Football: Parma game is crucial, says Allegri

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has pointed to Friday's Serie A encounter against Parma as one of the most crucial matches of the season.

Milan will also host Barcelona in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie next Wednesday.

But despite that fixture's importance, Allegri says beating Parma and maintaining their fight for a top three place in Serie A is crucial.

"Tomorrow is a much more important game that the one against Barcelona. It's an important moment, decisive for the season," said Allegri.

"We can't slip up in our performance tomorrow. It's a very important match for us."

Ahead of Milan's 25th match of the campaign they sit fifth in Serie A, two points behind fourth-placed Inter and 14 points behind leaders Juventus.

The top two teams from Serie A go directly into the Champions League, with a third team needing to qualify. The fourth and fifth placed teams qualify for the Europa League.

Allegri is set to do without leading scorer Stephan El Shaarawy, who has inflammation on his knee,

"El Shaarawy has a bit of swelling in his tendon and we left him out to allow him to rest physically and mentally ahead of next week," said the coach.

He added: Parma have quality and two players up front that can do damage. They have an experienced defence and it'll be a tough match, an important one.

"We have to understand that tomorrow's game is one of those that has to be won."