AC Milan returned to winning ways and gets a chance to consolidate its position in the top four on Sunday but it faces a tough test when it hosts Atalanta in Serie A.
Milan climbed back into the Champions League spots after winning 1-0 at Monza on Saturday, its third consecutive win in all competitions after a run of seven games without a victory.
It is now fourth on 44 points from 23 games, level with third-placed Roma and three points above Atalanta in sixth.
Among Milan’s recent wins - all 1-0 - was its uplifting last-16 Champions League home victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
However, reigning champion Milan has not yet won four successive games this season and the last time it enjoyed more victories in a row without conceding was five years ago.
“It’s easy to be a team when things are going well, it was much less easy to overcome those three or four difficult weeks,” coach Stefano Pioli said on Monday, when he was named best Serie A manager at the 2021-22 Italian football coaching awards.
“We are fighting for the top four places in the league which is an important goal. We have seen how good it is to play in the Champions League, we want to play in it again next year.”
However, Milan’s top-four push faces a hurdle when it hosts Atalanta, which is also pushing for a European spot.
Pioli’s side has picked up only one point in its last four matches against sides in the top six in Serie A, with its last such win coming in September against Inter Milan.
But it is a good time to face Atalanta, which has lost three out of its last four matches in all competitions. The recent downturn includes losses to lowly Sassuolo and Lecce.
Before its decline in form, Atalanta had earned four wins and two draws in its first six matches of 2023.
“It is more difficult to play against Milan than Lecce, but it depends also on how it starts,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said after their 2-1 loss at home to Lecce.
Leader Napoli on Saturday travels to mid-table Empoli, which it beat 2-0 earlier this season.
Napoli has scored 56 goals and conceded only 15 in the league this season - the most scored and fewest conceded in the top flight this term.
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