When asking a Milan fan before the season about the race for a Champions League spot, most would have responded by declaring it a battle between seven teams: Milan, Juventus, Inter, Atalanta, Napoli, Lazio and Roma.
In the first half of the season, Sassuolo looked to have the quality to compete with the rest for a spot at the top four. Naturally, they couldn’t keep up with the rest of those teams, for many reasons.
Now we are a few rounds into the second half of the season, Milan are in somewhat of a bittersweet situation. In hindsight with a win against Spezia, the Rossoneri would be just one point behind Inter in the title race, and the Scudetto fight would be much more realistic and possible than it is now. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Vincenzo Italiano’s side deserved the three points and Milan were humbled in the derby.
There is no reason to look at the past, though. There is a long future ahead of us, starting tonight with the match against Roma at the Olimpico and all that matters is a win against one of our main rivals for a Champions League spot. It is as important as the game against Inter for many reasons.
The main reason is that with 15 games remaining, we have to play five of them against a ‘top seven’ team. The most alarming part is that four of those games are going to be away from home. After todays’ match, the Diavolo have to play Napoli at home (14 March) in between our two games against Manchester United in the Europa League (11 and 18 of March).
Sunday won’t be the last trip to the Olimpico this season, because Pioli’s men also have to face Lazio, just six rounds before the finish line. This could not be anything less than another decisive and difficult match against a very strong team away from home.
Even closer to the season end, we will have to travel to Turin and play against Juventus who drew with Hellas Verona on Saturday. Even this is not the last big obstacle that the team are called to overcome, because in the last round of Serie A the Rossoneri have to face Atalanta. Imagine if points were needed to secure a Champions League spot?
Taking into consideration all of the above and the quite positive results against the ‘top seven’ in the first half of the season (3W, 1D, 2L), we want to be optimistic about the remainder of the season. Even if Milan lost the derby, everything is still in our hands, but we have to remember that we have won nothing yet. Whether it is a Scudetto, or a Champions League place.