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Anteprima: The AC Milan Women will battle Sassuolo for Champions League qualification

Pick yourself up then get back on the field again.

AC Milan v US Sassuolo - Women Coppa Italia Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After an unfortunate shellacking at the hands of ACF Fiorentina, the AC Milan Women will lick their wounds and then recuperate just in time to play Sassuolo. The match will take place this Saturday, at 12:30 CET (3:30 am PST / 6:30 am EST). The Rossonere are in a tough spot, as their loss against Fiorentina made the road to Europe a lot more bumpier. Therefore, the match against Sassuolo will be crucial, as Milan will either have to win or tie the game to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know before this weekend’s crucial tie.

The Background

Milan are currently in second place as they’ve won sixteen of their twenty matches so far this season. The team dropped points against Roma, lost to Juventus twice, and lost their last match against Fiorentina. As a result, they currently have 49 points on the table.

Sassuolo are in third place, as they’ve lost four matches and drawn one game this season. They currently have 46 points on the table. Therefore, if they win the match against Milan, then the two teams will be on level points.

The possible qualification scenarios

Since Milan are three points ahead of Sassuolo, this leads to a variety of scenarios for the Champions League. The first one that comes to mind is that the Rossonere must win this match to qualify for the competition. If they win this game and their next one against Hellas Verona, then they’ll finish the season three points ahead of the Neroverde and will secure qualification for Europe.

However, if they were to drop points or even lose the game to the Modeni, they could still qualify for the tournament. To do so, they would, again, have to win their last match of the season. The Rossonere currently have the advantage over the Neroverde in terms of goals scored and a head-to-head record. Those two things might come in handy when determining the final standings.

FIGC

Last year, when Serie A Femminile was prematurely canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Fiorentina qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Milan on goal difference. The Rossonere could find themselves qualifying in a similar scenario. And if the FIGC decides to use the same metrics for qualification that they do for Serie A (the men), then the Rossonere could also qualify based on their superior head-to-head record.

To date, Milan has played four games against Sassuolo, with two in the league and two in the Coppa Italia. They have not lost a single game to them. Their last meeting in the league was in December of 2020 and it ended 2-0 in favor of the Rossonere. Milan has history on their side and could use that to their advantage.

However, the Rossonere will be going into this game at a slight disadvantage. It’s one they have to work around and be extra vigilant about.

Mária Korenčiová’s Absence

We might as well start singing Bruce Springsteen here because Mária Korenčiová, you’re missing.

Unfortunately, AC Milan will be going into this match without their number one after she was sent off against Fiorentina for what was deemed a ‘denial of a goal-scoring opportunity’. In reality, the red card was really questionable, but who are we to question the wisdom of the almighty AIA?

As a result, Milan will be without one of their best players. They’ve got a big hole to fill and two possible solutions to plug that hole.

Maurizio Ganz will have to choose between backup keepers Alessia Piazza or Selena Babb for this match. And whoever he chooses will have to step up big time as they face a tough and tenacious Neroverde attack.

Players to Watch and Possible Formations

AC Milan will most likely line up in their 3-5-2 with the notable difference being the absence of Korenčiová. Ganz is said to be debating over whether to start Francesca Vitale or Giorgia Spinelli in the defense. We won’t know what his decision will be until this Saturday.

And given that Yui Hasegawa made her debut against Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia, it’s only fitting that she play this match too. If Ganz wants to win this game, then he should field both her and Giorgia Spinelli at the start. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave them on the bench in favor of fielding less technically gifted players.

Sassuolo will line up in either a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-1-3-2 for this match. The Neroverde have quite the talented squad, which includes the likes of Davina Philtjens, Mana Mihashi, Martina Lenzini, Kamila Dubcová, and of course, Haley Bugeja. Sassuolo has a fast and dynamic attack that will relentlessly attack Milan’s goal.

Bugeja is the undoubted Golden Girl of women’s football in Italy, and for a good reason. Most teenagers are a handful, but whereas other teens annoy you by being disrespectful little brats, Bujega does it by being really good and by scoring goals against you. Milan will certainly have their hands full with her this Sunday and will have to work hard to contain her and the rest of Sassuolo’s volatile attack.

What they lack, however, is precision against the big sides. Despite the numerous chances they’ve created against the Rossonere in the past, they’ve only been able to score one goal against Milan. The Rossonere also have the edge in terms of maturity, experience, and talent. They will need to draw upon all three and use them to their advantage to win the game.

The optimist will state that, given Milan’s history and maturity, that they will win the game. However, given how things went horribly awry during their last match, one has to also temper their expectations. Then again, it would be absolute folly to proclaim premature doom and gloom before the game has even began.

The Rossonere stand a good chance of winning this Saturday’s match and they’ll do everything in their power to make this prophecy happen.

Other Really Cool Things

In what’s a first for Italian football, the AC Milan Women will debut the club’s new kits this Saturday. They’ll do so a day before the men’s teams do, as the men will sport the new kits against Cagliari on Sunday. The Rossonere will wear the 2021/2022 kit into battle this weekend as they try to ‘Move like Milan’.

Furthermore, in what’s another first for a women’s team in Italy, the kit is also available for purchase in the team’s store. The new kits will be their battle armor and let’s hope they cover it with glory.

How to Watch

Once again, the game will take place at 12:30 CET (3:30 am PST / 6:30 am EST). You’ll be able to watch the game on the usual channels, which include Sky, TimVision, Milan TV, the official AC Milan app, and on the team’s Dailymotion page.