Leonardo’s AC Milan braced for Stadio Olimpico battle

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

stadio olimpico

Two giants of Serie A meet this weekend at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes in Italian football.

But this match takes on added importance as both Roma and AC Milan desperately attempt to reduce Inter Milan’s lead at the top of the Campionato.

Indeed Roma are unbeaten in the League since October and have thrived under the management of Claudio Ranieri. Francesco Totti has defied the years, turning in virtuoso performances, bolstered by the presence of the dynamic Daniele Di Rossi in midfield.

Yet Europe has witnessed the legendary club stutter in recent weeks as they were dumped out of the Europa League at the hands of the Greek side Panathinaikos. Furthermore Raneiri’s men squandered a two goal lead away to Napoli last weekend, with a sole point having to suffice, leaving I Giallorossi seven points behind Mourinho’s Nerazzuri side.

AC Milan have meanwhile recovered admirably from their demoralising defeat in the ‘Derby della Madonna’. Many predicted that I Rossoneri would capitulate after Inter’s resounding 2-0 victory six weeks ago, but it simply hasn’t been the case.

Leonardo steadied the ship and in the League they have managed to claim an encouraging 13 points from their last five games including impressive wins in Bari and Florence. It leaves them a mere four points adrift of their city rivals.

Hence this weekend could whittle the title hunt down to a two horse race should Roma lose at home in today’s evening kick-off. Milan manager Leonardo will be looking to claim three points and move to within a point of the leaders who play Genoa on Sunday evening.

Despite the overriding implications of the match, fans can expect an enticing game as two of the most attacking sides in Serie A prepare to do battle in the ancient city.

Alberto Galliani, the vice-president of AC Milan, described it as the most enticing game the Italian league has to offer. Galliani, who was in a mood to mutually admire the opposition while striking a sly blow at their Milan neighbours, quipped: “Despite the absence of Totti and Pato at the aesthetic level this game is the best we can offer from our league.”

“Roma and Milan play beautiful football.”

However Claudio Ranieri has insisted the pressure is on Milan to overhaul the front runners. The former Chelsea manager remarked: “Milan are the leading contenders to take the title from Inter and they will fight to keep that position, but it is a burden for them.”

Roma are expected to have Luca Toni, David Pizzaro and Julio Sergio available for selection, while it is widely expected that Milan’s Brazilian wonderkid, Alexandre Pato, will not be risked with the important trip to Old Trafford looming in mid-week.

Live coverage of Roma v AC Milan is on ESPN at 7.45 pm UK.

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