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Milan and Juve to battle for top spot

06 Jan 2012 01:16:39

Milan and Juve to battle for top spot

AC Milan may be facing a tug-of-war with neighbours Inter Milan over Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez but it is with Juventus that the champions are battling for Serie A supremacy.

Milan managed to finish 2011 on top thanks to a 2-0 win at Cagliari while Juventus were being held to a goalless stalemate at Udinese.

The champions' superior goal difference has seen them edge ahead of the only unbeaten team remaining in Europe's top leagues.

Following a poor start to their campaign, in which Milan won only one of their first five league matches, the rossoneri have gradually reeled in the early pace-setters.

And they will be looking to capitalise on the winter lull in the Champions League to try to pull clear of the pack.

Juve have had the benefit of being free from European competition this season and have used the extra time off in midweek to rest and prepare for their league encounters.

That has seen them remain unbeaten in 16 games -- although with seven draws -- and they start the new year with an easier tie than the leaders.

Juve travel to rock-bottom Lecce while Milan have a difficult trip to Atalanta, who but for a six-point penalty for match-fixing would be fifth.

Milan are unbeaten in 11 league games but Atalanta have only lost twice themselves, the same number as their visitors.

The champions have also received a double boost as midfielder Gennaro Gattuso played in a friendly against Paris St Germain in Dubai on Wednesday while fellow veteran Filippo Inzaghi has pledged his future to the club.

Gattuso has hardly played this season after developing an eye problem while Milan's interest in Tevez was thought likely to spell the end of Inzaghi's 11-year association with the rossoneri.

Juve have boosted their playing resources with the signature of striker Marco Borriello from Roma with Amauri, Vincenzo Iaquinta and maybe even Fabio Quagliarella heading out the other way.

However, it is the midfield combination of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Chile's Arturo Vidal that has most caught the eye.

And Vidal believes it's one of the best out there.

"I don't know if our midfield is the best in Europe, it's up to you (journalists) to tell me that," he said.

"But for sure it's strong and I feel very much at home in our three-man midfield. I really like the midfields of Barcelona and Real Madrid but you shouldn't under-estimate Udinese's either."

Udinese, who sit third and just two points behind the top two, start the year with struggling Cesena at home, however they are set to lose three central midfielders to the African Cup of Nations.

Kwadwo Asamoah, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Thierry Doubai are all heading off to Gabon and Equitorial Guinea, although they have brought in Switzerland international Gelson Fernandes on loan from French club St Etienne as cover.

After a disastrous start to the season, Inter Milan finished 2011 as the most in-form team with six wins in their last seven Serie A encounters ahead of Saturday night's clash with Parma.

Inter have fourth-placed Lazio, who travel to Siena the same night, in their sights as they look to drag themselves back into Champions League contention.

Fixtures:

Saturday

Siena v Lazio (1700 GMT), Inter Milan v Parma (1945 GMT)

Sunday (1400 GMT unless stated)

Udinese v Cesena (1130), Atalanta v AC Milan, Bologna v Catania, Cagliari v Genoa, Lecce v Juventus, Novara v Fiorentina, Roma v Chievo, Palermo v Napoli (1945 GMT)


AFP

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