Stefano Pioli explained that his Milan side avoided discussing Inter's earlier win ahead of facing Genoa.

Milan claimed a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Rafael Leao and Junior Messias in San Siro on Friday.

Their game came hot on the heels of Inter's 3-1 victory at Spezia, a result that had seen the reigning champions briefly move into top spot in Serie A.

However, Milan got the job done, winning for the first time in three games to restore their two-point advantage with five matches left, though Inter do have a game in hand.

Milan are attempting to win their first Serie A title since 2010-11 and Pioli noted that although he knew Inter had won, his side had not discussed the possible ramifications.

"I knew their result, but we didn't talk about it with the team," he told DAZN.

"We had to go back to winning. We knew that whatever happened, we would try to win every game.

"I think we had the right approach and hunger this evening, we ran very few risks and that is an important factor."

Pioli suggested it is difficult to know how to best handle the pressure of the title race, though he backs the character of his players.

He added: "We have to keep going, the tension is rising and so is the pressure. Now we have to feel the pressure as nothing but positive energy.

"Every day [in training] I am undecided whether to increase the pressure or to release it. But, I have to expect a lot from these guys because they are strong.

"We are more aware of our strength, I am pushing for this. There are few games left and we have to do well. Many of us are fighting for the Scudetto for the first time, it is a path that will help us. We want to be winning again."

Milan kept a sixth straight clean sheet, making Pioli only the third coach in the club's history to achieve such a feat in a single Serie A season, after Fabio Capello (twice in 1993-94: seven and nine) and Nereo Rocco (seven in 1971-72).

Key to that has been the form of goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who made a stunning save to deny Genoa's Hernani a consolation in stoppage time.

"We have to continue like this," Pioli said. "Maignan is incredible, he is receiving the right compliments. He must give his contribution to this young team."

Milan have picked up more than 70 points after 33 Serie A games for the first time since their last Scudetto-winning season 11 years ago.

Paolo Maldini is prepared for a change of off-field leadership at Milan after it was reported the club's owners are in talks with potential buyers of the Serie A giants.

Technical director Maldini said it was important to keep a focus on on-field matters as Milan chase the Serie A title.

The club legend, who made a record 902 appearances for Milan as a player, spoke about the possibility of a takeover before Friday's league clash with Genoa.

Milan won that game 2-0 to move top of the table after city rivals Inter briefly went to the summit earlier in the day.

"I know little, but it is normal that in the future of Milan there may also be a sale," Maldini told DAZN. "I don't know when that moment will be.

"A few matchdays from the end [of the season], however, I think it is in everyone's interest to try and think about winning this championship. We also have the semi-final of the Coppa Italia to play."

It has been widely reported that Investcorp, founded in Bahrain, is in talks to buy the San Siro giants from American hedge fund Elliott Management, which is said to be seeking a price above $1billion.

The Financial Times reported Investcorp has secured an exclusivity period set to last for around two weeks.

Milan regained top spot in Serie A as they returned to winning ways in timely fashion with a 2-0 victory over struggling Genoa.

Inter's 3-1 win over Spezia earlier on Friday had sent the reigning champions to the top of the pile, but Milan responded in San Siro to restore their two-point lead.

Rafael Leao's early volley put Stefano Pioli's team ahead and a first win in three games was secured late on when Junior Messias struck.

Alexis Saelemaekers and Olivier Giroud passed up presentable opportunities, but 19th-placed Genoa were unable to make Milan pay for that profligacy as they slumped to a third straight defeat.

A late switch to Milan's line-up saw Pierre Kalulu shifted to right-back in the absence of Davide Calabria, and the defender produced a moment of real quality for Leao's 11th-minute opener.

Leao had not scored since the end of February but kept his cool to steer Kalulu's inch-perfect cross into the right-hand corner on the volley.

On the opposite flank to Leao, Saelemaekers struggled to get involved and his rustiness showed when he lashed over from Franck Kessie's cutback nine minutes before half-time.

Saelemaekers nearly had a free run at goal after pouncing on a defensive mistake early in the second half, only to slice wide.

The winger turned provider just prior to the hour, but Giroud could not keep an acrobatic attempt down.

Yet Milan's faltering attack finally crafted another opening in the 87th minute, with Messias hitting home at the second time of asking following Salvatore Sirigu's fine save, the goal standing despite a VAR check for handball.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic must "listen to his body" as he ponders his future in football after an injury-hit season with Milan, according to legendary Italian striker Francesco Totti.

