Milan braced for title party in Rome
AC Milan will be celebrating an 18th Serie A title this weekend if they avoid defeat away to Roma on Saturday.
Milan just need one more point to ensure they win the league and even if they don't get it on Saturday night, they could still be crowned champions on Sunday if Inter Milan fail to beat Fiorentina.
Only a month ago the Serie A title race appeared to be heading for a thrilling three-way finish, with some even speculating that then in-form Udinese could turn it into a four-way battle. But Milan beat both Inter and Napoli 3-0 at home and neither side recovered from those defeats to mount a serious challenge.
Since a surprise defeat at Palermo seemed to open the door to their rivals in March, Milan have won five in a row. What's more, star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played in only one of those matches and is due to return to the fold against Roma, who will be without suspended midfield pair Daniele De Rossi and Simone Perrotta.
It's perhaps just as well that Milan have a healthy eight-point lead going into these final three games, because on paper at least they appeared to have the toughest run-in. Away trips to Roma, who are sixth, and fifth-placed Udinese sandwich a home clash with Cagliari.
Arriving at this stage with only a couple of points advantage over Inter or Napoli would have put the pressure on Milan, but now Massimiliano Allegri's team can relax safe in the knowledge that the job is almost done. And the coach himself admitted as much after last week's victory over Bologna. "We'll get one point from three games, we hope to do it as soon as possible but we're in good shape," he said.
Renewed European focus
Once they have secured the title, Milan will start to focus on next season and an improved assault on the UEFA Champions League. Since winning the competition in 2007 they have not made it past the last 16 and vice-president Adriano Galliani has promised some big signings in the summer, although he also said they will have to clear out some squad players.
"Due to injuries our squad grew to 31 players this year and it needs to return to 25-26," he said. "It was an emergency brought on by the injuries. If we do win the league after many years of success for the other team in this city (Inter), our transfer dealings will be with the Champions League in mind which, more than ever, will be our priority."
Behind Milan Inter need one point and Napoli, who travel to Lecce, need two to ensure they go straight into the Champions League group stages next season. But the real battle is on for fourth place and the spot in the last Champions League qualifying round.
Lazio currently hold that but they have lost their last two and five of their last nine. They lead Udinese and Roma by just one point and travel to Udinese on Sunday in a crucial battle. And having won 1-0 at Lazio on Monday, Juventus, who host Chievo next Monday, are also still in with a chance as they are just four points behind Lazio.
At the bottom Brescia could make a quick return to Serie B if they fail to win at home to Catania, depending on how Lecce, Sampdoria and Cesena get on. The only way they can ensure they last another week and don't join already-relegated Bari in Serie B next season is with a victory.