Sampdoria caused a huge upset by winning away to Juventus last weekend and will be hopeful of building on that result when they face an improving AC Milan side on Sunday (7.45pm GMT, live on ESPN).
The Blucerchiati are 14th in Serie A with six wins, three draws and ten defeats to their name. They are on 20 points due to one point being deducted from their total for match fixing offences.
They began the season in fine fettle, recording three consecutive victories, including a 1-0 win away to Sunday’s opponents Milan on the first day of the campaign.
The aggressive 4-3-3 formation implemented by coach Ciro Ferrera caught opponents by surprise, with Maxi Lopez, in particular, benefiting from the service provided by Eder and Marcelo Estigarribia.
However, teams gradually cottoned on to Sampdoria’s approach and after two draws they went on to lose seven and win just one of their next eight matches. Lopez, who scored three goals in the first three matches of the season, endured six scoreless matches before picking up an injury in early November from which he is yet to recover.
This poor form left Sampdoria teetering on the brink of the relegation zone going into the local derby with Genoa in mid-November.
Victory in that match and again against Bologna the following weekend temporarily saved Ferrera his job, but it was a reprieve that had little lasting value as he was sacked three matches later following successive defeats to Catania and Lazio and replaced with the former Palermo and Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi.
A home defeat to Lazio followed in Rossi’s first match in charge, but his team showed definite signs of life last weekend, defeating reigning champions Juventus 2-1 despite playing the final hour of the match with ten men following Gaetano Berardi’s dismissal.
Young Argentine striker Mauro Icardi bolstered his growing reputation by scoring both goals, the first coming on the back of rare mistakes from both Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon, and the second a powerful near post drive after he did well to hold his run and stay onside to collect Pedro Obiang’s pass.
That result did not alleviate all of Sampdoria’s problems, neither did it put any more than four points between them and the relegation places, but it is definitely something that Rossi will hope to build on in the second half of the season.
Milan’s opening day defeat to Sampdoria was the first of five they suffered in their initial eight matches of the season, a run of form that left many onlookers asking serious questions about the future of coach Massimiliano Allegri.
The 45-year old experimented with numerous formations in an attempt to find a winning formula following the summer defections of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain, but came up short as Milan stuttered time and again in the early months of the campaign.
He did, eventually, stumble across the right formula and since doing so AC Milan have been a far better side, one who have won five of their last six fixtures and are now seventh in the table, seven points behind the top three.
This upturn in fortunes was predicated upon a switch to a 4-3-3 formation, first with Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy supported by Kevin Prince-Boateng. Then latterly with Giampaolo Pazzini joining the fray, first in place of the suspended Boateng and then instead of the injured Robinho.
El Shaarawy has been one of the revelations of the season, starting all 19 matches and scoring 14 goals. Pazzini has also chipped in with eight despite making half of his 18 appearances from the substitutes bench.
Milan now look a more cohesive outfit than in the early part of the season, with a well-balanced midfield and a forward line that combines energy, power and craft to good effect.
The defence could do with some work, as just one clean sheet in their last ten matches would attest. Milan have suffered numerous defensive injuries so far this season and are still adjusting to the loss of Thiago Silva, a classy defender whose organisational skills have been badly missed.
If Allegri can tighten things up at the back, Milan should be capable of forcing their way into the top six by the end of the campaign.
Sampdoria v AC Milan Betting Tips
Sampdoria displayed a great deal of heart and determination to win away to Juventus in their last Serie A match and will be keen to keep the momentum going with victory at home to Milan on Sunday.
Milan, though, have looked a much better side since switching to a 4-3-3 formation and offer enough of an offensive threat to suggest that they are likely to score at least once. However, defensive problems mean they are also likely to concede, so we think a score draw is the most likely outcome.