ROME: European champions AC Milan can strengthen their position at the top of Italy’s Serie A tomorrow as their two closest rivals for the championship face each other in the capital.
While Milan host second-from-bottom Perugia at the San Siro, Roma entertain title-holders Juventus at the Olympic Stadium.
Milan are on 48 points from their 19 matches played, five ahead of Roma and Juve, who are second and third respectively and separated only by goal difference.
A draw between Roma and Juve would leave them both further adrift in the race for the title, but Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti believes that may not be the best result for his championship-chasing team.
“In some ways a draw would be ideal because we would move seven points clear of them both if we beat Perugia,” said the 44-year-old, who guided Milan to Champions League success over Juventus last season.
“However, looking at the fixture list I think I’d be happier if Juventus won because Roma have an easier run-in.
“Juventus have the same schedule as us – the championship, the Champions League and the Italian Cup. Roma have only the league and the UEFA Cup to worry about and that will leave them with more energy towards the end of the season.”
Milan suffered a slight setback on Thursday when they lost 2-1 to Lazio in the Italian Cup semi-final first leg tie at the San Siro Stadium.
While current form points to a comfortable victory for Milan against winless Perugia, history suggests three points may not be a nailed-on certainty for the Rossoneri (red and blacks).
Perugia did the double over Milan in the 2001/02 season, took four points off them the following season and beat them 1-0 in Umbria last season.
Milan, though, have only conceded nine goals in Serie A and have netted 37, 16 of them coming from prolific Ukranian marksman Andrei Shevchenko, Italy’s leading goalscorer.
Perugia coach Serse Cosmi has several selection headaches with veteran striker Fabrizio Ravanelli and midfielder Eusebio Di Francesco both nursing injuries and Greek defender Vaggelis Nastos suspended.
Uruguayan striker Marcelo Zalayeta, on loan from Juventus, will partner journeyman Dario Hubner, playing for his eighth club, in attack.
Roma have lost their early season momentum in recent weeks but their goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli insisted there is no better time to be facing Juve.
“It has come at the right moment,” said the 23-year-old international. “It’s a chance for us to redeem ourselves and it’s better to be facing a great team as everybody will be motivated.”
Pelizzoli said although the game was crucial to Roma’s title hopes, they would not decide who lifts the Scudetto in May. “It's an important game and we must win at all costs, but it won't be decisive – there’s still a long way to go,” he said. – AFP