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Milan and Fiorentina fight for final Champions league birth

Associated Press

Updated: May 17, 2013, 11:05 AM IST
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Milan and Fiorentina fight for final Champions league birth
AC Milan need to protect a two-point lead over Fiorentina in the race for third place and a final Champions League berth.

Rome: In the last weekend of Serie A, AC Milan need to protect a two-point lead over Fiorentina in the race for third place and a final Champions League berth.

Milan and Fiorentina both visit relegated squads - Siena and Pescara, respectively.

Nearly everything else in the Italian league has been decided, although several big coaching changes could come as soon as the season ends.

Juventus clinched its 29th title two weeks ago and Napoli is already assured of finishing second, taking the other direct Champions League berth.

The third-place finisher qualifies for the last round of the Champions League playoffs.

If Milan and Fiorentina finish level on points, Fiorentina holds the edge courtesy of their better head-to-head record.

Fiorentina won 3-1 at Milan in November and the teams drew 2-2 in a heated match in Florence last month, which saw Milan vice president Adriano Galliani get into an argument with Fiorentina fans.

Tensions rose even higher last week when Milan posted a photo on their website of their new shirts for next season already featuring the Champions League logo.

"They think they've already qualified," Fiorentina's first-year coach Vincenzo Montella said.

No matter which squad finishes on top, it will be an impressive achievement.

Milan saw an entire squad's worth of top players depart before this season, highlighted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic's and Thiago Silva's departures to Paris Saint-Germain. Only when Mario Balotelli transferred from Manchester City in January to join national team strike partner Stephen El Shaarawy in attack did the Rossoneri start to really threaten again.

"If seven months ago you would have told us that if we beat Siena we will finish third we would have signed off for it," Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini said.

Likewise, Fiorentina remodeled their entire squad after a disastrous 2011-12 season that saw them finish 13th, just 10 points clear of the relegation zone. Last season also saw Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi fired for punching forward Adem Ljajic during a match.

Montella, a former standout forward for Roma, has instilled a Spanish-style game based on short and quick passes with skilled midfielders like Borja Valero, David Pizzarro and Alberto Aquilani.

"We've got to focus on the last road trip with the utmost concentration, without thinking about the Siena-Milan match," said Montella, who recently announced his intention to stay with Fiorentina for a couple more seasons.

Meanwhile, the future of Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri remains uncertain, with speculation of a move to Roma after criticism from club owner and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri's future is also up for debate.

However, Juventus coach Antonio Conte said he will stay on after a long meeting with club president Andrea Agnelli on Wednesday.

Juventus close the season out against Sampdoria on Saturday.

All the other matches will be played Sunday. It's Atalanta vs. Chievo Verona; Bologna vs. Genoa; Cagliari vs. Lazio; Inter Milan vs. Udinese; Palermo vs. Parma; Roma vs. Napoli; and Torino vs. Catania.

One other small bit of detail to be figured out is which club takes the second Europa League berth after either Milan or Fiorentina.

Udinese enters with a two-point lead over Lazio for fifth place. Roma, which trails Udinese by four points, also has a chance.

Roma faces Lazio in the Italian Cup final on May 26, the winner of which also gets a Europa League berth.

If Lazio finishes fifth and also wins the Cup final, the sixth-place finisher also gets a Europa League berth.

First Published: May 17, 2013, 11:05 AM IST
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