Posted on Feb 07
Massimiliano Allegri stirred the fires ahead of AC Milan's Italian Cup trip to Turin on Wednesday by sticking up for his under-fire striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic while pointing an accusing finger at opponents Juventus.
Ibrahimovic is available to play but will then miss the next three league games -- including the crucial top of the table clash with Juve on February 25 -- as punishment for slapping Napoli's Salvatore Aronica on Sunday.
He was sent off for that, although to Aronica's credit he indulged in no theatrics after the incident.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Ibrahimovic's slap came as the Napoli defender had Milan's Antonio Nocerino by the throat and Aronica reacted by slapping the diminutive midfielder, whom Ibrahimovic was standing behind when he threw his cheeky blind-sider.
But the linesman saw the first strike and Ibrahimovic was sent packing.
Even so, Allegri stuck up for a player who was also banned last season for punching another opponent in the ribs and another time for abusing a linesman.
"He did something that wasn't very nice but he was defending Nocerino who he saw as the little guy," said a smiling Allegri.
"Similar incidents happen in games and they're not always punished. On Sunday Zlatan paid for everyone so now we'll wait for his appeal (Milan are hoping to have his suspension reduced)."
Having defended his own player, Allegri turned on Juventus, who have been complaining since Sunday about a possible penalty they weren't given in their 0-0 draw at home to strugglers Siena.
It was a touch-and-go incident but Juve seem convinced they have been robbed and general manager Guiseppe Marotta has been particularly vocal in demanding respect for his team and only the best referees for their games.
"People talk about helping the referees but then as soon as a decision goes against them they kick up a stink," said Allegri.
"At the end the decisions for and against even themselves out, there's no need to reduce matches to single incidents such as a penalty.
"You need to be more serene to help referees. We as a club do things differently (to Marotta)."
As for Wednesday's game, Allegri believes a positive result could also help his side's title quest.
Juve lead Milan in that competition by a point with a game in hand.
"Tomorrow we'll need to work hard because we want to go all the way in this competition," said Allegri.
"We must do well and not compromise (our chances of making) the final. Psychologically it could be a very important key in the league."