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AC Milan have dismissed quotes attributed to Mario Balotelli where he allegedly offered his girlfriend as a Champions League incentive to Real Madrid.
“If Real Madrid come back against Borussia Dortmund and make it to the Final of the Champions League, then I will let my girlfriend sleep with all the players,” he was said to have stated.
The Diavolo posted a brief note on their website where they underlined that the former Manchester City man had not commented about the game to any media outlet.
“Milan deny what was today reported in the 'Corriere della Sera', referring to the English tabloid 'The Sun' concerning declarations made by Mario Balotelli on the Champions League match between Real Madrid - Borussia Dortmund,” it read.
“Milan would like to make it clear that the player never made any comments regarding the match.”
Massimiliano Allegri hailed “extraordinary” Giampaolo Pazzini and thanked the Milan fans for their banner of support.
The Rossoneri fought back twice to beat Catania 4-2 and stay in front of Fiorentina in third place.
“I am happy with the performance, as we played well and with a little more sharpness in the first half could’ve put the game on a different level,” said the Coach.
“Pazzini is an extraordinary player, as he moves so well in the penalty area and is a real ‘fox in the box.’ I’m very happy with his brace, but the whole team played well tonight.”
The speculation over Allegri’s future continues, as this morning Clarence Seedorf was tipped as his successor. The ultras in the Curva Sud reacted before kick-off with a banner that demanded ‘more respect’ for Allegri.
“I thank the fans for the banner, which shows they examined everything I’ve done in my three years at Milan. At this moment we have to think about securing third place, which was considered unthinkable after the first eight rounds.
“I never comment on the President’s statements. I just do my work here at Milan. Criticism is healthy, as long as it isn’t personal. Seedorf? He’s an intelligent lad and I wish him all the luck in the world.
“My future has to be decided by the club, who will evaluate the work I have done, but that isn’t my problem. I am concentrated only on third place. Today the team showed great character.”
Adriano Galliani assures Milan won’t sell Stephan El Shaarawy, but confessed Clarence Seedorf could be an option as Coach.
This morning La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed Seedorf is President Silvio Berlusconi’s favourite to replace Massimiliano Allegri next season, even though the Dutchman has no management experience.
“All those who made Milan history enter the conclave the day Allegri leaves,” said Galliani this evening, using the metaphor of cardinals electing the Pope.
“After that, who knows why will emerge as the new Pope? We should leave Allegri to get on with his work. I won’t confirm or deny anything.
“The passion of the President for his great former champions is absolutely real and that applies to Seedorf as well as the other players who took this club to the top of the world, like Christian Panucci and Billy Costacurta.”
The Milan fans unveiled a banner ahead of tonight’s match with Catania that read: ‘More respect for our Coach Allegri.’
Galliani was also asked to comment on reports that Manchester City had offered €35m for El Shaarawy.
“There may or may not be something... Clearly this is a 20-year-old player who is already in the senior Italy squad and has scored numerous goals, so he is hot property on the transfer market.
“We have absolutely no intention of selling him. We have the two strikers who represent the future of the Italy side, so we are keeping a tight grip on them.”
Serie A: AC Milan 4:2 Catania - match report 28.4 ||webmaster
AC Milan fought back twice from a goal down to beat Catania 4-2 in a thriller, as Giampaolo Pazzini netted twice to keep them in third.
The Rossoneri needed a victory to recapture third place after Fiorentina’s win earlier this afternoon and welcomed back Mario Balotelli from his two-match ban, but Christian Abbiati and Massimo Ambrosini were sidelined. Catania still had an outside chance of qualifying for Europe, but Mariano Andujar, Giuseppe Bellusci and Nicolas Burdisso were suspended.
There were Milan appeals for a handling offence after two minutes, but the ball ricocheted around to hit Nicola Legrottaglie’s arm, so it was considered involuntary. Serie A debutant Alberto Frison pushed a snapshot into the path of Riccardo Montolivo, but the move was ruined by an offside flag.
Balotelli came sliding in at the back post, just inches away from meeting Kevin-Prince Boateng’s ball across the six yard box. Super Mario drilled wide, then a last-ditch challenge stopped Mathieu Flamini volleying in from close range.
It was Catania who took the lead with their first real chance of the game. Francesco Lodi curled one of his trademark free kicks to find a glancing header from ex-Milan defender Legrottaglie at the back post, leaving Marco Amelia stranded.
Milan fought back and a stunning Boateng strike cracked against the crossbar, then as the move continued Frison parried from Antonio Nocerino at the base of the near post. There was a siege on Frison’s goal with several different shots charged down or beaten away in quick succession.
Balotelli’s fierce free kick was fingertipped over and Boateng nodded a corner off target, while Legrottaglie blocked off a Montolivo effort. Frison had his palms stung by a powerful Balotelli set piece and the pressure eventually paid off.
Boateng chested down an Ignazio Abate cross for Flamini, who volleyed an angled drive into the far bottom corner. It was the Frenchman’s third goal in as many games.
After the restart, Lodi cleared a Boateng header off the line and Frison palmed away an El Shaarawy daisy-cutter. The referee waved away timid penalty appeals for a Legrottaglie push on El Shaarawy, while Frison parried a Montolivo header from a corner at the near post.
Once again, Milan were in control without making an impact and Catania struck to take the lead. Mariano Izco’s slide-rule pass released Gonzalo Bergessio down the left and his cheeky lob beat Amelia into an empty net.
Giampaolo Pazzini came on for Nocerino and knocked down a cross for El Shaarawy to blast wide on the half-volley.
It proved a crucial substitution, as Balotelli’s screamer was beaten away by Frison into the path of Pazzini for a tap-in.
Moments later Milan had turned the game around completely, as this time El Shaarawy tested the goalkeeper and Pazzini was ready to follow it up into an empty net yet again.
It still wasn’t over, as Daniele Bonera lost Bergessio who turned over the bar from point-blank range on a Gomez assist.
In stoppages Balotelli went down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot for Izco’s trip. Super Mario got back up to convert the penalty with a juddering run-up, sending Frison the wrong way.
AC Milan: Amelia; Abate, Mexes, Bonera, De Sciglio; Flamini, Montolivo, Nocerino (Pazzini 67); Boateng (Niang 88), Balotelli, El Shaarawy (Muntari 80).
Vincenzo Montella concedes it was “the perfect Sunday” after Fiorentina’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria, but now awaits an extra gift from Milan.
The Viola temporarily moved into third place awaiting Milan-Catania this evening.
“It was the perfect Sunday,” smiled the Coach. “I was worried about this game, but the team and fans deserve praise. I also thank my old Sampdoria supporters for the warm welcome.
“I will sit down tonight in a very relaxed manner to watch Milan-Catania and enjoy the game. I don’t know what our chances are of Champions League qualification, but we certainly consolidated fourth place today. Then we’ll see.”
Adem Ljajic scored and created in the 3-0 victory against Delio Rossi, the Coach who was fired by Fiorentina after a dugout brawl.
“It was not easy for Ljajic, but he showed his maturity and growth both on the field and off. He focused only on playing, we are happy with him and he represents a treasure for the club.”
Clarence Seedorf is the main contender to replace Massimiliano Allegri on the Milan bench next season, claims La Gazzetta dello Sport.
It has been reported for some time that Allegri’s position is dependent on securing third place, valid for the Champions League preliminary round.
However, over the last few days the rumours suggest President Silvio Berlusconi is determined to sack Allegri regardless of the Serie A placement, especially as the Coach is already thought to be in talks with Roma.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport this morning, Berlusconi’s first choice for new tactician is Seedorf.
The Dutchman spent 10 years in the Milan midfield and left in the summer of 2012 to join Brazilian club Botafogo.
It would be a huge gamble to throw Seedorf right into the mix as head Coach of a Serie A giant, as he has no management experience.
The reports claim Vice-President Adriano Galliani resists the Seedorf idea, but that President Berlusconi is adamant he’s the right man for the job.
Mario Balotelli said the election of Italy’s first black Minister “represents another great step forward to a more responsible” and integrated country.
Today the new Government was put together by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, including Cecile Kyenge as the Minister for Integration.
“The nomination of Cecile Kyenge as Minister of Integration represents another great step forward towards an Italian society that is more civilised, more responsible and more aware of the necessity for a better and definitive integration between everyone.”
That was the statement released on the official Milan website on behalf of Balotelli.
Recently named in the Time 100 most influential people in the world, Balotelli is taking a greater interest in politics and the good work he can do to change Italian society.
Massimiliano Allegri insists his “future will not be decided” in the battle with Fiorentina for third place, but warns the match with Catania could be key.
The Rossoneri have seen their lead whittled down to just a single point, fuelling speculation President Silvio Berlusconi wants a change of management next season.
“It is very important that we have a point on Fiorentina, seeing as they are ahead of us in terms of head-to-head confrontations,” said Allegri in his Press conference.
“I would be happy from now to the end of the season if we earned exactly as many points as Fiorentina. They’ve had a great campaign, especially as last season they were fighting to avoid relegation. We’ll see at the end who is stronger.
“My future? We have third place to fight for, so I really don’t have time to consider other situations.
“We’ve done good work at Milan over the last three years. I don’t think my future will be decided in the next five games. Regardless of what I want to do, the President always makes the final decision.”
Mario Balotelli returns from suspension for the Sunday night clash with Catania, as Milan aim to end a run of two points from three rounds.
“I hope Mario can give us a hand, as since he arrived his presence has always been felt,” continued Allegri.
“In psychological terms, it would be very important for us to win. It won’t be easy, as Catania have always done well this season and still hope to reach the Europa League. I think tomorrow will be fundamental for third place.
“We have got to be more motivated than them. Catania are good on the counter, so we have to be wary. We made mistakes against Fiorentina, played with 10 men for most of the second half with Napoli and made one costly error in the defeat to Juventus.”
Vincenzo Montella revisits Sampdoria memories and feels Fiorentina have the upper hand over Milan “because we are disenchanted.”
The Viola are only one point shy of third place and the remaining rounds will be a huge battle for Champions League qualification.
“Milan are more prepared for certain races than we are, but our strength is that we are disenchanted,” argued Montella in his Press conference.
“We have less pressure on our shoulders, so if we are able to keep this detached attitude, then we can have our chances in this race. It will be a battle to the last round. We are aware of that and we are ready.
