ROME: AC Milan are determined to prove they have the stomach for a championship fight by dealing a knock-out blow to title rivals Lazio at fortress San Siro tomorrow.
Unbeaten at home this season, Milan have fallen as far into a crisis as a team three points off the lead can with successive 1-0 away defeats to Perugia and Udinese.
But despite being on the ropes in recent weeks, Milan's aggressive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has lost none of his appetite for a scrap.
“You'll see a different Milan on Sunday because we badly want the win,” said the midfielder.
“At the moment we are way below our best and we are determined to put things right.
“There's no drama here, every team has its ups and downs in a season.
“This is a passing phase. We are the same team we were a couple of months ago, but when Milan lose there is always talk of a crisis.
“I don't know if we will change things radically against Lazio, but we will certainly come up with something different. We need to get back to winning ways.”
The game is likely to be an emotional affair for Milan defender Alessandro Nesta, who spent most of his career at Lazio before being sold in the summer to ease the club's huge debts.
But the Roman star, who played in Italy's 1-0 friendly win at home to Portugal, is treating tomorrow's match like any other.
“For me it's a normal game. It doesn't matter whether we play Lazio or Roma. I'm just thinking about Milan,” he said.
The 26-year-old said he was hoping for a better reaction from the Lazio fans at the San Siro than the one he received earlier in the season at the Stadio Olimpico.
“When we played them in Rome I was whistled and jeered, and to be honest that hurt me,” he said.
Lazio themselves have faltered in recent weeks, dropping to fourth in the table after two draws and a defeat.
But Argentine midfielder Diego Simeone believes there is little wrong with Lazio's performances apart from some wayward finishing.
“Our biggest problem is that we have not been putting away enough of our chances,” he said. “Once we start doing that we'll be back on track. Let's hope we start on Sunday.”
League leaders Inter Milan, three points ahead of Juventus and Milan, received a boost ahead of today's trip to Chievo with the news Gabriel Batistuta would not have to serve a two-match ban for elbowing.
On Tuesday, the Argentina international was told by Italian football's disciplinary commision that he would miss two games for striking Ivan Franceschini in the face last weekend.
But the suspension was lifted on Thursday following a successful appeal by Inter who claimed Batistuta's offence was not intentional.
The loss of 'Batigol', on loan from AS Roma until the end of the season, would have been a massive blow for Inter, who could be without leading goalscorer Christian Vieiri this weekend.
The Italy international injured his knee in last Sunday's 3-0 victory over Reggina and is doubtful for the match.
Reigning champions Juventus, who failed to impress in last week's 1-0 win over Empoli, also face a stern test of their title credentials at Parma tomorrow. – AFP