The Roma icon also compared Ibrahimovic's stop-start season to the end of his own playing career, although he acknowledged he was often benched despite not suffering from as many injuries as the Swede has.

Ibrahimovic could win his fifth Scudetto in the coming weeks, with Milan holding a slight advantage over Inter, Napoli, and Juventus at the Serie A summit, but has started just 11 of the Rossoneri's 32 league games this term.

The Sweden international, who missed out on the chance to represent his country at the 2022 World Cup after a play-off defeat to Poland last month, has impressed when he has featured in Serie A, netting eight times in 19 league appearances at a rate of 117.25 minutes per goal.

But with Ibrahimovic reportedly set to miss another batch of games after suffering a knee strain, talk has turned to whether the legendary striker could hang up his boots in the near future.

Totti, however, hopes to see the 40-year-old play on if he can continue at a high level.

"Ibra, listen to your body," Totti said. "Finish [the season] with a goal and then decide. Nobody can understand it like me, it's scary. He made history, but now it depends [on his physical condition].

"I hope he will continue as long as he feels like it, but only if his body allows him to be able to be as decisive as he always has been. 

"Ibra is a lion on and off the field. But playing 10 minutes and then stopping, spending more time in the medical room than on the pitch, being given injections, that's heavy. 

"It's been five years [since Totti's own retirement], but I remember all the sensations, and watching Ibra in the last period, I relive them, even if my situation it was a little different from his. I hadn't had any particular injuries.

"I felt I could still give my contribution, but I was quickly pushed aside. I would not wish my last year on my worst enemy. It was very heavy on a mental level.

"[It was] exhausting, because when after a life on the pitch, you do not play continuously, especially at a certain age, you are not letting your body rest, you are making it rust."

 

Totti scored one goal in 18 Serie A appearances during the 2016-17 season, his final campaign with the Giallorossi at the end of an incredible 25-year spell with the club, but all but one of those appearances came from the bench.

The 45-year-old registered 250 goals and 105 assists in a glittering Serie A career which saw him make 618 appearances overall, and said he would have loved to have played with Ibrahimovic.

He also believes Ibrahimovic could move into coaching at the end of his playing career, but would need to find a club capable of matching his ambitious personality.

"If they were to propose to him to be a manager, he must immediately demand clarity and transparency," Totti added. "There are two questions to ask; what should I do? And who should I do it with?

"Ibrahimovic is a brilliant man, if we had played together, with my assists, he would have scored a hundred more goals!"

Not a window goes by where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's name does not emerge in transfer speculation.

The 27-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, but Juventus are keen to move on the long sought-after Lazio midfielder.

The Serbia international has only progressed under Maurizio Sarri, attracting reported interest from the Turn giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE RAMP UP CHASE FOR MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Milinkovic-Savic's agent Mateja Kezman has commenced talks with Juventus over a possible transfer from Lazio, according to Calciomercato.

The Serbian midfielder has long been a weak area since their appearance in the Champions League final in 2015, and multiple coaches in that period have not been conducive for personnel.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito famously placed an initial €100million value on Milinkovic-Savic, but it has reportedly dropped to €70m. It is perceived that price tag is still too steep a figure for Juventus, as a consequence of compatriot Dusan Vlahovic's signing in January.

It is believed that Lazio would be open to players in return as part of a packaged deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Arsenal have joined the race to sign Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, the Mirror reports.

- Erling Haaland has dismissed interest from Manchester United, believing they do not meet the Norwegian striker's ambitions, according to ESPN.

- Paris Saint-Germain are in talks to sign Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku, only a year after he joined the London club from Inter, per the Sun.

- Roma are interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, Calciomercato is reporting.

- Spanish international Marco Asensio is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, per Mundo Deportivo, with Milan and Tottenham interested.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli is sick of discussing who is the favourite to win the Scudetto after his side dropped points in a 0-0 draw against Torino.

It was not a strong performance for Milan going forward, finishing with 0.8 expected goals compared to Torino's 1.1, as both teams registered three shots on target.

The result leaves Milan two points clear of Inter and Napoli, while Inter have one game in hand.

Speaking with post-game media, Pioli said he is tired of overreacting to every "misstep" from the title contenders.

"It's been two or three weeks that all those who claim to be favourites have made missteps," he said.