“I am not worried at having to depend on other results. We look forward and must try to consolidate our current position, then we’ll see what happens.”
The Sunday afternoon trip to Sampdoria is an emotional one all round. Not only does Montella face his former club, but Adem Ljajic takes on Delio Rossi for the first time since the then-Fiorentina Coach attacked him in the dug-out a year ago.
“There has always been a special rapport with Sampdoria and my return here at the end of my career was something irrational, but fuelled by my affection for the club. I always meet up with many old friends in Genoa.
“Samp currently know how to strike at the right time, so this is a game full of hidden dangers. As for Ljajic, he has to focus only on playing. There are many aspects to this match other than whether those two will shake hands.”
Stevan Jovetic is expected to start tomorrow, but Montella shot down reports Giuseppe Rossi could play against Palermo on May 12.
“Rossi is an extraordinary player who is going mad with the desire to play, but he hasn’t been on the field for two years and still hasn’t been on the end of a challenge or a game between ranks. Let’s be realistic.
“Jovetic is in good shape now and we expect the best from him.”
Fiorentina President Andrea Della Valle visited the squad to fire them up in the battle for third, “even if it will be difficult to overtake Milan.”
The Tuscans are only one point shy of third place, which is valid for the Champions League preliminary round.
They travel to Sampdoria on Sunday afternoon, click here for a match preview.
“Fiorentina will not give up to the very end, as we are already doing more than we had expected to this season,” said Della Valle.
“We’ll give it our all, even if it will be difficult to overtake Milan. There are regrets over the points we dropped along the way, most notably in the home defeat to Pescara, but now we must focus on the project that we’ve started.”
ADV was again asked about the future of Stevan Jovetic, who is a target for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Napoli and Juventus.
“You can talk about it as much as you like, because in the end the President decides...”
Tassotti: 'Every game is decisive' 27.4 ||webmaster
AC Milan assistant manager Mauro Tassotti has warned “every game is decisive” from now on as they battle Fiorentina for third place.
The Rossoneri have seen the gap whittled down to just one point, so the final five rounds of the season are like a mini-tournament for Champions League qualification.
“There are so few rounds left now that every game is decisive,” Tassotti told Milan Channel.
This weekend Milan welcome Catania while Fiorentina pay a visit to Sampdoria.
“Now we have two home matches and must try to pick up maximum points. They are not simple tests, as Catania might not have much more to ask from this season, but they have always played well and will want to end the campaign on a high.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to face Fiorentina, Napoli and Juventus in a row. Clearly we have the most regrets about the game in Florence, as with 35 minutes left we were 2-0 up and playing against 10 men.
“Even if there were some strange incidents that could’ve been evaluated differently, we shouldn’t have given them the chance to get back into the game. That is a mistake that forces us to fight to the bitter end.
“Still, we are one point in front and therefore know third place depends entirely on us. If our destiny is no longer in our hands, then we will start to worry more.”
Mario Balotelli has completed his two-match ban – which had originally been three, but reduced on appeal – and is set to start against Catania on Sunday evening.
“Mario is a very important player and proved that the moment he came into the team,” added Tassotti.
“Not having him for these two games was a heavy blow, even if Giampaolo Pazzini returned from injury. Having everyone at our disposal is better.”
Serie A: AC Milan vs. Catania - match preview 27.4 ||webmaster
AC Milan will be looking to get back to winning ways when they welcome Catania to San Siro on Sunday night.
Following such a strong run of results in 2013 that had the Rossoneri realistically eyeing second place, Massimiliano Allegri’s team have now gone three games without a win. They recently drew with Fiorentina – despite leading by two goals at half-time – before they once again surrendered a lead to Napoli while last weekend they were deservedly beaten by Juventus.
As a result, Milan have seen their chances of snatching second place dissipate and with La Viola sitting just one point behind them they are now in danger of missing out on a top three spot altogether which, of course, would mean no Champions League football next season. Speaking after his side’s lost to the Old Lady, Adriano Gallliani commented, “We must only think of the next five games. It is crucial for us that we keep hold of third place.”
The 2011 Scudetto winners will try and start doing so by going for all three points against Catania, but they will have to make do without captain Massimo Ambrosini and Christian Abbiati after the pair suffered injuries at Juventus stadium.
Cristian Zapata will also be unavailable through suspension. Yet, on the upside they will welcome back Mario Balotelli, whose cup tie in Europe diminished the Betfair Champions League odds for Milan, from his two-match suspension. The return of the enigmatic striker should bring back some of the spark that was severely lacking last weekend.
Like their hosts, Catania also head into this match off the back of some average results. The Sicilians have just one win in their last five outings.
Nevertheless, Rolando Maran’s side still retain hopes for European football next season with just five points separating them and Inter, who currently occupy the final spot for the Europa League. However, Maran will be forced to tinker with his side with a number of first team players unavailable.
Giuseppe Bellusci, Nicolas Spolli and Mariano Andujar are all suspended while Pablo Alvarez and Mariano Izco are all ruled out due to injury. Sergio Almiron and Marco Biaganti are fighting to be fit in time.
Keep an eye on: Mario Balotelli – After missing two games, Super Mario will be looking to make an immediate impact upon his return to the side. Since his arrival in January, he has fast become the Rossoneri’s most reliable goal-scorer with his seven goals in as many matches. With Giampaolo Pazzini likely to return to the bench and with Stephen El Shaarawy struggling to find the net this year, all eyes will be on Mario to do the business for Milan.
Form Guide: Milan (W W D D L) Catania (W L D D D)
Last season: Milan 1-0 Catania
Stat fact: Catania have not won this fixture since 2007
Kevin Prince Boateng says he won’t let racists force him out of Milan. “I want to stay here for some time to come.”
The Ghanaian has been targeted by racist chants and jeers this season, but the versatile midfielder has told the Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday that he will not quit the Diavolo.
“I’m happy in Milan and I see it as my home,” the 26-year-old stated. “I want to remain for a long time yet.
“I did think about leaving because of the racism and I’d even said ‘that’s enough, I’m going’. But that was down to the frustration and the heat of the moment.
“I’m really saddened that I still see and hear such things happening and you ask yourself why. But I don’t want a change of environment because of four or five idiots.”
Boateng famously walked off the pitch in a friendly against Pro Patria at the start of the year after being abused by a section of supporters. Juventus were then fined for racist chants after Milan’s visit to Turin last week.
“It is not my place to say what punishments should be handed out,” he continued. “The important thing is that the seriousness of it all is understood and that these idiots are stopped.”
Turning to matters on the field of play, the former Portsmouth man is confident that his side will finish the season in third.
“The Champions League without Milan is not the Champions League. You know it and I know it – we’ll take third. There is nothing more to say.”
Third-placed Milan are just one point ahead of Fiorentina with five games left this season.
Luciano Spalletti brushed off reports of a job offer from Milan. “My return to Italy is impossible, as I am staying with Zenit.”
The former Roma and Udinese Coach had been linked with Massimiliano Allegri’s bench by Italian papers this week.
“My return to Italy is impossible,” he told Sky Sport Italia this afternoon.
“I am staying with Zenit. Of course, if the club decides to get rid of me, then that’s another matter. I see Allegri at Milan next season and Aurelio Andreazzoli staying with Roma. I think they are the right Coaches.
“I also feel Fiorentina are going to really torture Milan in the fight for third place this term. I am pleased to see the Viola playing such good football and climbing up the table, as they set a positive example.”
The Champions League looks set for an all-German Final at Wembley, as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both put four goals past Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
“The results are a bit exaggerated, but German football was already exploding on to the scene two years ago,” argued Spalletti.
“When I had time off, I went to see a few games in Germany and you could see they were transferring the enthusiasm of the crowd on to the pitch. The stadiums are always full and the people celebrate even when they lose.
“Their style also reminds me of the great Ajax, as there are no precise roles. Every player can do everything. It is a philosophy that can be exported.”
Amelia demands win versus Catania 25.4 ||webmaster
Marco Amelia has some regrets about Milan’s games against Fiorentina and Juventus, but he’s called for a win versus Catania this weekend.
The Rossoneri have picked up just two points from their last three ties after draws with the Viola and Napoli were followed by a 1-0 defeat in Turin.
“We maybe could have done a little more and the game against Fiorentina certainly made it harder for us,” the goalkeeper told Milan Channel after his club let a two-goal lead slip in Tuscany.
“The game against Juve could have finished in a draw, but we are still ahead of Fiorentina in the table and we will try to defend our third place because we owe it to ourselves, especially after the start we had this season.
“We have to return to winning ways against Catania on Sunday, we have to show desire in order to take home all three points and keep Fiorentina at a safe distance.”
Milan, who are now just a point clear of Fiorentina, will have Mario Balotelli back in the side after his two-match ban.
“We have some excellent strikers,” the 2006 World Cup winner noted. “Mario is world class, he is above average and it is great to have him here and use him in crucial games.
“We have to have the mental strength to not throw it all away because a third place finish is very important for Milan.
“We have to make the most of the rest of the season to reach our goal. We have to train hard and stay focused.
“I hope that Milan can win all remaining five games, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
Amelia is set to start in goal this weekend as Christian Abbiati is struggling with injury.
AC Milan swap Emanuelson for Dutch pair? 24.4 ||webmaster
Robinho warns Milan “can’t make any more mistakes” this season, as they are only one point clear in third place.
The Rossoneri suffered their first defeat of 2013, capitulating 1-0 to Juventus on Sunday, so Fiorentina are now right behind them in the race for a Champions League spot.
“Our objective is to play in the Champions League next season, so the next five games are decisive and to prepare as best we can, we need to work even harder,” he told Milan Channel.
“We can’t make any more mistakes, starting from the next home match against Catania. We must do even better, especially as we are playing in front of our home fans.
“I hope to be decisive for Milan, even if the team needs a contribution from everyone. I really care about the next five rounds, so hope I can reach 100 per cent of my physical and technical condition.”
Juventus have reacted to the news that they have been fined €30,000 after a section of their supporters racially abused Kevin-Prince Boateng.
A group of fans were heard chanting at the Rossoneri midfielder during Sunday's Serie A clash.
But the Bianconeri have insisted that they entirely against any type of discrimination.
