MILAN, ITALY - AC Milan play host to mid table side Catania this evening as the rossoneri look to solidify their Champions League position over Fiorentina; however, by the time Milan kick off they could find themselves in fourth place if Fiorentina win at Sampdoria this afternoon. The hosts know knowing less than a win will do.
You can back AC Milan to get back to winning ways at a best price of 4/11 with Ladbrokes - the bookies have seen a flurry of money on Milan as punters are keen to latch onto Massimiliano Allegri's side. Catania are available at a top price of 12/1 with BetVictor which does seem rather generous. The draw is priced up at 9/2 with Bet365 among others.
The news that is on everyone's lips is the return of Mario Balotelli to the Milan starting XI. The fiery Italian striker served the final game of his suspension in the limp 1-0 defeat against league leaders Juventus last week. Balotelli has been a revelation since returning to Italy and he will be the catalyst tonight for a Milan side that will be eager to get back in the winning groove.
The 1-0 defeat in Turin last week was disappointing for several reasons. Allegri set out his Milan side not to concede rather than attack Juventus; however, once Milan went 1-0 down they had no answers to get back into the game and came away with nothing to show. A braver approach would have been a wiser move but nevertheless, with the return of Mario Balotelli this weekend, I expect Milan to come out of the blocks like a scolded cat and put Catania to the sword early.
The Milan/Milan result is chalked up at 5/6 with William Hill and Paddy Power but be sure to get your bets on early as the price will only shorten as kick off approaches. Another avenue to look down is the backing Milan in the handicap markets. AC Milan -1.5 and -2.5 goals are available at 7/8 and 2/1 respectively with Bet365 and, again, I can only see these prices getting shorter the closer we get to kick off.
Catania still retain the slim hopes of European football next season as they sit just five points behind Inter Milan; however, as well as attempting to overhaul Inter they will need to pass Roma and Lazio too, who occupy 7th and 8th positions. It looks to be a tall order for Catania although mathematically it's still within reach. But the problems, heading into the game with AC Milan, are mounting up for the visitors.
Catania are in a poor run of form with just one win in their last five league games after failing to beat Palermo, Chievo, Cagliari and Lazio.
Rolando Moran's side have to make do without several first team regulars this evening. Bellusci, Spolli, Andujar are all suspended while Pablo Alvarez and Mariano Izco are sidelined with injury. Catania's head to head record with Milan is another obstacle the elefanti will have to overcome - P31 W2 D12 L17 - with their last victory over Milan coming in 1963!
Mario Balotelli is priced up at 3/1 with Bet365 to score the first goal but William Hill offer a standout price of 16/1 on the former City striker bagging a hat trick that looks better value.
The game kicks off at 19:45 B.S.T. on Sunday 28th April 2013 and is live on ESPN HD.