By ANDREW DAMPF
2008-12-04 09:51 PM
Having begun with one stated aim _ winning Serie A _ a 3-1 loss to Palermo last weekend left the Rossoneri six points behind leader and city rival Inter Milan. Getting eliminated by Lazio in the Italian Cup on Wednesday has left the World Club Cup champions in crisis.
"Let's not create too much drama, but it's clear that this loss burns," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said after the Lazio defeat. "Two losses in a row weighs on your morale. We've got to come together again and play solidly."
Milan finished fifth in Serie A last season, failing to get a Champions League spot. The only other competition Milan still has a chance in this season is the UEFA Cup.
The Italian Cup was last in the order of priorities.
"We weren't very concerned about this game and we couldn't rotate the squad because we have so many players injured right now," Ancelotti said.
Besides defender Alessandro Nesta and midfielder Andrea Pirlo, Milan is also missing three key forwards _ Filippo Inzaghi, Alexandre Pato and Marco Borriello.
Perhaps the only bright spot in the 2-1 extra-time loss to Lazio was the goal scored by Andriy Shevchenko, only the second this season for the Ukrainian _ and first in two months.
"It's important that he scored a nice goal," Ancelotti said of Shevchenko. "He could start Sunday, because Inzaghi has a fever and Pato has some physical problems."
On Sunday, Milan hosts a Catania side in the upper half of the table with 22 points.
Inter leads with 33 points and Juventus and Milan are tied with 27 each.
Catania's Christian Terlizzi is a questionable starter with an inflamed right leg, and fellow defender Matias Silvestre is suspended.
Inter visits Lazio in a matchup of the league's two highest scoring teams.
Inter forward Adriano has resumed training after two days in bed with a fever, although Julio Ricardo Cruz is still likely to be paired with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Jose Mourinho's attack.
Lazio striker Goran Pandev drew a penalty and scored the winner two minutes into the first extra period against 10-man Milan on Wednesday.
Juventus visits Lecce, which is hovering just above the relegation zone. Cristiano Zanetti could be on the bench for the first time since suffering a muscle injury in August, while fellow midfielder Mauro Camoranesi will likely be out with an arm injury.
"Talking about the title is no longer a taboo, but we can't fool ourselves," Camoranesi said. "We've got to proceed with caution and determination, because the season is very long and we won't know until February or March who between us, Milan and Inter will be performing better."
AS Roma, which is slowly climbing back up the standings after a disastrous start, visits last place Chievo Verona on Saturday.
On Sunday, it's: Atalanta vs. Udinese; Cagliari vs. Palermo; Napoli vs. Siena; Reggina vs. Bologna; Sampdoria vs. Genoa; and Torino vs. Fiorentina.