MILAN, ITALY - We are edging closer towards the Champions League group stages as AC Milan welcome Dutch side PSV to the San Siro this evening. The first leg finished 1-1 and the Italians must feel confident of finishing the job off at home.
The bookmakers have chalked up Milan as odds on favourites for victory in 90 minutes. BetVictor and Paddy Power have seen the Italian's backed in and they go a top price of 1.67 on a home win, the Dutch side, who drew 1-1 with Heracles at the weekend, are available to back at 6.0 with Stan James and the draw is 4.1 at BetVictor.
AC Milan head into the '€30m game' on the back of a shock 2-1 opening day defeat against newly promoted Hellas Verona. Luca Toni done the damage with a brace but this result could prove to be a blessing in disguise ahead of the PSV game. Allegri will be acutely aware of what this game means in terms of their season, Champions League qualification is a must from a financial standpoint and there is still time to bolster this squad with one or two big name signings yet. However, getting dumped out of the competition by PSV at this stage would be a disaster.
The first leg was a entertaining clash with plenty of shots on goal. Stephen El Shaarawy broke the deadlock on 15 minutes and you sensed the game could end 3-3. PSV finally got their rewards when with an equaliser on the hour mark but were left disappointed by not taking a lead to the San Siro.
The travelling Eredivsie side will hope to call on the talents of 17 year-old winger Zakaria Bakkali who missed the first leg through injury. The Belgian youngster has been a revelation this season and he could announce himself on the European stage with a starring role at the San Siro; however, PSV have an uphill task to progress despite the first leg score of 1-1.
The visitors have failed to score on their previous three visits to the San Siro and I believe another PSV blank is on the cards. The Rossoneri have the quality and personnel that will rise to challenge this evening and reach the group stages. Balotelli, El Shaarawy and Robinho is a fearsome attacking trident that will strike fear into most defences around Europe and the stage looks set for Balotelli to shine.
You can back Mario Balotelli at 5.0 with BetVictor to open the scoring this evening, a price that's worth taking. El Shaarawy is chalked up at 6.0 with Bet365 and Robinho does look tempting at 8.0 with BetVictor; however, the Brazilian can be as frustrating as he is deadly and I cannot look away from Balotelli in the first goal scorer markets. He will take the penalties for Milan and 7 of his 12 goals last season were the first goal.
If pushed for a correct score bet I would look no further than 2-0 AC Milan - it's 9.50 with BetVictor and has been clipped in in the lead up to kick off.
The game kicks off at 7:45 pm BST and is live on Sky Sports.
Mark Smith's bets on this game: