Football: Lazio eyeing Champions League push as transfer rumours swirl over Milinkovic-Savic

 Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrates after scoring the 0-1 goal during the Coppa Italia semi final second leg soccer match between AS roma and SS Lazio at the Olimpico stadium in Italy, on April 4, 2017.
Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic celebrates after scoring the 0-1 goal during the Coppa Italia semi final second leg soccer match between AS roma and SS Lazio at the Olimpico stadium in Italy, on April 4, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Milan (AFP) - Highly-rated Serbian Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has pledged his faith in Lazio as they prepare to host Napoli Sunday in a Serie A clash crucial to their chances of an unlikely Champions League spot.

A string of fine performances for Simone Inzaghi's men has sparked interest in the powerfully-built Lazio midfielder from several top clubs.

But Milinkovic-Savic's agent, Mateja Kezman, said the Serbia under-21 star, with three years remaining on his contract, is fully focused on Lazio.

"He's doing well, so it's only normal that certain clubs are interested," former Serbian international striker Kezman told Tuttomercatoweb.com.

"But I have experience of this kind of situation, and the lad has a good head on his shoulders."

Spanish-born Milinkovic-Savic has hit four league goals from a series of mainly substitute appearances to help Lazio up to fourth, four points behind Napoli in third and 14 off leaders Juventus.

More remarkably, he struck in both legs of the Italian Cup semi-final to help Lazio secure a final spot alongside Juventus with a 4-3 aggregate win over city rivals Roma in midweek.

Although Kezman claims Lazio have little cause for concern, the former Serbia international hinted he could soon be haggling for a new, improved deal for Milinkovic-Savic.

"Having played with a lot of clubs (PSV, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Fenerbahce and PSG), I have a lot of contacts and people have been calling me asking for information," Kezman added.

"He is focused only on Lazio. He wants to win the Cup and help them into the Champions League. But soon, we'll sit down with the club to discuss what is best for the player and for the club."

After beating Roma, Lazio now face the tougher challenge of Juventus in the Italian Cup final in Rome on June 2 if they are to lift their first trophy since their 2013 Cup triumph.

Yet the prospect of a top-three finish and the chance to qualify for the Champions League means Sunday's clash, against a Napoli side still hurting from their midweek Cup exit to Juventus, is doubly crucial for Lazio.

Although Napoli won 3-2 on the night courtesy of goals from Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, a brace from former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain silenced the San Paolo crowd and sent them packing 5-4 on aggregate.

Higuain stuck the knife in by claiming Napoli owner and film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis still owes him €600,000 (S$894,000) in image rights from his spell at the club.

A lawyer for Napoli, Mattia Grassani, claimed the issue is now a tax dispute, telling Radio Marte on Thursday: "Signor Higuain is not getting one euro from the club."

The off-field events are unlikely to cause Maurizio Sarri's men as much concern as the prospect of a defeat to Lazio that would see the gap close to just a point off third place.

Juventus, on track for a record sixth consecutive title, are expected to make amends on Saturday for dropping points in a 1-1 draw at Napoli last week by prevailing against Chievo in Turin, where the champions also host Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri is expected to ring the changes, but Chievo's 4-1 loss at Bologna a fortnight ago suggests the hosts can rest easy.

Chievo midfielder Sergio Pellissier said: "We're not playing our best football, and Juve are in top condition. It will be hard."

A home win would stretch Juve's lead on Roma, in second, to nine points ahed of their trip to Bologna on Sunday.

Atalanta, two points behind Lazio in fifth, host Sassuolo looking for the win that would keep Inter Milan at bay as both chase a place in the Europa League.

Inter are three points further behind in sixth before facing Crotone away on Sunday, while city rivals AC Milan, one point further behind in seventh, host Palermo.