A statement on their official website read: “Juventus Football Club reminds its fans and the media that it is heavily involved in projects dedicated to integration and is against any form of racism or discrimination. In fact, the club works very closely with the UNESCO Centre in Turin and, with the support of UNESCO, has conducted its third edition of 'Un calcio al razzismo' (Kick Out Racism), and its first edition of 'Gioca con me' (Play with me). Both projects took place on Thursday 21 March in celebration of the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”.
“The club’s stance is reiterated before every home match. This commitment cannot therefore be up for debate simply because of the actions of single or groups of spectators which are highlighted by the intense media attention that football receives. Such behaviour does not represent the position of the club, its millions of fans or even the vast majority of spectators at Juventus Stadium, which is something unique in Italian football.
“This statement is not in any way intended to contest the decision of the sporting judge, on the contrary, it has to be interpreted as support, because such behaviour at Juventus Stadium should also be punished elsewhere with the same accuracy and co-operation from clubs.”
Juventus have been fined €30,000 after a section of their fans were heard chanting racist abuse during Sunday's match against Milan.
Some of the Bianconeri supporters were seen directing racial chants at Rossoneri man Kevin-Prince Boateng during yesterday's Serie A clash.
As such, League officials have fined the Turin club for their fans conduct.
It is not the first time the midfielder has been subjected to such abuse this season – earlier in the campaign during a friendly with Pro Patria, the former Ghana international left the field of play after monkey noises were aimed at him.
Parma and Milan have sent their condolences to Roberto Donadoni after the tactician’s father passed away.
“President Tommaso Ghirardi, general manager Pietro Leonardi, the management, coaching staff and employees of Parma FC are with Coach Donadoni in the moment of mourning over the loss of his father Ercole and express their deepest condolences to him and his family,” read a note on the club’s website.
Milan, who Donadoni played for in the 1980s and 1990s, also published a message on their official site.
It said: “The whole of Milan football club would like to send out our most heart felt condolences to our dear friend Roberto Donadoni and all his family following the death of his father Ercole Donadoni.”
Galliani: It should have been 0-0 22.4 ||webmaster
Antonio Conte concedes Juventus are closing on the Scudetto and pointed out there could “be no doubts over the penalty” to beat Milan.
Thanks to tonight’s 1-0 result, the Bianconeri need only four points from the remaining five rounds to secure the title.
“I think there can be no doubts over the penalty which decided a balanced game where we struggled a great deal,” the Coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“Milan were unbeaten in the second half of the season and we travelling up the table. I must applaud my lads for the victory over a great team. We weren’t happy with a draw and I know full well that stepping on to the field choosing between two results risks doing damage.
“Napoli had put us under a bit of pressure and we wanted to immediately break away again at the top. This is our sixth consecutive victory, but it is not yet the Scudetto winner.
“The players keep asking me how many pieces are left in the puzzle. Well, this was a big step forward. We want to finish the job as soon as possible so we can relax a little at the end of a hard season. I am concentrated on the target, because it would be extraordinary to win a second consecutive Scudetto and I’m very happy with the way the lads have performed.
“Seal it in next week’s Turin Derby? I don’t care where, when or against who, the important thing is that we secure the Scudetto. We know the dangers the derby holds, but step on to the field with the same hunger for success that the Granata will have.”
Conte was again asked about the so-called ‘top player’ for next season, which the latest reports have again pointed to Luis Suarez after today’s biting scandal.
“The economic debate is inevitable when planning for the future. It’s not easy to win when keeping the purse strings tight, so at the end of the season we’ll try to make do and evaluate all the situations to plan our best future.”
Allegri: 'No pressure on AC Milan' 22.4 ||webmaster
Massimiliano Allegri gave credit to Juventus for their defending tonight and insisted Milan “must not feel pressure” after Fiorentina closed the gap to one point.
The Rossoneri suffered their first defeat of 2013, but with two points from three rounds now have only the most slender of leads in third place.
“The lads put in a good performance, allowing little and controlling the ball,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium after a 1-0 defeat in Turin.
“We conceded on a penalty, but have to stay calm and pick up as many points as possible to maintain our advantage. We must not feel pressure looking at other results, as we already know that we have to pick up points regardless of what the other teams do.”
Milan used Robinho, Stephan El Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini and Kevin-Prince Boateng together, but barely troubled Gigi Buffon.
“El Shaarawy played well, especially in the first half, then Juventus closed us down and allowed very few spaces.
“Robinho did well last Sunday against Napoli, but today he sacrificed himself on the right and it’s only normal he’d struggle after such a long time out.
“Juventus defended very well and lately we are having difficulty creating chances in the final third. So far we have done, including against Juventus, so there is everything to suggest we’ll have a different campaign next year.”
Allegri was asked if he will still be on the bench at San Siro for 2013-14.
“We’ll see. I don’t want to talk about that now. Besides, I already have a contract, so I am happy to stay here.”
Serie A: Juventus 1:0 AC Milan - match report 21.4 ||webmaster
Arturo Vidal’s perfect penalty gave Juventus victory over an uninspired Milan, putting them closer to the title and leaving the Rossoneri only one point clear of Fiorentina in third. Juve now need four points from the last five rounds to clinch the championship.
Last season this was a Scudetto showdown, but this time round the Rossoneri were pushing to challenge Napoli for second place and aiming to stay clear of Fiorentina in fourth. Mario Balotelli and Mathieu Flamini sat out bans, but Massimo Ambrosini returned from injury. Stephan El Shaarawy was back in the starting XI after he was surprisingly dropped against Napoli, but Kevin-Prince Boateng moved into midfield to make way for Giampaolo Pazzini and Robinho. Juve had Giorgio Chiellini after an ankle injury, though Sebastian Giovinco, Nicolas Anelka and Simone Pepe were sidelined. Once again, Claudio Marchisio acted as support striker so there was room for Paul Pogba.
Andrea Pirlo almost opened the scoring against his former club, as a free kick took a deflection off the wall and Christian Abbiati changed direction to palm it off the line. The goalkeeper hurt his knee during that move and after a while limped off to make way for Marco Amelia. This was the fifth time in three seasons Abbiati had to be substituted due to injury.
An acrobatic Pogba overhead kick from Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross whistled wide, then Ambrosini pounced on a Pirlo error only to drill off target. Robinho also hit the side-netting after Mirko Vucinic gave possession away.
Another Pirlo free kick went over the wall, but into Amelia’s arms, while Vucinic was just unable to get a touch to Lichtsteiner’s assist as he came sliding in.
Ambrosini also needed treatment with a strong bandage applied to his ankle before the break, as injuries were beginning to take their toll on the Milan squad. Sulley Muntari replaced the captain for the second half, as the armband want to Riccardo Montolivo.
Chiellini nodded over from a corner and a deflected Marchisio strike was smothered by Amelia, while Philippe Mexes pushed forward and fired straight at Buffon. Cristian Zapata used his strength to prevent Vucinic pulling the trigger from a defence-splitting pass.
Just shy of the hour mark, Ignazio Abate let a pass go through so Kwadwo Asamoah burst into the box and Amelia rushed off his line, clattering into the Ghanaian for a clear penalty. Arturo Vidal stepped up and placed a perfect spot-kick into the top corner.
Pogba nodded a corner over the bar and then set up Vucinic for a shot that Mexes crucially charged down. A dangerous Pirlo cross was not cleared effectively, but Chiellini couldn’t quite get it out from under his feet. From that corner, Leonardo Bonucci shinned a volley into Amelia’s arms.
A fine Boateng run down the right saw him roll the ball across for Pazzini, but Bonucci got there first to prevent the tap-in. Muntari’s snapshot and a swerving Montolivo long-range effort were smothered by Buffon.
Mexes fired wide from a free kick, but Pazzini had been flagged offside anyway, while Montolivo’s angled drive was again easy pickings for Buffon. These attempts summed up Milan’s performance, as they had 58% of possession in Turin, but barely troubled the goalkeeper.
AC Milan assistant manager Mauro Tassotti expects “a balanced encounter” at the Juventus Stadium this evening.
“We need to play well tonight. It is going to be an important match for both teams, as they are close to the Scudetto, while it is also crucial for us to keep hold of third place,” said Tassotti.
“We met recently in the Coppa Italia, but the games have always been very balanced and I expected another balanced encounter this evening.”
Earlier this season Milan beat Juventus 1-0 in Serie A with a dubious penalty, then the Bianconeri won 2-1 in extra time for the Coppa Italia quarter-final in January.
Mario Balotelli and Mathieu Flamini are suspended, but Robinho, Giampaolo Pazzini, Robinho and Kevin-Prince Boateng start together.
“El Shaarawy has been a very important player for this team for three quarters of the campaign, but it can happen that every now and then someone can sit on the bench. Things need to be understood,” added Tassotti.
Ahead of tonight’s clash with Juventus, Sulley Muntari cant help thinking back to his infamous ‘phantom’ goal that wasn’t given last year for Milan.
The ball had clearly crossed the line before Gigi Buffon batted it back out, but the officials waved play on and the Scudetto showdown ended 1-1 in February.
“Of course I’d love to score against Juventus,” he told the Corriere dello Sport. “I haven’t found the net this season, but the important thing is to win tonight.
“I don’t look back over that goal with irritation, as this is part of football. If something irritates you, it means you don’t want to keep going. I don’t believe it would’ve been decisive in the title race. It’s true, we would’ve gone ahead in the table, but Juventus were stronger last season and they deserved the Scudetto.”
Milan were in the race then, but this time around they are 15 points behind Juventus in third place.
“Drawing twice in a row hasn’t hit our confidence. We are continuing the ‘hunt’ for second place right to the end, as we are completing a great comeback,” continued Muntari.
“Next year we have to win after this season of reconstruction. The team will be stronger and more mature. We do lack determination, though, as that is what the champions who left had in their eyes. Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso always fired us up.
“We could’ve done something more this term, but Juventus are again putting in a great campaign. They are such a strong and united side who make you suffer.
“However, our young players have grown up and are getting the right mentality. All together we know what we can do and that we can win, including against Juventus.”
Muntari wasn’t there for the start of the campaign, as he snapped a knee ligament while on vacation.
“I will never get over that, as I was playing beach soccer with my friends when it happened. I certainly didn’t injure myself on purpose! It’s true Adriano Galliani was furious when he found out how I’d done it.”
