AC Milan in need of win to overtake Sampdoria

A resurgent AC Milan will aim to continue its rise up the Serie A table and move into third place with a win at Lazio on Sunday.

Leonardo’s side seems to have overcome its mediocre early-season form and has won three of its last five league matches and drawn the other two to sit fourth with 19 points, two behind Sampdoria in third. Milan also leads its Champions League group ahead of Real Madrid, after beating the Spanish giant away and drawing 1-1 at home on Tuesday.

Inter Milan leads the Serie A table with 28, while Juventus is second, seven points behind.

“The spirit is always positive,” Leonardo said. “And you can see that by the way (strikers) Alexandre Pato and Ronaldinho help the defense.

“We have to read the game better to be able to perform at our best for the whole 90 minutes. We have to become a more balanced team and know what we have to do throughout the match.”

Milan’s recent results have been boosted by a return to form by its key players. In attack, Ronaldinho and Marco Borriello are linking up well with Pato, while Alessandro Nesta has returned to command the defense.

World Cup winner Massimo Oddo has also been a steady presence in the back four, despite Milan’s attempt to sell him during the offseason.

“We have won important points in the championship,” Oddo said. “We have to keep going like this without lowering our standards. The fans can see how much effort we are putting in to playing our best. Sometimes things go wrong, but we always give our best.”

Sampdoria, meanwhile, needs a convincing win away to Cagliari after only taking one point from the last two games.

Having been neck-and-neck with Inter over the first two months of the season, Luigi Del Neri’s team has lost some momentum since the end of October.

The team lost 5-1 to Juventus and then still appeared shell-shocked in the next fixture, a 0-0 draw at home to Bari.

The result was overshadowed by a post-match outburst from Antonio Cassano, who threatened to leave the team after being whistled by his own fans.

In response, the club’s supporters wrote an open letter to the volatile striker imploring him to remain with the club, something Del Neri is confident he will do.

“Antonio will stay with us,” Del Neri said. “The fans must be happy with the way the team is playing. This is Serie A and they can’t expect us to win every game. We are doing big things and have to continue down this path.”

Inter hosts AS Roma, a team whose fans have protested about the team’s performances. Roma sits 14th with 14 points.

Francesco Totti will again be absent with knee problems and coach Claudio Ranieri is well aware that his side is in desperate need of someone to lead from the front.

“Every time we create a chance and then miss it, it becomes more obvious that we need a striker,” Ranieri said. “A coach has to be happy with the players he has, but we are conceding goals through tactical mistakes and a lack of concentration.”

Also this weekend, it is: Atalanta vs. Juventus; Catania vs. Napoli; Bari vs. Livorno; Bologna vs. Palermo; Genoa vs. Siena; Parma vs. Chievo Verona and Udinese vs. Fiorentina.