Massimiliano Allegri has told his AC Milan players to brace themselves for a tough run-in as they look to retain their Serie A crown.
Milan are second on the table, one point behind leaders Juventus, with less than half of the Italian domestic season remaining.
They meet their championship rivals from Turin in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia on February 8, before a Champions League round-of-16 clash with Arsenal a week later.
The coming weeks will also see Milan tackle Napoli, Udinese and Juventus in the league, matches that could go some way to determining the outcome of the championship.
“February is about to start and we’ll have a lot of matches against direct rivals in Serie A, the Coppa Italia semi-finals and the first leg of Champions League (elimination) round,” Allegri said.
“We need to be ready and try to play every match in the best possible conditions, both physical and mental.”
First up for Milan is a trip to Rome on Wednesday, where they will take on Lazio are the Stadio Olimpico.
Allegri has singled out the strike partnership of German veteran Miroslav Klose and Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi as the chief threat to his team’s chances of taking all three points.
“Lazio are surely a good team, with excellent and players and good technique,” he said.
“The partnership between Klose and Rocchi is very important for them, Klose is doing great things in Italian football.”
“They also have Hernanes and (Christian) Ledesma who can make the difference, they have a good squad and deserve to be in the position they are at the moment.”
And while Allegri acknowledges his Milan team are heavily favoured to defend the Scudetto, he considers front-runners Juve just as likely to finish top of the pile in May.
“It’s normal we are among the favourites this season, because we won last season, but it’s also true Juventus remain the only unbeaten team up to now,” he said.
“They (have) gained 44 points, they have the best defence in Serie A and one point more than us, so at the moment Juventus would be the winner.”
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