AC Milan are hoping that Brazil star Kaka makes a miracle recovery in time to play in Sunday's derby against Inter Milan at the San Siro. The former FIFA World Player of the Year injured his foot in last week's 1-1 home draw with rock-bottom Reggina and was initially ruled out for two weeks, meaning he would miss the clash against the Serie A leaders.
But now Milan's chief doctor Jean Pierre Meersseman is quietly confident that the 26-year-old could indeed play a part. "Kaka is feeling much better, he is reacting to the treatment in an exceptional manner and he no longer feels pain when he walks," he said. "He will try to run and then we will see if it's possible to get him ready for the derby, at least for the bench. Right now it's too early to tell."
It's something that coach Carlo Ancelotti, the subject of reported interest from Chelsea, is not banking on. Of much greater concern to him is Milan's propensity to lose points to lesser opponents, something that has left them eight points adrift of Inter and in third place in Serie A.
It has had vice-president Adriano Galliani fuming, particularly after Milan failed once again to beat one of the league's minnows. "I've always said that the problem isn't (playing against) Inter but the matches before and after the derby," he told TV station Mediaset. "The repeated negative results against small teams account for the distance between us and Inter.
"That's something the club, Ancelotti and the technical staff have to think about. As for (Inter coach Jose) Mourinho I still think he's a good guy and he simply says the truth: well done (David) Beckham, well done Pato, well done Milan but in the meantime Inter were six points ahead and now it's eight."
Milan are paying for draws at Cagliari, Lecce and Torino as well as those at home to Genoa and Reggina. In three of those matches they conceded late equalisers, something that has riled Ancelotti.
"Even playing well we've lost points in matches that were already won against Lecce, Genoa and Torino," he told La Stampa. "That's the difference between Inter and us."
Another difference is the form of Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic compared to that of Milan's marquee signing Ronaldinho. Ibrahimovic has hit the net 14 times in Serie A and is just one goal behind the league's leading scorers, while Ronaldinho has mostly not even been able to force his way into the Milan team recently. He started against Reggina and largely played well until he was substituted for Filippo Inzaghi.
Ronaldinho has only scored half the number of goals as Ibrahimovic in the league and only nine goals in 25 matches in all competitions. Yet Ancelotti has denied the player is merely a luxury at a club that seem to have performed better with him on the bench and the added steel of Massimo Ambrosini in midfield instead.
While the two Milan giants are occupied with each other, second place Juventus will be looking to make up ground on the leaders as they host Sampdoria. Juve have been far from convincing recently, losing to Udinese and at home to Cagliari before an injury-time winner from Dane Christian Poulsen allowed them to escape from Sicily last weekend without dropping more points, as they beat Catania 2-1.