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Serie A Preview: Race For Europe Continues

romavsmilanAC Milan, at the centre of takeover uncertainty and with coach Filippo Inzaghi unlikely to survive until next season, can have a hand in the Champions League shake-up when they face Roma on Saturday.

The 18-time Serie A champions and winners of the European Cup on seven occasions are marooned in mid-table with just 43 points, a huge 36 behind Juventus who wrapped up the title last weekend. They go into their home clash with second-placed Roma on the back of three straight defeats and a winless run of five matches.

To make matters worse, they will be without top scorer Jeremy Menez who is injured and defender Mattia De Sciglio who was red-carded after just 50 seconds into his side’s clash with Napoli last Sunday – the fastest sending-off in Serie A this season.

As a consequence, Milan went down to a 3-0 loss to the UEFA Europa League semi-finalists. Despite their problems, Milan’s former Roma defender Philippe Mexes believes the only way is up for the San Siro giants as they have one eye on next season.

“We really can’t do much worse. We have to stay united. We know the fans are not happy and it’s up to us to get them back on our side,” Mexes, who spent seven years at Roma, told the club’s TV channel. “They are fighting for second place, are a united side and have a fine coach. After a bit of a wobble, they are doing well again with two wins in a row.”

Capital competition
Rudi Garcia’s Roma need to finish second to guarantee entry into the Champions League group stages. They are currently one point ahead of city rivals Lazio who host Inter Milan on Sunday.

Roma leapfrogged Lazio into second place last weekend thanks to a 2-0 win over in-form Genoa. Seydou Doumbia’s second goal in Italy and a wonderful Alessandro Florenzi solo strike in stoppage time secured the three points.

Lazio, meanwhile, were outplayed for large periods at Atalanta and could only manage a 1-1 draw to slip a point behind Roma with four games to play. But Lazio captain Stefano Mauri said he was unconcerned if his team finishes second or third which would require playing in the qualifying round.

“We hope to get into the Champions League – it’s not important whether it’s second or third place.”

Inter are eighth, just two places above their city rivals, but still entertain hopes of making the Europa League next season.

Juventus won the Italian title for the 31st time last Saturday after Arturo Vidal’s first half strike saw Massimiliano Allegri’s side defeat Sampdoria 1-0. It was Juventus’ fourth league title in a row with as many games to spare this season.

They then took that form into their Champions League semi-final duel with Real Madrid, carving out a 2-1 advantage to take to Spain next Wednesday. Juventus host relegation-haunted Cagliari and are hopeful that French midfielder Paul Pogba will be fit to play after a six-week absence caused by a thigh injury

Italian Serie A fixtures
Juventus v Cagliari, AC Milan v Roma

Chievo v Verona
Cesena v Sassuolo
Palermo v Atalanta
Udinese v Sampdoria
Empoli v Fiorentina
Parma v Napoli
Lazio v Inter Milan

Genoa v Torino