Football: Capello seeks morale boost for Milan

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Milan's Fabio Capello and Inter's Luigi Simoni, two master craftsmen of Serie A management, must rejig their teams after losing two pillars of strength on the eve of the 127th Milan derby today.

Milan's captain, Paolo Maldini, has succumbed to a strained thigh muscle and will be replaced by the former youth team right-back, Giuseppe Cardone.

Simoni will be without his suspended French playmaker, Youri Djorkaeff, considered a perfect foil to Inter's main weapon, the Brazilian striker Ronaldo. "We lose a lot without Djorkaeff. He gives us balance," said Simoni, whose side are unbeaten and league leaders.

"We're worse off," said Capello, who needs to win the derby to revive his ninth-placed side's fading title hopes. "Maldini was our means to stop Ronaldo. I had a special solution for Ronaldo which made the most of Maldini's speed."

There is confidence in the Milan camp that they can break Inter's unbeaten record and win their first derby since 1994.

The missing piece in Capello's new Milan jigsaw is Patrick Kluivert, the Dutch striker hailed who was the heir to Marco van Basten but is dismally out of form. Capello, who has revived the careers of players like Dejan Savicevic and Roberto Baggio in his time, is sticking with Kluivert and will play him today.

"I don't give up easily," Capello said. "I believe that champions like Kluivert give their best on special occasions." This is one of those, with Inter 11 points clear of Milan.

Simoni's ability to pick the right players for the right matches from a squad filled with potential match-winners has led one obsever to describe Inter as "the Simoni laboratory."

Inter's president, Massimo Morratti, said: "Simoni's like quality wine. The longer he's around, the better he gets."

- Chris Endean