MILAN: AC Milan host Udinese on Tuesday in the first of a crucial Serie A double-header before taking on title-holders Juventus in Turin four days later in a week which could be crucial for their Champions League ambitions.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side have slumped to consecutive defeats for the first time since December 2017 with losses to Inter Milan (3-2) and Sampdoria (1-0).
Milan remain fourth two points behind Inter who also fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Lazio at the weekend, with Roma dropping out of the European places with a 4-1 defeat to Napoli.
The hunt for Champions League spot is tight with just six points separating AC Milan in fourth on 51 points and Torino (45) in ninth position.
In between, there are Lazio, Atalanta, Roma and Sampdoria in the running.
“I’m not seeing a team that is completely off its game,” insisted Gattuso.
“But one fact still remains: we’re standing here talking about another defeat.”
Lazio have a chance to move into the Champions League places as they host strugglers SPAL.
Holders Juventus travel to 13th-placed Cagliari nurturing a 15-point lead on Napoli as they warm-up for their European quarter-final clash against Ajax next week.
Cristiano Ronaldo remains absent as he recovers from a thigh injury but coach Massimiliano Allegri showed he has options at his disposal with teenager Moise Kean stepping up to score the winner against Empoli at the weekend.
“Four victories remain, but on Tuesday we’ll go to Cagliari against a team who will try to cause an upset,” said Allegri.
Carlo Ancelotti’s second-placed outfit travel to Empoli after their confidence-boosting win over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, before hosting Genoa next Sunday.
Ranieri’s Roma nightmare
New Roma boss Claudio Ranieri’s dream job has quickly turned to a nightmare.
Ranieri, who memorably guided outsiders Leicester City to the 2016 English Premier League title, has returned to a club which he coach for 18 months from 2009 to 2011.
But he has managed just one win, against Empoli, since taking over from Eusebio Di Francesco with defeats to SPAL as well as Napoli.
“We need to isolate ourselves and focus on Fiorentina,” urged Ranieri.
“When you look at the team from the outside, you understand certain things.
“When you’re on the inside, you understand them better and try to put things right and help the lads.
“It’s a bit of everything: the physical level, the mental level and the injuries. Technically the team has quality, it’s just that when it suffers defeats it’s unable to pick itself up.”
Despite conceding “it’s tough”, Ranieri has no regrets.
“Do I regret having accepted Roma? Never. I could never regret Roma.”
Roma have dropped out of the European places and play direct rivals Sampdoria, two points below them, on Saturday.
Inter Milan travel to Genoa, followed by Atalanta, with the situation surrounding Argentine striker Mauro Icardi still uncertain, as he has not played since February 9 amid a contract dispute.