AC Milan host Udinese for the first game of the season. Stefano Pioli goes with a line up of familiar faces with not a single new signing or returnee getting the nod. Udinese have been a tough opponent in recent years and an early goal is critical in this one. Here are some key battles to look out for in this game:
Striker vs Centre back
Isaac Success vs Fikayo Tomori
Milan did well in the pre-season but conceded early in a number of games which needs to be avoided at all costs. Tomori slipped up in the Vicenza game but more importantly needs to organise the backline and keep them focused in the opening minutes. Success has some good pace on him and can create havoc in the defence if he presses high and forces mistakes which must be avoided.
Central midfielder vs Central defensive midfielder
Roberto Pereyra vs Rade Krunic
The game will be a test for Pioli’s utility man who slots in the double pivot for the opener. Krunic has lots of quality to his game but often takes time to gain influence in a match and often is too risk averse leading to hard tackles but very little effective turnover of the play. His job will be to limit the passes of Pereyra linking up the defence and the runs of Makengo, Masina and the two forwards. Krunic must press high up and close the spaces in the middle of the pitch to shut down that early breakaway pass.
Left winger vs Centre back
Rafael Leao vs Rodrigo Becao
We often struggle to score goals against Udinese and Leao needs to break past Becao on his cutback to change that and open up space. If Leao can beat him on pace and press into the box, the runs of Rebic and Messias can find that opening goal for the game and the season. Becao is often a hard tackler so we need Leao to pull him away to open more gaps for Diaz in the middle without the physicality.