Inter Milan remain 14 points clear atop Serie A after twice being pegged back in a 2-2 draw at home to Cagliari.

After closest challengers AC Milan drew 3-3 at Sassuolo earlier on, Inter could have moved 16 points ahead with six fixtures left and they led at the interval courtesy of Marcus Thuram’s early strike.

Eldor Shomurodov drew Cagliari level and while Hakan Calhanoglu put Inter back ahead from the spot, Nicolas Viola made sure of a point apiece with his 82nd-minute strike from close range.

The stalemate might just be a mere hiccup for Inter, who can seal a first Scudetto in three years by beating city rivals Milan next Monday although twice squandering one-goal leads will doubtless frustrate head coach Simone Inzaghi.

The hosts started brightly as Nicolo Barella had an early sight at goal which Simone Scuffet did well to push away before Cagliari’s defence scrambled to snuff out Thuram from latching on to the rebound.

But the visiting backline was split open as Matteo Darmian slid through to Alexis Sanchez, who hared to keep the ball in play and his cutback was tucked away by the onrushing Thuram after 12 minutes.

Zito Luvumbo made a nuisance of himself with a shot at Yann Sommer before chipping over while, at the other end, Inter were denied by the offside flag after Barella had headed past Scuffet.

The Cagliari goalkeeper was alert to paw away Calhanoglu’s long-range free-kick just after the hour mark, which proved crucial as the visitors drew level a few moments later.

A speculative long ball forward from Adam Obert was brought down by Luvumbo with his knee and led to Shomurodov lashing low beyond Sommer from the edge of the area in the 64th minute.

The equaliser spurred Inter into action and they had a golden opportunity to retake the lead when Davide Frattesi’s header hit the outstretched hand of Yerry Mina.

While the Colombian defender protested his innocence after the penalty was awarded, the decision stood and Calhanoglu directed his 74th-minute spot-kick beyond Scuffet, who guessed the right way and got fingertips to the ball but not enough to stop it from hitting the back of the net.

But it was Cagliari who had the final say as Inter half cleared a cross and Matteo Prati’s header back into the area ricocheted off fellow substitute Gianluca Lapadula, with Viola drilling low beyond Sommer.

Viola might have nicked it at the death as Cagliari hit Inter on the counter but his header was straight at Sommer and the spoils were shared.

Roma defender Evan Ndicka is recovering in hospital after collapsing on the pitch during Sunday’s Serie A clash with Udinese.

The game at the Bluenergy Stadium was abandoned after 72 minutes with the score at 1-1 after the 24-year-old Ivory Coast international went down off the ball.

Ndicka was carried off on a stretcher after undergoing treatment on the pitch, but Roma later confirmed that the former Auxerre and Eintracht Frankfurt player was “feeling better” and “in good spirits” after being taken to hospital for checks.

A statement on Roma’s official X account read: “The squad went to visit Ndicka at the hospital. Evan is feeling better and is in good spirits.

“He will remain in the hospital for further observations. Forza Evan!”

Medics rushed to Ndicka’s assistance after his collapse and the decision was taken not to resume the fixture as he headed for hospital.

Roma posted: “Following the on-field medical emergency involving Evan Ndicka, the match between Udinese and Roma has been suspended.

“The player is conscious and has been taken to hospital for further checks. Forza Evan, we are all with you!”

Udinese said in a post: “We are with you, Ndicka.”

Roberto Pereyra had given the home side the lead before the break, but Romelu Lukaku made it 1-1 with 64 minutes gone.

Sunday’s Serie A clash between Udinese and Roma was abandoned after Ivory Coast international Evan Ndicka collapsed on the pitch.

The 24-year-old Roma defender went down off the ball with 72 minutes played at the Bluenergy Stadium and was carried off on a stretcher after treatment.

His club later confirmed that the former Auxerre and Eintracht Frankfurt player was conscious and had been taken to hospital for checks.

A statement on Roma’s official X – formerly Twitter – account read: “Following the on-field medical emergency involving Evan Ndicka, the match between Udinese and Roma has been suspended.

“The player is conscious and has been taken to hospital for further checks. Forza Evan, we are all with you!”

Udinese tweeted simply: “We are with you, Ndicka.”

