Milan aim to stay on the heels of Napoli

Just five points behind Napoli and looking to cement their grip on third place, AC Milan face a tricky trip to Genoa.

    Milan aim to stay on the heels of Napoli
    Genoa will act as a warm-up ahead of Milan’s trip to Barcelona in the midweek Champions League action, where they must protect a 2-0 first leg lead [Reuters]

    After reaching third place in Serie A last weekend, AC Milan face another difficult week starting with a potentially tricky trip to Genoa on Friday.

    Milan cruised to a 3-0 win over Lazio to move a point ahead of rivals Inter Milan. They now face Genoa, who have undergone a resurgence under Davide Ballardini, before a trip to Barcelona in the Champions League protecting a 2-0 lead from the first leg.

    Milan are five points behind second-place Napoli, who visit Chievo Verona on Sunday.

    Defending champions and Serie A leader Juventus host Catania.

    Rough patch

    "We need to concentrate 100 per cent on the game on Friday so that we have an advantage over those who play on Saturday and Sunday,'' Milan defender Mattia Di Sciglio said.

    "Then we can think about Barcelona. We will obviously try to take advantage of any slip-ups by Napoli, game after game.

    Italian fixtures

    Friday 8 March

    Genoa v AC Milan

    Saturday 9 March

    Udinese v Roma

    Sunday 10 March

    Atalanta v Pescara
    Cagliari v Sampdoria
    Chievo v Napoli
    Juventus v Catania
    Palermo v Siena
    Parma v Torino
    Inter Milan v Bologna
    Lazio v Fiorentina

    "Barcelona is going through a rough patch in regards to the past month but that is normal, every squad experiences such moments at some point during the season.''

    Milan know better than most about rough patches after undergoing their own difficult period at the beginning of the season, when they looked set to be fighting off relegation rather than chasing a Champions League berth.

    "Our only path at the moment is one game at a time,'' Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said.

    "We are doing well and following the defeat against Lazio in the first half of the season, we have collected 41 points in 19 games, which is a lot and now we have to concentrate on Genoa. We will think about Barcelona after Friday night.

    "Third place is by no means secure. I am not going to get carried away. We just need to keep going. I would say that teams from Napoli to Roma can all hope of reaching a European place. Keeping Juve out of it, because if you ask me they have already won the scudetto, all the others can aim to finish second.''

    Milan could be boosted by the return of Mario Balotelli from injury.

    The striker picked up a knock against Inter and sat out the Lazio match but has now returned to full training, although he is likely to be on the bench. Genoa lost 3-1 at Roma last weekend for their first defeat in six matches since Ballardini replaced Luigi Del Neri.

    Ballardini has won both matches at home, against Lazio and Udinese, and Genoa, who were three points from safety when he took over, are now four points above the relegation zone.

    Costly draw

    Napoli are now looking over their shoulders at the other teams after a 1-1 draw against Juventus last week looks to have cleared the way for the Turin club to win their 29th Italian league title.

    They have to hope for a slip up from Juventus, while they pick up maximum points, starting at Chievo, who haven’t won in their past five games - losing four.

    Juventus are six points clear at the top of the table and full of confidence after beating Celtic 2-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since they were demoted to Serie B in the 2006 match-fixing scandal.

    "Now we're in the really intense part of the season, where you can't afford to make a mistake,'' Juventus coach Antonio Conte said.

    "We have to be very good, very focused in training as well as in the matches. We know we can get a lot of happiness out of this season, but it will be very difficult.

    "We're favourites in our domestic championship, and rightly so, but we've still got plenty of fixtures ahead.''

    After succumbing to Milan last weekend, Lazio face another direct rival in Fiorentina, who are just two points behind the capital club. Inter host Bologna also on Sunday.

    Roma are two points further back and they travel to Udinese on Saturday.

    At the other end of the table, Palermo host Siena. Both teams are tied for last along with Pescara, who travel to Atalanta with a new man in charge after youth club coach Cristian Bucchi replaced the fired Cristiano Bergodi.



    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.