Football

AC Milan seek Champions League redemption as Inter step nearer Serie A crown

Stefano Pioli's AC Milan side failed to maintain their Serie A title challenge and are struggling to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Stefano Pioli's AC Milan side failed to maintain their Serie A title challenge and are struggling to qualify for next season's Champions League. REUTERS - DANIELE MASCOLO

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli on Tuesday targeted this weekend’s match against relegation-threatened Benevento as the chance for his side to refire their Champions League ambitions after a second defeat in five days effectively ended their Serie A title drive.

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Joaquin Correa bagged a brace and Ciro Immobile added the gloss in the 3-0 setback at Lazio on Monday night at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Milan remain in fifth place, level on 66 points with Napoli and Juventus and two points behind second-placed Atalanta.

Lazio are sixth, five points behind Milan with a game in hand.

Victory would have taken Milan to 69 points and second behind pacesetters Inter Milan who boast 79 points with five matches left.

“Now we need to show that we are strong, like I believe we are," Pioli told Sky Italia.

"We must react straight away because this is a heavy defeat."

Title

Pioli’s men will go into Saturday night’s clash at the San Siro hoping to put the pressure on the three teams above them occupying the berths which lead to next season’s Champions League.

By the time Milan kick-off, city rivals Inter could be a step closer to their first Serie A title since 2010.

If Antonio Conte’s side win at bottom-of-the-table Crotone, they will advance to 82 points and will be crowned champions if Atalanta fail to beat Sassuolo on Sunday afternoon.

Last Sunday, Inter edged past Hellas Verona 1-0 to extend their unbeaten run in Serie A to 17 games.

Conte admitted his team had almost reached the promised land.

“I see 95% of the Scudetto conquered,” Conte told Sky Italia after the victory at the San Siro.

“It has not been achieved yet. But winning against a team that had nothing to lose and came to play openly brings us not three, not six, but nine points.” 

European Super League

Inter, along with AC Milan and Juventus have been under intense scrutiny and pressure since it emerged ton 18 April that they were among 12 founding members of the European Super League (ESL) that wanted to play in an elite midweek competition and then feature in their domestic championships on the weekends.

Fan groups, former players, politicians and pundits denounced the proposals as elitist and unsporting because the 12 founding teams would never be relegated from the league.

European football's ruling body Uefa, which runs the Champions League as well as Fifa - the world sport's governors - said they would sanction players and clubs in the ESL. 

Super League snub

Inter and AC withdrew from the ESL within 72 hours. Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid have yet to renounce their participation. 

On 26 April, the FIGC, which runs Serie A, said that Italian clubs thinking of signing up to ESL would not be allowed to play in national competitions such as Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

"Whoever is considering joining a competition which is not authorised by Uefa, Fifa and the FIGC will lose its membership,” said FIGC boss Gabriele Gravina.

Backlash

Since the furore erupted over the breakaway competition, the FIGC council has give the green light for a new clause in federation rules stating that clubs registering for national leagues must clearly agree they will not join private, unauthorised competitions. If they do, they will be banned.

"This regulation will be inserted in the national licences and will then be embedded into the code of sporting justice,” Gravina added.

“If, by the deadline for applications to the national championships on 21 June, someone joins up to other private leagues, they will not take part in our championship.”

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