MILAN: AC Milan travel to relegation-threatened Parma desperate to cling onto second place in Serie A this weekend and stay on course for the Champions League as city rivals Inter can tighten their grip on top spot against lowly Cagliari.
Seven-time European champions Milan have taken four points from their last three games to drop 11 points behind Inter who are closing in on a first Serie A title in over a decade.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Milan had been leading at the winter break as they target a first ‘Scudetto’ since 2011, but have faltered since January.
Champions Juventus are just one point behind Milan in third before hosting 13th-placed Genoa with Atalanta a further point adrift ahead of their trip to Fiorentina, who will be without suspended midfielder Franck Ribery.
Despite their poor home form, Milan have lost just once on the road and take on 19th-placed Parma who have won just three games this campaign.
“We’re heading into the decisive part of the season,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli as they seek a return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.
“But it’s a bit premature to be doing these (Champions League) calculations, especially as we still have a lot of games against direct rivals still to play.”
Antonio Conte’s Inter are riding high with 10 consecutive wins and take on Cagliari, who are in the relegation zone, and on a three-game losing run.
“Every time we win, it’s another big step forward, it also weighs heavily on those who are pursuing us,” said Conte.
“We’re now much more mature and solid than we were in the past. It’d be great to win a trophy again after such a long time and end Juventus’ streak.”
The race for Champions League football next season remains tight.
Napoli are two points off fourth after losing their midweek clash at Juventus, and next travel to mid-table Sampdoria.
Juve’s win against Gennaro Gattuso’s side gave novice coach Andrea Pirlo some breathing space as the champions’ nine-year reign looks set to end.
“Mistakes? Yes, there are things that I messed up, but the first year of a coach is not easy. It will serve me well in the future,” said Pirlo.
“We must learn from these mistakes as we want to play our last 10 matches as best we can and get ready for the Coppa Italia final.”
Lazio, in sixth, play away at Hellas Verona without coach Simone Inzaghi, who tested positive for Covid-19.
Behind in seventh, city rivals Roma host Bologna looking to end a three-match winless league run boosted by their 2-1 Europa League quarterfinal, first leg win at Ajax.
One to watch: Paulo Dybala
Juventus can again count on Paulo Dybala who returned after three months out with a knee injury to score against Napoli.
“When you have a player like him, you try to play him as much as possible, he raises the level,” said Pirlo.
The Argentina international has scored 99 goals in 245 appearances for Juventus since joining in 2015 from Palermo. – AFP