Dropping points in winnable matches has kept Milan out of Champions League qualification for years now. The same situation is daunting for the Rossoneri. Milan currently sit fifth in the Serie A table, one point below both Atalanta and Inter Milan. To secure qualification, Milan must win and have one of Atalanta or Inter draw or lose in the last match day.
Milan’s Champions League Qualification Hopes Still Alive
Milan would have been in a great spot had Juventus beat Atalanta at home this past weekend. Seemingly busy with their title celebrations and award presentations, Juventus needed a late strike by Mario Mandzukic to secure a draw. Milan have the upper hand on Atalanta due to head-to-head, so a tie in points would have had Milan ahead.
Atalanta, at home on Sunday, will take on Sassuolo. The Bergamo side, however, have surprisingly been better on the road than at home this season. This can be overlooked, though, as the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia will surely be buzzing as the fans know what’s at stake.
Sassuolo has been very solid this season, securing a mid-table finish. Roberto de Zerbi is a growing name in the Italian managing realm. The Neroverdi also have solid talent such as Domenico Berardi, Khouma Babacar, Manuel Locatelli and Stefano Sensi. With all this being said, Sassuolo’s defence remains a major question mark.
Atalanta’s attack makes them the obvious favourite for Champions League qualification. They won 6-2 in their first match with Sassuolo this season. Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez have formed the best attack in Italy, tallying 74 league goals so far. Milan will need an effort from the ages, especially from former youth product Locatelli and rumoured transfer target Sensi.
Inter were a guaranteed Champions League team a few weeks ago. Dropped points, however, have them in a tough situation. To make matters worse, they are coming off a 4-1 drubbing by Napoli.
The Nerazzurri will take on Empoli at the San Siro. Empoli are fighting for top-flight survival in this match, so it will be no push-over. They are, however, coming off of three straight wins. Empoli have beaten Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Torino by a combined score of 7-2. In addition, forward Francesco Caputo is having a season for the ages.
Inter are struggling. Their last win in their last five matches came versus Chievo Verona, the poorest performing team in the league this season. Mauro Icardi’s future is still causing controversy, and manager Luciano Spalletti is already on his way out. Goals have been hard to come by lately, and Empoli’s defence has been stellar.
The San Siro will be packed for the qualification duel, but Empoli have survival to play for.
Like seasons past, Milan are regretting dropping points to teams such as Bologna, Cagliari and Udinese, among others. The Rossoneri did get the job done this weekend, beating Frosinone 2-0 at the San Siro.
Milan must focus on a mentality of finishing off their opponents. Far too often they defend after securing a 1-0 goal, only to concede when it’s too late to find a winner. Versus Frosinone, Suso converted a stunning free-kick goal after already being up 1-0, sealing the victory. Milan faithful will definitely be keeping up with all the games going on at the same time, so the team must secure the win and leave no room for error.
Ultimately everything will come down to hope and luck. Atalanta and Inter are both favourites in their matches. They know what’s at stake and their futures simply rely on themselves. Milan must hope that Sassuolo play spoiler with their season virtually over, and Empoli does everything in their power in the fight for Serie A survival.
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