Milan title hopes hanging in the balance

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The Independent Football

The repercussions of Livorno's startling win over Milan last weekend - a victory masterminded by the former Rossoneri hero Roberto Donadoni - could be felt tomorrow when Serie A's defending champions host Bologna. With Bologna in 13th place the result appears a formality, but they have taken 11 points from the last 15 and face a Milan team deprived of Alessandro Nesta after the defender was dismissed at Livorno.

The repercussions of Livorno's startling win over Milan last weekend - a victory masterminded by the former Rossoneri hero Roberto Donadoni - could be felt tomorrow when Serie A's defending champions host Bologna. With Bologna in 13th place the result appears a formality, but they have taken 11 points from the last 15 and face a Milan team deprived of Alessandro Nesta after the defender was dismissed at Livorno.

Another slip would make Juventus - already five points clear - champions-elect, if they win at Atalanta. As Atalanta are bottom, to expect them to lose is a fair assumption, although they did knock Juventus out of the Italian Cup recently and Pavel Nedved is injured. Udinese, a distant third, go to Parma today, while Internazionale, in fourth, travel to Sicily to play Palermo tomorrow.

In Spain, Real Madrid will hope to cut Barcelona's seven-point lead this weekend as the Catalan club tonight play in the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan, where Seville are unbeaten all season.

"Seville have one of the best squads in the league," the Barça striker Samuel Eto'o said. "They have a very tough defence who don't mind putting it about a bit, but if we want to be the best we have to get past players like them." The veteran Italian midfielder Demetrio Albertini could make his Barca debut.

Tomorrow night Real are expected to win at the bottom side Numancia. David Beckham, having had his best game of the season after returning to the right wing last week, waits to hear if Wanderley Luxemburgo will retain the new diamond formation in midfield.

Third-placed Valencia, having lost to rivals Villarreal last week, need to beat Athletic Bilbao to remain in touch.

In France, the Ligue 1 championship race seemed to have opened up last week when Lille inflicted the first defeat of the season on Lyon. But Lille then conceded an injury-time equaliser at Nice in midweek, allowing Lyon to extend their lead to five points. Today Lyon go to struggling Bastia, while Lille visit Caen.

The focus in Germany is still on the refereeing match-fixing scandal, but tomorrow's visit of Bayern Munich to Hertha Berlin should return some attention to the pitch. Bayern, who recall Michael Ballack after suspension, are likely to ask England's Owen Hargreaves to mark the Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho.

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