AC Milan eyeing Champions League spot
Milan had been languishing down in mid-table for most of the first half of the season as their Club World Cup committments left them with three games in hand and a mountain to climb if they were to make the top four spots.sports Updated: Feb 12, 2008 22:15 IST
AC Milan will move into the coveted fourth spot and a Champions League qualification place if they beat Livorno at home on Wednesday in the last of their games in hand on rivals.
Milan had been languishing down in mid-table for most of the first half of the season as their Club World Cup committments left them with three games in hand and a mountain to climb if they were to make the top four spots.
All the talk in early January was of reassessing their aims and trying to make up the ground on the Champions League places.
But a run of six wins in seven matches since the turn of the year has propelled them to within two points of fourth-placed Fiorentina, who they beat 1-0 two weeks ago.
Should they beat lowly Livorno they may well start setting their sights a bit higher and think of catching third-placed Juventus or even second-placed Roma.
However, Milan have been far from impressive in those six recent victories, four of which came by a 1-0 scoreline, including an ill deserved win over Siena on Sunday.
That was earned thanks to 18-year-old striking sensation Alberto Paloschi, who scored 18 seconds after making his entrance as a second-half substitute for Brazilian Serginho.
He became the second 18-year-old striker this season to make a big impression on Milan following Brazilian starlet Pato.
Paloschi only got his chance because Pato and Kaka are injured and Alberto Gilardino was suspended, although he will return for the Livorno match.
Gilardino has already seen himself shunted down the Milan pecking order since the January arrival of Pato and the sight of another teenager making a stunning debut must have been a further kick in the teeth.
But Gilardino insists he was happy for Paloschi, despite the threat the youngster may pose to his first team opportunities.
"I feel very happy. He's a young lad who deserved his goal and I hope he will score many more like that because for an 18-year-old to come on like he did and score such an important goal after just 18 seconds is an important thing for him.
"He deserves it. He's a good player, he comes from the Milan area and that makes it even more special.
"He's a player who has a great feel for the goal, in the area he commands respect and he's clinical.
"He's 18 and he doesn't need any pressure on him right now. He's got a lot of potential and he's very talented."
Paloschi is unlikely to get another run-out, though, with Gilardino coming back, Filippo Inzaghi fit again and Ronaldo likely to manage more than the 45 ineffectual minutes he offered on Sunday.