Milan and Inter fighting over Europa League crumbs

acmillanROME: Accustomed to fighting for the game’s biggest honors, Inter Milan and AC Milan finds themselves in a seventeam scrap for a place in the unloved Europa League as their patchy Serie A campaigns draw to a close. Seven-times European champions Milan host bottom club Catania on Sunday (1845 GMT) and are in the strange position of being in with a shout of a Europa League spot despite languishing in 11th place, after a bizarre season that has cost them one manager and featured infighting behind the scenes. Clarence Seedorf, who won two Champions Leagues with the club as a player, has had a rocky ride since taking over as coach from Massimiliano Allegri in January.

But an upturn in form – his side have picked up 10 points from a possible 12 and have won three on the bounce – have left Milan five points behind fifth placed Inter who have only picked up three points over the same period. They also have a much easier run-in than Inter, with three of their final six matches at home to the current bottom three. “The atmosphere has improved a lot, and winning helps. Good results help everyone, coaches, players, directors and fans,” said Adriano Galliani, who is one of Milan’s two CEOs alongside Barbara Berlusconi. Inter travel on Sunday (1300) to Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Sampdoria, who have been a tough proposition since the Serb arrived in late November.

Their final six games are significantly tougher too. After Samp they travel to Parma, with whom they are level on 50 points, and they also have to face third placed Napoli and Lazio, who are two points behind them in seventh, at the San Siro. There is also the small matter of the Milan derby on Sunday May 4, in which they are the nominal away side. Walter Mazzarri’s side currently occupy the second and last Europa league spot, although a sixth place finish could offer a place in the competition. Both Fiorentina, who lie five points ahead of Inter in fourth, and Napoli contest the Italian Cup final in May. The cup offers a place in the Europa League and both sides are almost certain to finish in the European places, meaning that sixth place will take the last spot. This opens up the race to a host of clubs, including Milan.

However they will have to get past Parma, Lazio, Hellas Verona, Atalanta and Torino, all of who are sandwiched between Inter and Milan. World Cup hopeful Mattia Destro has put title-chasing AS Roma under a cloud after receiving a four-game ban for being caught by cameras punching Cagliari defender Davide Astori during Sunday’s 3-1 win in Sardinia. Destro scored a hat-trick in a win that temporarily brought them five points behind league leaders Juventus, who then beat Livorno and travel to Udinese on Monday (1845). Roma host Atalanta tomorrow. —Reuters

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