AC Milan captain Paulo Maldini has leapt to the defence of embattled Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri ahead of the teams’ Serie A clash on Sunday. Juve have fallen to third in the standings after five games without a win and there has been speculation in the Italian media that a defeat against the Rossoneri at a packed San Siro would spell the end for veteran coach Ranieri.
But Maldini, who at 40 is set to retire at the end of the season, said:
“I believe Ranieri has done a great job. Let’s not forget that in the Champions League they have been eliminated by Chelsea, a great team. I can say that Juve has been the team closest to Inter in this campaign and hence, you cannot say that they have been a failure.”
Nevertheless, Milan will be desperate to take all three points on Sunday because anything but a win could hand their city rivals Inter Milan a fourth-straight scudetto. Milan have been in great form but are still seven points adrift of Inter with four games remaining.
Jose Mourinho’s Inter will have to overcome the absence of team’s top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they travel to Verona to meet relegation-threatened Chievo. Ibrahimovic, who leads Serie A’s scoring charts alongside Bologna’s Marco Di Vaio with 21 goals, will miss the encounter at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi through suspension.
Fiorentina will be under pressure to beat Catania in Sicily knowing that anything but a win could see Genoa leapfrog them into fourth in the standings. The Viola hold the last Champions League qualifying spot, with a one-point advantage over Genoa, who make the journey to Bergamo to meet Atalanta in buoyant mood following last weekend’s 3-1 triumph over Sampdoria in the city derby.
Struggling Roma will be desperate to rediscover their form when they meet Cagliari in Sardinia. The Giallorossi have won just two of their past nine encounters, and are in danger of not making it into Europe next season.
Luciano Spalletti’s side occupy sixth spot and the last Europa League qualifying berth but they are now only one point above Palermo. Palermo coach Davide Ballardini will be hoping last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing of Cagliari will inspire his team to return to the winning ways on the road. The Sicilian outfit take on Siena in Tuscany having mustered just one point in their last three away games.
Mid-table Udinese will be looking to make it five wins in a row when they travel to the Italian capital to meet Lazio.
Sunday’s game at the Stadio delle Alpi will be a relegation battle for Torino and Bologna. The Granata hold the last position of safety with a one-point advantage over 18th-place Bologna. A draw in Turin would benefit Lecce, who are two points behind Torino.
The Salentini entertain out-of-form Napoli inspired by last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Juventus.
Rock-bottom Reggina know they must win at Sampdoria if they wish to have a chance to defend their Serie A status this season. The Amaranto are three points from safety with four games remaining.