AC Milan face Chelsea FC in London tonight in the third mathc of the Champions League group stage. Milan are missing a ton of players for the game but this provides some new signings and depth players the opportunity to shine and earn more minutes. Stefano Pioli will be looking to take advantage of Graham Potter’s early days in his new job but the task will not be easy given the quality of the players. Here are some key battles to look out for:
Left back vs Right back
Fode Ballo-Toure vs Reece James
This is the scary battle in the game as James is in top form and one of the best performing players in this Chelsea team and he will face a very green Ballo-Toure who has not played much but is on a high after netting his first professional goal on Saturday. Both players are quick but this will be a true test of Ballo-Toure as a defender, we know he can run up and whip in crosses but can he hold off a strong advance? That is the question. I am torn because this is an extreme outcome situation, either he will be torn to shreds or he will put up a wall and nothing will get through. Let’s see how he fares on the biggest stage.
Striker vs Centre back
Olivier Giroud vs Thiago Silva
Former Milan defender and former Chelsea striker, both loved by either sets of fans and both going head to head. Both past their primes but still knocking in great performances relying on their experience. Giroud has been overworked in recent weeks so there is a need for him to take it slow but his positioning in the box is much better and he knows how to carve out space to get his shots off. Silva will need to be attentive as Pioli’s secret weapon are the late runs in the box from the wingers so it will be interesting to see if he can deal with them. (Side note: it would have been poetic to see Ibrahimovic vs Silva).
Striker vs Centre back
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang vs Pierre Kalulu
The long awaited return of Aubameyang, released by the Milan academy and pursued relentlessly throughout the banter era but it just was not meant to be. The Gabonese striker takes on a fiery Kalulu who is cementing his place as one of the best centre backs in Serie A at the tender age of 22. The two will have a tough battler as Kalulu will pressure high but the experience of Aubameyang to hold up the ball and turn can cause issues especially with Sterling lurking around the back post. It will be a good test for Kalulu going up against one of the most prolific striker in the world across multiple leagues.