Europa League: AC Milan vs Ludogorets – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Milan look set to wrap up their Round of 32 tie as they welcome Ludogorets to the revamped San Siro on Thursday.
20:05 GMT, Thursday 15th February, San Siro (Milan, Italy), BT Sport
Since former player Gennaro Gattuso took over at the club just before the winter break, the Rossoneri have continued to pull out impressive results across a number of competitions.
They’ve now gone ten unbeaten and they don’t look like they’re ready to end that run as they take on the Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad in the second leg of their Europa League Round of 32 fixture on Thursday.
Ludogorets have resumed competitive action after their winter break with mixed results: a loss in Europe and a win domestically.
While this does mean that they maintain their lead in the Bulgarian league, their chances of making it past Milan to the Round of 16 in the Europa League are looking slim.
Having lost 3-0 at home in the first leg, the Bulgarian Champions face an almost impossible task of outscoring the home side by three goals or more.
Last Time Out
Milan 1-0 Sampdoria (Serie A)
On Sunday, Giacomo Bonaventura’s solitary goal was enough to get the Rossoneri a well deserved three points and level with Sampdoria to re-ignite their Champions League hopes.
Impressive in the opening exchanges, Milan had an early penalty which was missed by Ricardo Rodriguez.
From this point onwards, it only looked like a Milan win: after Bonaventura volleyed in Davide Calabria’s cross, Bonucci had a goal ruled out for offside and Hakan Calhanoglu also rattled the woodwork.
Milan now move up to seventh place, seven points behind the top four slots.
Ludogorets 4-1 Slavia Sofia (First Professional Football League)
In the First Professional Football League, Ludogorets ran out 4-1 winners over Slavia Sofia on Sunday.
Claudiu Keseru put the home side ahead before the visitors responded through Stefan Velev.
After this, though, the game swung in Ludogorets’ favour. Keseru put the Eagles back in the lead and Anicet Abel added a third before halftime.
When Wanderson scored right after the restart, the three points were secured, allowing the Bulgarian champions to retain their place at the summit of the league.
AC Milan lineup
With Roma up next, expect a heavy rotation from Gennaro Gattuso.
Long-term absentee Andrea Conti, along with Franck Kessie and Marco Storari, are all out for this fixture.
Manuel Locatelli is set to be back from suspension and he may well come right back into the starting lineup. In addition, Andre Silva may also get the nod up front along with Fabio Borini and Suso.
Captain Leonardo Bonucci could be rested, and Cristian Zapata and Mateo Musacchio may come in.
Ludogorets don’t have any major injury issues aside from goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov.
Both Natanael Pimienta and Claudiu Keseru are back from suspension and should be available, and Wanderson’s goal at the weekend may see him finding a place for the second leg.
Key Battle: Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan) vs Cicinho (Ludogorets)
It’s time to talk about Giacomo Bonaventura’s recent performances for AC Milan.
Since the Gattuso took over, Bonaventura has now scored five Serie A goals for Milan – at least two more than any other Milan player during that period.
His lone goal gave Milan all three points against Sampdoria and he may just make the difference on Thursday.
Cicinho has been Ludogorets’ top performer in the Europa League this season with two goals and one assist to his name.
Despite the fact he wasn’t convincing enough in the first leg, he’ll be looking to give a good account of himself as Ludogorets head to Lombardy
- Milan have won all five of their previous European knockout ties against teams from Bulgaria, most recently winning 3-0 on aggregate against CSKA Sofia in the second round of the 2001/02 UEFA Cup
- Milan are also unbeaten in their last 10 matches and have kept clean sheets in four of their last five matches.
- Ludogorets Razgrad have lost only one of their last thirteen away matches in all competitions and are also unbeaten on the road in the group stages of the competition.
- Ludogorets will have to win by over three goals at the San Siro to qualify outright (4-1, 5-2, 4- 0 or similar results).
Prediction: AC Milan 2 – 0 Ludogorets
Unless Ludogorets are able to pull out one of the greatest comebacks in history, Milan will ease comfortably into the next round of the competition.
With three away goals, Milan will know that nothing less than a total collapse on their part will see this match go their way.