UEFA Champions League Preview: AC Milan vs Dinamo Zagreb

Milan will be seeking their first win in the 22/23 Champions League, as they will visit Dinamo Zagreb at the San Siro on Wednesday evening. However, this will not be an easy challenge for Stefano Pioli’s men.

Milan battle a somewhat heroic victory over Sampdoria 2-1, dropping to ten men at the start of the first half. Tomorrow, they will hope to use that confidence to secure their first Champions League win of the season.

The first leg against Salzburg ended 1-1 and during his press conference today, Pioli made it clear that this confrontation will not be easy either. Indeed, the Rossoneri cannot underestimate the Croatian side.


Game date: Wednesday 13th September
Starting time: 18:45 (CEST)
place: San Siro
Rule: Gil Manzano (VAR: Martinez Munoaira)


Team news

There are a few notable absences for Milan that the likes of Divock Origi and Ante Rebic will miss. The former has traveled to Belgium where he will undergo treatment for the foreseeable future, and the Rossoneri hope to have him back as soon as possible.

As for Rebic, he has a herniated disc and should be back sometime in October, but getting him back to full fitness will take longer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return until 2023 and this leaves Olivier Giroud, the only midfielder currently available.

Aside from attacking, Pioli will be able to count on a strong squad as Rade Krunic has recovered from his injury and is now back in training. It is worth noting that since it is the Champions League, the likes of Yassin Adly, Malik Thiaw and Aster Franks will not participate.

Initially, it was believed that both Sergino Dest and Charles de Kitellari would play from the first minute but recent reports indicate that they will not. Instead, David Calabria and Brahim Diaz will receive the nod.

Fikayo Tomori and Alexis Saelemaekers will be back in the squad after they got some rest last time. The Belgian scored the only goal against Salzburg and will be looking to continue his impressive performance in the Champions League.

Milan is likely to be the eleventh (4-2-3-1): Minyan. Calabria, Kalolo; Tomori, Theo; Tonali, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Abraham Diaz, Liao; Jerrod.


opponents

Dinamo Zagreb started the season in great fashion, as evidenced by its journey from qualifying to the group stage. They have played nine domestic league matches, winning all but one (a 1-1 draw with the second-placed team).

They managed to surpass the likes of FC Shkupi, Ludogorets and Bodo/Glimt in the playoffs and only lost one game in the process (0-1 away on Bodo). In short, they’ve really impressed so far this season.

Notable names in the team include central defender Josep Sutalo, striker Bruno Petkovic, striker Josep Drmic and winger Mislav Orsic. The latter is the biggest threat to Milan as he has scored 10 goals in the 16 matches he has played so far, including the one against Chelsea.

The feeling is that they will come to Milan with guns blazing, just like Salzburg, where Milan tend to struggle against this opponent the most. They will get the support of around 4K from the travel fans and they should make a very exciting game.

Possible XI Dynamo (3-5-2): Levakovic. Ristovsky, Sotalo, Beric; Moharamma, Ivanusec, Misic, Ademi, Ljubicic; Petkovic, Orsek.


face to face

Milan and Dynamo have faced each other twice before, also in the Champions League. The home and away match took place in the third preliminary round, and the Rossoneri won both games with a break: 3-1 and 0-3, respectively.

Milan’s top scorers were Andrei Shevchenko (four goals), Gianni Commandini and Jose Mari. A lot of time has passed since then and the circumstances are very different, especially since these two matches are expected to be much more. “

Match facts…

➤ Milan and Dinamo Zagreb will meet for the fifth time in the European competition, as the Italian team enters this match with a record of 100% over the previous matches (4/4).

➤ This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 2000-01 season, however, when Milan won both matches during a Champions League qualifying match (3-1h, 3-0a).

➤ This is the third time that Dinamo Zagreb has played in the UEFA Champions League group stage with an Italian team, having previously lost both games to Juventus in 2016-17 (0-4h, 0-2a) and winning a match and losing. One against Atalanta in 2019-20 (4-0 H, 0-2 A).

➤ After winning their first five matches against Croatian teams in the European competition, Milan suffered defeat in the last match – 0-2 against HNK Rijeka in the UEFA Europa League in December 2017. But this defeat came away from home, with the Italian team winning all three matches against Croatian opposition at home.

➤ AC Milan have not won any of their last six home matches in the UEFA Champions League (D3 L3), their longest ever run without a home win in the competition. Their last win was at the Giuseppe Meazza in the UEFA Champions League against Celtic in September 2013 (2-0).

➤ After beating Chelsea 1-0 on MD1, Dinamo Zagreb are looking for consecutive UEFA Champions League victories for only the second time, beating FC Porto (3-1 H) and Ajax (1-0 A) in November 1998 under Zlatko Kranjkar.

➤ Under the current group stage format (since 2003-2004), the only previous season in which Milan failed to win any of their first two UEFA Champions League matches was last season, under current coach Stefano Pioli (Level 2).

➤ Dinamo Zagreb held just 31.8% against Chelsea on MD1; The third lowest team in the first half, and the lowest of any team that managed to avoid defeat. In fact, Shakhtar Donetsk (5 vs RB Leipzig) was the only one with fewer shots than Dinamo Zagreb (6 vs Chelsea) among the teams that won their opening Champions League match this season.

➤ Along with scoring Milan’s equalizer in the first half, Alexis Sailemakerers had five successful matches against RB Salzburg – only Vinicius Junior (6 vs Celtic) and Ousmane Dembele (6 vs Victoria Plzen) scored more than the Belgian during the first round of this match. UEFA Champions League season.

➤ Mislav Orsic scored Dinamo Zagreb’s winning goal in their 1-0 win over Chelsea over MD1, Orcic scored five goals in seven UEFA Champions League matches. He is Zagreb’s top scorer in the major European leagues, scoring 18 goals in 37 matches (in UCL and UEL).

➤ Since scoring four goals from five shots against Sevilla in December 2020 with Chelsea, Olivier Giroud has managed only one goal in 11 Champions League matches. The Milan striker has only scored eight shots and five shots on target during those 11 matches, including six attempts in six games for his current team.


one to watch

Rafael Leao will be suspended due to Milan’s upcoming league match, and therefore is likely to play the full 90 minutes tomorrow. He will be eager to bounce off the red card, although it was unfortunate, and it will also be key for the Rossoneri to open the game against a solid defense.

His counterpart Alexis Sailemakers will seek to put in a good performance after the positive performance against Salzburg. He was put on the bench in the league last weekend and clearly has to do more to impress Pioli. It’s more important now than ever as rival Junior Messias broke his own goal drought against Sampdoria as well.

As for the Croats, Mislav Orcic cannot be ignored given his impressive stats this season both domestically and in the Champions League. He could cause a lot of problems for the Rossoneri’s defense, as Noah Okafor did for Salzburg.

Josep Sotalo is another player to watch tomorrow, and he is believed to be a fantastic talent at the age of 22. He played in central defense against Chelsea and we all know how that match turned out.


prediction

For all the reasons mentioned above, don’t expect this to be a walk in the Milan park. The focus should be on getting the first goal and then keeping a clean sheet against a team looking to sit deep and respond quickly. Under these circumstances, winning seems like a necessity.

Milan 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb