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Oct, 25, 2012

AC Milan aims for turnaround

ROME -- Now that AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has said he won't run for a fourth term as Italy's premier, coach Massimiliano Allegri may have to worry that the media mogul will turn his attention to his struggling football club.

After losing five of eight Italian league matches, Milan is off to its worst start in 71 years, and the club's crisis grew even larger with a 1-0 loss at Champions League newcomer Malaga on Wednesday.

If Milan doesn't beat Genoa on Saturday in Serie A, Allegri's job could be at risk, with assistant coach Mauro Tassotti ready to take over. Former Milan player and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard is also being mentioned as a possible replacement.

Last weekend, Milan fell behind 3-0 against Lazio and could only score two late goals, while the week before the Rossoneri lost the Milan derby 1-0 to Inter.

"We're lacking a bit of luck right now. Let's hope the music changes Saturday," Allegri said after the Malaga match, adding that he's not considering stepping down. "Absolutely not. That's not my style. I've got a lot of confidence in these guys."

Milan vice president Adriano Galliani insisted before the Malaga match that it wouldn't be Allegri's last game with the club, although Berlusconi has the final word.

Berlusconi announced Wednesday that he won't run in spring elections and said his center-right movement should hold a primary to choose its candidate.

"The fortunes of a team lie with the club, the coach and the players, and I've never thought about separating the three components. This is how we brought Milan to the top of the world over the last 26 years," Galliani said, referring to when Berlusconi took over the club and appointed him to look over daily operations.

Indeed, Allegri's fate is linked to the departure of an entire squad's worth of top players during the offseason, highlighted by the transfers of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain.

Milan is tied for 15th place, placing it in danger of relegation, 15 points behind Serie A leader Juventus.

While Milan teenager Stephen El Shaarawy has scored five goals, he has received little help in attack -- where Ibrahimovic is sorely missed -- other than a hat trick from Giampaolo Pazzini in Week 2.

Silva's departure, combined with Alessandro Nesta's move to the Montreal Impact, has also brought sweeping changes in defense.

Allegri employed a three-man backline for the first time against Malaga, and while Daniele Bonera was solid in the middle, Philippe Mexes and Francesco Acerbi -- making his Champions League debut -- struggled on the outside.

"We should all be a little worried, it's a rough period," Bonera said. "We're getting punished for every error. We need to maintain our focus for the entire 90 minutes. ... We all need to pull out a bit of pride, some for one reason some for others."

Fortunately for Milan, Genoa is also in crisis. The Ligurian club fired Luigi De Canio on Monday and hired former Chievo Verona and Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri as a replacement.

Also, Genoa center forward Marco Borriello is out for at least 45 days after injuring his right ankle in last weekend's 4-2 loss to Roma.

Genoa led Roma 2-0 after only 15 minutes but went on to lose 4-2.

Still, Genoa is two points ahead of Milan.

Also this weekend, Juventus aims to take its league unbeaten streak to 48 matches at Catania. Juve needed a late equalizer from Mirko Vucinic to secure a 1-1 draw at Danish side Nordsjaelland in its Champions League match Tuesday.

Juve is three points clear of Napoli after beating its southern rival 2-0 last weekend. Napoli hosts Chievo on Sunday.

Lazio, which is tied with Inter for third, four points back, visits sixth-place Fiorentina, which is unbeaten at home.

Inter visits Bologna.

The following Serie A matches are on tap this weekend: Siena vs. Palermo; Pescara vs. Atalanta; Sampdoria vs. Cagliari; Torino vs. Parma; and Roma vs. Udinese.

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