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Football | Italy

Mario Balotelli © Gallo Images

Spotlight on Balotelli in Milan derby



AC Milan need to quickly temper their euphoria following the impressive win over Barcelona and focus on their next match - Sunday's Serie A derby with Inter Milan.

Milan stunned Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, beating the Spanish giant for the first time in eight matches.

In the Italian league, Milan are tied for third with Lazio, with Inter one point behind and Fiorentina two points back in sixth.

The four clubs are fighting for one objective - third place and a spot in Champions League qualifying.

"We've got to stay really focused, move on from this marvelous evening and focus on the derby and then next week's match with Lazio," Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said Thursday. "We've got a lot of tough matches grouped together."

Meanwhile, Inter are regrouping following their 4-1 loss to Fiorentina last weekend - their first match since key forward Diego Milito was lost for the season because of a left knee injury.

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni was sharply criticised for the performance against Fiorentina, but club president Massimo Moratti has taken it easy on the 37-year-old manager.

"I've had pressure on me since Day 1 at Inter," said Stramaccioni, who impressed at the end of last season after replacing the fired Claudio Ranieri. "If I gave any thought to these things I would have been done before I started."

Milito's absence weighs heavily on Inter's attack, formerly a three-pronged formation that also featured Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano and which had developed a solid chemistry. Now, Palacio and Cassano are being asked to carry the load themselves.

At Milan, the arrival of Mario Balotelli has created an explosive forward combination with 20-year-old Stephen El Shaarawy, who has scored 15 goals in the league so far.

Balotelli, who didn't play aganst Barcelona because he previously played in the Champions League this season with Manchester City, scored four goals in his first three matches since joining Milan.

It's nearly been forgotten that Milan let an entire squad's worth of top players leave in the offseason - highlighted by the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain. Or that Milan won only two of their opening six matches in Serie A.

"This is a real team victory, from the players on up to the president," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said after the win over Barcelona. "When things were going poorly the club had the strength to keep me and support these kids, then made a key addition with Balotelli."

Also on Sunday, Serie A leaders Juventus host Siena. Second-place Napoli, who are four points back, visit Udinese on Monday.

Siena held Juve to a 0-0 draw in Turin last season, and Juve coach Antonio Conte watched the Tuscan club beat Lazio 3-0 Monday.

Newly signed Switzerland forward Innocent Emeghara has scored four goals in his first three matches with Siena since joining on loan from French club Lorient.

Juventus are coming off a 1-0 loss to Roma.

Also this weekend, it's Sampdoria v Chievo Verona; Atalanta v Roma; Bologna v Fiorentina; Cagliari v Torino; Parma v Catania; and Lazio v Pescara.

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