Roberto Pereyra had given the home side the lead before the break, but Romelu Lukaku made it 1-1 with 64 minutes gone.

AC Milan needed a late equaliser from substitute Noah Okafor to rescue a point at the end of a stunning 3-3 draw away at Sassuolo, but saw their faint hopes of winning the Serie A title all but extinguished.

Okafor struck in the 84th minute, turning the ball home from a corner barely three minutes after being summoned from the bench by Stefano Pioli, as Milan salvaged a point from a game that had looked beyond them when the hosts raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

Andrea Pinamonti and Armand Lauriente hit the visitors with a rapid-fire double as they sought to breathe momentum into their hopes of avoiding the drop.

A win here would have dragged them out of the bottom three, but Milan hit back quickly with Rafael Leao scoring after 20 minutes to jangle Sassuolo’s nerves.

Lauriente hit his second after the break to make it 3-1, but facing disaster Pioli’s side summoned the necessary resolve to rescue a draw, first Luka Jovic made it 3-2 just before the hour mark, then Okafor struck late to cap a dramatic encounter.

Sassuolo were good value for their early lead, given to them when Pinamonti finished with aplomb into the bottom corner with the game just four minutes old, his 10th of the season for the strugglers who remained second from bottom of the table.

And it was 2-0 six minutes later when Lauriente netted his first of the afternoon, bursting through the visiting defence and scoring to stun Milan.

The Rossoneri were already facing the possibility of seeing Inter seal the title when the two sides meet at San Siro later in April, and the prospect of seeing their city rivals crowned champions was all but rubber stamped here.

They were at least spared the ignominy of a sixth league defeat of the season, Leao starting the comeback when he slotted past goalkeeper Andrea Consigli after 20 minutes.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was fortunate not to concede a penalty shortly after half-time, but Sassuolo soon had their two-goal lead again, Lauriente turning the ball home to spark joyous scenes amongst home fans.

It would have been a famous win, one that would have been a huge boost to their hopes of securing a 12th consecutive Serie A season, but Milan would not lie down, Jovic giving them hope with a goal after 59 minutes.

Okafor came off the bench to ensure late drama and spare his team’s blushes, but it is unlikely to alter the destination of the title.

Juventus’ poor run in Serie A extended to just two wins in 11 games as they were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw away at city rivals Torino.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who were top of the league when they beat Lecce on January 21 but who now trail leaders Inter Milan by 19 points having played a game more, failed to break down their mid-table opponents as their astonishing collapse in form dragged on into another week.

It was the third game in four in the league in which they have failed to score and leaves them vulnerable to being caught in the race to qualify for the Champions League, with fifth-place Roma able to cut the gap on them to five points should they win their game in hand.

Dusan Vlahovic had Juve’s clearest chances of the first half, first when he knocked Federico Chiesa’s cross against a post, then again when he was foiled by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic in the Torino goal.

The goalkeeper was called on again to deny the visitors, diving at full stretch to keep out a firm low effort from Kenan Yildiz.

Duvan Zapata thought he had given Torino the lead when he crashed the ball home shortly after half-time, only for his effort to be ruled out for a foul committed by Raoul Bellanova against Juve’s Filip Kostic.

Antonio Sanabria rose highest to meet Bellanova’s cross midway through the second half, drawing a good save from Wojciech Szczesny as Torino threatened.

The hosts might have made it a truly disastrous night for Allegri when Karol Linetty’s ball in was turned over the crossbar by Valentino Lazaro, who seemed to make contact with the ball with his neck with the goal gaping.

It concluded a frustrating encounter for Juve, and came in stark contrast to the comfortable 2-0 win they enjoyed in the derby back in October, when the team were in the early stages of what looked a credible title challenge.

It leaves Allegri’s side in a fight to ensure they do not miss out on the Champions League for a second consecutive season.

They still have the possible consolation of the Coppa Italia to aim for, and play the second leg of their semi-final away to Lazio on April 23 looking to defend a 2-0 aggregate lead.

Inter Milan go in search of the first of successive wins they need to wrap up the Serie A title on Sunday.

