Football: Milan have yet to prove their championship credentials

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The Independent Online
CHANNEL 4 love Milan. The San Siro outfit make their third TV appearance this term tomorrow as they entertain Roma. Milan, once dominant in Europe, have finished 11th and 10th in the past two Serie A seasons, but have made a fair start to this campaign and lie sixth after five games. Oliver Bierhoff, the German striker signed from Udinese in the summer, has been in good form and Milan go into this game against second-placed Roma on nine points, just one behind the visitors.

However, a 3-1 home defeat to the league leaders Fiorentina and last week's dismal 1-0 defeat to Cagliari, newly promoted after finishing third in Serie B last term, suggests Milan have some way to go before being considered title contenders. Roma, on the other hand, are flying. They made heavy weather of beating Leeds 1-0 in the first leg of their second round Uefa Cup tie on Tuesday, but staged a great fightback last Saturday. Down 1-0 to Fiorentina after a superb 31st-minute strike by Gabriel Batistuta, they recovered from having Luigi Di Biagio and Vincent Candela sent off to win 2-1 after late goals from the Russian Dimitri Alenichev and the young Italian striker, Francesco Totti, touted as the new Alessandro Del Piero by several good Serie A judges.

Alberto Zaccheroni, in his first season with Milan after three successful years coaching Udinese, has been annoyed by midweek criticism of his methods by George Weah, Maurizio Ganz and Ibrahim Ba. Responding to complaints that they have been asked to play out of their normal positions, Zaccheroni said: "Given the two years that Milan have just put in, I'd have thought it was better [for players] to run a bit more and talk a bit less."

Ganz and Ba, a target for Real Madrid, may be left on the bench. Weah is likely to start alongside Bierhoff in attack. Milan's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is injured and will be replaced by Sebastiano Rossi while Bruno N'Gotty will take over from the injured defender Alessandro Costacurta. For Roma, Pierre Wome and Ivan Tomic replace the suspended Candela and Di Biagio.

Tomorrow's big showdown involves Juventus and Internazionale in Turin in a re-run of the controversial game last season when Juventus won 1-0 to clinch the title with a disputed Del Piero goal, which resulted in clashes on the terraces of the Italian parliament.

Roberto Baggio and Youri Djorkaeff are injured so Ronaldo, even if less than fully fit, will lead the Inter attack alongside Nicola Ventola. The Frenchman Ousmane Dabo replaces the suspended Diego Simeone in midfield. Full-strength Juventus recall Mark Iuliano for the suspended Alessandro Birindelli.

OTHER GAMES: Bologna v Piacenza; Cagliari v Bari; Fiorentina v Salernitana; Lazio v Vicenza; Perugia v Parma; Sampdoria v Empoli; Udinese v Venezia.

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