Milan teams regroup as Roma, Juventus close gap in Serie A
Reeling after midweek defeats, both Milan clubs look to get back on track in Serie A this weekend to hold off their rivals as champions Juventus and Roma close the gap on the leaders.
AC Milan remains one point ahead of second-placed Inter despite Juventus ending their 27-match unbeaten league run with Inter’s eight-match winning streak ending at Sampdoria.
Stefano Pioli’s Milan have a chance to consolidate their lead at home against 17th-placed Torino on Saturday, a day before Interface a tricky trip to Roma, who are three points behind their opponents in third.
Both Milan clubs have injury worries.
Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains sidelined for a ninth consecutive league game with midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu joining the growing Milan injury list with an ankle problem.
Matteo Gabbia, Ismael Bennacer and Alexis Saelemaekers are also out injured with midfielder Rade Krunic and forward Ante Rebic sidelined with coronavirus.
“We need to stay calm despite the delicate situation we’re experiencing between injuries and Covid,” said Milan director Paolo Maldini.
Antonio Conte’s Inter are hopeful of forward Romelu Lukaku’s return to full fitness after a leg muscle problem limited him to half an hour’s play against Sampdoria, during which defender Danilo D’Ambrosio picked up knee ligament damage.
A fourth consecutive league win for Roma would allow the capital side to move level on points with Inter.
Juventus are fourth, seven points off top spot, and on Sunday also face a tough tie at home against Sassuolo, one point behind the champions in fifth.
However, Andrea Pirlo has a larger squad to rotate even without Covid-hit Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado, and forward Federico Chiesa a doubt with a niggling hip problem following his double against Milan.
“In terms of my choices, I’m lucky enough to be able to select the team game after game based on what we’re trying to achieve and how the opposition play,” said Pirlo.
“We’ve shown that this team is still so hungry,” added defender Leonardo Bonucci of their push for a 10th straight league title.
“We’re now fully focused on the next match against Sassuolo.”
Sixth-placed Napoli travel to Udinese to keep their European push on track after a shocking error-strewn defeat to newcomers Spezia, with Atalanta, equal on points just behind the southerners at mid-table Benevento.
“Benevento are a dangerous team who score goals, but we’re approaching it in the right way,” warned Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
Eighth-placed Lazio are away to Parma, the latter hoping for a change in fortunes with the return of coach Roberto D’Aversa in place of Fabio Liverani, dismissed after the club dropped into the relegation zone.
Fiorentina, in 14th, host Cagliari, just behind them, with forward Franck Ribery doubtful after twisting his right knee in their midweek loss to Lazio, although the Tuscany club ruled out ligament damage.
One to watch: Borja Mayoral
Spanish striker Borja Mayoral scored his first league brace for Roma this week as he finds his feet at the ‘Giallorossi’ with six goals scored in all competitions since his loan move from Real Madrid.
Mayoral, 23, has been growing into his role as understudy to Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian forward who is third on Roma’s list of all-time top goalscorers.
Coach Paulo Fonseca has not ruled out the possibility of using the pair together, even if not immediately.
“The team with this form is playing well. I don’t need to change, but in the future it could be a possibility,” he said.
25 – Points between AC Milan and Torino
14 – Cristiano Ronaldo leads the Serie A goal-scoring charts
9 – League games Zlatan Ibrahimovic has missed
4 – Parma’s losing streak
3 – Points between Inter and Roma
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Benevento v Atalanta (1400), Genoa v Bologna (1700), AC Milan v Torino (1945)
AS Roma v Inter Milan (1130), Udinese v Napoli, Hellas Verona v Crotone, Parma v Lazio (all 1400), Fiorentina v Cagliari (1700), Juventus v Sassuolo (1945)
Spezia v Sampdoria (1945)