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Great gaming heroes AC Milan undergo a test of courage against less light



AC Milan will host Empoli on Saturday with a narrow lead over their Serie A title rivals and a hoodoos to beat against the league’s lesser lights.

Last weekend’s 1-0 win at Napoli enabled them to regain first place and was another in a string of strong performances against the duo they’re battling for the Scudetto.

It came after the triumph of last month’s Milan derby, which was also powered by Olivier Giroud, and an impressive display against their local rivals in the first leg of the Italian Cup semi-final, which was not awarded with a goal, however.

But the gap between Milan and Inter is only two points due to their recent battles against teams they are the absolute favorites to beat.

The win at Napoli was preceded by draws with bottom side Salernitana – when they led after just four minutes – and Udinese, another team battling the fall.

Those two draws allowed Napoli to claim the top spot going into the final round and they have also lost at home to Spezia since the turn of the year, albeit in bizarre circumstances.

AC Milan, which misses the suspended Theo Hernandez on Saturday, will have a chance after Saturday’s Cagliari, Bologna, Turin and Genoa if they can start treating smaller teams like the big boys.

“Mental makes a huge difference, in some games there is a spark and in others it is not,” said coach Stefano Pioli ahead of his team’s win at Napoli.

“It also depends a bit on tactics because if you don’t have space it’s hard to play, but when a team attacks you there are gaps through which you can be more effective.”

Inter had the good news on Thursday that Marcelo Brozovic should be available for Sunday night’s game in Turin after being forced to leave the field early during their midweek Champions League foray at Anfield.

Brozovic was forced out with a muscle problem with 15 minutes to go in Inter’s 1-0 win over Liverpool, which was not enough to undo a 2-0 home defeat to the Reds, with his team already down to 10 men.

He is crucial to the way Simone Inzaghi’s team plays and was one of the reasons behind Inter’s creditable performances in both legs against Jurgen Klopp’s red-hot squad.

Juventus, meanwhile, have an unbeaten run of 14 games to protect when they travel to Sampdoria, with a treatment table piled high with players and a Champions League decider with Villarreal on the horizon.

One such player traveling to the coast is Paulo Dybala, whose saga of contract renewal is still dragging on nearly two months after it last surfaced in the public domain.

The Argentina international’s current contract with Juve will expire at the end of the season and he has reportedly been waiting since October for an extension that would boost his salary to eight million euros per season ($9.1 million), plus more once two million euros in bonuses.

A meeting between Juve and Dybala’s representatives to discuss his contract was again postponed this week, and with the 28-year-old now free to negotiate with other clubs, the possibility of him leaving each week seems more likely.

There is good news for Massimiliano Allegri, with Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio returning for a Juve backline that still misses Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Player to watch: Gianluca Caprari

In addition to standout sensation Giovanni Simeone, Caprari was the star of a Verona team that defied expectations under Igor Tudor and will pose a major threat against title-chasing Napoli on Sunday.

Scorer of 10 goals this season – the same as fellow playmaker Antonin Barak – Caprari has scored six since the turn of the year, while also racking up seven assists.

Key Statistics

3 – The points gap between Milan, Inter and Napoli.

14 – Juve’s unbeaten run of matches has them as an opportunity for the title.

Matches (times GMT)

Saturday

Salernitana v Sassuolo, Spezia v Cagliari (both 1400), Sampdoria v Juventus (1700), AC Milan v Empoli (1945)

Sunday

Fiorentina v Bologna (1130), Verona v Napoli (1400), Atalanta v Genoa, Udinese v Roma (1700), Turin v Inter Milan (1945)

Monday

Lazio v Venice (1945)

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