AC Milan coach knows job is on the line against Udinese
AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri gestures during a Champions League, Group C, soccer match between AC Milan and Anderlecht at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. (AP / Antonio Calanni)
Published Thursday, September 20, 2012 8:31AM EDT
MILAN, Italy -- AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri knows his team cannot afford another slip-up at Udinese on Sunday if he is to keep his job.
Milan has made a woeful start this season, winning only once and losing twice in Serie A -- the first time it has lost its opening two home games in 82 years.
"Last season we were leading the title race by four points and people were saying I'd get fired, so you can imagine it now," Allegri said.
Milan has also failed to score in three of its four matches, including the Champions League draw against Anderlecht, and the team was roundly jeered off the pitch after that match on Tuesday.
Striker Kevin-Prince Boateng said the team was far from down.
"We have to raise our heads and think of the other games," Boateng said. "The morale is good; criticism is normal because we're not playing very well, but the dressing room is calm because we have quality in the team. It's for that reason that we still believe in this squad.
"We're not scoring but so many times we just lacked a bit of luck, but we believe that we can score in the next game and win. The boos are normal, the fans are angry because we're not winning and we're not playing well in these games."
Milan has so far lost against newly promoted side Sampdoria and Atalanta, which usually fights against relegation.
Both of Milan's Brazil forwards, Alexandre Pato and Robinho, are working their way back from leg muscle injuries and Allegri will want the duo back as soon as possible as his attack is struggling after the sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Milan has scored just three goals, all of them in the away match at Bologna by Giampaolo Pazzini.
Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo could return from injury against Udinese and defender Philippe Mexes is also available after an unimpressive season debut against Anderlecht where he clearly lacked match fitness.
Udinese has had its own problems after again selling several key players in the summer, but it picked up its first points of the campaign in a draw at Siena last weekend.
Serie A champion Juventus hosts Chievo Verona on Saturday and will be expecting to maintain its perfect start and stretch its Serie A unbeaten streak to 43 matches.
The players again proved their mental strength midweek by coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at defending champion Chelsea in the Champions League.
"Even if we had lost, I wouldn't have changed my mind: We are competitive and the others should respect that," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "It's certainly difficult, if not impossible to win both competitions and it would be presumptuous to think we could win either the Champions League or Serie A.
"But we have strengthened the squad and at least at the beginning we can play all the games at a high level and with fresh players, looking to impose our game. If we can continue like this for the whole season we could be competitive on all fronts."
However, the longer Juventus go without losing in the league, the greater their opponents' desire to finally end that impressive run.
"By the law of numbers, sooner or later Juve will lose a league game," Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino wrote on Twitter. "We want to go into the history books on Saturday night. Come on Chievo."
Napoli and Lazio are joint top of the standings with Juventus and they face Catania and Genoa respectively on Sunday.
Sampdoria has also won all three of its opening matches but sits a point further back after starting the campaign with a one-point penalty for match-fixing. It hosts fellow promoted side Torino.
Elsewhere on Sunday, it's: Atalanta vs. Palermo; Bologna vs. Pescara; Cagliari vs. Roma; and Inter Milan vs. Siena.
Fiorentina visits Parma on Saturday.