Cagliari are the visitors to San Siro and victory will mean Simone Inzaghi’s men can wrap up their first Scudetto in three years with a three-point return against their city rivals AC Milan in their following match on April 22.

Inter maintained their 14-point advantage over second-placed Milan on Monday, with Davide Frattesi’s late winner completing a come-from-behind victory at an Udinese side who had won just once at home all season.

Inzaghi had an eye on the remaining seven fixtures after that match when he said: “We’re playing clubs fighting against relegation or for the top spots… We can’t let our concentration slip.”

The Nerazzurri have won 12 and drawn one of their 13 matches since the turn of the year and have been beaten only once in the competition since the start of the season – a shock home loss to struggling Sassuolo in September the only blemish in an impressive campaign.

However, the leaders, who have scored in every match, will be without top goalscorer Lautaro Martinez against Cagliari because of suspension.

The Sardinians’ knack of picking up points from losing positions has aided their bid for survival.

Ten points from their last five matches have lifted Cagliari four points clear of the relegation zone as they bid to avoid an immediate return to the second tier of Italian football.

The last time they won this contest was in 2016 as two goals in the final 19 minutes turned the contest on its head against an Inter side who finished fourth, a distant 24 points behind champions Juventus.

However, Claudio Ranieri’s team are not at their best away from home in the current campaign.

They have picked up just seven points from their 15 games and netted a league-low nine goals on their travels.

Stefano Pioli knows AC Milan face a “steep climb” to rescue their season as reports the Rossoneri boss could soon be replaced continue to gather steam.

Milan have won their last five Serie A games and next face relegation-threatened Sassuolo on Sunday but Thursday’s 1-0 home defeat by Italian rivals Roma in the Europa League quarter-finals did nothing to help dispel talk of Pioli’s potentially-imminent departure.

Reports suggest former Real Madrid and Wolves head coach Julen Lopetegui is being lined up to succeed Pioli, whose contract at San Siro does not expire until June 2025.

It has been claimed the Parma-born manager has the next three games to save his job: at Sassuolo this weekend, the return leg at Roma and then crucially the derby against Inter Milan on April 22.

With the Nerazzurri 14 points ahead as the domestic campaign enters its final seven games, losing to Inter could effectively end the title race and leave Milan looking over their shoulder at Juventus – while their European adventure could already be over if they fail to remove Roma’s advantage, earned by Gianluca Mancini’s first-half goal at San Siro.

Pioli told reporters after the Europa League clash: “The climb is steep because the level has risen, but I’m convinced the team can play at a higher level and if we play at that level, we have every chance of playing.

“That’s what I told the team after the game.”

Midfielder Tommaso Pobega and defender Pierre Kalula are unavailable for Sunday’s Mapei Stadium showdown due to injury, with Theo Hernandez and Filippo Terracciano’s involvement in the balance. Tijjani Reijnders is more likely to be involved than English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

In the Sassuolo camp, winger Domenico Berardi’s season is already over thanks to an Achilles tear and Norway defender Marcus Holmgren Pedersen is at least a few weeks away in his recovery.

The Neroverdi are two points from safety after being denied victory by Salernitana at the death last time out, Giulio Maggiore scoring a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw to deny the Emilia-Romagna club their first away win since late November.

Well-travelled veteran boss Davide Ballardini took over in Sassuolo at the beginning of March and has taken six points from his five games so far.

The Watermelon Peel can perhaps take heart from one of the shock results of last term when they stunned Milan 5-2 at San Siro, but they have not won the home version of this match-up since March 2016, losing six of the seven subsequent editions.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri wants his players to ride an adrenaline wave to Champions League qualification.

The Bianconeri enter their Turin derby against Torino on Saturday sat in third place but knowing that the performance of Serie A sides in Europe this season means that as many as five could qualify for the 2024-25 Champions League.

With the Italian title out of reach – Inter Milan are in pole position – they have focused on securing a return to continental action after being banned for the current campaign for breaching financial fair play regulations.

And Allegri insists only Europe’s top competition will do as he looks to re-establish Juventus on the continent.

“It’s nice to get to this point in the season where the adrenalin is high. It will be an important match for us because the Champions League is fundamental for Juve, both on an image and economic level,” he said.

