Milan vs. Lazio: Reviewing the Serie A Battle for Third Place

Matteo BonettiContributor IMarch 2, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 02:  Giampaolo Pazzini of AC Milan celebrates scoring the third goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and S.S. Lazio at San Siro Stadium on March 2, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Milan have stated their case to be in the Champions League next year after defeating Lazio, 3-0, at home and overtaking them on the Serie A table by one point. Not that history would tell us any differently, as Lazio hasn't won at the San Siro in the past 23 years.

The battle for third place couldn't be tighter, as the Italian league is still reeling over losing a fourth Champions League spot to the improving Bundesliga in Germany.

Now, quality sides that should be fighting against elite sides across the continent are left out and must settle for the Europa League, a competition that Italian teams haven't taken seriously since its introduction.

Against Lazio, coach Massimiliano Allegri had to deal with the loss of Mario Balotelli to injury. In his place came the in-form striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who scored a brace and was the genesis of the second goal that Kevin-Prince Boateng tapped in.

It's incredible what confidence can do to an attacker. Rossoneri fans questioned the sale of Antonio Cassano plus €7 million to Inter for the services of the misfiring Pazzini last summer, but now, a different story has unfolded.

Cassano has been on a downward spiral which was magnified by his recent fight with Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni, while Pazzini has been scoring at will, bringing his tally to 12 on the season which is fourth best in Serie A.

With Milan's newfound confidence both domestically and in the Champions League, the sky really is limitless.

The Rossoneri are now the favorites to retain the third spot in Serie A, possibly making an attack for second place (which would avoid the Champions League Qualifiers) and are primed for one of the biggest upsets of the season as they lead Barcelona, 2-0, on aggregate in the Champions League. 

For a year that began as the worst in Milan franchise history, this turnaround has been absolutely remarkable. It goes without saying that the constantly under-fire coach Allegri has been key in turning the team around, sticking with a more offensive approach and giving plenty of space for the youngsters to flourish.

In the end, Milan has shed its reputation of being an old, slower side by fielding a highly entertaining attacking trident, coupled with lightning fast full-backs who always provide plenty of momentum on the flanks.