Pavel Nedved, the 2003 European Footballer of the Year, faces his successor Andriy Shevchenko as Juventus FC and AC Milan meet at the Delle Alpi stadium on Saturday night.
Juventus and Milan dominate the Italian scene having won eleven of the last 13 Serie A titles between them - the Rossoneri with six, the Bianconeri five. Juventus are currently four points above Carlo Ancelotti's side at the top of the table as the last game of 2004 approaches.
"It's already time to stop celebrating the Ballon d'Or," said Shevchenko, who received the award on Monday. "Now we can only think about the match against Juventus. If we win, not much will change because we will still be behind Juve. But we cannot lose because seven points would be a big lead for them.
"I'm sure it will be a spectacular game," the Ukrainian international striker continued. "
The contest between the new and the old Ballon d'Or winner is a fascinating one. However, Juve have many top players, not only Nedved. We need a great performance to win at the Delle Alpi."
Milan are in great form as witnessed by their 6-0 win against ACF Fiorentina last Sunday, while Juventus struggled to beat Bologna FC 1-0. But Bianconeri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon warned: "Maybe Milan were better than us last weekend but Saturday's game will be a different story. Extending the lead to seven points before the Christmas break would be very important, especially from a psychological point of view."
The match is special also for Fabio Capello and Ancelotti, who have both coached the two teams during their careers. Capello won four league titles and the UEFA Champions League with the Rossoneri, while Ancelotti was twice a Serie A runner-up with Juventus in 2000 and 2001. "Obviously it's a very important game but I'm sure it's too early in the season to call it decisive," Ancelotti said.
FC Messina Peloro take on bottom side Atalanta BC in Saturday's other encounter while Sunday sees third-placed Udinese Calcio, with seven wins in their last eight outings, host S.S. Lazio, and Cagliari Calcio defend fourth place as they visit US Città di Palermo, who are just one point behind the Sardinian club.
FC Internazionale Milano, US Lecce and UC Sampdoria are level on points with Palermo and one of them could spend Christmas in fourth spot should Cagliari drop points at the Renzo Barbera stadium. Inter host Brescia Calcio while Lecce and Sampdoria face off at the Via del Mare stadium.
AS Roma are also in contention for fourth position and they entertain Parma FC, who have replaced coach Silvio Baldini with Pietro Carmignani. AC Chievo Verona visit ACF Fiorentina, AC Siena and AS Livorno Calcio meet in a Tuscan derby, while Bologna welcome Reggina Calcio.
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