“We cannot be absent from Europe’s top competition for two years, so now 35 to 40 fundamental days begin in which points are extremely important and in which we must fight for victories in order to reach our objective.

“The Italian teams are doing well in Europe – and not only this season. We must be confident and continue to work to improve. I know we can improve and we work to always do so.

“We want to be in the Champions League next year, it’s a factor that makes all the difference at this club.”

A 1-0 victory over Fiorentina last Sunday came at a crucial time for Juventus following a poor run in Serie A.

It was only their second win in 10 league games, a sequence that included four defeats and has all but ended their title hopes.

“Winning helps and it was important to win against Fiorentina, in a hard clash, to get us out of this difficult moment,” Allegri said.

“We must have continuity but Torino will not be an easy opponent because they have their own objectives.”

Davide Frattesi scored in the fifth minute of time added on as Serie A leaders Inter Milan snatched a 2-1 win over Udinese.

Frattesi had the simple task of tapping in after Marko Arnautovic’s shot from the edge of the box hit the post and rolled across goal, completing the turnaround after Hakan Calhanoglu’s second-half penalty cancelled out Lazar Samardzic’s goal late in the first half.

There had been an element of fortune about Samardzic’s deflected strike but no luck for Udinese in the end as a battling performance from the relegation battlers went unrewarded, leaving them two points above the drop zone.

Instead, Inter went 14 points clear at the top of the table, still in with a chance of winning their 20th league title when they face arch-rivals AC Milan on April 22.

Simone Inzaghi’s side looked off their best in the first half, dominating possession but doing little with it as Udinese defended in numbers.

Maduka Okoye did not have a serious save to make until the 29th minute, when Lautaro Martinez saw the run of Calhanoglu and pulled the ball back for the Turkey captain to drill a powerful shot at goal, albeit too close to the goalkeeper.

It was against the run of play that Udinese snatched the lead five minutes before half-time.

Samardzic was trying to hit a diagonal cross into the box as Udinese came forward on the break, but the ball took a deflection off Carlos Augusto, with Yann Sommer and Denzel Dumfries looking at each other as it rolled between them and into the far corner of the net.

Inter thought they were level three minutes into the second half when Federico Dimarco curled a free-kick into the box and it came through a crowd of players to fall for Augusto to prod home from close range, but after a lengthy VAR check the goal was ruled out for offside.

Moments later Okoye came off his line to challenge Marcus Thuram for the ball and got his timing wrong to concede the penalty which Calhanoglu dispatched with a drilled shot into the bottom corner.

Inter continued to push in search of a winner but there was a hint of the threat Udinese posed on the break in the 65th minute when Hassane Kamara raced forward and squared the ball. Florian Thauvin looked to have a tap-in but Henrikh Mkhitaryan made a superb recovering tackle to clear the danger.

At the other end, Thuram cut in from the right and tried to pull the ball back for substitute Frattesi, but the pass was slightly behind him and Frattesi could not keep his shot down.

Udinese defended doggedly in the closing stages, with Thauvin playing through injury after they had made all their substitutions, but were cruelly undone deep into time added on.

Juventus ended a run of four games without a win with a 1-0 victory over Fiorentina at the Allianz Stadium.

The Old Lady had three disallowed goals in the first half, which were all ruled out for offside, but they did have one which counted when Federico Gatti reacted quickest to knock in the rebound.

Fiorentina tried hard to get on level terms in the second period as Nicolas Gonzalez hit the crossbar, alongside efforts from Lucas Beltran and Antonin Barak, but Juventus held strong to further strengthen their chances of returning to the Champions League.

Juventus thought they had taken the lead in the seventh minute when Gatti’s header found Weston McKennie inside the box before he neatly finished into the net, only for the linesman’s flag to cut celebrations short.

The hosts had another goal disallowed in the 12th minute as Filip Kostic’s cross caused problems in the Fiorentina box, Gatti smashed off the bar before Dusan Vlahovic poked home, but the goal was ruled out this time after a VAR review.

The home side had the ball in the net for a third time when Gleison Bremer headed a cross onto the post, with Gatti on hand to slot home from inside the six-yard box to finally take the lead.

