Siena vs. AC Milan: Rossoneri on the Brink of Clinching Champions League Spot

Sumeet PaulContributor IMay 15, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 12:  Head coach AC Milan Massimiliano Allegri reacts during the Serie A match between AC Milan and AS Roma at San Siro Stadium on May 12, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The race for the Champions League comes down to the final game of the season in Italy, as Milan know that a win will guarantee their spot among Europe's elite next season.

Having been held at San Siro by Roma last Sunday, the Rossoneri must secure a result at Siena to ensure they remain in third place.

Rivals Fiorentina are two points adrift, but should they defeat Pescara and Milan only draw, then the Viola will snatch the third spot due to their superior head-to-head record.

As a result, Massimiliano Allegri will undoubtedly be aware of the risks involved and will prepare his men to secure all three points, thus avoiding any late drama which would see them consigned to participating in the Europa League instead.

He will hope to have Riccardo Montolivo back, who is battling to return to fitness having missed the last three games with a thigh injury, especially considering the absence of the suspended Sulley Muntari.

Elsewhere, he should have an otherwise full-strength squad at his disposal, barring long-term absentees, as they prepare for a potentially nervy conclusion to the year.

It has been a memorable campaign for both the right and wrong reasons for Milan, and considering how far they have come in the second half of the season, third place will be considered a success.

The dark days of October had many suggesting that a year of transition dubbed "Year Zero" by Allegri and the club hierarchy would be a tumultuous one, with little to instill confidence of being able to challenge at the right end of the table.

As the weeks passed and Milan continued to dwell in the bottom half, the absence of key figures sacrificed in the summer as part of the new transfer strategy seemed like it would send the club into meltdown.

While the most prized assets were sold in order to cut down the wage bill and thus improve the financial state of the club, what good would it have been if Milan failed to qualify for the Champions League and therefore missed out on the pecuniary benefits that come with it?

However, having battled through the tough times and showed patience in both the coach and squad, the Rossoneri are now on the brink of clinching a top-three finish, an achievement that would have been unthinkable in the early part of the season.

Having developed young talents such as Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio, while also strengthening further with the January signing of Mario Balotelli, Milan have gone from a crisis zone to one of the most promising clubs in Serie A.

The objective next season will undoubtedly revolve around being competitive both in the race for the Scudetto and the Champions League. However, all that matters in the more immediate plan is that the Rossoneri secure victory and the all-important third place that will come with it on Sunday.