Saturday January 8 2011
Allegri: 'Cassano has much to give'

Milan Coach Max Allegri hopes Antonio Cassano “can give us that step up in quality,” but warns the Scudetto race is wide open for Roma, Lazio Napoli, Juventus and Inter.

The Rossoneri are guaranteed the title of Winter Champions regardless of Sunday's results, as they have a five point lead at the top of the table.

“It will be a difficult game against Udinese, just as it was in Cagliari. In fact, tomorrow will be far tougher because they are a quality side with pace, good football and organisation. To beat the Friulani we must have a lot of patience and play intelligently.”

Cassano made his Milan debut in the 1-0 win on Thursday, providing the decisive assist, and could get more playing time tomorrow with the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from suspension.

“It's never easy after a three-week break, but in the end we only really allowed Cagliari two chances, even if we can do a lot better.

“Cassano worked hard during the training camp in Dubai and is coming off two months on the sidelines, so naturally he's not 100 per cent fit, but when called upon he steps on to the field with the right spirit and mindset,” continued Allegri.

“Cassano has immense class and can give us that step up in quality. Losing Ronaldinho is a shame, but a team is about balance and everyone has to give their contribution. My choices were for the good of Milan. Cassano has much to give.

“Ibra is back and I think Alessandro Nesta will be fit too. We have a bit of an emergency situation in midfield, but Rodney Strasser, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf can fill in admirably.

“Robinho could be the Trequartista, otherwise there is Alexander Merkel. Robinho has done well up until now as a support striker, but in the final 15 minutes in Sardinia impressed in ‘the hole.' He can hold either role and it depends on the match situation.

“The fact remains there aren't that many options in the middle of the park, so we could do with an extra midfielder.”

It is rumoured Cagliari's Andrea Lazzari will be drafted in during the January transfer window.

Milan may be out in front, but the Coach has no qualms about declaring the title race wide open.

“Inter have always been in the hunt for the Scudetto, just like Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Juve. We must remain consistent and that is crucial for Serie A and the Champions League.”