Vlahovic strikes as Fiorentina held by Sassuolo, Napoli and Milan in title clash
Milan (AFP) – Dusan Vlahovic was again on target for Fiorentina on Sunday but couldn't help them put pressure on Serie A's Champions League positions following an entertaining 2-2 draw with Sassuolo, as injury-hit AC Milan and Napoli prepare for a title clash.
Serbia forward Vlahovic struck his league-leading 16th goal of the season in the 51st minute in Florence to pull a goal back after the Viola trailed by two at half-time through strikes from Gianluca Scamacca and Davide Frattesi.
Vlahovic, who will turn 22 next month, has now scored 33 Serie A goals in 2021 -- matching Cristiano Ronaldo's total last year -- and is expected to be a target for some of Europe's biggest clubs in the January transfer window.
He has refused to sign an extension to his current contract which expires in the summer of 2023, meaning Fiorentina could move to cash in early in order to get maximum value from their star player.
Lucas Torreira levelled just after the hour mark but Vincenzo Italiano's side then lost Cristiano Biraghi to a second yellow card in the 68th minute and couldn't complete a comeback which would have put them within three points of the top four.
"Without the Biraghi red card, I think we would've could have gone on to win," said Italiano to Sky Sport Italia.
"People have rediscovered their enthusiasm and we need to keep fuelling it."
San Siro title tussle
Fiorentina sit sixth, level on 31 points with Roma and Juventus and five away from Napoli, who are fourth ahead of Sunday's late match at Milan.
Both teams go into that title clash, the last big match of 2021 in Italy, severely depleted by injuries after a gruelling opening half of the season which has seen four teams make their case for the Scudetto.
Napoli are going through a difficult run of form and are without star striker Victor Osimhen, defensive lynchpin Kalidou Koulibaly, Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne, Mario Rui and Fabian Ruiz for the trip north.
Stefano Pioli's Milan meanwhile are missing Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic, Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez, not to mention starting centre-back Simon Kjaer who is out for the season.
The match comes at a delicate time in the season for each as they both risk losing ground on league leaders Inter Milan, who are four points ahead of their city rivals and seven in front of Napoli.
Inter have started to motor over the last two months, claiming top spot for the first time this season last weekend and consolidating their bid to retain the title with a 5-0 hammering of Salernitana on Friday.
Simone Inzaghi's team are unbeaten in 10 league matches and have won their last six while racking up 19 goals and conceding just two.
In Sunday's afternoon match Spezia and Empoli played out a 1-1 draw, while Verona's Giovanni Simeone tries to keep up with Vlahovic in the scoring charts at Torino and Sampdoria host Venezia before the headline clash at the San Siro.
© 2021 AFP