AC Milan vs. Torino: Rossoneri Looking to Preserve Advantage

Sumeet Paul@italiafootyContributor IMay 3, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 28:  Mario Balotelli of AC Milan celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal from a penalty kick during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Calcio Catania at San Siro Stadium on April 28, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Things are getting tense in the race for the Champions League in Serie A, and while Fiorentina take on Roma this weekend, Milan know they must avoid dropping points against Torino at San Siro on Sunday.

Just a solitary point separates third-place Milan from their nearest rivals, but they will be buoyed by their return to winning ways last week against Catania.

Despite falling behind twice, Massimiliano Allegri's men demonstrated their character and ability to react to adversity to secure a 4-2 victory. While they have the advantage of having their fate in their own hands, there is huge pressure not to hand the Viola the initiative.

Mario Balotelli marked his return from suspension with a late penalty to make the result safe, but it was substitute Giampaolo Pazzini who came on in the second half to save the Rossoneri's blushes.

Relegated to a "super-sub" role since the January arrival of Balotelli, Pazzini has proved to be a vital component of this Milan squad with his goals. He will arguably play an important role in their bid to secure Champions League football from now until the end of the season.

However, Milan's cause will not have been aided by the news that Riccardo Montolivo suffered a thigh muscle problem in training in mid-week, and although there is no date yet set for a likely return, he is set for a spell on the sidelines and will miss Sunday's game.

Montolivo has grown into a real leader of this Milan team and has provided a solid platform in midfield for others to excel. His creativity, industry and ability to pick a pass will be missed, and it will be hoped that he can return as swiftly as possible.

It provides Allegri with a real headache for the game, as it will be difficult to replace what Montolivo brings to the team. The basis of the 4-3-3 tactical setup revolves around the Italian international being the creative hub with two combative midfielders on either side of him. It will be difficult to find a solution, which could require Kevin-Prince Boateng to drop back into midfield to add some flair and offensive spark.

The pressure continues to be shouldered by Allegri, who was reminded on Friday by Milan director Barbara Berlusconi of the requirement of Champions League football next season. Despite their nightmare start to the season, the Rossoneri have recovered well. Having seemingly overcome a troublesome trio of fixtures in April, they now have four games remaining to secure their reservation at Europe's top table.

"In this season of profound change, Allegri has overcome many difficulties and has worked well with the youngsters, who are our future," Berlusconi told Milan Channel, as reported by

It is not up to me to make evaluations of the Coach, but failing to finish third this season would leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

We are all fighting for a fundamental objective and that is the Champions League. We are all united!

Fiorentina have won three games in a row since the 2-2 draw with Milan in Florence on April 7, and the Rossoneri must now regroup and respond by clinching all three points against a Torino side that have lost four of their last five league games.

Balotelli will likely be key to their chances once more, but the big question will be how Allegri lines his team up in the absence of Montolivo.

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