Football / European preview: Parma prepare for a takeover at the top

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

EUROPE'S match of the day is in Italy - for a change - where Parma have the opportunity to go clear at the top of Serie A when they entertain Milan. With the clubs tied on 18 points, Nevio Scala, the European Cup-Winners' Cup-holders' coach, is poetically confident that his team hold the advantage.

While Parma were preparing for today's clash last week, Milan were toiling to a 0-0 draw in their European Champions' League match with Anderlecht in Belgium. 'At the moment, Parma and Milan are just about even,' Scala said. 'But we have the advantage that we prepared for the match in a much more serene environment.'

Things are not quite so simple for Fabio Capello. Last Monday Deyan Savijevic, Milan's Serbian midfielder, walked out of the club saying he would not return unless he was guaranteed the starting place in the team that he lost when Marcel Desailly arrived from Marseille.

Then he discovered that Marco van Basten, his Dutch international who has not played since 26 May, will be out for a further three months with the ankle injury.

Demetrio Albertini is suspended for today's game and it seems likely that Desailly will replace him in midfield, partnering Roberto Donadoni in the centre. Florin Raducioiu may return to the attack.

Parma are at full strength, with Faustino Asprilla and Gianfranco Zola in attack, and will have no better opportunity to impress their claim to the title on last season's champions.

Dennis Bergkamp, whose penalty for Internazionale disrupted Norwich's dreams of European glory last week, leads the line against Juventus in the San Siro. Osvaldo Bagnoli, the Inter coach, is likely to replace the suspended Giuseppe Bergomi with Davide Fontalan in defence. Bagnoli will be looking to improve on last week's 1-0 defeat against Genoa against a Juventus team that has doubts over Antonio Conte, Roberto Baggio and Dino Baggio.

Luis Fernandez, who inspired a revival of fortunes at Cannes, has emerged as the favourite to succeed Gerard Houllier as the national coach after France's last minute ejection from the World Cup. He hardly discouraged speculation when he said: 'I'm glad people are thinking of me. I'm not asking for the job but if it is in the interests of French football then I'll respond positively to any suggestions.'

Marseille, the current champions who are very much on the defensive these days, had slipped to fourth place before this weekend's programme, having lost their past two matches. Desailly, Paolo Futre and Alen Boksic have all been sold to Italian clubs and their hopes are now pinned on survival rather than honours. They will hope to pick up points today, however, when they play their newly promoted neighbours, Martigues.

Barcelona's players, who were fined by their coach, Johan Cruyff, after last week's defeat by the bottom club, Lerida, will be doing their best to hold on to their wage packets when they visit Madrid's third side, Rayo Vallecano. Seville and Deportivo La Coruna, the two sides tied on goal difference above Barcelona, face tough games at Celta and Atletico Madrid respectively.

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