Antonio Conte knows Milan “want to prove they are as strong” as Juventus, shakes off ‘provincial’ thinking and explains it’s hard work being a great motivator.
The leaders welcome the Rossoneri in a prestigious clash on Sunday evening.
Today Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani said his team is “not inferior to Juve,” and Conte does not entirely disagree.
“He is right, but the strongest squad on paper doesn’t always win. The statistics and history books tell us in the last two years the Rossoneri didn’t happen to win,” said the Coach.
It has been said that Juventus are eager to beat Milan in order to force them into a Champions League preliminary round or potentially even kick them down to the Europa League.
“Our only motivation is to earn the three points so we can get even closer to the Scudetto. We have no pleasure in making Milan finish third, as it is provincial to think about your opponents that way. We must look only at our own situation.
“It won’t be easy to win, as Milan are as strong as we are and want to prove it. They are working well, because it wasn’t easy to rebuild and replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva.”
Milan won the last Serie A meeting 1-0 earlier this season with an incorrectly-awarded penalty.
“It was a very strange game, as Milan weren’t coming from a great period of form and it was decided by a dubious incident. They attacked us from the start and we reacted too late, so deserved to lose. That match sparked Milan’s rebirth.
“Against Lazio I felt it important to use all four midfielders and the 3-5-1-1 system is the only one that allows that. A good Coach adapts his ideas to the players at his disposal. If I wanted to return to my old 4-2-4 system, then I’d have to revamp the squad and get players suited to that shape.
“It is not important how many strikers you have on the field, but how many players you get into the opposition penalty area. I changed the 4-2-4 originally because Arturo Vidal was so good he couldn’t be dropped. I am in a similar situation now with Paul Pogba.
“Giorgio Chiellini trained with the side yesterday and seems to be in decent shape. We’ll see, but if he is fit then obviously Chiellini will play. He is an exceptional defender and if he’s fit then I very rarely leave him out.”
Andrea Pirlo is releasing his autobiography in which he reveals Conte often throws plastic water bottles at the locker room wall at half-time, even when they are winning.
“It is true, I sometimes get angry even during a victory. If there are constructive and convincing victories, then I’m happy. At times a win arrives with luck or other people’s mistakes, so those results leave you with three points, but also regret and anger.
“If a Coach were to be happy in these situations, then it would be bad for the team, because it’d prepare them for other defeats.
“A Coach in the 21st Century cannot be wrapped up only in tactical discussions, but must also be a motivator. He has to press the right buttons and find the best way to confront every individual. Some players might need a nice compliment, while others have to be challenged with toughness.
“It is not easy to get inside the mind of every player, considering a squad has at least 25. A good Coach spends his time studying and keeping up to date with every aspect, because he wants to become the best.
“Every Coach has his own mentality. I hope that mine is a winning mentality. The statistics and our consistency suggest that is the case.”
Allegri: 'El Shaarawy starts with Juventus' 20.4 ||webmaster
Massimiliano Allegri confirmed Stephan El Shaarawy will start against Juventus tomorrow night and insists he was right to let Andrea Pirlo leave Milan.
The two giants go head-to-head at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening.
While Mario Balotelli is banned, Massimo Ambrosini, Ignazio Abate and Kevin-Prince Boateng return from injury and El Shaarawy is restored after being sensationally dropped against Napoli.
“Ambrosini is a player of great experience and it is important to have him on the field in games like this,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“I was not courageous in leaving El Shaarawy on the bench. It was a technical choice and I would do it again. I think he had a great season with real intensity and important moments, so being on the bench for one game doesn’t change anything in terms of how I see the lad.
“There was no El Shaarawy ‘problem,’ and by stirring up this controversy the media is making it seem as if Robinho didn’t deserve to play. In any case, I can confirm El Shaarawy will start tomorrow.
“We didn’t play badly in Florence, but now have to pick up as many points as possible to reach the Champions League, either via the play-offs in third place or directly in second. Now we need to stay in Napoli’s slipstream and keep Fiorentina behind us.
“Juventus are well organised and want to reach the Scudetto as quickly as possible, so it is going to be an important match for both teams. It will take a great performance from either side to get the better of the other.
“Juve are the strongest team in Serie A, as they are top of the table and have a big advantage over second, so that shows the difference between the Old Lady and the others.”
Antonio Conte has been reshuffling his pack recently, using Claudio Marchisio as a support striker so he can use Paul Pogba in midfield.
“I don’t know if they’ll play with one or two strikers. The Bianconeri want to win in order to take revenge on us for when we beat them earlier this season.
“My future? I will only say the club has given me a great deal and I have a good rapport with Adriano Galliani. The growth of the squad has been phenomenal in recent months and the club also takes credit for that.”
Balotelli is suspended, but surprised many by opting against going to New York for the Time 100 gala after he was named one of the most influential people in the world, as it would interfere with his training schedule.
“I want to underline the wonderful and very professional choice Balotelli made,” added Allegri. “Since he has been at Milan, he has behaved very well, it’s just that anything he does hits the headlines.”
Juventus star Pirlo is set to release his autobiography and essentially blames Allegri for pushing him out of Milan after 10 years.
“At times when you put together a team, you have to evaluate many different situations,” responded the Coach.
“Nobody can put Andrea’s qualities in doubt and it seems to me that he proved as much at Juventus as he did at Milan.”
Pirlo: 'AC Milan, Juventus and Conte' 20.4 ||webmaster
Andrea Pirlo has written an autobiography, which covers his Milan leaving gift, how he nearly returned to Inter and dodging bottles thrown by ‘viper’ Antonio Conte.
The midfielder is set to publish his book, titled ‘I think, therefore I play,’ and La Gazzetta dello Sport published some extracts today.
Pirlo reveals he was less than impressed with his parting gift from Milan – a Cartier pen with the club symbol on it.
“A lovely pen, but still a pen. Filled with banal blue ink. Adriano Galliani told me ‘Make sure you don’t use that to sign a new contract with Juventus.’ At least he got the joke right.
“As a goodbye gift I expected something more than that perfect comic timing. My 10 years of Milan, gone like that. I smiled anyway.
“It was a mutual decision to leave, as I did not want to risk suffering from boredom. That is why I was disappointed at the end of that final meeting, but only to the right degree. So was Galliani.”
Pirlo also wrote about the fact Massimiliano Allegri wanted to move him to the left side of midfield rather than in front of the defence.
“I still thought I could give my best there. A fish breathes when it is in deep water. It makes do when near the surface, but it’s not the same thing.
“We never discussed money that afternoon in the spring of 2011. Never. In those 30 minutes, we didn’t broach the subject of economics with Galliani. I just wanted to be considered important, at the centre of a project and not a player heading for the scrap yard.”
He had joined Inter as an Under-21 international, but reveals then-Coach Leonardo tried to bring him back there when his contract expired with Milan in 2011.
“He told me great things about Inter, how happy and fired up he was. It could’ve been a great challenge to go back where I had already been, to cross the city after 10 consecutive years at Milan, nine of which had been extraordinary.
“Leonardo could’ve helped me with that, if he hadn’t gone to Paris Saint-Germain a few weeks later. I couldn’t do it, though. It would’ve been really too much and the Milan fans did not deserve an affront like that.”
Pirlo also considered an offer from Roma, but was “suspicious” when the new American owners wouldn’t go into detail about the kind of team they were building.
“I have dealt with many Coaches in my career, but Conte is the one who surprised me the most. He needed just one speech, with many simple words, to conquer both me and Juventus. We arrived together on the Planet Juventus.
“He presented himself to us on the first day of pre-season training in the gym at Bardonecchia. He already had fire running through his veins and moved like a viper. ‘This squad, dear lads, is coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes. It’s crazy. Shocking. I am not here for this, so it’s time to stop being crap.’
“If Arrigo Sacchi was a genius, then what is he? I expected him to be great, but not that great. I thought of a Coach with a lot of grit and charisma, but instead I discovered he has much to teach his colleagues in terms of tactics and technique.
“Going back, there is one thing I wouldn’t do again – choose the locker right next to Gigi Buffon at the Juventus Stadium, the one in front of the door,” wrote Pirlo.
“It is the most dangerous spot in Turin, especially at half-time. Conte storms in and – even when we are winning – throws anything he can get his hands on towards the wall, which is my spot. He’ll throw anything he can find, almost always plastic bottles full of water. Very fizzy water.
“He becomes a beast and is never happy, as there is always some detail that isn’t perfect and he can see in advance what could happen over the next 45 minutes.
“One time we were losing to Milan and he couldn’t get over it. ‘Against them! I can’t understand how we can’t be beating them! They even play badly.’”
It remains to be seen what Conte will be saying at half-time on Sunday evening when Juventus welcome Milan to Turin.
Galliani: 'AC Milan not inferior to Juventus' 20.4 ||webmaster
Adriano Galliani stokes the fires of tomorrow night’s Juventus-Milan by insisting “our squad is not inferior to theirs. If it weren’t for that bad start...”
The two giants go head-to-head in Turin on Sunday evening. There is a 15-point gap between them in the Serie A table, but Vice-President Galliani sees it a different way.
“I would like to underline the 15-point gap has been steady after Week 8. That means for 24 rounds we have been picking up the same number of points as the Bianconeri,” Galliani told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Our squad is not inferior to theirs, as we have been on a par with them for three-quarters of the campaign. I’d say there is absolutely no quality gap that we must bridge.
“If next season Milan and Juve started with the same squads as today, you can be confident in the first eight games we wouldn’t fall 15 points behind.”
Galliani also explained away Milan’s disastrous start to the season and finishing behind Juventus last term by looking up more statistics.
“The competitive nature of a club can only be gauged over a long period. This is why I worked out an all-Italian ranking system that shows over the last five years Milan have had more points than anyone else.
“Tomorrow Juventus will try to win and so will well, as for the last two years we’ve been battling to the bitter end. Whatever the result with Juve, it remains a stratospheric 2013 for Milan and Max Allegri is maintaining his usual standards.”
There are continuing reports that Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who Milan sold to PSG only a year ago – could be heading back to Serie A for Juventus.
“He is a great professional and it was a pity to let him go, but certain wages are not compatible with Milan. In any case, players are professionals and so I wouldn’t be irritated to see him with another club.”