"Our approach was to create difficulties for Torino – with a little more clarity, we could have been more dangerous. 

"It's not for me to give percentages, I never guess. 

"Three weeks ago, during the break, we were super-favourites. Then, Napoli was super-favourite, then Inter. 

"Until the last two days there will be great balance."

Touching on his side's performance against Torino, Pioli discussed the challenge that the 11th-placed side presents.

"It is quite evident that we have done everything to move and give them few points of reference," he said.

"We knew about the difficulties of the game – Toro creates difficulties for everyone in their defensive phase. 

"It is true that we have not created very clear scoring chances, but we created many [dangerous] situations. 

"It's a moment like this, we're not very precise, [but] I can't say anything to the team for spirit and application.

"We are missing that spark, and clearly it's a positive result, but we wanted a win."

Milan opened the door for Inter to temporarily reclaim the lead of the Serie A title race as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Torino.

The Rossoneri were tasked with responding after Inter's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona on Saturday, which moved the Nerazzurri just a point adrift.

But, after seeing fellow challengers Napoli slip up with a 3-1 home defeat to Fiorentina, Milan also stumbled.

Clear-cut chances were few and far between, Milan failing to take advantage of their edge in possession.

It means Inter can go a point ahead at the top with a win at Spezia on Friday, when they kick off two hours before Milan host Genoa.

Davide Calabria's long-range effort drew a strong save from Etrit Berisha in the 24th minute before Torino midfielder Samuele Ricci fired wide of the near post at the other end.

Mike Maignan tipped over from Mergim Vojvoda five minutes after the restart as Torino created the better opportunities in the second half.

Sandro Tonali was denied by Berisha after cleverly working his way into the box, with Andrea Belotti seeing a chance to secure a shock win for Torino go begging when he fired into the side-netting on an evening where the Granata were full value for a stalemate that could prove pivotal in the battle for the Scudetto.

 

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

Massimiliano Allegri remembers his maiden successes with Sassuolo and Milan more fondly than his triumphs with Juventus. 

Sassuolo made history under Allegri in 2007-08 when he led them to the Serie C title and promotion to the second tier for the first time.

He was poached by Cagliari and took over at Milan ahead of the 2010-11 season, guiding them to a first Scudetto in seven years. 

Allegri only added the Supercoppa Italiana before moving onto Juve in 2014. He steered the Bianconeri to five straight Serie A titles – the first four of which were domestic doubles thanks to successes in the Coppa Italia – and two Champions League finals, both of which ended in defeat. 

Despite the incredible record he possessed during his first stint at Juve, it is the triumphs in the earlier stages of his career that he remembers more prominently. 

"All the titles are beautiful, I cannot choose. The ones I remember the most are the Serie C title with Sassuolo and the first Serie A title with Milan," said Allegri. 

"The defeats, on the other hand, are all bad – some more than others because the question remains for you about whether you could have done something better." 

Juve endured a sluggish start to the season following Allegri's return to the helm and sit eight points adrift of leaders Milan with seven games to play. 

Allegri has come in for criticism for a lack of willingness to try out young players, an attitude many believe is widespread in Italy and a significant factor in their failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

The 54-year-old explained why he may seem reluctant to put his faith in youth. 

"For some years in Italy, there has been a tendency to consider youngsters to be champions after two or three games," he said. 

"But that is pushing them ahead of schedule – at 20 years old a footballer cannot have the maturity of a 28-year-old."

Alessandro Florenzi has undergone surgery on his left knee and Milan have not given a timeframe for his recovery.

Florenzi is on a season-long loan at Milan from Roma, with the Rossoneri having the option to make the deal permanent.

The 31-year-old full-back has played 27 times this season for the Serie A leaders, though only 13 of those have been starts.

Florenzi suffered the injury in Monday's goalless draw with Bologna at San Siro that saw Milan drop two points in the race for the Scudetto, though they remain a point ahead of second-placed Napoli.

A statement on the club website read: "AC Milan can confirm that Alessandro Florenzi today underwent an arthroscopic operation on his left knee, conducted by Dr Piero Paolo Mariani.

"The meniscectomy, undertaken with AC Milan club doctor Lucio Genesio in attendance, was successful. Alessandro will commence the rehabilitation process right away."

Florenzi was in the Italy squad that won Euro 2020 last year and the group that failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup after losing to North Macedonia in the play-offs.

