Football: Milan mind the gap

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MILAN and AS Roma intend to show their Serie A title ambitions still burn brightly when they clash at the San Siro today, despite being 10 points behind the leaders. The two teams are joint fifth going into match 15 of the 34-game programme but believe they can overturn the 10- point deficit on the pacemakers, Internazionale.

"We still believe in our chances," said the Milan captain, Paolo Maldini. "The problem is that with a 10-point gap between us and Inter, every time we draw a game it is the same as losing. For that reason, we've got to try to win all our games and hope Inter lose a few along the way."

Roma's talented striker Francesco Totti says his side, too, can still consider themselves in the championship race. "We're going to Milan to play for the title," he said. "I'm serious because if Milan still believe they have a chance, then why can't we believe it, too, since we have the same points as Milan."

Totti is likely to be partnered by Abel Balbo and Marco Delvecchio in a Roma attack missing injured the Brazilian Paulo Sergio Otherwise Roma will be at full strength, with Cafu and Aldair in defence and with Luigi di Biagio and Eusebio di Francesco in midfield.

Milan will be without three first-choice players in the suspended defender Alessandro Costacurta and the injured pair, George Weah and Andre Cruz. Maldini may play alongside France's Marcel Desailly in central defence, with Germany's Christian Ziege returning in Maldini's normal left-back berth.

Demetrio Albertini, Ibrahim Ba and Leonardo feature in a Milan midfield in which the Croat Zvonimir Boban is doubtful following injury in Thursday's Italian Cup match against Inter.

Milan, who underlined their current good form by trouncing Inter 5-0 in the quarter-final first-leg tie, are unbeaten in eight league games since losing 2-1 to Lecce in October.

Roma experienced constrasting fortunes in their Italian Cup tie on Tuesday, losing 4-1 to city rivals Lazio. Nor has their recent league form been impressive, being beaten 3-0 by Inter and 2-1 by Udinese in two of their last three outings.

Juventus will also be looking to stay in touch with Ienter when they host Vicenza. The champions, currently in second place, will be without Didier Deschamps and Moreno Torricelli, but still field a strong side led by Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero in attack. Vicenza have lost their last three games and appear in mini-crisis. Inter must put their Milan nightmare behind them when they travel to Piacenza