Stephan El Shaarawy said Massimiliano Allegri “is like a father to me,” pledged his future to Milan and revealed how long he takes to do his hair.
The striker answered fans’ questions on a Google Hangout hosted by Milan’s official website today.
“I have an excellent rapport with Allegri. Right from last year, he was like a father to me. He is a great person, as he gives me advice on my football and helped form me as a man. I am grateful to him.
“In order to remain at certain levels, you need to make sacrifices and work hard. I do that with pleasure, because being a football player is the best job in the world and I know how far I can go.”
El Shaarawy has been repeatedly linked with offers from Napoli, Liverpool. Arsenal and Manchester City, but is a lifelong Rossoneri supporter.
“I want to stay with Milan for many years and make history with this club. In order to achieve that I need the utmost commitment, humility and to give all of myself. I am going through a good season, but I have so much more to learn.
“There is no food I cannot resist, so I control my diet well. I care about my image and my physique too, so I am very careful. In my spare time I watch TV or go on the Playstation, while I like hanging out with my brother.”
Naturally, the Little Pharaoh was asked about his famous hairstyle.
“I know how to do it now, so it only takes about 10 minutes. Image is something that counts a lot for me.”
It has been said that El Shaarawy suffers when playing alongside Mario Balotelli, who is suspended for Sunday’s game against Juventus.
“It’s not true that we are incompatible, as I absolutely can play with Balotelli. As for Juve, it won’t be easy as they are very strong and having a great season. We really want the three points and must keep the tempo up.”
'Balotelli can influence society' 18.4 ||webmaster
Agent Mino Raiola is again stirring up controversy, as he said “never say never” to Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Italy for Inter, Milan or Juventus.
The rumours were sparked by reports today that the PSG striker had bought a new house in Milan.
“Is Ibrahimovic’s future in Paris? Today yes, but perhaps tomorrow no,” Raiola told La Repubblica this evening.
“In football everything is possible, so I don’t close the door on anything. Never say never...
“He is happy in Paris and Paris Saint-Germain are happy with him, so I don’t see any reason to leave. Then again, Ibra was happy at Milan and then went to PSG...
“I think it is almost impossible for a return to Italy. If he does return, then there are two or three clubs who could sign him: Milan, Inter and Juve. There are also clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea around.
“If he leaves PSG, will Serie A be in pole position? Ibrahimovic has never hidden the fact Italy is in his heart. It is his second home.”
Andrea Barzagli acknowledges there is a lot at stake in Juventus-Milan this Sunday. “We’re chasing the Scudetto, while they’re aiming for Champions League qualification.”
The giants go head-to-head at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening and it is first against third in Serie A.
“Both us and Milan are in need of points. We’re chasing the Scudetto, while they’re aiming for Champions League qualification. It won’t be easy, but we’re preparing well,” the 31-year-old told Sport Mediaset.
The game after that, the Turin Derby, will see Barzagli mark his 100th appearance in the Bianconeri jersey.
“I’m very happy, it’s pleasing to be able to play as much as I do. Reaching 100 appearances for such a prestigious club is a real source of pride.
“The last few years have been the best of my career in terms of consistency. There was a time when my performance levels tended to fluctuate more.
Ever since I started playing I’ve never thought about scoring, preferring instead to focus on stopping the opposition. I’m not particularly talented going forward… all that matters is that my team-mates find the target.”
Balotelli in Time 100 influential people 18.4 ||webmaster
Mario Balotelli is in the Time list of 100 most influential people for 2013 as an ‘Icon,’ with Gianfranco Zola writing his dedication entry. “People think he’s a madman, but he isn’t.”
The story had been reported last month, but has only become official today when Time released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Italy and Milan striker Balotelli is included under the section marked ‘Icons’ along with the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi, Michelle Obama, Daniel Day-Lewis and Beyoncé.
“Mario has all the qualities to be a top player: power and athleticism, alongside a good understanding of the game — all positive,” wrote Watford manager Zola in Time magazine.
“I worked with Mario for a short period with Italy’s Under-21 side. I liked him straight away. I liked the way he handled himself and his composure and calmness in situations. Mario could shrug off things happening around him. Only the big players have that calm.
“Mario can play the big games and handle the crucial moments, but he needs to keep control. That is vital for him.
“From afar, people may think he’s a madman, but he isn’t. Mario is a lovely guy, very humble and very funny. I can assure people he has always been a pleasure to deal with.
“He has returned to Italy from England as the main man with lots of attention. Now he has to ensure he keeps control and keeps focus. Mario loves the pressure, but to succeed, it is about finding balance.”
Referee Gianluca Rocchi has hit back at critics, explaining it is “hurtful to hear people say we are not in good faith.”
The officials were lambasted over the past couple of weeks, particularly by Inter, as President Massimo Moratti declared he no longer believed they were making errors in good faith.
“It is really hurtful to hear people say the referees are not in good faith,” Rocchi told Sky Sport Italia.
“It is absurd to think we make mistakes because of something that goes beyond a simple error. The referee steps on to the field to do his best, hoping he won’t end up favouring either of the two teams.”
Rocchi officiated Milan-Napoli on Sunday night and flashed a straight red card at Mathieu Flamini for a two-footed tackle on Juan Camilo Zuniga, but the Frenchman received only a one-match ban.
“He apologised to everyone, even to the referees. He didn’t want to hurt the player, but it was a very clumsy challenge.”
The Disciplinary Commission has chosen not to punish Cagliari striker Mauricio Pinilla for unsporting behaviour even after he confessed to “diving” against Inter.
Many expected the Chilean to be handed a two-match ban after he earned a penalty in the 2-0 victory over the Nerazzurri on Sunday.
“I controlled the ball and changed direction in the box, then when I felt the touch of course I dived,” confessed Pinilla on Sky Sport Italia.
“Whenever you get touched in the box, it is always a penalty, it’s just that the striker has to be smart to earn it.”
Today the Disciplinary Commission released its reasoning for the decision not to punish Pinilla, explaining video evidence showed “there was effectively contact between the two players, as their left knees collided.
“It was a contact of dubious regularity and very small, the effects of which were accentuated by Pinilla due to a habit (correction, bad habit) that is seen by many and varied players on a weekly basis.
“It is therefore conduct that should be criticised, but not the kind that can be called ‘evident simulation’ as in the rules of the spot, as Pinilla’s obvious fall to the ground was still correlated to an initial physical contact with the opponent.
“We cannot evaluate with certainty what effects that contact had, to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Disciplinary Commission has decided not to take any action against Pinilla.”
It turns out that Pinilla is suspended for this weekend’s game anyway, as he picked up his eighth yellow card of the season.
Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini also received only a one-match ban for his red card against Napoli. Like Esteban Cambiasso a couple of weeks ago, he was given the benefit of the doubt as the foul was down to poor control rather than intentionally trying to harm an opponent.
Meanwhile, Lazio have been fined €30,000 for racist chanting and the use of laser pens during the 2-0 home defeat to Juventus, plus the exhibition of a banner insulting to UEFA President Michel Platini.
Juventus were fined €5,000 for throwing bottles and Roma fined €5,000 for the use of smoke bombs.
AC Milan and Inter make Kondogbia bids 16.4 ||webmaster
AC Milan and Inter have already submitted bids for Sevilla midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, according to reports in Spain.
AS have claimed that the Rossoneri have tabled a bid of €12m for the French youngster, whilst the Nerazzurri have put down €10m as a 30 per cent deposit for a future deal.
The San Siro sides will have to fight off interest from Real Madrid however, who are believed to have made an offer of their own, and also have Raphael Varane at their disposal – a close friend of Kondogbia.
The 20-year-old has been virtually ever-present for the Rojiblancos this season, playing in 25 League games, scoring one goal.
Boateng on fitness and Juventus clash 16.4 ||webmaster
AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng has insisted he will be fit enough to face Juventus this weekend.
The 26-year-old limped out of the Rossoneri's 1-1 draw with Napoli last Sunday, but the former Ghana international has claimed he will be fit to play the Bianconeri, whilst also making reference to Sulley Muntari's 'ghost goal' against Antonio Conte's men last season.
“I am fine,” he told Milan Channel. “At first I thought the damage would be greater, but today I feel a lot better and hopefully I'll be available against Juve.
“We are still there or thereabouts and we want to finish second – and to do that we have to win in Turin.
“The matches against Juventus are always special – there is no need to talk them up further.
“This time we'll kick the ball harder in order to make it clear for everyone that the ball has crossed the line.”
El Shaarawy respects boss Allegri 16.4 ||webmaster
Stephan El Shaarawy insists his relationship with Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri is still strong despite his omission from the starting XI at the weekend.
The 20-year-old was surprisingly benched for the San Siro showdown against Napoli, despite being the club’s top scorer this term.
“It was a decision taken by the Coach and I fully respect it, like I have always respected substitutions in the past,” the Italian international told Milan Channel.
“He has given me lots of confidence and shown a lot of belief in me, so there is no problem whatsoever. I respect his choices and, in the game against Napoli, he preferred to start with Robinho.
“There is no problem between the Coach and I, we have a good relationship and we always have had. I am relaxed, I have done well until now and I just want to keep improving.”
The former Padova and Genoa player made a blistering start to the season, but goals have dried up in recent months.
“The arrival of Mario Balotelli hasn't changed things that much,” he added. “As a team we still create chances, but I am a little less clinical in front of goal – but that is because I sacrifice myself for the team.
“I am happy with what I have done over the last few months and I want to help the team as much as possible.”
El Shaarawy has scored 16 goals in 31 League games this term.
Adriano Galliani is satisfied with Milan’s 1-1 draw with Napoli – even if it has complicated their bid to finish the season in second.
Milan were looking to move to within a point of the second-placed Azzurri last night, but the four-point gap remains intact.
“I’m happy about the result especially after we went down to 10 men,” the Vice-President told Milan Channel.
“It was a tough and complicated game and I’m content with the point. The team were competitive and if we played like this against Fiorentina last week then maybe we would have won that match.
“It was a tough game,” he added. “Napoli are a great team otherwise they wouldn’t be in this position. In three rounds, we were up against fourth, second and now we’ll be up against the top team as well.
“I think that the draw was the right result, we knew that we’d have a tough April and it’s an important point that allows us to stay in third ahead of the next round.