Stefano Pioli's side travel to Torino on Sunday.

Milan dropped potentially crucial points in their bid to win Serie A after they were frustrated by Bologna in a 0-0 draw at San Siro.

The Rossoneri went into the international break holding a three-point lead on the back of three straight 1-0 wins, but they could not keep up that winning run on Monday.

Indeed, Bologna – whose coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was not present on the touchline as he is in hospital for leukemia treatment – restricted Stefano Pioli's team to little in the way of clear chances in their boss' 100th league match in charge, to the chagrin of an expectant Milan faithful.

With Napoli and Inter having both won on Sunday, Milan's advantage has now been cut to just one point with seven games remaining.

Rafael Leao had the first opportunity 16 minutes in, though the Portugal forward could not keep his shot down.

Michel Aebischer drilled straight at Mike Maignan following Marko Arnautovic's clever dummy, before Milan's goalkeeper tipped Musa Barrow's strike over after Gary Medel had made a fine block at the other end.

Bologna continued to frustrate their hosts after the restart, with Leao particularly wasteful, first skewing a cross out of play before failing to get a shot off when he had space.

Leao provided a sublime pass for Davide Calabria in the 61st minute, but Medel just managed to divert the full-back's shot wide – a touch the referee failed to notice.

Ante Rebic blazed over as Milan kept up the pressure, with Leao then curling wide from just inside the area.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given 20 minutes to try and make a difference, but the veteran headed over from the one chance that came his way as Milan were thwarted.
 

What does it mean? No milestone celebration for Pioli as pressure mounts

Pioli did not look longed for the Milan job early in his tenure, but the work he has done to turn the Rossoneri into genuine title contenders has been quite superb. Yet, his milestone 100th Serie A game in charge did not end in a victory, but instead a draw that could prove decisive.

Inter battled their way to a 1-0 win over Juventus on Sunday and are just four points back with a game in hand, while Napoli, who like Milan have played 31 times, are only a point behind the leaders. Bologna, meanwhile, did their coach Mihajlovic proud.

Medel leads brilliant Bologna rear-guard

Medel spent time at San Siro with Inter and the experienced, dogged defender was excellent at the heart of Bologna's defence, doing his old side a huge favour in the process.

He made a joint team-high two blocks, including a fantastic one from Diaz in the first half, gained possession seven times and kept things simple on the ball, completing 33 of 36 passes before he had to go off with a head injury following a collision with Ibrahimovic.

Leao found lacking as Milan pay for their profligacy

It has been a fine season for Leao overall, with the 22-year-old scoring eight league goals so far.

His finishing was found totally lacking this time out, however, with only one of his eight attempts hitting the target, while four were blocked. His wastefulness summed Milan up, as the hosts tallied up 33 attempts to no avail.

What's next?

Milan travel to Torino on Sunday, while Bologna host Sampdoria.

Stefano Pioli says Milan are ready to approach the final eight Serie A games with "energy, strength and motivation" as they battle to end an 11-year title drought.

The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011, but they are three points clear of second-placed Napoli with seven weeks of the season remaining.

Rivals Inter are six points adrift of Milan – albeit with a game in hand – after faltering before the international break, and the defending champions face a tough Derby d'Italia clash with in-form Juventus on Sunday.

Leaders Milan go into a San Siro meeting with Bologna on Monday looking to extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions and secure a fourth consecutive victory.

Head coach Pioli is backing his players to maintain the high standards they have set with so much at stake.

He said: "I know that I have a responsible team and that the boys are aware of how well they are playing right now. They are doing everything possible to keep up the level of football and their focus.

"We can't let ourselves be influenced by results elsewhere; we need energy for our own games. We don't want to back out and we'll approach these final eight games with energy, strength and motivation."

And Pioli says it is of no importance that the other title contenders will already have played before his side take on Bologna.

He added: "I don't think that the break will have changed the balance. The schedule is tough for every team because we're talking about highly motivated teams with a lot of quality. I'm certain that the team is ready both mentally and physically.

"Playing first or after the others? That doesn't matter. We just need to focus on ourselves and our own performance. Knowing how the teams around us have got on this weekend won't change how we prepare. It doesn't matter what the others do, we need to think about what we are doing."

Asked how he would view Inter's trip to Juve, the coach said: "I will certainly watch it, but I will be very detached because it matters what we do tomorrow and no longer so much what others do.

