Galliani pins his faith in Leonardo

Galliani pins his faith in Leonardo

Published Feb. 27, 2010 12:33 p.m. ET

AC Milan vice-pesident Adriano Galliani has thrown his support behind Leonardo as they bid to keep the pressure on Inter Milan this weekend.

Only a few weeks ago, Leonardo's position was being openly questioned by club owner Silvio Berlusconi, but since then Milan have closed the gap to Inter to four points, aided by the dramatic midweek come-from-behind victory over Fiorentina.

Galliani claimed Berlusconi called him after that match to praise the players and the coach for the manner of the victory.

"The president called me after the match in Florence to say that we have a great goalkeeper," he said. "We have Ronaldinho, a great player. And do you see the confidence is paying off?

"Leo accepted everything, even the most severe criticism. He let the focus fall on him. No matter how we finish the season now I want to see if anyone dares to criticise the choice of Leonardo as coach."

Milan scored twice in the final 10 minutes to beat Fiorentina. Klaas Jan Huntelaar's 81st minute equaliser came moments after the Viola were denied what looked to be a stonewall penalty, and the Dutch striker only further stoked the atmosphere by gesturing towards the home supporters during his celebration.

Huntelaar has since apologised for his actions.

"After my equaliser in Florence, I literally went crazy with joy, because the goal was very important in a difficult moment in the season," he said.

"My gesture of exultation was of joy, of liberation after many minutes when we were trailing, but it was absolutely offensive to the opposition fans. I am sorry it has been seen this way."

It was then Alexandre Pato who snatched the winner in injury time to move Milan up to second place, one point ahead of Roma.

With Inter facing a trip to revamped and rejuvenated Udinese, Milan will be hoping to further close the gap to the top of the table.

Whether Atalanta are able to do anything about it remains to be seen.

Many have already written them off before kick-off. The 1-0 reverse to Chievo at home last weekend was their 14th defeat in 25 matches this season, and their record away from home is even worse.

Defender Thomas Manfredini claimed, though, the Nerazzurri were capable of springing an upset at the San Siro.

"Mission Impossible it is not," said Manfredini. "But it is normal that it will be difficult because they are playing well and have many stars.

"We must try to counter their attacks and not take too many risks."

However, he also promised Atalanta would not roll over.

"We must fight," he said. "Last Sunday it went wrong. We were hoping for a win, but it did not happen. We must go to Milan to pick up points."

Milan will be without Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Seedorf, and Luca Antonini for the match, while both Thiago Silva and Gennaro Gattuso are doubtful and Mathieu Flamini is suspended.

Kakha Kaladze is all but certain to be missing too as he faces club discipline for hitting out at a lack of playing time in an interview given last night.

Edgar Barreto, Tiberio Guarente and Nicola Amoruso are missing for Atalanta, with Gyorgy Garics, Maximiliano Pellegrino, Daniele Capelli, Jose Leonardo Talamonti, and Simone Padoin are doubtful.