Serie A: Salernitana faces survival test against leader AC Milan

Milan may be top but in what promises to be a thrilling run in just two points separates the top three.

Published : Feb 17, 2022 17:19 IST , MILAN

AC Milan's Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring a brace against Inter Milan.
AC Milan's Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring a brace against Inter Milan.

AC Milan's Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring a brace against Inter Milan.

It is a case of top meets bottom in Serie A on Saturday as leader AC Milan visits tailender Salernitana which has gambled on retaining its elite status by making wholesale changes since the turn of the year.

Milan may be top but in what promises to be a thrilling run in just two points separates the top three.

Seven-time European champion AC Milan took advantage of Inter Milan drawing at fellow title rivals Napoli to move top for the first time in two months last weekend and have had a full week to prepare for their match.

Inter -- which is a point off Milan -- faces Sassuolo off the back of Wednesday's demoralising 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool, while Napoli, a further point adrift, is at Barcelona in the Europa League on Thursday before playing Cagliari on Monday.

Salernitana's main worry in terms of countering an attacking threat will come in the shape of Rafael Leao, the 22-year-old Portuguese forward is enjoying a breakthrough campaign and will make his 100th Milan appearance.

He is set to be rewarded with a contract extension until 2026 and a salary bumped up to four million euros ($4.5 million) a season.

Goals in each of his last two games, including the only one against Sampdoria which sent Milan top, have taken his Serie A tally to seven, with four assists.

On Tuesday Salernitana brought in new coach Davide Nicola as it tries to extricate itself from the relegation zone.

It was the latest episode of what has been an eventful first Serie A season in over two decades for the southern club, which had already changed hands to ensure it was not kicked out of the league.

Spurred on by new owner Danilo Iervolino Salernitana brought in 11 players in the January transfer window and then got encouraging draws in consecutive matches with Spezia and Genoa.

It was further boosted by the Italian Football Federation overturning Serie A's decision to dock them a point and hand them a 3-0 defeat for not showing up for December's match at Udinese following a spike in Covid-19 cases.

That decision means Salernitana has two games in hand over the majority of the teams fighting against the drop -- although it has only one in hand on Venezia which is eight points better off and sit just above the bottom three.

"The only thing I'm focussed on is the next three months," Nicola told reporters on Wednesday.

"I'm not sure how far we can go this season but we need to believe that we can reach our target (survival)."

Juventus kicks off the weekend's matches with the Turin derby on Friday night as it tries to stay in the Champions League spots.

Massimiliano Allegri's side stayed fourth thanks to Danilo's last-gasp leveller at Atalanta on Sunday, and sit two points clear of last weekend's opponents ahead of the visit of Torino.

Atalanta was desperately unlucky not to come away with the win against Juve, as Hans Hateboer hit the bar with the host leading from Ruslan Malinovskyi's rocket of a goal.

Gian Piero Gasperini's team are under pressure to beat Fiorentina to stay in touch with Juve and give themselves the opportunity to get back into the top four by winning their game in hand.

Player to watch: Olivier Giroud

France forward Giroud is yet to score away from the San Siro since signing for Milan but his doubles in the derby with Inter and against Lazio in the cup showed he was more than just Zlatan Ibrahimovic's understudy.

He was very unlucky not to score at least one more in last weekend's win over Sampdoria and with Ibrahimovic still out with an Achilles tendon problem Giroud has a great chance to break his duck outside the Lombard capital.

Key stats

2 - Just two points separate the top three in Serie A.

11 -- Salernitana completely changed its first-choice line-up with a host of new signings.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment