AC Milan is starting to sense how close it is to its 18th Serie A title, now that Silvio Berlusconi’s club has opened up a six-point lead over Napoli with five matches remaining.
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Milan won its last title in 2004 and the wait for another Italian league trophy has been especially agonizing since city rival Inter Milan has won the past five titles.
"You could say that we’ve already detached the scudetto (title patch) from Inter’s jerseys and now we’re taking the needle and thread to attach it to our shirts," said goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.
This weekend, Milan visits a Brescia side that is battling to avoid relegation, while Napoli visits southern rival Palermo.
Milan has problems in attack with Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to serve the second match in his three-game ban for insulting a linesman and fellow striker Alexandre Pato out for up to three weeks after injuring his right thigh in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria.
Another forward, Filippo Inzaghi, is nearing a return from left knee surgery in November, but isn’t ready yet.
Fortunately, midfielder Andrea Pirlo returned from a right knee injury in Wednesday’s Italian Cup draw with Palermo.
"Of course we’re a bit apprehensive because three of our five forwards are unavailable," said club vice president Adriano Galliani.
Antonio Cassano and Robinho are the two available forwards.
Inter was virtually eliminated from title contention after its 2-0 loss to Parma last weekend, dropping the European champion eight points behind Milan.
Fourth-place Lazio trails Inter by just three points and meets Inter at the San Siro this weekend.
Inter bounced back with a 1-0 win over Roma in the Italian Cup on Tuesday but coach Leonardo’s job is still reportedly on the line.
"Leonardo’s doing a great job," said Inter captain Javier Zanetti. "Let’s forget about the rumors and just focus on Saturday’s match."
Forward Samuel Eto’o and midfielder Thiago Motta could return from injury for Inter.
Meanwhile, Napoli forward Edinson Cavani will be visiting his former club in Palermo. The move north has certainly paid off for the Uruguay international, who has 25 goals this season.
Cavani had a key penalty blocked against Udinese last weekend and will be looking to reclaim the scoring lead from Udinese’s Antonio Di Natale, who has 26.
"Palermo will welcome Edinson very warmly," said Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini. "Every time I see him score for Napoli it pleases me, but (Napoli) is going to come up against a very tough squad."
Napoli will be without forward Ezequiel Lavezzi and captain Paolo Cannavaro, who are both suspended, likely meaning starts for Giuseppe Mascara and Salvatore Aronica.
Roma coach Vincenzo Montella and Juventus’ Luigi Del Neri are also fearing for their jobs.
Roma hosts Chievo Verona and Juventus welcomes Catania to Turin.
"We’ve got to win all the remaining games, that’s the only way we can keep up hope," said Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio.
All of this weekend’s matches will be played on Saturday due to the Easter holiday.
Also, it’s: Bari vs. Sampdoria; Bologna vs. Cesena; Cagliari vs. Fiorentina; Genoa vs. Lecce; and Udinese vs. Parma.