Leaders Milan seek Bologna boost as Inter, Juventus gain ground

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Leaders AC Milan look for a boost on Saturday at 13th-placed Bologna after a dramatic Italian Cup exit to city rivals Inter days after a league defeat to Atalanta.

Stefano Pioli's side are just two points ahead of second-placed Inter who host 11th-placed Benevento.

Inter bounced back from last weekend's goalless draw at Udinese to advance to the Italian Cup semi-finals where they meet Juventus.

The Milan teams' Cup clash was overshadowed by insults traded between their star strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku with the Swede later sent off.

Tensions are high as both Milan teams attempt to deny Juventus a 10th consecutive league title.

"We've lost one of our objectives," said Pioli after the Cup defeat.

"But we have two others which are probably even more important to achieve," he added of Serie A and the Europa League.

Bologna have won just one of their last 10 league games, and have not beaten Milan since January 2016.

Milan are hopeful of recalling midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu who has been out with coronavirus along with injured Ismael Bennacer and Mario Mandzukic who took a knock on his debut against Atalanta.

Andrea Pirlo's Juventus have been gaining ground and are now fourth, seven points off top spot with a game in hand.

The Turin giants play midtable Sampdoria, a side Pirlo got his coaching career off to a winning start against 3-0 back in September.

Inter missed the chance to move level on points with Milan after a goalless draw in Udine with Antonio Conte sitting out a two-match touchline ban for rowing with the referee.

Third-placed Roma, six points off top spot, host Hellas Verona on Sunday in a clash between European rivals.

Juventus are just a point behind Roma, after beating SPAL in the Italian Cup, a game which Cristiano Ronaldo did not play.

The Portuguese striker allegedly broke Covid-19 restrictions with a trip to an Italian mountain resort for his girlfriend's birthday.

Napoli, in sixth, play lowly Parma on Sunday after dropping points in last weekend's 3-1 defeat to Hellas Verona.

Atalanta and Lazio lock horns again in Bergamo, four days after the northerns eliminated the Romans 3-2 from the Italian Cup.

Sassuolo look to end their slump after the Christmas break to pull closer to the European places against relegation candidates Cagliari.

Torino host Fiorentina on Friday in a match between two sides who have had a disappointing start to the season.

One to watch: Christian Eriksen

Antonio Conte insists Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen remains part of the Inter project despite being linked to a January move.

Eriksen scored his first goal this season in the Italian Cup to bring his tally to five since moving from Spurs last January on four-and-a-half-year deal for a reported 27.5 million euros ($32.6 million) including bonuses.

"He's part of the project and I'm pleased that he scored," said Conte after the 28-year-old's sensational last-gasp Cup winner.

"He's a bit shy but I hope this goal helps him to settle. We're working hard on making him a tactical alternative to (Marcelo) Brozovic.

"We're keeping a close eye on him as he is part of the group."

Key stats

23 - Points between AC Milan and Bologna

15 - Cristiano Ronaldo's goals for Juventus

12 - Cagliari's winless run

7 - Juventus' points off top spot

8 - Bologna's points from their last 10 games

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Torino v Fiorentina (1945)

Saturday

Bologna v AC Milan (1400), Sampdoria v Juventus (1700), Inter Milan v Benevento (1945)

Sunday

Spezia v Udinese (1130), Cagliari v Sassuolo, Crotone v Genoa, Atalanta v Lazio (all 1400) Napoli v Parma (1700), AS Roma v Hellas Verona (1945).

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