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Milan rivals seek high ground

Published: Friday 22 November 2002, 20.08CET
AC Milan and Internazionale FC will be playing for more than civic pride when they meet this weekend.

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Published: Friday 22 November 2002, 20.08CET

Milan rivals seek high ground

AC Milan and Internazionale FC will be playing for more than civic pride when they meet this weekend.

This weekend sees the latest edition of one of European football's great rivalries, as AC Milan take on Internazionale FC in the 252nd Milan derby at the San Siro stadium.

Fighting for the title
For the first time in almost a decade, both clubs are in title contention. One and two points respectively divide Inter and Milan from defending champions Juventus FC, the Serie A leaders. "It is ten years since the teams went into a derby fighting for the title," said Milan vice president Adriano Galliani. "And Milan is the only city in Europe with two sides in the UEFA Champions League."

Old boys' reunion
The connections do not end with the common goals of Scudetto and Champions League glory. Saturday's match also brings two players into competition with their former clubs. Inter left-back Francesco Coco "will be extremely motivated after playing so long in Milan colours", while for Milan midfield player Clarence Seedorf "the only important thing is to take three points off Inter", his previous employer.

Milan 'not playing so well'
Which made the smarter move has remained a moot point. Carlo Ancelotti's Milan began the season with four league wins from five games; Inter went one better with a maximum 15-point haul. Now the aim is to keep a firm grip on Juventus's coat-tails. "We are not playing as well as we were," admitted Seedorf.

Derby veterans
Another worry for the Rossoneri, the red-and-black half of the city, is the absence of defender Alessandro Nesta. The former S.S. Lazio captain suffered a thigh injury in last week's 2-1 win over Parma AC and should make way for Alessandro Costacurta. If he plays, it will be the veteran's 34th derby appearance, eight fewer than captain Paolo Maldini.

Counting on Cannavaro
Nesta's Italian international team-mate Fabio Cannavaro, meanwhile, has recovered from a knee injury to take his place in the Inter back line. However, Nerazzurri coach Héctor Cúper has defender Marco Materazzi unavailable, with Iván Córdoba set to deputise.

Shevchenko threat
Cannavaro's job will be to shackle Inter nemesis Andriy Shevchenko, scorer of nine derby goals. The Ukrainian should partner Filippo Inzaghi in Milan's attack with Rivaldo a likely substitute. Inter's Hernán Crespo also faces bench duty, making way for Álvaro Recoba as partner to Christian Vieri.

Goals, goals, goals
The No9 was off target in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at AS Roma, yet registered for Italy as they were held by Turkey in midweek. The Turkish scorer was another Interista, Emre Belözoglu. Cúper will want his players to maintain that form against a Milan side who lead the Serie A scoring charts. It is another summit that Milan and Inter have in their sights, though, and three points on Saturday could go some way to establishing them there.

Last updated: 23/11/02 23.50CET

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