In-form Milan striker Shevchenko turns up the heat on Serie A leaders Roma while Real Madrid go for six wins in a row

Jon Culley
Saturday 10 January 2004 01:00

Roma still lead Serie A by three points but the Italian media believes the defeat of Fabio Capello's side by Milan in front of 73,000 fans in the capital on Tuesday could be the turning point of the season.

Newspapers united in eulogising Andriy Shevchenko after the Ukrainian's 13th and 14th goals of the season condemned Roma to a first defeat, comparing the striker's impact to that of Marco van Basten and, looking further back, Gunnar Nordahl, among a list of legendary names to have worn the black and red stripes.

Shevchenko has scored 106 goals in his Milan career, showing remarkable versatility. He has scored 37 goals with his right foot, 20 with his left, 26 from headers, 20 from the penalty spot and three from free kicks.

There is a growing belief that Shevchenko's improving form will carry Milan to the title but the player himself declined to offer a view on that. "I'm used to not making predictions," he said. "I can just say that right now I'm doing well and my physical condition is perfect." Tomorrow, Milan host struggling Reggina while Roma visit Perugia. Champions Juventus, currently third, face a difficult trip to seventh-placed Sampdoria.

In Spain, Real Madrid aim to stay top of the Liga Primera and become the unofficial winter champions when they visit Real Sociedad today in search of a sixth straight win. Sociedad claimed that distinction a year ago but currently lie a lowly 17th. They did beat Madrid 4-2 at home last April, however.

Madrid could be without David Beckham, who gashed an ankle last weekend in the game against Murcia, although Zinedine Zidane, is expected to play after recovering from flu.

If Madrid do not take all three points, Valencia can take over at the top by winning in Albacete. Valencia are two points behind Madrid with Deportivo la Coruna a further four back.

After last night's clash between first and second, Monaco and Lyon, main interest in France today is on whether third-placed Paris St Germain beat Lille at home to maintain the pressure on the top two as the French season resumes.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer has called for the winter break in the Bundesliga to be abolished. Leading managers in England, among them Arsène Wenger, have called for a winter stoppage to be introduced, but Beckenbauer reckons in Germany the break - which this season lasts from December 17 to January 31 - is excessive.

"Thanks mainly to the new stadiums there is no real reason for a break," he said. "It is a luxury. In England they evenplay at Christmas."

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