Milan looking to re-open title race
ROME: AC Milan will be hoping to spark renewed life into the Serie A title race when they travel to Fiorentina on Wednesday to play their game in hand on leaders Inter Milan.
Milan sit third in the table, seven points behind the champions but would go second, a point ahead of AS Roma, if they were to win in Florence.
However, the match is as vital for their hosts who need three points to propel them back into the race for a top four finish and Champions League football for a third season in a row.
Inter moved top of the table at the beginning of October and have stayed there ever since, enjoying at times a lead of up to nine points on the rest but that was cut to five at the weekend following their third draw in a row and Roma's seventh successive success.
But Milan could shave another point off that with a victory and vice-president Adriano Galliani believes that would be in the best interests of everyone watching Serie A.
"If that happens it will be interesting for all the media world, the newspapers, television, the fans," he said.
"I don't know if the title race is on again, five points isn't a huge amount but Inter have been ahead for several years now.
"We'll see but this match against Fiorentina is very important for us."
Inter have won the last four Serie A crowns, although the first of which came due to sanctions imposed on Milan and Juventus for match-fixing.
That hit both those two clubs and neither has been able to recover enough to seriously challenge Inter in the league since then.
The closest anyone has come was two years ago when Roma lost the league by three points but Juventus were a distant third that season and Milan finished fifth.
Inter have drawn their last three matches to offer some hope to their rivals but they earned a point on Saturday against Sampdoria despite playing more than half the match with only nine men following the dismissals of centre-backs Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba.
Milan have recovered well since their morale-sapping 2-0 loss to Inter in January, when the champions also finished with nine men but still dominated the match while Ronaldinho missed a penalty for Milan.
That result knocked the rossoneri out of their stride and they followed it up with poor draws against Livorno and Bologna.
But wins against Udinese and away to Bari have at least given them some hope.
But this match won't be easy against a team that finally managed to bounce back at the weekend after a long dip in form.
Fiorentina had not won in five matches before Sunday's visit of Livorno and were in danger of dropping out of contention for the European places.
Things looked bad too when they fell behind but La Viola hit back to win 2-1 and a win would bring them to within four points of fourth placed Juventus.
The other match to be played on Wednesday sees relegation-threatened Udinese host Cagliari.
Udinese sit one point above the drop zone and on Sunday fired coach Gianni De Biasi and replaced him with his predecessor Pasquale Marino.
But for Sardinians Cagliari, this match is of even greater significance as if they win they will overtake Juventus and occupy a Champions League qualification position, an unlikely feat for such a small club.
Both these games were postponed in December due to the weather.