AC Milan are arguably the most in-form side in the top five leagues at the moment. Stefano Pioli has overseen a magnificent spell of form at the Rossoneri, which has seen Milan storm to the top of the rankings in the embryonic Serie A table and take maximum points from their opening two Europa League group stage matches.
Milan followed up their 3-1 victory at Celtic with an equally dominant 3-0 victory over Czech giants Sparta Prague on matchday two, with perhaps the only shock of that game being Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s failure to get on the scoresheet.
However, the effervescent Swede set up Brahim Diaz’s opener before being withdrawn at half time, with Rafael Leao and Diogo Dalot completing the rout at San Siro as Pioli’s men assumed control of Group H.
The Italian giants were forced to settle for just one point against Roma as both sides netted a trio of goals – with Paulo Fonseca’s men stopping Milan in their tracks before last week’s clash with Sparta – but the Rossoneri made no mistake against Udinese as they claimed a 2-1 victory at the Dacia Arena.
This time, Ibrahimovic did manage to find the back of the net and take his tally to eight for the season in all competitions – no mean feat for a 39-year-old who has just recovered from COVID-19 – but Ibrahimovic is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches his golden years and will certainly be key to Milan’s hopes of maintaining their perfect start against Lille.
The visitors have an unbeaten run of their own to boast about as they prepare to make the daunting trip to San Siro, but Lille’s recent results represent that of a side who may be starting to feel the effects of the quick turnaround in matches.
Indeed, Christophe Galtier’s crop have now drawn their last three on the bounce in all competitions, with that 2-2 draw at Celtic sandwiched in between league stalemates with Nice and Lyon over the past few weeks.
Celtic looked on course to take all three points against Les Dogues as a quickfire double from Mohamed Elyounoussi put the Bhoys in control last Thursday, but Zeki Celik and Jonathan Ikone both struck in the second 45 to preserve Lille’s unbeaten record, although Galtier would have been less than impressed with the manner of his side’s draw with Lyon at the weekend.
Celik went from hero to zero as his own goal cancelled out Jonathan Bamba’s opener against Les Gones, who played the majority of the second half with 10 men after Marcelo saw red, and Lille were unable to take advantage as they lost ground on Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Returning to winning ways against this AC Milan side is, without question, a highly improbable task, although Lille did beat the Rossoneri when the two sides last locked horns in the 2006-07 Champions League.
AC Milan Europa League form: WWWWW
AC Milan form (all competitions): WWWDWW
Lille Europa League form: WD
Lille form (all competitions): WWWDDD
Mateo Musacchio is closing in on a return for Milan following ankle surgery but is not quite there yet, while Samu Castillejo is also not expected to be involved.
Ibrahimovic will certainly not want to be rested for this one and fans can expect to see the Swede start up top once again, but Pioli may be tempted to rotate elsewhere given the unrelenting fixture list.
Diaz, Sandro Tonali and Ante Rebic are among those who are vying for spots in the starting XI, with Manchester United-linked Hakan Calhanoglu potentially given a rest.
With regards to Thursday’s visitors, Galtier needs a fully-fit squad to pick from if Lille are to stand a chance of winning this game, and that is exactly what the Dogues manager has at his disposal.
Jose Fonte picked up an early booking before being taken off early against Lyon, and the 36-year-old may not be facing a man three years his senior in Ibrahimovic as Adama Soumaoro looks to come into the fold.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) November 5, 2020
As expected, Jonathan David was benched in the draw with Les Gones as he continues to search for his first Lille goal, but the 20-year-old should be recalled for this one.
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Rebic; Ibrahimovic
Lille possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Celik, Soumaoro, Botman, Bradaric; Ikone, Soumare, Andre, Bamba; David, Yazici
We say: AC Milan 2-1 Lille
With Thursday seeing two teams head into this clash looking to extend their unbeaten starts to the season, there may be a marginal temptation to err on the side of caution in the hope of avoiding defeat. That is certainly not the case here – Milan can further assert their dominance on the European stage with a victory and Lille will be desperate to get back to winning ways after three draws on the bounce.
The visitors have plenty of talent in attack, but we cannot look past Milan’s phenomenal start to proceedings and therefore expect the Rossoneri to claim all three points