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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Football

Balotelli expected to make debut against Udinese
AP
Milan, January 31, 2013
First Published: 19:29 IST(31/1/2013)
Last Updated: 19:32 IST(31/1/2013)

Mario Balotelli is expected to make his official debut for AC Milan on Sunday against Udinese.

Balotelli finalized a €20 million ($27 million) transfer from Manchester City on Thursday, returning to Italy after a turbulent 2½ years in the Premier League.

"Mario Balotelli is a great player and will definitely help the squad," Milan striker Robinho said. "We're happy he's arrived and we're all going to welcome him. Let's hope he does well for Milan.

Also, defending champion Juventus will travel to Chievo Verona, eager to get back on track after a disappointing start to 2013, which has seen it win only twice in seven matches.

Following a difficult start to the season, Milan has recovered and has started forcing its way back up the Serie A table and into contention for a Champions League spot.

After seven wins in its past nine games, Milan has moved up to fifth, six points behind third-place Lazio.

"There's enthusiasm in the changing room and we're getting better," Robinho said. "There are still plenty of games to go and every three points will help us move up the table. We can't afford to slip up anymore and Udinese will be difficult but we're prepared.

"The beginning of the campaign wasn't good, and once more the Italian league is proving to be difficult but at the moment we're experiencing a good run of form in this crucial point of the season, and with 16 games to go anything is possible."

Juventus has seen its eight-point lead at the start of the year cut to three after picking up only five points in four league matches.

Its misery grew after a 1-1 draw at home against struggling Genoa and a 2-1 loss to Lazio in the Italian Cup semifinals, going out of the competition 3-2 on aggregate.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio could have sent his team to the Italian Cup final on away goals but he shot wide, right in front of an empty net, in a dramatic finale.

Juventus will now be eager to start picking up the points again before the Champions League resumes next month.

"I couldn't miss. It was so important. I'm sorry," Marchisio said. "We'd saved the game and we had chances to get to the final, but, unfortunately, it ended as it did.

"We have to give much more, starting with myself, even if we played well. Now we have two targets left and we'll give it our all."

Juventus coach Antonio Conte will serve the first of his two-match Serie A ban for excessive protests in the final moments of the draw against Genoa.

Juve has struggled recently to convert chances into goals and it hopes to have former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka up front to help solve that problem.

Chievo beat Lazio 1-0 to dent its title chances last weekend and will be looking to do the same on Sunday.

That was Lazio's first loss in 17 matches and leaves it six points behind Juventus.

However, Lazio bounced straight back and now travels to Genoa brimming with confidence after reaching the Italian Cup final.

"We need to remain with our feet on the ground and continue working hard because as we proved we are equal with Juventus," Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic said. "We now need to remain focused and recover our energy and go to Genoa to pick up as many points as possible."

Genoa coach Davide Ballardini is looking for another positive result in what will be his second game in charge.

Second-place Napoli is three points behind Juventus and faces Catania on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Torino hosts Sampdoria.

Roma hosts Cagliari on Friday, knowing that another poor result could mean the end for coach Zdenek Zeman. Roma has not won in the league in 2013, losing its first two matches and drawing the other two.

On Sunday, it's: Fiorentina vs. Parma; Palermo vs. Atalanta; Pescara vs. Bologna; and Siena vs. Inter Milan.


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