets Bologna get compact and crowd out the opposition midfielders. It also gives them the ability to play “route one” type passes to Barrow and let the Gambian striker use his pace to break past opposing center backs.

In offense, Bologna relies on Barrow and Riccardo Orsolini to create space, but they also transition into a different formation. The team will rotate into a three-man backline with one of the fullbacks becoming more expansive. If Rodrigo Palacio is playing, then he will be the sole striker. If he is not, then Barrow will play striker. It tends to look like a 3-4-3 in attack. It is an offensively dangerous shape but can be vulnerable to quick counter-attacks.

The Key Players For Bologna

I am mixing it up this week. This is where I am going to use the player templates from Football Slices.

Andrea Poli has been a fantastic shutdown midfielder this season who has strong ball progression numbers. He provides cover for most of Bologna’s attacks, and without him in the side, the team can completely lose midfield control. For Milan’s purposes, keeping attacks away from him will pay dividends. His defensive ability means that Milan should not directly attack him. It would be a mistake.

Musa Barrow is difficult to contain. He possesses a scary duality of dribbling and passing ability. Do not underestimate his ability to press by himself. His speed can catch opposing players off guard. He does so by slowly drifting and then launching himself at a team’s backline and forcing either a steal or bad pass. The Gambian forward can be wasteful and he does not have the best shot map, however, he should not be left alone. He can still easily hurt you. He plays as either a winger or as a striker, but I greatly prefer him as a winger or forward.

Riccardo Orsolini is the star man for Bologna. Between lofty valuations and an early white-hot run of form, all eyes have been primed onto the young Italian. I like the player as well, however, I do think the valuation of the player is incredibly high. This is about the player though, and he has deserved his praise. He is good at creating shots for teammates and generating expected assists. Where he becomes elite is with his shooting and movement. Musa Barrow does deserve some credit for this as I think he is the true game-breaker, but Orsolini has produced with the opportunities he has had. His eight goals and five assists this season lead the team in both categories. The production is strong, however, it will be interesting to see if he can take the next step and increase his underlying numbers.

Overall Thoughts On The Match

By expected points, Bologna ranks eight in Serie A. There are noticeable tranches of teams being formed at the latter stages of this season, and I think firmly midtable is fair for them. They are eight in expected goals created and ninth in expected goals conceded. That is firmly a midtable club. Their main issue is a lack of depth. They have a handful of quality players but they lack the overall depth to match any of the teams above them in the table. The three players I have highlighted are doing what they can, however, it most likely will not be enough to qualify for Europe. Still, Milan should not back off Bologna. Taking the game to them is the way to win.