“We’re in a position that a few months ago would have been unthinkable. It’s mid-April and we’re unbeaten in 2013 so we should be happy about that. The team are playing really good football.”
Milan, after a summer of major squad changes, started the season with five defeats in their first eight games.
“We’re a good team and we have had to change 10 of the outfield players. Changing the team in such a complete way, we knew it would take time and we had to be patient.
“Now we’re back to the level of playing one game a week. Regardless of what happens in Turin against Juventus next week, Milan will still be in third place.”
Flamini: 'I wanted to prove myself' 15.4 ||webmaster
Massimiliano Allegri insists Milan should be content to consolidate third place and explains why he dropped Stephan El Shaarawy in the 1-1 draw with Napoli.
There were many raised eyebrows when the Little Pharaoh was benched for tonight’s game, especially as Mario Balotelli was suspended.
“Nobody can play an entire season at the top level,” argued the Coach. “In the last few rounds he had dipped in psychological terms.
“He is only 20 years old and has already scored many goals, which is precisely why he needs to be dealt with in the best way possible. Those who replaced him did very well tonight. Robinho played a good game and can be of great use to us for the rest of the season, as he is a champion.
“We can improve, as tonight we were missing sharpness, but this season have done so well to complete a great comeback.”
This weekend’s results put Milan four points adrift of Napoli in second and four clear of Fiorentina in fourth.
“Napoli are a side capable of defending second place and this is an important point for us, because we maintain a certain distance from Fiorentina.
“I cannot ask for more from my lads, because we played very well even after going down to 10 men. The game where we got it all wrong was against Fiorentina, but this evening we could not have done any more.
“Football is unpredictable, so we will look over our shoulders, but also in front to Napoli. In any case, third place is a great objective considering how we started the season.”
Mathieu Flamini was hero and villain, scoring and seeing red, as Milan were pegged back 1-1 by Napoli at San Siro.
This was a head-to-head for second place and therefore the automatic entry into the Champions League, as only four points separated the teams going in. Mario Balotelli began a three-match ban for insulting the officials, while Bojan Krkic and Massimo Ambrosini were injured, so Giampaolo Pazzini returned from a micro-fracture to his fibula. Stephan El Shaarawy was surprisingly dropped in favour of Robinho, perhaps due to a knee twinge. Napoli had a full squad to choose from, but had beaten Milan only once in their last nine meetings home and away. Their last win at San Siro was in April 1986, followed by 10 defeats and nine draws between Serie A and Coppa Italia.
Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli was in the stands along with former Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko. A large banner read: ‘Even when the sky is dark, the sun shines on San Siro.’ There was also footage on the San Siro giant screens before kick-off of Claudio Lippi, the Milan Channel journalist who died in a car crash last week, bringing a tear to the eye of several players.
After just four minutes the Rossoneri had a great chance, as Kevin-Prince Boateng’s shot took a huge deflection and Morgan De Sanctis did well to flap it off the line when changing direction.
Cristian Zapata turned a free header over from a corner, then Blerim Dzemaili was caught in possession for Boateng to volley Zapata’s cross wide.
The Partenopei had penalty appeals when a Marek Hamsik cross struck Mathieu Flamini’s arm, but it was from close range and considered involuntary. Soon after, Goran Pandev burst into the box and was muscled off the ball by Philippe Mexes as he tried to turn. Edinson Cavani won back possession in the final third, but the finish was high and wide.
It was Milan who broke through on the half-hour mark. Boateng, Robinho and Pazzini combined until the ball rolled to Flamini just outside the box for a precise low drive into the near bottom corner. He had also scored against Fiorentina last week.
The lead lasted only three minutes, as Hamsik went down the left and rolled a smart pass in for the unmarked Pandev, who fired in at the near post.
Pazzini had penalty appeals, but the referee correctly booked him as he had been pulling the shirt of Miguel Angel Britos. Boateng went down with an injury and asked to be substituted, but it was M’Baye Niang who came on rather than El Shaarawy.
A magnificent Cavani take on a long ball over the top sent him clear, but Christian Abbiati did just about enough to keep out the chip with his fingertips.
Pandev and Flamini hit long-range efforts at the goalkeepers after the restart, while Abbiati had to smother at Cavani’s feet after sprinting away from Zapata. Riccardo Montolivo’s strike was charged down after a poor clearance and Ignazio Abate put in a crucial tackle to stop Hamsik going clear on goal.
De Sanctis was booked for time-wasting and will be suspended against Cagliari next week. Mazzarri surprisingly replaced both Pandev and Hamsik with Lorenzo Insigne and Pablo Armero.
Flamini was the hero when he scored, but the villain when shown a straight red card for going over the top studs-up on Juan Camilo Zuniga. Cavani fired off target from a promising position and Mazzarri went for the win against 10-man Milan by introducing Emanuele Calaiò.
Cavani blasted a free kick into the wall from just outside the area. Abate hobbled off clutching his ankle in the final minutes. Montolivo’s wayward angled drive was deflected off Pazzini, but not enough to redirect it towards goal.
Abbiati punched an Armero cross just past Cavani and as the move continued Calaio’s header whistled wide in stoppages.
Riccardo Montolivo admits even he is surprised at how quickly he has become a key figure at Milan, as he prepares to face Napoli this evening.
The midfielder arrived in the summer on a free transfer from Fiorentina and could wear the captain’s armband again this evening, as Massimo Ambrosini is injured.
“I certainly was convinced that I’d do well here and prove myself at a big club, but it was difficult to predict settling in so well and so quickly,” he told the Corriere dello Sport newspaper.
“I was coming off a good Euro 2012, but I do tend to need a few months to get into peak physical shape. I chose Milan because I finally want to win something in my career.
“From the first day I arrived here, I started to learn from the more experienced players what it means to be part of a great club for such a long time.
“At the moment I am taking Andrea Pirlo’s role in tactical terms, although I am prepared to play in any midfield position apart from trequartista. My reference points are Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Daniele De Rossi, as they can defend and attack so well. They are total midfielders.”
Milan need to keep their wits about them this evening against Napoli, as the pressure often got to the team against Barcelona and Fiorentina.
“In both those games I’d say it was more a psychological issue. There is such a fine line and we slipped. Again last Sunday we should’ve been more focused to bring home such an important result in Florence. This is also why the clash with Napoli is a test of our maturity.
“We are a team who thrive on pace and intensity, so once those drop we lose effectiveness. It is a strength that can become a weakness when we don’t play that type of football.”
Vincenzo Montella is making no bones about Fiorentina’s ambitions after a win away to Atalanta took them within three points of Milan. “Forza Napoli.”
The Viola are looking increasingly solid in fourth place following the 2-0 victory in Bergamo, though the Champions League is within reach.
“We are targeting Europe,” explained the Coach. “This victory gives us confidence and belief. I would not consider the Europa League to be a consolation prize at all, but seeing as we are here, I say Forza Napoli.”
On Sunday evening Milan and Napoli go head-to-head at San Siro, so could take points off each other.
Fiorentina secured tonight’s win despite an injury crisis and a change of tactics to a 4-2-3-1 system.
“We weren’t moving fluidly enough in the first half, as the passing was predictable and Atalanta were doubling up on the flanks to stop us keeping possession in midfield.
“Once we returned to our preferred system, which sadly meant taking off Alberto Aquilani, we felt more at ease. Adem Ljajic had a decisive impact on the game, but he could’ve been sharper and played better in certain situations.
“Mounir El Hamdaoui had to adapt to a style of play that was unusual for him, much like Aquilani, and paid the price for that emergency situation. Marcelo Larrondo scored a great goal and I knew he had quality, he just needs to believe in himself and be more consistent.”
Walter Mazzarri still won’t rule out Napoli’s chances of winning the Scudetto and warns Milan can do damage even without Mario Balotelli tomorrow night.
The Partenopei have a four-point advantage in second place going into the Sunday evening showdown at San Siro.
“The mathematical chances of us getting first place are still open to any result, so why shouldn’t it happen? It’s true there is a low chance and we need to be realistic, but still...” said the Coach during his Press conference.
“We have a 14-point advantage over where we were last season, so I look at the statistics and say we are improving.”
Rossoneri hitman Balotelli sits out a three-match ban, so Giampaolo Pazzini is expected to partner Stephan El Shaarawy.
“Milan did well even without Balotelli and Pazzini is another great player. We have an advantage in terms of second place, but if we lose then that will be cut down to one point. We cannot think this way and have to give our all without making calculations.
“I heard some comments that acted as if we didn’t exist between Milan and second place, but now they are complimenting us, so I guess they changed their version. Milan changed a great deal this season and brought down the age of the squad, still maintaining good results.
“I watched the last game we played with Milan and we could’ve gone 3-0 up. We made life difficult for ourselves,” he said of the 2-2 draw.
“Every now and then it would do us good to win while playing badly. Looking at the performances, we usually deserve more than we actually end up with. It doesn’t hurt to win playing badly.
“This is an important test of our maturity and Milan-Napoli has always been a fascinating fixture, so we enjoy playing it. We are in good shape and have a great chance of victory. I hope the players won’t feel nervous or too reverential towards Milan.”
Napoli squad for Milan: De Sanctis, Rosati, Colombo, Britos, Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini, Grava, Rolando, Armero, Behrami, Donadel, Dzemaili, El Kaddouri, Hamsik, Inler, Maggio, Mesto, Zuniga, Calaiò, Cavani, Insigne, Pandev
Allegri: 'Spectacular AC Milan - Napoli' 13.4 ||webmaster
Massimiliano Allegri is confident Milan-Napoli will be “a spectacular encounter” even without banned Mario Balotelli.
There is a four-point gap between second and third going into tomorrow night’s showdown at San Siro.
“It’s a shame that we won’t have Balotelli, but in any case we must not repeat the mistakes we made against Fiorentina,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“We had almost secured third place when leading 2-0 in Florence, but this is the situation and we now have to roll our sleeves up to get as many points as possible to reach the Champions League.
“The lads have achieved a great deal so far this season, but a six-point advantage over fourth is not enough. The team needs to mature and you reach that by making mistakes and learning from them.”
Milan fought back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw away to Napoli earlier this season, so the fight for second place – and automatic Champions League qualification – is still open.
