Soccer-Milan desperate to delay Inter's title celebrations in derby clash


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - AC Milan Training - Milanello, Carnago, Italy - April 10, 2024 AC Milan's Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek with teammates during training REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo/File Photo

(Reuters) - The Serie A title could be won in a Milan derby for the first time on Monday but hosts AC Milan will be determined to postpone Inter Milan's inevitable Scudetto celebrations.

The title was all but wrapped up by early March and since then Inter fans have had their calculators in one hand and the fixture list in the other, dreaming of matchday 33 and the possibility of a derby day to beat all derby days.

When the sides met in September both had won their opening three games of the season to share top spot but Inter demolished Milan 5-1 that day to lay down their title credentials.

The Milan rivals still hold the top two places in the table but Inter's 14-point gap, with six games remaining, means that a win at the San Siro will be enough to secure the Scudetto.

Milan will hope to finally give their fans some derby joy after 2023 brought only defeat. The neighbours met five times last year, including in the Champions League semi-final, with Inter winning all five, and revenge is required.

There could be no better way than to deny Inter fans the chance to see their side clinch the league title in the game that matters most, and in what is a home match for Milan.

The derby is also a massive game for Stefano Pioli, with the Milan manager under pressure and his future at the club in doubt. A win will not secure his job but another derby loss, and under these circumstances, certainly won't help his case.

MARTINEZ BACK

Inter are boosted by the return from suspension of striker Lautaro Martinez, top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals, but the Argentine has failed to find the net in his last four league games and will be keen to end his rare dry spell.

The Derby della Madonnina rivals have both won 19 league titles and it will be Inter who will get that coveted second star on their jersey (one star for every 10 titles) but a draw will be enough for Milan to postpone the party.

Third-placed Juventus, with one win in their last six Serie A games and six points behind Milan, are away on Friday to Cagliari, who held Inter to a 2-2 draw last weekend to boost their survival hopes.

Defending champions Napoli will aim to keep their slim Champions League qualifying bid alive at Empoli on Saturday. Napoli are in eighth place, six points behind AS Roma in fifth, while Empoli are one point above the relegation zone.

Roma host Bologna on Monday, with both sides in the hunt for Champions League football. Bologna are fourth, with Roma, who have confirmed that manager Daniele De Rossi will stay in charge next season, four points behind.

Roma have a game in hand after their match at Udinese was suspended at 1-1 in the 72nd minute on Sunday when their Ivory Coast international Evan Ndicka collapsed on the pitch. The defender has since been discharged from hospital.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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