Football: Nesta has to tame rampant Ronaldo

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A FASCINATING duel between Internazionale's Brazilian striker, Ronaldo, and the Lazio defender Alessandro Nesta could hold the key to tonight's all-Italian Uefa Cup final at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Nesta, 22, one of the stars of Lazio's successful season and now an automatic choice in Italy's World Cup side, will have the difficult task of containing an in-form Ronaldo in the first Uefa Cup final to be settled in a one- off match rather than over two legs.

"Ronaldo's the best there is, because he can do the most skilful of things even in full flight when many others would probably mess it up," Nesta said.

Ronaldo has already struggled against Lazio in two Serie A games this season: a 1-1 draw in Milan in October and an emphatic 3-0 win for Lazio in Rome in February.

"For me, Nesta has been the best defender of the season... However, for him and for all of us, it will be different in Paris," Ronaldo said.

Lazio, fourth in Serie A, come into the game on a high after winning their first major trophy for 24 years by defeating Milan in last week's Italian Cup final. Inter approach the final looking to improve an impressive track record which has seen them win the 1964 and 1965 European Cups and the 1991 and 1994 Uefa Cups in 34 seasons in Europe. Lazio, by contrast, are playing in their first European final.

Both sides are at close to full strength. Lazio are without only the injured Croatian striker Alen Boksic, while Inter are doubtful about the 34-year-old sweeper Giuseppe Bergomi. He hopes to extend his record of European appearances to 108 but has been nursing a thigh injury for two weeks.

Salvatore Fresi is likely to step into the libero role normally occupied by the Inter captain while Pierluigi Casiraghi comes into the Lazio attack in place of Boksic.

Internazionale (probable): Pagliuca; Bergomi or Fresi, Sartor, Colonnesse, West; Moriero, Winter, Simeone, Zanetti; Djorkaeff, Ronaldo.

Lazio (probable): Marchegiani; Grandoni, Nesta, Negro, Favalli; Fuser, Venturin, Jugovic, Nedved; Mancini, Casiraghi.