AC Milan look to take a step closer to the UEFA Europa League group stage as they play host to Macedonian side Shkendija in the first leg of the play-off round.
AC Milan were once a mainstay in the top European club competitions. They have been champions of Europe seven times, and won the Club World Cup in 2007/08. However, they are no longer the force they once were and have failed to qualify for Europe since reaching the last 16 of the Champions League in 2013/14.
After winning the Italian Cup last season, they are now back in with a chance of making it into the group stage of the Europa League. In the previous round, they saw off CS U Craiova 3-0 on aggregate and will be confident of overcoming their Macedonian opponents here. With the Serie A season beginning in a few days, Milan will want to win convincingly to boost morale and avoid having to travel to Macedonia with this tie still in the balance.
Shkendija finished second in the Macedonian First League last season, and started their Europa League campaign just 29 days after their final league game. They eased past Dacia Chisinau in the first qualifying round, winning 7-0 on aggregate, and then came through a tough test against HJK with a 3-1 first leg home victory and a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.
In the third qualifying round, they were beaten 2-1 away to Trakai but put in a brilliant second leg performance to overturn their deficit and win 3-0. They are playing with confidence and started their league campaign with a 2-0 victory over Vardar at the weekend. Even though they will come into this fixture as a big underdog, they will relish the prospect of causing a huge European upset. This is the second consecutive season they have reached this stage, and they will be keen to avoid another thrashing after losing 6-1 on aggregate to Gent last season.
Head to Head
This is the first meeting between these sides.
Betting Odds and Predictions
AC Milan are the obvious favourites here and should comfortably win this match. The Italian side are priced at 1/6 with Sky Bet, so they don’t provide much value even if victory is an almost certainty. Shkendija are a massive 18/1, whilst the draw is priced at 11/2. We predict a convincing win for Milan so recommend backing them in the handicap market to increase the value.
AC Milan to win with a -1 handicap is priced at 4/9. However, we think they will win by more than a couple of goals so would rather take the 6/5 for them to win with a -2 handicap. Because we predict AC Milan scoring several goals, it may also pay to back them to score 3+ at odds of 5/6. Milan to win both halves is a decent 10/11, and they are 4/9 to keep a clean sheet.
If you think the Macedonian side can put up a fight here, the best bet on them may be to score a goal. Shkendija to net 1+ goal is priced at 13/8 with Sky Bet and may be worth a punt just in case.
Top Betting Tip
Our top betting tip for this match is AC Milan to win with a -2 handicap, at odds of 6/5 with Sky Bet. The Italian’s should have far too much quality for their lowly opponents and that should be reflected in the result.