It all comes down to this match, this one and decisive when AC Milan Women travel to Sassuolo to face the neroverde and potentially seal their first-ever Champions League qualification.
Once again, Milan Reports brings to you a very special pre-match analysis, with facts, numbers and an interview with a fan and social influencers from the other side of the fence.
Our guest for today’s “Knowing your Opponent” is Gabriele Boscagli, from Canale Sassuolo:
1 – How do you evaluate Sassuolo’s season so far?
“I believe the Sassuolo’s season is, so far, undoubtedly positive: we are talking about a team that is in third place in the standings since the very beginning and that, thanks to the victory against Pink Bari, has secured mathematically their place in Serie A’s podium. The figures speak for themselves: 15 wins, 1 draw and only 4 defeats and 3 of them against Juventus and Milan, two teams that seemed unattainable at the beginning of the season. And to be still fighting for the second place, and consequently for the Champions League with only two matches left in Serie A should be something of great pride for Sassuolo as whole, both team and fans.”
2 – Do you like how the team is playing?
“Absolutely yes, the excellent results they got so far cannot only be seem as the result of individual players, but of an established team. The squad offers an offensive and vertical game, and the three sectors communicate well with each other on the pitch: on average, the neroverde score more than two goals per game and they concede less than one per game, proving that the team is working hard and very well on the defensive phase of the game. Sassuolo has proven to know how to manage results, alternating clean and bold victories with others a bit more though, measured. Much of the credit goes to coach Piovani who, since taking the office in 2018, has achieved good results, finishing fifth and sixth place, despite the numerous changes in the roster on each transfer window. His confirmation also for next season is a clear sign that the club has presented a strong and convincing project.”
3 – What are the strengths of the neroverde? And what, in your opinion, are their weak points?
“Sassuolo is a formidable team for any opponent: the neroverde hardly make a mistake on how they must approach the game and, as mentioned before, how to manage it. A proof of that is that, against the teams that are close on the league table, Sassuolo dropped points only against Roma, on both first and second leg, and against all the other teams, they have always won. The neroverde do not underestimate anybody. One of the weaknesses, if we want to call it that way, is the fact of not having collected any points in the big matches: there was great anticipation before the matches against Juve and in the first leg against Milan, when they thought they could get better results.”
4 – In your opinion, what would a hypothetical victory against Milan mean for the project? The possibility of qualifying for the Champions League the goal from the start of the season?
“In the short term, a victory against Milan would mean fueling the Champions League dream, which in any case it will depend on the head-to-head confrontation between the neroverde and rossonere, which now favors the latter. Let’s not forget that, after Sassuolo v Milan this saturday, there is still one last day for them to play and we all know that both teams hardly drop points on their way. For the Sassuolo project, one victory would increase the awareness of being capable to play at very high levels also for the next season. As for the second part of the question, Sassuolo absolutely exceeded all expectations: it would have been already an excellent result to finish in fifth place in Serie A. To confirm the third place two matchdays early, 10 points ahead of Roma and 14 points ahead of Fiorentina, it was unthinkable at the beginning of the season, let alone fight for the second place!”
5 – Who are the main players of this team? Who AC Milan must keep an eye on in this match?
“The name of Haley Bugeja is on everyone’s lips: a sixteen-year-old who scores double figures in her first year in Serie A – arriving from abroad – can only attract attention to herself. After losing some games due to an injury, the Maltese is ending the season in a great form and can leave her mark tomorrow as well. Valeria Pirone also reached double figures, coming from a difficult season at Hellas Verona but got revitalized by the “Sassuolo treatment”. In midfield, the Czech Kamila Dubcova has participated in most of Sassuolo’s goals, thanks to his 9 goals and 5 assists this season. Unfortunately, she was out in the last three matches, and her presence for tomorrow is to be evaluated. Also, I would keep an eye on Mana Mihashi, the Japanese who with her calm and tranquility, commands and dictates the tempo of the defense, spreading tranquility and serenity to her teammates and does often goes forward on support runs looking for the goal. This season she scored a decisive goal against Pink Bari that led to the neroverde’s victory and, also, another goal in the Coppa Italia against Pontedera in the first round of the competition.”
Focus on Fiorentina:
Formation and Starting XI:
Sassuolo’s coach Gianpiero Piovani has achieve wonderful results in this season deploying the neroverde on a traditional 4-3-1-2 formation, with:
Lemey; Lenzini, Filangeri, Orsi, Philtjens; Santoro, Mihashi, Tomaselli; Cambiaghi; Pirone, Bugeja
The road so far:
This season’s performance by Sassuolo is truly noteworthy, as Gabriele mentioned. To date, the neroverde have 15 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats to their names, with 46 points in the table, having scored 41 goals and conceded 19 goals. In their last 6 Serie A games, Sassuolo have won 5 and lost a single match, against league champions Juventus by 0-3.
Last Serie A game:
On a match that, on paper seemed to be an easy task, the neroverde grappled to get an slim win against already relegated Pink Bari, thanks to Mihashi’s header at the 58th minute of the game.
All paths to the Champions League
In order to secure their Champions League spot for the next season in advance, AC Milan Women must rather win or draw this match. In case of a 1-nil or even 2-nil loss, the rossonere must their last match of the Serie A, against Hellas Verona, and/or finish level in points with Sassuolo, as they would have the advantage on head-to-head confrontation criteria (2-0 win on the first Serie A) and goal difference (to date, +30 to +22 for the rossonere).
Where and When
The matchday 21 Serie A fixture between AC Milan and Sassuolo will take place at the Enzo Ricci Stadium, in Sassuolo, at 12:30 pm CEST and you will be able to watch on SKY, TIMVISION app and most likely in Milan TV and the AC Milan official app.