AC Milan vs Lazio, Preview: The chase for third place hots up

Claudio Villa

The winner of this game takes third place outright in Serie A and a massive step towards Champions League qualification.

Lazio have just missed out on playing in Europe's premier club competition the past two seasons. They have flirted with the top three most of this season, but now a resurgent Rossoneri are hot on their heels. Just two points separate the two teams going in to this massive clash.

It wasn't so long ago that Massimiliano Allegri's job security looked very precarious. However, since the turn of the year, his side have put together a remarkable string of results in both Serie A and the Champions League.

Mario Balotelli's arrival has given the entire team a lift. He misses this game through a knee injury picked up in last weekend's derby draw with city rivals Inter. While the absence of Super Mario is a blow, Lazio won't have it easy as Milan were able to defeat Barcelona without the services of the former Manchester City man, and they still have Stephan El Shaarawy, who will be looking to add to his tally of 16 domestic goals.

Philippe Mexes misses out through suspension and hamstring victim Daniele Bonera joins Nigel De Jong in the treatment room.

Lazio have won the last two meetings in Rome and earned a 2-2 draw at the San Siro in last season's opener, after racing into a 2-0 lead. The Eagles got back to winning ways on Monday with a morale boosting victory over Pescara, their first league victory in six games.

Vladimir Petkovic is under no illusions at the task facing a side. Speaking during his pre-match press conference, the Bosnian said:

"It will be a very important game. So of course we will try to win it.

"Currently the table says that we are in front of Milan, and we probably deserve to be two points ahead of them.

"But the Rossoneri have recovered well and are playing some great football - not only in Italy, but also in Europe.

"You have to give them great respect after getting a result like the one they got against Barcelona.

"However, I believe in my team - we can go head-to-head with Milan at San Siro."

Abdoulay Konko is out for six weeks with a knee injury picked up just four minutes into the Pescara game, while Stefano Mauri is also struggling to shake off an ankle injury. They join long term absentees Miroslav Klose and Cristian Brocchi on the sidelines. Michael Ciani returns from suspension.

AC Milan injuries and suspensions

Out: Daniele Bonera, Nigel De Jong, Mario Balotelli (injured) Philippe Mexes (suspended)

Lazio injuries and suspensions

Out: Abdoulay Konko, Cristian Brocchi, Stefano Mauri, Miroslav Klose (injured)

Match Date/Time: Saturday 2nd March 2013 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: San Siro, Milan, Italy

TV: Sky Calcio 1, Premium Calcio (Italy) RAI Internazionale, beIN Sport en Espanol, beIN Sport, (U.S) ESPN (UK)

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