Ibrahimovic nears return as tiring AC Milan look to cling on at the top

Fatigue has become a dominant theme of the season, with the late start creating a demanding schedule for teams with European commitments, but until recently, AC Milan had put on a good show of being unaffected by their own relentless run.

Stefano Pioli’s young side began December by going five points clear on top of Serie A and winning their Europa League group.

Yet cracks have since started to show. The Serie A leaders fought back from two goals down at home to Parma to salvage a 2-2 draw on Sunday, before striking back twice to earn the same result at relegation-battling Genoa on Wednesday.

The draws kept Milan’s unbeaten run intact but allowed rivals Inter Milan to cut the gap at the top to just one point ahead of a weekend in which Inter host Spezia and Milan face a difficult trip to Sassuolo.

Injuries have played their part in the Rossoneri’s mini-slump, with key men Simon Kjaer, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer missing out against Genoa.

Yet the player whose absence was felt the most is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who could make his return on Sunday.