European Football: Ronaldo's duel with Batistuta

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The Independent Online
It is the clash all Italy have been waiting to see when Brazil's Ronaldo comes face to face with Argentina's Gabriel Batistuta as joint league leaders Internazionale meet Fiorentina in the Serie A at the San Siro today.

Ronaldo, Inter's $28m (pounds 17m) import from Barcelona, will come under the closest of scrutiny as he is compared with arguably the most accomplished foreign Serie A striker of recent times. Batistuta has scored 92 league goals since joining Fiorentina in 1991 and is already on top of this season's goalscorers' chart with five in two games.

Ronaldo scored his first Serie A goal last Sunday in Inter's 4-2 win against Bologna and followed up on Tuesday with the opener in a 2-0 Uefa Cup victory over Neuchatel Xamax.

Inter's Argentine midfielder Diego Simeone has huge regard for his talented compatriot, but believes he knows how Inter can keep him in check. "The only way to stop him [Batistuta] is to cut off his supplies and that means [Anselmo] Robbiati, Oliveira and Rui Costa," he said. "Fiorentina have a lot of good players and although it is Batistuta who rounds off their work a game like this will be decided in midfield."

While Inter worry about Batistuta, Fiorentina's Andrei Kanchelskis has cautioned against his side concentrating all their attention on Ronaldo. "Ronaldo scored a terrific goal last Sunday but he's not the only player in the Inter side," said the former Manchester United winger. "There are also guys like [Youri] Djorkaeff who also scored a great goal on Sunday.

"We're only at the third round of the season so the game can't be called a championship decider. But at least we'll find how good we are and by Sunday night we'll know whether Fiorentina are title contenders."

Following their Uefa Cup success on Tuesday, Inter are likely to recall Maurizio Ganz in place of Nigeria's Nwankwo Kanu to partner Ronaldo. Djorkaeff will be supported by Javier Zanetti and Simeone in midfield while Giuseppe Bergomi leads the defence.

Fiorentina should be at full strength with Kanchelskis and Brazil's Oliveira flanking Batistuta and with Portugal's Rui Costa partnered by Sandro Cois and Anselmo Robbiati in midfield.

Recent precedents augur well for Fiorentina, who have picked up four points from their last away games against Inter, drawing 2-2 last November and beating them 3-1 in March of last year.

In France, the ailing champions, Monaco, travel to Montpellier today hoping to recover some self esteem after their midweek European Champions' League debacle in Portugal. The team is expected to contain several changes from that which crashed 3-0 to Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, albeit without the suspended defender, Martin Djetou, and their forwards, Thierry Henry and Japhet N'Doram.

But such is the anger of the club president, Jean-Louis Campora, following a performance he described as unworthy of Monaco's colours and status as French representatives in the European Cup, that no-one is safe.

Campora gave the coach, Jean Tigana, who guided a brilliant Monaco side to the title in May, the sort of backing he could do without. "He has a contract and will go to the end. That's clear in my mind. Now, if he wants to leave..."

As Monaco were beating Marseille 2-0 last weekend, a victory then regarded as a turning point after a stuttering start to the defence of their title, a rumour was circulating the Louis II stadium that they had approached Johan Cruyff to take over the coaching duties.

The respected former Nantes coach Jean-Claude Suaudeau, also currently out of work, has also been linked with the Monaco job. Tigana certainly appears to be having difficulties with a divided squad which the captain, Franck Dumas, extremely critical of the club's hierarchy after Wednesday's game, believes was badly served by mistakes in the off-season transfer market.

But Campora hit back at Dumas, saying: "The recruiting is not an excuse. We have a good squad but not everyone is pulling in the same direction."

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