Milan digging deep to take fight to Juve
AC Milan are being forced to use all their resources in order to keep pace with Juventus in the Serie A title race with just six games remaining.
Milan lined up with 14 players missing when they travelled to Chievo in midweek and it was testament to their courage and determination that they came away with a narrow, and perhaps undeserved, 1-0 victory.
That ensured they kept the gap to leaders Juve to a single point ahead of this weekend's games.
The champions may get a couple of players back for the visit of Genoa, the team with the worst defensive record in the league, but midfielder Antonio Nocerino insists they will keep fighting whatever happens.
"We'll try to win every match by giving every last drop of blood, we won't let up," he said.
"The pitch will decide who wins it and if it's them we'll applaud them.
"I have no idea why we have so many injuries, there's surely some bad luck but we're playing every match with 14 players out.
"It shows you what kind of a group we are though."
Tuesday's victory was crucial as Milan had relinquished the league lead to Juve by taking only one point from their previous two games.
That saw coach Massimiliano Allegri come under fire from the local press as the rossoneri also crashed out of the Champions League to Barcelona in the same period.
Those criticisms irked Allegri, who is only in his fourth season as a Serie A coach and second at Milan, having won the title in his first with the rossoneri.
He said rumours of Milan's demise have been premature.
"There has been excessive criticism, many people were delighted we slipped up but we've got back up," he said.
"There was a media campaign waiting for us to lose but instead we've kept the title race alive despite people holding our funeral after we lost to Fiorentina."
Saturday's opponents Genoa not only have the worst defence in Serie A but they have now fallen to just one place and two points above the relegation zone, which means they will be fighting for their lives.
They also have one of the top scorers in the league in Rodrigo Palacio in their ranks, a player Milan tried to sign before the start of the season, only to be put off by his price-tag.
Juventus travel to Cesena on Sunday with their hosts facing the real possibility of being the first team to be relegated if results go against them.
A defeat for Cesena would mean either a draw for Genoa or win for Lecce would relegate them.
Juve are riding a wave of five straight wins in the league having drawn six of their previous seven but coach Antonio Conte is still smarting over dropped points.
"There's definitely a bit of bitterness for the game we dominated but didn't see out this year, against Genoa, Chievo and Cagliari, all games in which we failed to deliver the knock-out blow," he said.
Elsewhere, Lazio will look to bounce back from their midweek defeat to Juve as they travel to second bottom Novara.
They head Udinese by three points in the race for third place and Champions League football next season.
Roma are also ready to pounce, just one point further back, as they host struggling Fiorentina.
Napoli were in that battle until a run of five games without a win, and three defeats in a row now.
They travel to in-form Lecce as Walter Mazzarri's team try to rediscover the form that had taken them to five wins in a row a month ago.
Lecce have been rejuvenated under Serse Cosmi and are now just two points from safety having previously looked doomed.