Juventus had yet another goal disallowed on the half-hour mark when Federico Chiesa’s cross was nodded down by McKennie into the path of Vlahovic, who thought he scored against his old side only for VAR to rule that his team-mate was offside in the build-up.

It took 58 minutes for Fiorentina to hit their first effort on target when Barak decided to let rip from 25 yards, but Wojciech Szczesny was stood in the centre of the goal to snuff out the opportunity.

Back came Juventus in search for a second and Kostic delivered another dangerous cross into the Fiorentina six-yard box and Nikola Milenkovic’s touch took it past the woodwork.

Juventus had a chance to double their lead as Vlahovic twisted and turned to try shake off the defence, but Fiorentina got enough bodies back to safely clear.

Fiorentina started to look more dangerous and came within inches of an equaliser as Gonzalez cut inside and curled an audacious effort into the top corner only for Szczesny to tip on to the crossbar.

The away side made most of the running in the second period and came close to a leveller yet again when Maxime Lopez’s low cross into the box found Beltran.

His goalbound effort seemed to be going in, but team-mate M’Bala Nzola could not get out of the way as Fiorentina went three games without victory.

Florian Wirtz’s penalty took Bayer Leverkusen to within touching distance of the Bundesliga title as Bayern Munich squandered a two-goal lead to leave the leaders 16 points clear.

Wirtz struck from the spot eight minutes into added time at the end of the first half after Christopher Trimmel had handled to secure a 1-0 win at Union Berlin, who had seen Robin Gosens dismissed for a second bookable offence minutes earlier.

Xabi Alonso’s men could win the league next weekend, when they face Werder Bremen on Sunday, a day after Bayern host Cologne with both sides have just 18 points to play for.

The reigning champions, who set out this season looking for a 12th successive title, conceded further ground as they went down 3-2 at Heidenheim.

Harry Kane’s 32nd league goal of the season and Serge Gnabry’s strike had given the visitors a healthy half-time lead, but goals from Kevin Sessa and Tim Kleindienst inside a minute dragged the promoted side back into it before Kleindienst snatched a famous victory 11 minutes from time.

Serhou Guirassy’s 64th-minute strike sent third-placed Stuttgart level with Thomas Tuchel’s side on points courtesy of a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund, who dropped out of the top four as a result.

Lois Openda claimed a double to help RB Leipzig maintain the pace in the race for a Champions League spot with a 4-1 victory at Freiburg.

Openda’s contribution came in between Amadou Haidara’s first-minute opener and Benjamin Sesko’s strike nine minutes after the restart with substitute Vincenzo Grifo reducing the deficit.

Lee Jae-sung scored twice to help Mainz to a 4-0 home win over bottom-of-the-table Darmstadt with Andreas Hanche-Olsen and Brajan Gruda also on the scoresheet, while substitutes Steffen Tigges and Luca Waldschmidt struck at the death as Cologne recovered from Felix Passlack’s opener to beat Bochum 2-1.

AC Milan maintained their seemingly vain pursuit of Serie A leaders Inter Milan with a regulation 3-0 win over 10-man Lecce.

Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud gave the Rossoneri control inside the first 20 minutes at the San Siro before the visitors had Nikola Krstovic dismissed, and Rafael Leao wrapped up a fifth successive league victory 12 minutes after the break.

Gianluca Mancini handed Roma boss Daniele De Rossi victory in his first Derby della Capitale as he headed home Paulo Dybala’s corner to clinch a 1-0 victory over Lazio.

In Ligue 1, Emmanuel Sabbi’s late penalty ensured Le Havre emerged from their trip to Lens with a 1-1 draw as he cancelled out Przemyslaw Frankowski’s opener to further dent the home side’s hopes of a top-four finish.

Gianluca Mancini headed home the winning goal in the Derby della Capitale as Roma defeated rivals Lazio 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

In a typically tight affair, Mancini’s 42nd-minute header proved the difference between the two sides as Daniele De Rossi won his first Rome derby as a coach.

Daichi Kamada did have the ball in the net for Lazio but the Japanese international was in an offside position from Matteo Guendouzi’s defence-splitting pass.

While Lazio failed to bounce back from the Coppa Italia semi-final defeat to Juventus, Roma consolidated their grip on fifth in Serie A.

