Saturday, 31 March 2007

Round 30: Roma-Milan

Milan visit Roma on Saturday night with European qualification very much on the minds of both UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists.

Having already met three times this term, Roma and Milan should be used to each other, yet they could easily end the campaign with six mutual engagements under their belts, provided they prevail in their Champions League ties against Manchester United and Bayern Munich respectively.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti would be happy for that to happen: "Obviously I would like to play them in the Champions League semi-finals, because that would mean we managed to beat Manchester United. My players have done a great job so far, now we have to finish well."

Milan may be less excited by the prospect. In November, two goals from Francesco Totti consigned them to their first home defeat in 20 years against the club currently second in Serie A. The Rossoneri were also on the losing side, 5-3 on aggregate, in their Coppa Italia semi-final against the capital club.

Four points behind fourth-placed Palermo with a game in hand, Milan cannot afford to drop points in the remaining rounds, although Spalletti, leading the Giallorossi for the 100th time this weekend, has a similar challenge ahead. Fully 18 points adrift of frontrunners Inter, Roma may have conceded hope of the Scudetto, but they are eager to defend second spot from neighbours Lazio - not least to avoid the uncertainty of the Champions League third qualifying round.

Back after four months out with a shoulder injury, Milan defender Alessandro Nesta will return to the Stadio Olimpico where he spent nine seasons with Lazio. Right-back Massimo Oddo also has reason to be excited having left Lazio for Milan in January. "This game has a special taste for me," he said. "During my five years with Lazio, Roma was the most important match of the season. Now we want the three points because we want to finish in top four."

This fixture will also see two Brazilian goalkeepers, Dida and Doni, go head-to-head. "Dida has not had the luckiest of seasons but I still think he's a great keeper," said Roma's Doni. "Inter [with Julio Cesar], Roma and Milan all have Brazilians between the posts. That's great for us."

It will be even better for Doni if his team go into Sunday morning with three points at the expense of Milan. However, home advantage notwithstanding, Spalletti is not feeling overconfident. "Milan are continuing to improve and I'm sure it will be a very difficult game for us," he warned.

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