Just days after tasting sweet success in the Milan Derby, the Rossoneri were held to a draw in their first European encounter of the season, and they now meet a side struggling at the wrong end of the Serie A standings.
Getting their 2022-23 Champions League campaign under way in midweek, Milan made the trip to Austria in high spirits, following a rousing Derby della Madonnina victory last weekend.
In the end, Stefano Pioli‘s side had to settle for a 1-1 draw against RB Salzburg, after Alexis Saelemaekers claimed his first goal in the competition to pull them level and derby-day hero Rafael Leao struck the post with a late attempt.
The Portuguese winger has shrugged off talk of a big-money move to the Premier League during the opening weeks of Milan’s title defence by putting in a series of strong displays – none more so than last week against arch-rivals Inter at San Siro, where he scored twice to help his team fight back and win an enthralling game 3-2.
Having beaten the club they succeeded as Italian champions, the Rossoneri now aim to continue their unbeaten start to the season in Genoa, where they have won each of their last three matches against Saturday’s opponents.
Sitting third in the table – just two points off top spot – no team has lost fewer matches than Milan throughout the top five European leagues in 2022: only one.
Indeed, Pioli’s men have averaged 2.29 points per game this calendar year – Liverpool and Manchester City are the only teams to have fared better – and Leao’s form has played a large part in that. The 23-year-old has been involved in the most Serie A goals during that time: 19 (10 goals, nine assists).
While Milan’s main man has found the net twice against Sampdoria in his last three games against them, the Blucerchiati themselves have been unable to find much fortune in the final third this year – scoring only 21 times in 24 league matches.
Samp’s tally of Serie A goals this term stands at just two following last week’s 2-1 reverse at the hands of Hellas Verona, in which last season’s top scorer Francesco Caputo finally got off the mark.
As a result of their failure to find the net on a regular basis, the Ligurian outfit have picked up just two points so far – one of which came by virtue of a late Manolo Gabbiadini equaliser against Lazio.
A familiar sinking feeling must now be afflicting coach Marco Giampaolo, who was previously sacked by Torino when they seemed Serie B-bound and also endured a disastrous spell as Milan boss back in 2019.
His side remain one of six yet to win a single Serie A game this season, and as he prepares for his old club to visit Marassi this week, Giampaolo presides over a team which has posted the most losses throughout the top five European leagues during 2022: 16 in all.
Despite a demanding schedule leading up to the international break, Milan are set to name a strong side on Saturday.
If the visitors do make some changes, veteran defender Simon Kjaer and recent arrival Sergino Dest are both pushing for a start in the back four, while Tommaso Pobega could deputise for Ismael Bennacer in central midfield.
Sampdoria, meanwhile, took the rare step of fielding two strikers against Verona, but as 39-year-old Fabio Quagliarella has since pulled up with a back problem, Francesco Caputo and Manolo Gabbiadini are most likely to battle it out for a lone role up front.
Loan signing Harry Winks is set to miss out again and will have to wait a little longer to make his debut for the Blucerchiati.
Sampdoria possible starting lineup:
Audero; Bereszynski, Colley, Murillo, Augello; Vieira; Sabiri, Villar, Rincon, Djuricic; Caputo
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Tonali, Pobega; Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud