Milan giants look to kick-start Serie A new season
Rome: AC Milan and Inter face the perfect opportunity to kick-start their disastrous Serie A campaigns when they play the bottom two on Saturday.
Milan, who have two points from their first three matches, host rock bottom Cesena, who have yet to pick up a single point.
Inter, meanwhile, travel to Bologna, who picked up their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw at 10-man Juventus on Wednesday.
While those clashes may sound easy on paper, the reality is somewhat different for the two title favourites.
Inter may be playing the team one off the bottom of the table but they are only above Bologna by a single goal`s difference.
Inter have started the season with away defeats at Palermo (4-3) and Novara (3-1) while being held to a stale goalless draw at home by Roma.
Victories over the minnows is certainly not a foregone conclusion for Inter at the moment.
Having also lost to Milan in last month`s Italian Supercup and been humiliated 1-0 at home to Trabzonspor in the Champions League, Inter have lost four out of five official matches this season and won none.
That makes their form the worst of any team in Italy.
Gian Piero Gasperini paid for that most ignominious of starts to his Inter career with his job as he was fired on Wednesday, the day after Inter`s Novara debacle.
He has been replaced by Claudio Ranieri, who is no stranger to picking up the pieces at clubs.
He was the man who dragged up a faltering Roma two seasons ago to challenge Inter for the title.
Before that he guided newly-promoted Juventus to a third place finish on their return to Serie A and he was well on course for going one better the next season before Juve fired him two games from the end of the season.
Inter president Massimo Moratti believes Ranieri is the right man for the task.
"Ranieri was the best choice. I believe he`ll have the necessary good sense to revitalise the team both from an individual perspective and a collective one," said Moratti.
"I`m satisfied with the choice of Ranieri because he has the quality to do well. We spoke about what was needed to do well, he`s very motivated. He has a lot of experience which is what we need right now."
Champions Milan have ruled out a similar drastic change but they are only one point better off.
Their problems are different, however, as they have a long injury list and on Wednesday also lost Brazilian forward Pato for a month to a hamstring strain, leaving them short up front with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Kevin-Prince Boateng also in the treatment room.
Their chief executive Adriano Galliani is convinced, though, that coach Massimiliano Allegri will turn things around.
"When we get our injured players back we`ll also rediscover winning ways," said Galliani.
"It`s not about luck or bad luck, we have 10-12 players injured, that`s tough but it will pass. We won the title last season and the Supercup last month so it would be wrong not to stay calm."
If Milan do win, they will have equalled the number of points they had at the same stage last season.
In other games, league leaders Genoa travel to Chievo while the two teams denied top spot only on goals scored, Juventus and Udinese, play away to Catania and Cagliari respectively.
Napoli will also be looking to bounce back from their midweek defeat at Chievo as they look to regain the top spot they just lost.
They host Fiorentina and coach Walter Mazzarri is likely to restore at least most of the six players he rested on Wednesday, to ill effect.
Bologna v Inter Milan (1600), AC Milan v Cesena (1845), Napoli v Fiorentina (1845)
Chievo v Genoa (1030), Atalanta v Novara, Cagliari v Udinese, Catania v Juventus, Lazio v Palermo, Siena v Lecce, Parma v Roma