There was a time when ‘#PioliOut’ was trending on Twitter during the early stages of Stefano Pioli’s tenure at the San Siro, but the Italian coach has worked wonders to bounce back from those initial teething problems and deliver Serie A title glory to the Rossoneri after an 11-year wait.
His job now is to ensure Milan consolidate their status as Italy’s top club by defending the Scudetto, and he gets underway in that quest with a curtain-raising match-up against Udinese, whom the Rossoneri are unbeaten against in 14 of their previous 15 league home matches.
Now headed up by Andrea Sottil, Udinese are already up and running for the season with a 2-1 win over Feralpisalo in the Coppa Italia, but attention now shifts from that contest against a side currently slogging it out in division three of Italian football to the national champions in Milan.
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AC Milan v Udinese match stats
Udinese have a teenage wonder on their hands in Iyenoma Udogie who, if reports are to be believed, could be set to complete a move to Tottenham before being loaned back to the Italian side. The 19-year-old has scored more goals than any other defender in 2022 across Europe’s top five leagues (five goals). He’s also been directly involved in six goals across his last six Serie A games (three goals, three assists).
In Rafael Leao, Milan have one of the continent’s most in-form attackers. The 23-year-old Portuguese scored 11 goals in Serie A last term (the joint-most for Milan, alongside Giroud), while he also ranked top for assists (eight), total shots (97), shots on target (38), dribbles completed (98) and touches in the opposition box (193).
Incredibly, these sides have drawn their previous three meetings by an identical 1-1 scoreline. As recently as February that man Destiny Udogie netted in the 66th minute to cancel out Rafael Leao’s opener, while in the reverse fixture in Udine, Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged at the death to rescue a point from the jaws of defeat after Beto scored what he must have thought was the winning goal.