Pitchside Europe

European Match of the Weekend: Milan v Juventus


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AC Milan travel to leaders Juventus on Sunday knowing that defeat would seriously dent their hopes of securing second place in Serie A and automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

The record between the sides of late has been perfectly even: two wins apiece and one draw in their last five meetings while in Turin there have been three wins each and two goalless draws in the last seven.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have suffered a blip in form, slipping four points behind Napoli, who sit second, with six matches remaining after draws against Fiorentina and Napoli in their last two outings. However they remain the only side unbeaten in 2013 in Serie A (9W 5D).

The Rossoneri have found the back of the net in each of their last six games on the road, but with Mario Balotelli completing a ban for abusing a match official in the defeat by Fiorentina - despite seeing his three-match sanction cut to two games - and co-striker Stephan El Shaarawy unhappy after being dropped for last weekend's 1-1 draw against Napoli, their attack has lost its cutting edge.

Allegri, who has been backed by Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani to remain as coach for next season, is set to start with veteran striker Giampaolo Pazzini, but is yet to decide on the other two players in his preferred system of an attacking trio.

El Shaarawy believes he is match fit, despite reports in the Italian press of a knee injury and general tiredness.

Asked by reporters how he was feeling, the 20-year-old Italian international replied: "Ask Allegri."

El Shaarawy is not the only Milan player to have had a moan to the press. Kevin Prince Boateng has been unhappy about being asked to start in a deeper role, but an ankle injury picked up against Napoli may well keep the Ghanaian out of action anyway.

Milan have scored the most goals courtesy of Italian players this season (43). Mathieu Flamini, Milan's scorer last weekend, will definitely be missing after being red-carded in the same game.

Balotelli was suspended after picking up his fourth booking of the season for aiming an insult at referee Paolo Tagliavento in the 2-2 draw at La Viola two weeks ago.

Balotelli went to the Italian Football Federation's headquarters in Rome with a member of Milan's legal team and had hoped to be given the go- ahead to play, but was disappointed.

"The Federal Court of Justice has partially upheld an appeal by Milan and reduces the matches Mario Balotelli is banned for by three to two games, adding a fine of 20,000 euros in exchange for the third match," the FIGC stated.

He will now return for next week's home match against Catania.

Balotelli has scored seven goals in eight league appearances since leaving Manchester City in January for Milan who are third in Serie A on 59 points, 15 behind Juve.

The match against Juve completes a tough string of fixtures for third-placed Milan, but the club's run-in towards the end of the season looks comparatively easy.

Juventus, in fine fettle after seeing off Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Monday, are just six points away from claiming their 29th Italian title.

They have won each of their last five league fixtures, conceding only two goals in the process, and have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 home league games - with keeper Gianluigi Buffon having kept 13 all season, the most of anyone in the top flight.

If they beat Milan, they face the prospect of winning the championship away to cross-city rivals Torino the following weekend.

It should be an entertaining game, with Juventus and AC Milan having made the most successful passes in Serie A this season with 428 and 398 per game respectively.

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Live foreign league matches on Eurosport-Yahoo! this weekend


5pm (UK time) - Real Madrid v Real Betis

7pm - Barcelona v Levante


11.30am - Inter v Parma

2pm - Napoli v Cagliari

7.45pm - Juventus v AC Milan

8pm - Sevilla v Atletico Madrid

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