Football: ITALIAN FOOTBALL: Milan in confident mood

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The Independent Online
MILAN travel to Cagliari for tomorrow's live Channel 4 Serie A game in confident mood after a sound start to the 1998/9 campaign. Third in the table after winning three of their first four games, Milan bounced back from a home defeat by Fiorentina, the Italian league leaders, by beating Venezia 2-0 away a fortnight ago. The German striker Oliver Bierhoff has maintained his prolific goal-scoring form since joining Milan from Udinese in the summer. Cagliari are struggling. They have picked up just four points in their first four games and proved no match for Lazio in Rome two weeks ago, losing 2-0 to Rome's big spenders.

Fiorentina, who have won their first four games, visit Roma. Giovanni Trapattoni, Fiorentina's new coach, has built a strong defence to back an attack led by Gabriel Batistuta, their Argentinian centre forward who is joint top scorer in Serie A with five goals, Brazil's Edmundo, Belgium's Luis Oliveira and Portugal's Rui Costa.

Six of the Italian league's top eight scorers are foreigners to Italy. The two exceptions are Delvecchio and Nicola Ventola, a 20-year-old who has been making the most of his chances to play for Internazionale during the absences through injury of Ronaldo and Roberto Baggio. Ventola's club play host to Lazio tomorrow evening in a rematch of last season's Uefa Cup final, which was convincingly won by Internazionale. While Baggio's recovery took another step back this week - he pulled out of practice on Wednesday when pain returned to his right knee - Ronaldo looked good in training and might face Lazio. It would be the Brazilian striker's first appearance in a month.

Lazio have injury problems, with the striker Christian Vieri, their pounds 19m summer signing from Atletico Madrid, the Spanish midfielder Ivan de La Pena, and the defender Alessandro Nesta all out of the game.

Parma host Salernitana and Bologna go to Empoli today.

OTHER GAMES TOMORROW: Vicenza v Juventus, Bari v Udinese, Perugia v Venezia, and Piacenza v Sampdoria.