Genoa centre-back Kakha Kaladze will be trying to prevent his former employers from taking over at the top of Serie A when AC Milan visit the Marassi stadium tomorrow. Second-placed Milan could go a point clear of leaders Juventus if they win away to Genoa in a match brought forward from the weekend.
The champions come into the match in fine domestic form having won six and drawn one in their last seven. Genoa, on the other hand, come into the game on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Cesena, who were rock bottom until that victory.
But that's something Kaladze believes they have put behind them. "We made mistakes, we played well but that wasn't enough. We need to be more nasty and aggressive," said the no-nonsense Georgian defender. "It will be a very difficult match (against Milan) because we're playing against a team that is rich in great players. As they've shown in recent matches they're in good form, while we'll be playing without (Rodrigo) Palacio, who is fundamental for us."
Palacio is serving a one-game ban and that will be a relief to Milan. The Argentine was courted by Inter Milan in the summer but i Nerazzurri were put off by Genoa's asking price and plumped for Mauro Zarate instead. Palacio started off the season in fine goalscoring form, although those have dried up recently, and he's scored more than twice as many goals as any of his team-mates.
If Genoa do have one advantage it is that they will be playing at home in the intimidating Marassi stadium, where Milan have won only once since 1982 - although that's in no small part due to Genoa spending 18 seasons outside of Serie A in that period. "We're playing at home and that's important for us. No team has come to the Marassi and had a stroll in the park," added Kaladze. "Everyone struggles at our place. We'll be playing in front of our fans and we'll do everything to get the three points."
However, Kaladze recognises that it will be difficult against the champions, many of whose players he knows well. Yet it is one who arrived after he left, Zlatan 'Ibra' Ibrahimovic, who has impressed him the most. "Right now Ibra is one of the best forwards in the world but there's not just him," said Kaladze. "We mustn't forget players like Pato, Robinho, (Alberto) Aquilani or (Kevin-Prince) Boateng, he's one who's doing very well."
It's not just the opposition that worries Kaladze but also the difficulty in keeping the fans and press in the city happy. "Everyone needs confidence, in life not just in football and to do well in something you need a bit of time," he said. "Here, however, we get criticised after every game. If we win that's not ok because we didn't play well and if we lose then why did we lose?"