Milan to forget formbook

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The Independent Online
The embattled Italian champions, Milan, badly need a good result against their city rivals Internazionale tonight. Milan touched a low point in a very disappointing season when they were humiliated 6-1 by the league leaders, Juventus, at the San Siro last Sunday. In contrast, Inter are buoyant after an impressive 3-1 Uefa Cup semi-final first leg win against Monaco on Tuesday.

Despite the obvious discrepancy in the clubs' form, Inter's experienced goalkeeper, Gianluca Pagliuca, expects a difficult match. "Anyone who says this will be a low-key derby makes me laugh. For us, it is a good chance to get back into the battle for second place, perhaps our last chance," he said. "And, as for Milan, well... I tell you one thing, last Sunday's 6-1 scoreline isn't right and anyone who saw the first half knows that."

Inter enter the match in third place, 10 points behind Juventus and four behind the second-placed team, Parma. With eight games to play, Inter are still in contention for the runners-up spot in Serie A which will guarantee participation in next year's European Champions' League.

Inter expect to be at full strength, with the Frenchman Youri Djorkaeff playing behind the strikers Ivan Zamorano of Chile and the in-form Maurizio Ganz in their now habitual first-choice attack. Milan, now eighth, welcome back two players who missed Sunday's drubbing - the international defender Alessandro Costacurta and their Liberian striker, George Weah.

Costacurta agrees with Pagliuca that Milan's heavy loss last Sunday could prove misleading. "This doesn't look like any low-key derby to me because they know only too well that we're not the side that let in six against Juventus. We're the side of the last month and we've got to prove that on Sunday night."

In the month before the Juventus debacle, Milan had appeared to hit decent form, drawing with AS Roma and Napoli before beating Fiorentina and Atalanta.

Costacurta lines up beside Paolo Maldini, 38-year-old Pietro Vierchowod and 36-year-old Franco Baresi in a Milan defence which is nothing if not experienced. One curiosity of this derby is the fact that the respective coaches, Roy Hodgson of Inter and Arrigo Sacchi of Milan, have never met before at club level. But they did clash at international level when Hodgson was Switzerland's coach and Sacchi the coach of Italy.

Hodgson's Switzerland had the better of two 1994 World Cup qualifiers, drawing with Italy 2-2 in Cagliari in September 1992 and defeating Italy 1-0 in Berne the following May.

Udinese are today's unfortunates, having to face the might of Juventus, who after their saunter at the San Siro travelled to Amsterdam to beat Ajax 2-1 in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final. Udinese can take faint hope from the growing list of injured at Juventus, with the strikers Alen Boksic and Alessandro Del Piero both still out and with another striker, Christian Vieri, doubtful. Attilio Lombardo is on standby to partner Nicola Amoruso in the Juventus attack while Paolo Poggi and the German Oliver Bierhoff lead the Udinese front line.

Roma welcome back an old favourite - the 74-year-old Swedish maestro Nils Liedholm, who returns to the fray on the Roma bench following the midweek departure of the Argentine coach Carlos Bianchi. His first game back is a tough one against the in-form Parma. Liedholm is likely to play a cautious 4-4-2 with Abel Balbo and Francesco Totti leading the attack. Parma will be without the striker Enrico Chiesa and their Croatian midfielder, Mario Stanic, both injured. In their absence, Hernan Crespo leads the attack alongside Alessandro Melli.

Sampdoria's Swedish coach, Sven Eriksson, comes face to face with his future since he will be coach to Lazio next season. Both sides have injuries for a game which is vital to the Uefa Cup qualifying prospects of both clubs.