The five key battles that could win or lose the game for Milan against Newcastle

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan begin their 2023-24 Champions League campaign against Newcastle United at San Siro tonight, hoping to make a good start to the group stages.

After the derby dismantling at the hands of Inter on Saturday, there is the need for an immediate response from the Rossoneri in order to not throw away the very positive signs from the first three rounds of the season. You can read our full preview here.

In terms of the key battles that will take place across the field, Milan will look to take advantage of Kieran Trippier‘s attacking tendencies down Newcastle’s left with Rafael Leao able to exploit any space left in behind.

Only Vinicius Júnior (47) had more successful take-ons in the Champions League than Rafael Leão (39) in 2022-23, while the Portuguese had both the most expected goals (1.2) and expected assists (1.2) following take-ons of any player in the competition last term. Trippier though is a threat with his deliveries and set pieces.

Sandro Tonali played in all 12 of Milan’s games in the UEFA Champions League last season and it will be a strange evening for him as he returns to face his boyhood club and fellow Milanista Tommaso Pobega.

The pair know each other well and there will be a real physical battle on the left side of Milan’s midfield, with Rade Krunic also likely to have to help in stemming the creativity and keeping tabs on the forward runs Tonali makes, runs which Inter hurt Milan with at the weekend.

There is no doubting who the big threat for Newcastle is in the attacking department, as Alexander Isak has netted twice in the Premier League this season and Callum Wilson is out injured, so the Swede will take on Malick Thiaw.

Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron provide the creativity from wide areas for Isak, so Thiaw – who will match up physically with him – will have to do a better job than he did against the Nerazzurri where Marcus Thuram gave him a very tough examination.

Switching to Newcastle’s defence, Sven Botman will come to the stadium he could have called his own had he joined last summer instead of choosing the Tynesiders, and his mission will be simple: stop Olivier Giroud.

Giroud scored five times in the Champions League last season for the Rossoneri including in the win over Napoli in the quarter-finals and he will look to build on his tally of four league goals already accrued, but Botman is a physical match for the Frenchman.

Finally, the right side of Milan’s attack will see Samuel Chukwueze get the nod over Christian Pulisic and he will be looking to give Dan Burn a very difficult evening in his first ever UCL start.

On paper, the pace and trickery of the Nigerian could cause big problems for Burn who is a centre-back by trade that has been shifted to the left, but he has earned the trust of Eddie Howe and will be deployed there again tonight.

Tags AC Milan Milan Newcastle


    1. I think its more Pobega vs Tonali. Pioli is probobly counting on Pobega/Loftus size and strength in order to stop Newcastle mid. And in attack he will count only on our wingers induvidual briliance.

  1. Let play a mature match and win they all forgot that we are in top four team last time in Europe and this season is another version of MILAN❤🖤

  2. I think krunic will have a good match ..
    Tonali I think was overrated!
    I think you will see the best of us turn up tonight .
    I honestly believe we will put on a great display and score a couple of goals ..
    So it’s a win for us ..AC MILAN

  3. Well… I’d say Krunic did well and Tonali was quite invisible and made zero difference. Even Pobega was more visible than Tonali – and not in a negative way either.

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