De Rossi’s side started the game on the front foot, winning a corner inside the first minute, with Leandro Paredes’s drive an early warning for Lazio.

Lazio captain Ciro Immobile had an early sight of goal for the Biancocelesti when they won the ball high up the pitch and Immobile struck a right footed effort into the side netting.

At the other end, a Roma free-kick landed at an unmarked Diego Llorente, who saw two half-volleys blocked, the second of which bounced just wide of a post.

Lorenzo Pellegrini, back in the Roma team after suspension, then tested goalkeeper Christos Mandas with a long-range effort, and the Giallorossi spurned another opportunity when Zeki Celik headed over from close range.

Roma's goal did arrive before half-time, though – Mancini powering a header beyond the despairing reach of Christos Mandas.

After the break, Pellegrini narrowly curled wide a free kick before Romelu Lukaku surged forward and played in Stephan El Shaarawy, who smashed the woodwork.  

Lukaku almost tapped in from Bryan Cristante’s centre, before Kamada saw what he thought was an equaliser disallowed for offside.

Tensions heated up between both sets of players with an altercation between Guendouzi and Paulo Dybala sparking the fire, but Roma ultimately kept their discipline to hold off late Lazio pressure and further their hopes of Champions League qualification.

De Rossi's Roma resurgence continues

Roma stretched their unbeaten run to seven league matches to keep their Champions League ambitions alive.

Roma dominated possession throughout the match and midfielder Pellegrini was a welcome return to the midfield, though striker Lukaku was rarely involved with just eight touches in the first half.

The Giallorossi did manage their breakthrough after neat intricate play earned a corner and Dybala’s delivery was met by Mancini, for his fourth league goal of the season.

They could not build on the dominant first half after the break, showing a different side of their game to limit Lazio to few clear-cut chances.

Lazio's European hopes fading

Lazio’s four-match unbeaten streak against their rivals in the 183rd edition of this derby came to an end.

They have now lost six of their last seven matches in all competitions and sit four points off European qualification.

They offered little in the first half, with no shots on target as Roma dominated proceedings and they have still not won a Serie A match when behind at the break.

Coach Igor Tudor made three changes at half-time, including taking off Immobile, and Lazio managed to push Roma deeper into their own half, but Mile Svilar remained largely untested. 

AC Milan extended their winning Serie A run to five matches with a routine 3-0 home victory over 10-man Lecce.

Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud gave the Rossoneri control inside the first 20 minutes at San Siro, before the visitors had Nikola Krstovic dismissed just before half-time.

Rafael Leao wrapped up a comfortable success in the second half as Milan consolidated second place with seven matches of the season remaining.

It was a chastening afternoon for Lecce, whose survival hopes had been boosted by four points and two clean sheets from Luca Gotti’s first two matches in charge prior to this contest.

The visitors were the first to threaten, with Joan Gonzalez firing just wide with a low shot from the edge of the area in the third minute.

However, the hosts opened the scoring three minutes later when Pulisic received the ball from Samuel Chukwueze and found the corner of the Lecce net with a powerful left-footed shot from 20 yards.

Goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone saved a Pulisic close-range header soon after, before Leao’s 11th-minute effort was deflected wide for a corner by defender Lorenzo Venuti, following a good run by Chukwueze.

It was 2-0 in the 20th minute when Giroud’s flicked header from Yacine Adli’s corner went in at the far post.

Lameck Banda and Alexis Blin both tried their luck for Lecce – who fought back from two goals down to claim a point when the teams met in Puglia in November – before Gonzalez headed against the crossbar in the 29th minute.

However, the visitors’ hopes of an unlikely repeat were further damaged a minute before half-time when striker Krstovic was dismissed for a high boot on Chukwueze.

Lecce’s afternoon was summed up by the 57th-minute incident which saw Milan increase their lead to 3-0.

Pontus Almqvist went down in the penalty area under a strong challenge from Theo Hernandez but play was waved on and within seconds Leao had received an incisive through-ball from Adli and provided a cool finish through Falcone’s legs for a goal which was allowed to stand after a VAR check.

