Top-four finish would be turning-point for AC Milan, says Pioli

AC Milan has not featured in Europe's most prestigious club competition since 2013-14, but head into the final weekend with its fate in its own hands.

Stefano Pioli

Stefano Pioli's Milan is third, level on points with fourth-placed Napoli and one point ahead of Juventus in fifth.   -  REUTERS

AC Milan’s final game of the Serie A season against Atalanta on Sunday can mark a turning-point for the club as it looks to end a long wait for Champions League qualification, manager Stefano Pioli said on Saturday.

The seven-times European champion has not featured in Europe's most prestigious club competition since 2013-14, but head into the final weekend with its fate in its own hands.

Milan is third, level on points with fourth-placed Napoli and one point ahead of Juventus in fifth, and a win in Bergamo would guarantee it a top-four finish.

"The final standings will deliver the verdict. We have spoken for the whole year about matches that mark a turning point, and tomorrow will be one. The team is motivated and will be ready to give their all," Pioli told a news conference.

"Evaluations can be made at the end of the season. Tomorrow is too important, where we are today counts for nothing. Today we would deservedly be in the Champions League, but all that counts is where we are tomorrow night."

Milan started the season strongly and was top of the table until mid-February, but a dip in form has left it at risk of dropping to fifth place.

Napoli and Juventus face mid-table Hellas Verona and Bologna, while the Rossoneri face second-placed Atalanta.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side, guaranteed a top-four finish, is unbeaten in its last three meetings with Milan and thrashed it 5-0 in Bergamo in December, 2019.

"We have shown that we are a strong team. We are facing Atalanta, who have deservedly qualified for the Champions League, but we have the quality to join them there," Pioli said.

"Atalanta are a strong team, last year we were not yet at their level. Now we have closed the gap a lot and tomorrow we have the chance to show that.”

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