"The team doesn't have to be influenced by today's [Sunday's] results. What matters is trying to win our game, and we know how to do it."

Pioli revealed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is fit to face Bologna, who Milan have beaten 11 times and drawn with once in the past 12 games between the two clubs.

The Rossoneri boss says Ibrahimovic has a key role to play in Milan's quest to be crowned champions, whether that be as a starter or off the bench.

He said: "It's not important whether you start or come on part way through, what matters is making a contribution to the team.

"Ibra will need to help the team – as he always does – to try to get the best out of them. It's his aim, and he has always done so – it's his motivation."

Everton have endured a nightmarish season and currently find themselves in the Premier League's relegation scramble.

The Toffees are sitting only three points above the relegation zone, despite two games in hand on 18th-placed Watford.

Just as pertinent is their financial situation, which will reportedly force them into having to sell one of their most valuable assets.

TOP STORY – EVERTON TO CHOOSE BETWEEN RICHARLISON AND CALVERT-LEWIN

The Sun is reporting Richarlison or Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have to leave Everton in order for the club to balance their books.

Their latest figures revealed a £121million loss in the last financial year, and one of the two strikers will now have to be sold.

Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are Everton's two highest goal scorers still at the club since the latter arrived in 2016. The Brazilian has scored 47 in 142 appearances in all competitions, while the former Sheffield United man has tallied 55 in 180 games.

Richarlison is a reported target for Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Arsenal apparently keeping a close eye on Calvert-Lewin's situation.

ROUND-UP

– England midfielder Kalvin Phillips has told Leeds United he wants to sign a new contract, potentially warding off interest from the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle, per The Mirror.

– According to ESPN, Anthony Martial could be used to create a package deal from Manchester United for Tottenham's Harry Kane .

– Le Parisien report N'Golo Kante turned down an offer to leave Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in January.

Milan have cooled on Real Madrid's Marco Asensio due to the 26-year-old's wage demands, as reported by Tuttosport.

Barcelona have already secured the signings of two free agents, Joan Laporta says, and Leeds United winger Raphinha could be their next recruit.

Rejuvenated under Xavi, Barca are now setting in motion their plans for the transfer window at the end of the season.

In an interview with RAC1, president Laporta suggested the Blaugrana would struggle to afford Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe and ruled out a return for Lionel Messi.

But he did have positive news for Barca fans, too, revealing: "We have closed two players who end their contracts this season."

It is widely thought Laporta's comments relate to Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen – unable to renew terms at Stamford Bridge due to government sanctions – and Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

Meanwhile, Brazil international Raphinha would demand a fee, but Laporta confirmed his interest in a player who is represented by ex-Barca man Deco.

"We have had good reports," Laporta said.

"Deco has his work and informs us of details so that we do not commit errors. In some cases, he has helped us a lot."

Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has put his failure to land a Ballon d'Or award down to not fitting the "Mr Perfect" mould of perennial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Despite registering over 500 club goals for the likes of Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, Ibrahimovic has never finished in the top three of the voting for the prestigious individual prize.

The Sweden international's highest finish came in 2013 when claiming fourth place behind Franck Ribery, Messi and Ronaldo, the latter two having taken the award 12 times between them (Messi 7, Ronaldo 5).

Indeed, only Luka Modric in 2018 – after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and playing a starring role in Croatia's run to the World Cup final – has broken that duopoly over the past 14 years.

But Ibrahimovic, who has not been afraid to air his thoughts across a remarkable 23-year career, does not believe the Ballon d'Or is awarded on footballing ability alone and therefore has no regrets about missing out.

"These are political awards. They want 'Mr Perfect'," he told Bild. "If you speak and say what you think, you can't get them.

"It's easy to give them to Mr Nice Guy. It doesn't change anything for me, it doesn't make me better or worse."

Ibrahimovic is continuing to prove his worth at the age of 40 with Milan and is reportedly in talks over signing a contract beyond the end of this season, when his existing deal is due to expire.

The Malmo academy product has won trophies in five different countries, including Italy, France, Spain and England, but he has never plied his trade in the German top flight.

While a move to Bayern Munich may now be out of the equation, Ibrahimovic revealed he has a soft spot for the reigning Bundesliga champions.

"I've always been curious about the Bundesliga," he said. "There are teams like Bayern Munich, an incredible club.

"Every time I played against them I could always see their facilities, the stadium, their organisation. The history of the club is impressive."

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