Hernandez struck the crossbar for Milan in the 64th minute, before Almqvist and fellow substitute Santiago Pierotti brought good saves out of Mike Maignan inside the final 15 minutes.

However, there was no further scoring and Milan were able to see out a comfortable victory – the ninth time in the last 10 meetings they have won this fixture, with the other drawn.

Massimiliano Allegri says playing in next season’s Champions League is essential for his Juventus youngsters to develop.

Juve ended a four-game winless run on Tuesday by beating Lazio 2-0 in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final.

A dip in league form – Juventus have not won in Serie A since edging out Frosinone 3-2 at home on February 25 – has left Allegri’s third-placed side with a seven-point advantage over Roma in fifth.

“In the Champions League you have to get there, one way or another,” manager Allegri said ahead of Sunday’s visit from mid-table Fiorentina.

“We have good players who get better the more they play.

“And next year with the Champions League there would be at least eight international level matches which can help the kids grow even more.

“There are players who need time, to put in matches with Juventus and international matches.”

Allegri insisted his squad have continued to grow, despite a sticky patch which saw league defeats at Lazio and Napoli and home draws with Atalanta and Genoa.

He said: “Boys grow by playing. Regardless of this last period where we dropped points along the way, it doesn’t mean that the boys haven’t grown.

“The team has always trained well, but as often happens, victories help and give confidence.

“Now we have eight league games left, we need to earn the points needed to achieve the Champions League objective.

“The positive result makes you see everything differently. It (Fiorentina) will be a good test of character.”

Fiorentina also won the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final in midweek by beating Atalanta 1-0 at home.

Allegri said: “They played a good game against Atalanta, so we know the difficulties of this match.

“But we have another opportunity to consolidate our position and my only thought is to achieve the objectives together with the team and finish the season in the best way possible.

“We have to fight, we have to struggle. We must have the conviction and the clear idea that we have eight games in the league to achieve this.

“We know that from here to the end of the campaign there will be difficulties, but one way or another we have to get there.”

Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik remains sidelined with a muscle injury that is expected to keep him out for another two to three weeks.

Fiorentina have won only once in six league outings, with no Serie A success on the road since a 1-0 victory at Monza three days before Christmas.

AC Milan are in good physical and mental shape for the crucial games ahead, their coach Stefano Pioli said ahead of the visit of Lecce to San Siro.

The Rossoneri sit comfortably in second place in Serie A, six clear of Juventus but 14 adrift of city rivals Inter Milan, and have a mouth-watering Europa League quarter-final tie against Roma to look forward to, with the first leg being played at home next Thursday.

Lecce, who have made a positive start under new coach Luca Gotti with four points out of six, will have it all to do against an in-form Milan who are looking for a fifth straight Serie A win.

“We’re coming into the important part of the season in good shape, especially mentally, and I think our play is at a good level too,” Pioli told reporters at a pre-match press conference.

“Having managed to work with a lot of players consistently in every training session and in every game and not having had any setbacks, or any problems during the week, automatically ensures the team is in good condition.

“I am ever more convinced that (the players’) physical condition depends on their mental state.

“We have already had four wins in a row earlier this season but came up short at the fifth – tomorrow we have a new chance to make the most of our qualities with lots of focus and concentration, because we face a team that since changing coach has yet to concede a goal.

“They created a lot of problems for Roma in their last match. We’ll need a convincing performance.

“So far we are doing very well. We must continue like this because the end of the season will determine various situations.”

Pioli welcomes Danish defender Simon Kjaer back from injury but will be missing Malick Thiaw, who has a foot problem.

“The fact that Malick is not called up also depends a lot on the Europa League,” Pioli said.

“As a precaution he will be left at home, but with the great hope that he can be there against the Giallorossi.”

Pioli praised the efforts of forwards Rafael Leao and Samuel Chukwueze ahead of the Lecce match.

“We arrive at the most important moment with Rafa in excellent condition, I am very happy with what he is doing,” Pioli said.

On Chukwueze, he added: “I am very satisfied with his journey, we had a video meeting with him on Friday, his data is even superior to that of (his time at) Villarreal, he must continue like this.”

Lecce were the opponents the very first time Pioli coached the Rossoneri back in October 2019.

The club are 13th, four points above the relegation zone.

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