Chivu prepared to make return
Inter Milan defender Cristian Chivu has recovered from a fractured
skull and looks set to feature in Wednesday's Serie A clash with
rock-bottom Livorno, but striker Mario Balotelli has once again
been overlooked by coach Jose Mourinho.
Romania international Chivu has not featured since suffering the head injury against Chievo on January 6 but has been included in Mourinho's squad and is expected to play with a protective headguard.
Balotelli, on the other hand, has been omitted for the third consecutive game. His already-strained relationship with Mourinho looks to have taken another turn for the worse after the 19-year-old forward was pictured wearing an AC Milan shirt he was given on an Italian television show yesterday.
Defender Marco Materazzi believes Balotelli could still have a future at the San Siro but claims the youngster must make the first move.
"It's up to him. We are waiting with open arms," said Materazzi on a visit to Milan's San Vittore prison.
"If he goes it will be his choice. I cannot get inside his head."
The Nerazzurri will be without midfield duo Wesley Sneijder (adductor) and Dejan Stankovic (suspended) for tomorrow's match, but frontman Diego Milito has been included despite hobbling out of training with a thigh injury this morning.
Inter could only draw 1-1 at Palermo on Saturday, but second-placed Milan failed to capitalise the following day as they could only manage a 1-1 home draw with Napoli to remain a point adrift of their arch rivals.
The weekend draw extended the Nerazzurri's disappointing recent run to only one win in their past seven league games.
Livorno coach Serse Cosmi nevertheless knows his side will face a serious test against the four-time defending Serie A champions, but is optimistic they can pull off an upset which could be a launchpad for their survival bid.
"Tomorrow we face the team top of the standings, a side full of great players and with a very good coach," he said.
"We'll have to look for a historic feat. We have to think the players can win on the big stage against one of the best teams in the the world.
"This result could be the springboard to give us new enthusiasm and drive to find the points necessary for salvation."
Livorno slipped to the foot of the Serie A standings on Sunday on the back of a 3-0 defeat at Atalanta.
The Amaranto had shown signs of promise in a 1-0 defeat at Palermo and a 3-3 draw against Roma over the previous two weekends, leaving the coach puzzled as to why his team did not turn up in Bergamo.
"We did not play against Atalanta," he said. "This week I spoke with the players asking for their explanations. I believe in the team and I expect the right reaction from the boys, with character and determination, but also using my brain.
"Against Roma and Palermo we did well but in Bergamo we never entered the pitch."
Despite the daunting task facing his side tomorrow, Cosmi does not expect his team to be on the back foot for 90 minutes.
"I do not think it will be a totally defensive deployment," he said. "Indeed, we are ready to play a line-up looking for all three points."
The visitors look set to be without midfielder Martin Bergvold and defensive trio Leonardo Miglionico, Alessandro Bernardini and Andrea Esposito through injury for the trip, while midfielder Davide Moro is suspended.