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AC Milan against Napoli is the match to watch this weekend in Serie A action (as always you can watch Serie A on Paramount+) but also in the coming weeks, the two sides will face each other twice in a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Stefano Pioli and Luciano Spalletti are two of the most well prepared Italian coaches and very likely this is going to be a sort of handover between the current Serie A title holders and the next ones, as the Azzurri currently have a 19-point advantage on Lazio with eleven matches to go until the end of the 2022/23 Serie A season.  

Napoli are in an incredible form this season and have won 23 games in total, drawn two, and lost twice against Inter and Lazio. With such a big margin, if Napoli's advantage remains the same over the rest of the season, fans can celebrate the title six games in advance on April 29, 2023 when they will face Salernitana at home. That would be one of the most incredible stories of the year, as Napoli haven't won the Scudetto in 33 years, since Diego Armando Maradona was playing at the club. Napoli were able to start a new cycle this season after some important players leaving the club like Kalidou Koulibaly, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne. However, with the signings of defender Kim min-Jae and Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia the team made an unexpected upgrade and are currently close to winning the title thanks to the work of coach Spalletti, who perfectly handled this shift. 


AC Milan, on the other hand, come from a difficult moment before the international break as the Rossoneri only managed one point in the last three games, drawing against Salernitana at home and losing against Fiorentina and Udinese away. Stefano Pioli needs a reaction considering that they are in the mix in the Champions League race, currently fourth only one point above AS Roma. AC Milan will need to do that without Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who suffered a muscular injury and will be out for the next two weeks at least. This injury just raises more doubts around the future of the 41 years-old striker who will be out of contract at the end of the season. 

Stefano Pioli's team, despite Ibrahimovic' absence, can count on Rafael Leao who is also not having his best moment of the season. The Portuguese winger, after a strong start of the year, is currently still struggling to adapt to a new role. After a disappointing start to 2023, Pioli changed the tactical system to a 3-4-3 with a three back defense. Leao's position didn't change, but Pioli asked him to play a different way, much more involved in the action than before. However, since the tactical change Leao has failed to score and only provided one assist against Atalanta to Junior Messias

It's clear that Leao is also affected by the situation off the pitch, with the club still trying to find an agreement on his new contract, with the current one expiring in the summer 2024. AC Milan director Paolo Maldini was confident they could find an agreement even before the 2022 World Cup, but the two sides are still working on it despite the confidence of the Italian club. The sooner they solve it, the better it is for both player and AC Milan. 

His attitude and performance will be hugely important for AC Milan against Napoli on Sunday, as Pioli and the team need the best Leao again to shine in these kind of games. This is especially true when the two sides will meet again in the quarter finals of the Champions League later this month. At the same time, the Rossoneri can count on the best version of Mike Maignan as the French goalkeeper comes out of the International break where he finally played as a starter for France and made an incredible save against Ireland in the last minutes of the match. His comeback last month was a key moment for AC Milan who were struggling without the player who is currently the best Serie A goalkeeper. 


On the other hand, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is the star of the home team as Napoli are now getting closer to the title win. Looking at his numbers, it's impressive to see that in 23 Serie A games played, he scored twelve and also provided twelve assists to his teammates, meaning that he was involved in the goals scored for 24 times in 23 games. With him on the pitch, Napoli basically started with a one-goal advantage in every single Serie A match. However, Napoli need to be careful and not underestimate AC Milan since the Rossoneri played a better match in the first game at San Siro last September when Giovanni Simeone's winning goal decided the first meeting between the teams this season. Simeone could play a big roll in both Sunday's match and the Champions League tie with Victor Osimhen returning from international duty with an injured adductor.

This first of the three encounters between these two teams will tell us a lot about the Champions League's quarterfinal matchup that will take place this April, with the first leg happening in San Siro on April 12 and the second leg at the Stadio Maradona that will take place the week after, on April 18. Get ready for a great month of Italian soccer, starting from this weekend.