Locked in battle for a place in the Champions League final, AC Milan and city rivals Inter are also vying with each other in Serie A for a spot among Europe’s elite next season and will treat their remaining league tests as seriously as their semi.
Inter grabbed two early goals through Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to secure an impressive 2-0 win over Milan in the first leg of its Champions League last-four tie on Wednesday, taking a significant advantage into next week’s return encounter.
One of the two sides will become the first Italian finalist since Juventus faced Real Madrid six years ago, but a potential showdown against powerhouses Real or Manchester City leaves them no room to relax on the domestic front.
Neither of the Milan-based clubs can be assured of a top-four spot just yet, with Inter fourth in the standings on 63 points and Milan right behind, on 61.
Inter could not have timed its return to form any better as Simone Inzaghi’s men are on a six-game winning streak in all competitions, four of them in Serie A.
A home win against mid-table Sassuolo on Saturday could bring some breathing space ahead of their return leg with their rivals on Tuesday.
For Milan, which faces Spezia on Saturday, things are different and last year’s Serie A champions have little room for error left.
Milan has won only two of its last six games on the domestic front, with four draws, and it needs to quickly rebound from its Champions League disappointment if it wants to return to the competition next season.
“I will try to make the best choices to try to win against Spezia and then overturn this (semi-final) result,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said following their defeat to Inter.
“Playing as Milan, playing better, with quality and intensity” is the way forward, according to the coach.
As well as lowly Spezia, Milan faces already-relegated Sampdoria and struggling Hellas Verona in three of its remaining four league outings but all are must-win matches given Pioli’s side also has to visit second-placed Juventus.
Spezia, which is 18th, has not won any of its last eight games and on Saturday could register its longest ever streak without a Serie A victory.
For third-placed Lazio, three losses in its last four games have shaken things up at the capital club, and a home game against 16th-placed Lecce may help it regain some much-needed balance.
“At halftime I saw a disheartened team and this is the aspect that worried me the most,” coach Maurizio Sarri said after their 2-0 loss at Milan last weekend.
Lazio had recorded seven wins and one draw in eight Serie A matches before its form nosedived, which saw it drop from second to third in the table, one point ahead of Inter.
Champions Napoli will travel to Monza on Sunday after its fans got to celebrate the title with a home win over Fiorentina last week.
Juventus will host second-bottom Cremonese on Sunday in between its two Europa League semi-final matches against Sevilla.
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