Antonio Cassano has been praised by AC
Milan's doctor for working tirelessly to get fit after heart
problems but his return to the starting line-up looks to have
come too late to save their dwindling scudetto hopes.
A 26th-minute goal in the forward's first start for six
months helped the champions to a 4-1 win at Siena on Sunday and
they stayed three points adrift of Juventus as the leaders
walloped Novara 4-0.
Three games remain and second-placed Milan host mid-table
Atalanta on Wednesday desperate for Juve, chasing their first
Serie A title since a 2006 match-fixing demotion, to slip up at
home to third from bottom Lecce.
Cassano, now likely to feature for Italy at Euro 2012 having
proved his fitness, will be eager for another start in midweek
and the medical staff say he is ready.
"He really has been very strong. He has not given up for one
moment, he has come to the Milanello training ground and done
exactly what he had to do. I didn't expect a goal immediately,"
club doctor Rodolfo Tavana told reporters.
"We wanted to make sure he could return to the pitch healthy
and with no risks."
With the top two expected to win on Wednesday, focus will
quickly turn to Sunday's derby between Milan and resurgent Inter
who have rocketed up the league under new coach Andrea
Stramaccioni and lie joint third with three teams.
Third place guarantees a Champions League qualifying place
with fourth only worth a Europa League berth after Italy lost
one of its slots to Germany.
Napoli, Udinese and Lazio are the other teams level on 55
points with Inter, 22 points behind Juve.
Italy uses head-to-head records rather than goal difference
to determine positions at the end of the season and the scenario
has added complications with Lazio hosting Inter on the last day
of the campaign on May 13.
Before then Inter travel to improving Parma on Wednesday
when Lazio welcome Siena and Udinese go to relegated Cesena.
Napoli entertain Palermo on Tuesday.
Lazio will be without suspended defender Andre Dias and
goalkeeper Federico Marchetti after bizarre scenes at the end of
Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Udinese.
Visiting players heard a whistle in the crowd and thought
the game was over, only for Udinese's Roberto Pereyra to score
the second goal in injury time, leading to an unsavoury fracas
and Dias's dismissal.
Marchetti was not sent off but Serie A said in a statement
on Monday that he has been banned for four matches following
video evidence which showed him pushing the referee.
At the foot of the table, second from bottom Novara will be
relegated on Wednesday if they fail to win at fellow strugglers
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