“If Napoli were to beat us tomorrow night, then they would put second place under lock and key. Napoli know how to strike with rapid counter-attacks. It will take balance and patience for this game, but I expect a spectacular encounter.
“The future? I won’t talk about that now, as I am focused on Milan and our objectives.”
The week has been dominated by Inter’s accusations towards referees, some of which included suggestions Milan were being favoured to reach the Champions League.
“Refereeing controversy is part of the game. We never stir up controversy, even if there have been errors against us too,” shrugged Allegri. "If there really was a conspiracy, then we would've won in Florence and have Balotelli available."
Pazzini: 'For Balotelli and with Balotelli!' 13.4 ||webmaster
Giampaolo Pazzini is set to start against Napoli tomorrow night in place of Mario Balotelli, but insists he’d “like to play alongside him” for Milan and Italy.
The striker has barely featured since suffering a micro-fracture to his fibula a month ago and Balotelli’s three-match ban gives him the opportunity to make his mark.
“I’d like to play alongside Balotelli and it’s a shame that so far we haven’t really crossed paths at all,” Pazzo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I would enjoy that experiment and see what we can do together. We cannot be incompatible, because he is a modern striker who moves around and opens up defences. He also works for his teammates.
“Mario’s greatest asset on the field is his physical strength, while in personal terms he is very relaxed and very playful. At times he’s even naive.
“Stephan El Shaarawy is only 20 and he simply needs to grow up. When you start scoring goals and discover what it feels like, it becomes like an addition – like a drug. You need it all the time. Growing up, you learn to deal with these situations.”
It would be particularly fitting for Pazzini to take on Napoli tomorrow evening, as he was close to joining them.
“It’s true there was something, but we never managed to get on the same track. I always had a good rapport with Walter Mazzarri and I liked the way he made us play at Sampdoria.
“Milan have to be in the Champions League, always. If we lose against Napoli, then second place becomes practically impossible. Quite simply, we have to win and we will be ready.
“Unfortunately the 2-2 draw with Fiorentina has left some damage to our self-esteem, as we should’ve taken that win home. At least it was a lesson for us, as even when 2-0 up against 10 men, it’s still not over.
“Do Inter regret selling me? That is no longer my problem.”
Behrami: 'Not AC Milan - Napoli favourites' 13.4 ||webmaster
Vincenzo Montella deals with a Fiorentina injury crisis for tonight’s trip to Atalanta and takes a sideswipe at Adriano Galliani. “He can pay for his own bodyguard.”
Montella also commented on the incident that occurred during Fiorentina-Milan, when angry fans hurled abuse and objects at Rossoneri Vice-President Galliani, forcing him to leave the VIP area at half-time.
“I don’t think anything new happened in the stands and the situation was blown out of proportion. There were insults towards a club and a set of fans who have always stood out from the rest in terms of fair play. Those who needed to be punished were caught and it’s over the top to blame an entire city and set of supporters.
“Galliani said next time he’ll come to Florence with added bodyguards? Fine, as long as he pays for them...”
Kevin-Prince Boateng has compared Mario Balotelli to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is ready to face Napoli in a battle for second place and complained about tactics.
The Ghanaian international spoke to Sky Sport Italia ahead of Sunday’s showdown between Milan and Napoli.
“We have got to win, because we need to achieve second place, which is our objective for this season,” said Boateng.
“It is going to be a difficult game against the Azzurri. It’s true we are playing at home, but Napoli are a very strong side.”
Milan would be closer to Napoli had they not fumbled a 2-0 lead against 10-man Fiorentina last week.
“It’s not easy when you’re 2-0 up and against 10 men for you to maintain your concentration. We probably let that slip in the second half and against a strong side like Fiorentina you get punished for it.”
The Rossoneri will have to do without star striker Balotelli after he received a three-match ban for insulting the officials.
“Mario is fundamental for us and he can be compared to Ibrahimovic. Mario is someone who needs to be beaten up on the pitch, as it’s the only way to stop him. He’s a lovely lad and an exemplary professional, so I really have nothing bad to say about him.
“Stephan El Shaarawy is having a great season, even if he isn’t scoring as regularly as he did before. He has been phenomenal.”
Boateng has only netted two Serie A goals this season despite numerous attempts and claims his ever-changing position has a lot to do with that.
“I am physically fine and work hard every day, even if this season I’ve never been at peak fitness and I can’t explain why. It certainly isn’t easy to change position so often. For Coach Allegri my versatility is a good thing, but maybe it isn’t so good for me.”
Boateng gave a speech to the UN last month on racism in football, so was pleased to hear UEFA threaten harder punishment for clubs.
“I did everything I could to educate people on the problem of racism. I find it only right that strong action is taken.”
Stephan El Shaarawy is ready to take the Milan reins after Mario Balotelli’s three-match ban. “I hope to beat Napoli and if the goal arrives it’ll be even better.”
The Little Pharaoh has fallen off the boil since Balotelli arrived in January, but his teammate looks to be out of the games with Napoli, Juventus and Catania after insulting the officials.
“We get along very well, both on the field and off. We’re great friends and I see no type of problem,” assured El Shaarawy on Milan Channel.
“As a team we will try to put everything possible on to the field in order to achieve victory. My personal objective is to score 20 goals this season, but the most important thing is for Milan to take second place.
“Everyone keeps telling me not to worry about the goal and instead focus on the performance to help the team.
“We are disappointed at fumbling the 2-0 lead against Fiorentina, as we came out for the second half with less confidence. It’s a shame, but we are still up there and have to focus on the next game with Napoli.
“It is going to be very difficult, as Napoli are an excellent side with important players and we need to be very determined.
“I hope to beat Napoli and if the goal arrives for me then it’ll be even better.”
Corinthians close on AC Milan target Dede 10.4 ||webmaster
There are reports that referees Paolo Tagliavento and Andrea Gervasoni will be ‘suspended’ from Serie A games for a month after controversial decisions this weekend.
According to La Repubblica, refereeing designator Stefano Braschi has opted to punish the pair after hitting the headlines in Week 31.
Tagliavento officiated Fiorentina 2-2 Milan, which saw Nenad Tomovic given a very harsh red card for an elbow on Stephan El Shaarawy, while one of the Viola’s penalties was dubious and Facundo Roncaglia escaped with a handling offence in the box.
Gervasoni was lambasted by Inter after the 4-3 home defeat to Atalanta, as he awarded a penalty for a non-existent Walter Samuel handling offence.
President of the Lega Serie A Maurizio Beretta told Gr Parlamento radio “these mistakes are unacceptable. We urge the refereeing authorities to ensure the utmost preparation, form and concentration in this decisive phase of the season.”
Mario Balotelli has been handed a three-match ban for insulting the officials during Milan’s 2-2 draw with Fiorentina on Sunday.
The striker had already earned himself a one-match suspension after accumulating five yellow cards, but Serie A officials have today confirmed that the Italy international will now be banned for a further two games after comments he made to the officials.
It means the 22-year-old will be sidelined for games against Napoli, Juventus and Catania.
Milan have already announced they will lodge an appeal against the ban.
Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar has denied rumours that he is on his way to Milan at the end of the season.
The Brazilian shot-stopper has been heavily linked with a move to the Rossoneri in recent weeks, but the former Inter man has insisted that he wants to focus purely on keeping QPR in the Premier League.
“There is no clause in my contract to say that if we go down I am free to look for another club,” he told the Daily Mirror.
“It is all fake.
“I just want to focus on surviving without thinking of anything else – much less the transfer market.”
Balotelli wants to face Manchester City 8.4 ||webmaster
Vincenzo Montella praised Fiorentina’s mentality and belief to come back from 2-0 down with 10 men against Milan, but revealed what he said to the referee.
The Viola saw Nenad Tomovic controversially sent off before the break for an elbow on Stephan El Shaarawy that appeared to be involuntary.
“We were almost fortunate at the end!” he laughed after receiving two late penalties in the 2-2 draw.
“I do not talk about referees. I will only say that at half-time I spoke to Tagliavento and we made a bet that whoever was wrong about the Tomovic incident would buy the other dinner. He was convinced that he was right, but I think I won the bet.
“I think the mentality we are forming this season helped us to have belief and courage, even when 2-0 down in a decisive moment of the match. There was a great reaction and I saw a team that strongly believed in this comeback against a very talented side, even with 10 men.”
Stevan Jovetic was in the starting XI after a thigh injury, but hobbled off in the first half.
“He tried and he seemed to be in good shape. I wanted to run the risk, as I knew how important this game was for us. We hope it’s not too serious.
“Nobody made a mistake with Jovetic. Everyone evaluated the situation and took their own share of the risks and responsibility, so there is no problem.”
Allegri: 'AC Milan caught napping' 7.4 ||webmaster
Riccardo Montolivo scored against his former teammates, but 10-man Fiorentina fought back from 2-0 down to hold Milan in a Florence thriller. Nenad Tomovic saw red for a dubious elbow, while the Tuscans received two penalties and lost Stevan Jovetic.
It was fourth against third in Florence, as Jovetic completed a remarkable recovery from a thigh problem to start with Borja Valero returning from suspension. Massimo Ambrosini missed out for the visitors, so Riccardo Montolivo was captain as he received a hostile reception from his old fans. Kevin-Prince Boateng completed the trident with a new bleach blond hairstyle.
The Rossoneri were unbeaten at the Stadio Franchi since November 2005, picking up four wins and two draws here.
Boateng’s early volley was in the back of the net, but play had been halted for Mario Balotelli’s offside position in the build-up. Manuel Pasqual crucially blocked off Mathieu Flamini when he was running clear on goal through the middle.
Montolivo was jeered loudly every time he touched the ball, but it did not stop him scoring against his former teammates. He robbed David Pizarro in the final third and kept his cool to side-foot it past Emiliano Viviano into the near bottom corner.
Pizarro lost the ball again on the edge of the Milan box to spark a counter-attack, Balotelli blasted a free kick over from distance and Viviano smothered a Sulley Muntari snapshot.
Manuel Pasqual’s curling free kick flashed inches past the near post, but Fiorentina lost Stefan Savic to injury.
Milan went very close again, as a free kick was whipped in for Stephan El Shaarawy’s bullet header, beaten away by Viviano. Fiorentina immediately went on the counter and Montolivo took a yellow card for the team by hauling back Adem Ljajic.
