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Bologna face off against Milan at the Dall’Ara on Sunday. The visitors come from a surprise-defeat to Benevento, whilst Bologna played their part in the boring 0-0 in Sardegna at the weekend. Bologna’s season is basically over, as the relegation battle is put behind them, whilst there is no realistic chance of finishing higher than 11th. Still, the team would like to finish the season on a high, and perhaps a strong opponent like Milan is what’s needed to motivate the players even though the game will be of little importance.
Since the game against Cagliari, Bologna have dropped down from 11th to 12th as Genoa beat Verona on Monday. Given that there are eight points between Bologna and Torino (10th), Bologna will most likely not end the season any higher than 11th. But, the club cannot relax, as the teams behind have crept closer. Sassuolo in 13th are only two points behind, whilst Cagliari in 14th are six behind.
The Cagliari game was not the most exceptional game you’ll ever see from a Bologna perspective. Going forward, the team lacked any real conviction, the passing was not as good as was the case against Verona and Sampdoria, whilst any real movement in the final third was lacking. Still, that the game played out as it did was not surprising. Cagliari had more to fight for given their taking part in the relegation struggle. Simone Verdi missed a huge chance, whilst Antonio Mirante made a couple of decent saves. Overall, Bologna could be more pleased with the result than Cagliari could.
In the match preview for Cagliari, I wrote that I would be very surprised if Roberto
Donadoni kept going with three at the back in Sardegna. This he did, something which was quite puzzling, especially given that Rodrigo Palacio was declared fit and started the game. Another interesting tactical selection was the inclusion of Riccardo Orsolini at right wing-back. The former Juventus winger never got into the game in that position, but after the coach’s change to 4-3-3, Orsolini did contribute in a couple of promising attacking situations. If the winger starts against Milan as well, he simply cannot play as a wing-back.
AC Milan’s season started terribly under Vincenzo Montella, but after their hiring of Gennaro Gattuso things slowly started to improve. However, now they have not won for six straight league games, with last weekend’s loss at home versus Benevento being the worst blow. Previous to those six games, there was some optimism that they might be able to fight their way into the top four and secure a spot in next year’s Champions League, now, however, they stand the risk of not even making the Europa League if the current abysmal run of games continue. Milan are clearly lacking in confidence at the moment, and this is something Bologna must take advantage of if they are to stand any chance of getting a good result.
Even though I stand the risk of guessing wrong for the second consecutive game, I would be surprised if we do not see a shift to 4-3-3 from minute one versus Milan. Donadoni’s shift in the second half in Sardegna showed us that he wasn’t satisfied with how three at the back worked, and it would only be logical for him to play a back four.
As for any unavailable players, there are a few of them still. Godfred Donsah, Filip Helander and Mattia Destro will all still be out with their respective injuries.
Erick Pulgar did not travel to Sardegna at the weekend, and it remains to be seen if he’ll play a part versus Milan. He has returned fo full training though, so he is definitely an option.
If the coach changes his formation to 4-3-3, Ibrahim M’baye will most likely come into the side for one of the centre backs, although Vasilis Torosidis has returned from injury.
Another possible change is that of Federico Di Francesco. He might come back into the team at the expense of Orsolini.
Bologna (4-3-3): Mirante; M’baye, Gonzalez, De Maio, Masina; Poli, Pulgar, Dzemaili; Verdi, Palacio, Di Francesco
Given that there is not much to play for (for Bologna), I wouldn’t bet on a thrilling game or a good performance from Bologna. However, the team have shown earlier in the season that they step up their game versus stronger opponents. Let’s hope we’ll witness a good game!