ROME: League leaders AC Milan can add insult to injury by striking a potentially fatal blow to the championship hopes of fierce rivals Juventus when the teams meet for a Scudetto showdown in Turin tomorrow.
While Milan clinched a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in midweek, Juventus were dumped out by Deportivo Coruna and a second defeat in six days at the Delle Alpi Stadium will almost certainly put paid to the reigning champions’ hopes of a third successive Serie A title.
Milan have won 10 of their last 11 league games and hold a six-point lead over third-placed Juve, but their midfield general Gennaro Gattuso has warned his teammates to prepare for a backlash from the team they beat on penalties in last season’s Champions League final.
“The game will be extremely difficult and although we are playing a Juventus team that is not in the best of health, we know that they will give everything not to lose ground in the title race,” said the tough-tackling Italy international who scored in Milan’s 4-1 defeat of Sparta Prague on Wednesday.
“Their defeat against Deportivo changes nothing and they will be desperate to bounce back. Their success over the last few years has been built on their resilience and we are ready for a real battle.”
Gattuso said his Milan team had to avoid making the same mistakes as they did last season when they lost 2-1 to the Old Lady in Turin after conceding two goals in the first 21 minutes.
“We must not repeat the errors of last year. We let them have too much of the ball, defended badly and came under immense pressure,” he said.
“They simply overran us and we can't afford to give them a similar start this time around otherwise we will be in trouble.”
Milan may be bubbling with confidence but their record at the Delle Alpi is nothing to be proud of.
They have lost on their last four visits and last tasted victory back in 1999 when legendary Liberian striker George Weah found the target in a 2-0 win.
Clarence Seedorf is expected to be recalled to Milan's starting line-up by coach Carlo Ancelotti after recovering from a thigh strain.
Ancelotti's counterpart Marcello Lippi has some serious injury worries with strikers David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero, and Fabrizio Miccoli all ruled out.
Under-fire Nicola Legrottaglie, who has struggled since arriving from Chievo last summer, is expected to retain his place in a defence that has leaked 27 goals in 24 matches, as many as in the whole of the 2000-01 season.
Second-placed Roma, lying five points behind Milan, visit relegation-threatened Reggina.
Roma captain Francesco Totti (pic) will be back to lead his side out in Reggio Calabria after being rested for Thursday’s UEFA Cup fourth round tie away to Spanish outfit Villareal which the Italians lost 2-0.
In tomorrow’s other matches, fourth-placed Lazio entertain Udinese, while Parma, in fifth, welcome Brescia.
Today eighth-placed Sampdoria hosts Bologna and in-form Lecce travel to third-from-bottom Empoli. – AFP