Christian Abbiati was also called into action with a desperate and unorthodox save on Jovetic’s screamer, as it bounced right in front of him and he parried with his knee.
Jovetic just failed to get on the end of a Pasqual pass that was rolled across the face of goal from the left flank.
There was huge controversy before the break when Nenad Tomovic was sent off for an elbow on El Shaarawy. The replays suggest there was certainly contact, but only as part of a natural movement when running alongside the Milan striker. Fiorentina were furious and protested vehemently, but the referee flashed the red card.
The Viola did not give in, as a Jovetic shot was charged down and the Pasqual follow-up held by Abbiati. Jovetic recovered in record time from a thigh injury, but aggravated it and limped off in first half stoppages to make way for Romulo.
A free kick almost found Alberto Aquilani in the box, but he fell under pressure from Boateng and protested.
After the restart Viviano parried a Flamini angled drive after good work from Montolivo. Milan doubled their lead from a dead ball situation. The free kick was worked down the right where El Shaarawy flashed a ball across the face of goal for Flamini to flick in from six yards.
Ljajic gave Fiorentina hope, as he went on an extraordinary slalom dribbling through a series of Milan players in the box before he was eventually pulled back by substitute Antonio Nocerino. The young Serb got back up to convert the penalty with a powerful finish through the middle.
Balotelli’s free kick hit the side-netting, shaving a coat of paint off the base of the near post. However, SuperMario was booked for trying to delay a free kick in midfield and because of that will be suspended for next week’s showdown with Napoli.
The referee pointed to the spot for the second time when Mattia De Sciglio mistimed his intervention to trip Juan Cuadrado. Pizarro stepped up this time and, although Abbiati got a hand to it, the power of the penalty took it into the far bottom corner as 10-man Fiorentina equalised.
The 10-man Viola completed their comeback from 2-0 down and continued to push, as Montolivo charged down a Cuadrado shot and Abbiati flapped at a corner. Milan also wanted a penalty after Ignazio Abate fell under a Pasqual shove, but the referee waved play on. There was further controversy in stoppages when Facundo Roncaglia handled in the box, but the referee judged it to be involuntary on Giampaolo Pazzini’s glancing header.
Fiorentina goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano believes they can beat Milan to close on a Champions League spot today despite his friend Mario Balotelli’s efforts.
“Milan are very strong and packed with champions, but we are up there too and that means we have done well this season,” Viviano told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We’ve picked up more points on home turf than anyone else. It is our duty to push for a Champions League spot, as we can do this.
“We have the opportunity with this head-to-head to close the gap and put everything back in the balance.”
Among those champions is Balotelli, who is Viviano’s close friend.
“Mario is an incredible talent who was born to play football. If he wants to, and stays healthy, then he can be one of the best players in the world, as he has physique, pace and a fierce shot. He never misses penalties because he stays calm and can hit the ball hard even when standing still.
“Since he arrived, Milan have changed gear. He has a heart of gold and I care about him. It’s true Mario made some mistakes, we discussed them and I tried to help him, but everyone tries to create this unfair image of him.
“Balotelli is an honest and pure person who is without ulterior motives.”
The Viola won 3-1 at San Siro earlier this season, but are fresh from a defeat to Cagliari.
“It is absolutely crucial that we don’t get the approach wrong, which is what we did in Cagliari. We are young and a mature side would not have done that.”
Riccardo Montolivo can expect a fiery reception at the Stadio Franchi, as he left on a free transfer last summer after refusing to sign a new contract.
“As a Viola fan, I appreciated his clarity in declaring publicly he would not be signing a new deal. Choices can be shared or not, but he was honest,” argued Viviano.
“If the fans do jeer him, it’ll be because they once cared so much. He went away and the fans were upset.”
The goalkeeper does not know if he will be in Florence next season, as he is only on loan.
“Playing here was my dream since childhood, so I could never regret coming to Fiorentina.”
Allegri: 'Fiorentina not decisive' 6.4 ||webmaster
Massimiliano Allegri expects a difficult match as Milan visit Fiorentina for the lunchtime kick-off, but insists “it is not decisive” for a Champions League spot.
“This will be a very difficult match, seeing as we are playing away from home and Fiorentina have such passionate fans. The time of day also makes it unusual, so we have to play as a team,” warned Allegri in his Press conference.
“We need a good performance in technical terms and it will be crucial to interpret each moment of the game the right way. However, it is not decisive for third place.
“There are still eight games to go, although this is certainly an important match and we need the points to not only secure third place, but also keep up the pressure on Napoli for second.”
Vincenzo Montella’s men won at San Siro earlier this season, but Fiorentina haven’t beaten Milan at the Stadio Franchi since 2005, managing two draws and four defeats.
It is a special game for Riccardo Montolivo, who left Fiorentina on a free transfer when he refused to sign a new contract.
“It will be an important match both for him and Giampaolo Pazzini, as they both gave a lot to Fiorentina. Perhaps there will be jeers, but I think those are just to put them under pressure. The Viola fans know what these players did for them.
“It’s a shame Massimo Ambrosini misses out, seeing as he had such a great game against Chievo. Without him, it’s likely Montolivo will play in front of the defence,” concluded Allegri.
“I tested out a 4-2-3-1 system in training with Pazzini and Mario Balotelli. It can be used during a game, but I hope not, because that would mean we were chasing the result.
“Cristian Zapata returns tomorrow, while I have a doubt between Mattia De Sciglio and Kevin Constant. De Sciglio is the favourite.”
Milan squad for Fiorentina: Abbiati, Amelia, Gabriel, Abate, Antonini, Bonera, De Sciglio, Mexes, Yepes, Zaccardo, Zapata, Boateng, Constant, Flamini, Montolivo, Muntari, Nocerino, Balotelli, Bojan, El Shaarawy, Niang, Pazzini, Robinho
Jovetic in Fiorentina squad for AC Milan 6.4 ||webmaster
Walter Mazzarri believes Napoli “will secure second place if we don’t get it wrong against Genoa and Milan,” but admits sending someone to secretly film his rivals.
The Partenopei are currently second in Serie A with a two-point advantage over the Rossoneri. On Sunday evening they welcome Genoa.
“I want to surprise Genoa a little bit, but Blerim Dzemaili is an extra weapon for us. He has a good shot and we saw that last week against Torino,” said the Coach of his hat-trick.
“If you look at the Genoa squad, it is difficult to understand why they are so far down the table. They have a great first XI and some fine replacements. We’ve got to be wary on set plays, as some of their players are very good from dead ball situations.”
There were reports in the papers today that one of Mazzarri’s scouts was caught secretly filming the Genoa training session.
“It is a fairly normal procedure, so I don’t think this is news,” shrugged the Coach. “Genoa have the characteristics to hurt us and will come here trying to play their game, so we have to keep them back.”
The next week will be decisive for Napoli, who take on Genoa and then third-placed Milan.
“If we don’t get it wrong against Genoa and Milan, then it will be difficult for anyone to take second place away from us,” added Mazzarri.
“If we do get it wrong, then there is time to make up for that.”
Morgan De Sanctis returns in goal after he missed the 5-3 win over Torino with an elbow injury.
Montella: 'Jovetic could face AC Milan' 6.4 ||webmaster
Vincenzo Montella is targeting victory and third place against Milan tomorrow lunchtime and sensationally reveals “Stevan Jovetic could play” despite his injury.
“We are trying to get Jovetic to recover in time,” revealed the Coach despite a muscular problem initially ruling him out for two weeks.
“Stevan told me he’s ready to play, but we’ll see what sensations we get from his training session today. It’s great for a Coach to see everyone so eager to take part, but we’ll run no risks. If he’s fit then he’ll play, but if not then he won’t.
“Tomorrow’s game is important for our ambitions and for the entire campaign: we have to win. We are still in the running for Europe and that makes this encounter with Milan crucial, although it’s not yet an ‘in or out’ match.
“The stadium will be packed out and we have to defend our style of football, our ideas about the sport. This Milan side is one that forces you to change the way you approach the game, but we hope that we can force them to adapt to us.
“If the Rossoneri had started the season better, they would be challenging for the Scudetto with Juventus right now.”
It will be a very special afternoon for Riccardo Montolivo, the Milan midfielder who left Fiorentina as a free agent after refusing to sign a new contract. Will the hostile reception intimidate him or fire him up?
“I was not here during Montolivo’s time, so I don’t know what the situation was. I can say that when I was a player, I really did not enjoy being jeered by the crowd.”
Vasco 'awaiting AC Milan Dede offer' 6.4 ||webmaster
Dedè’s agent has confirmed “Milan would be an honour for him, but Vasco da Gama are still waiting for their offer.”
The Brazilian is attracting interest from numerous top European clubs, including Juventus, Liverpool, Valencia, Manchester United and Benfica.
“Vasco are awaiting Milan’s offer,” agent Giuliano Aranda told TMW this evening.
“I believe there has been contact between the clubs and the Rossoneri’s interest in Dedè is concrete, but at the moment they have not spoken to me directly. Milan need to reach an agreement with Vasco before negotiating with us.”
It is reported the Brazilian club has set a €12m price-tag on the 24-year-old defender.
“Many European clubs are tracking him and I can also reveal there have been talks with some Russian clubs.
“The latest contact with Valencia was six months ago, while Liverpool are on the same level as Milan – that is there is interest from the Reds, but no talks between me and the English club.”
The representative was asked whether Dedè would have a preference between Italy, Spain, England and Russia.
“At the moment Dedè is not thinking about a transfer. He is happy in Brazil and giving his all to earn a call-up for the Confederations Cup.
“Milan are certainly a fantastic club and among the top sides in the world, so playing with the Rossoneri jersey would be an honour for the lad.”
M'Baye Niang has insisted that he wants to become an 'important player' for Milan and help the team finish in second place.
The Rossoneri are currently third in Serie A, two points behind Napoli. And the French forward has claimed that the side can climb the table, whilst also commenting on his relationship with Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy.
“I have to work harder if I want to become an important player for Milan,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“But I want to be important for this team.
“We're having a great second half to this season. We are in third place, but we want to continue to do well and reach second place.
“We are friends, we are brothers. We have a great relationship off the field.”
Ambrosini on 'crucial' three games 5.4 ||webmaster