Pressure mounts on Inter
© AFP

AC Milan and Juventus will be hoping the recent controversy at title rivals Inter Milan will distract the leaders enough that they drop points in Wednesday's full Serie A programme.

Inter lead Juve by three points with Milan a further three points back but the pressure has been mounting on Jose Mourinho's team since the turn of the year. They have been anything but convincing in the league, drawing at home to Cagliari and losing embarrassingly 3-1 at Atalanta before scraping a narrow 1-0 home success over Sampdoria.

That victory came at a cost, though, as Mourinho copped a one match touch line ban and in-form forward Adriano was hit with a three-match ban for punching Daniele Gastaldello in the stomach. They have picked up three points fewer than each of their title rivals since the New Year and Mourinho has shown signs of getting rattled.

Mourinho has already developed a difficult relationship with Italian journalists who seem eager to provoke him and see him fail. Following the Atalanta defeat he was asked about Inter's current 'crisis', to which he reacted defiantly, claiming every other team in the league would swap their position for Inter's.

But the constant criticisms seem to be getting to him as he got angered when discussing refereeing decisions following the Sampdoria victory after he was asked about an apparent foul by Inter defender Ivan Cordoba on Giampaolo Pazzini that went unpunished.

Across the city, his counterpart at Milan, Carlo Ancelotti, is feeling relaxed and confident. "It's turning into a great battle between us, Juve and Inter," he said. "Each team has different strengths.

"Inter are based around strength, Juve on teamwork and enthusiasm and Milan on quality. Whoever is in the best shape in the spring when the Champions League starts up again should win."

One of the reasons Ancelotti is feeling so good has been the impact David Beckham has had on the team since joining on loan from LA Galaxy. Beckham scored his first goal in a Milan shirt in Sunday's 4-1 win at Bologna and has otherwise been unspectacular but his contribution has helped make Milan a better team.

Ancelotti has been impressed with how quickly Beckham found his rhythm and match-fitness in Italy. "I'm patient and sometimes I do well. But I wouldn't risk signing a player and putting him in the side after just 10 days," said the coach.

"All the credit is his and down to his desire to play top level football. He's done it with his feet and with his intelligence. Will he stay? In football anything is possible. We're not putting him under any pressure, the choice is his. Of course he knows our wish that he stays.

"When the time comes that he has to return to America, it will certainly be disappointing because of the help he has been in terms of his quality and the balance he brings to the team. His position in the midfield (on the right side of three) is ideal for him."

Milan host Genoa looking to gain revenge for the 2-0 defeat they suffered in their second game of the season, a result that has helped Genoa challenge for a top four finish. They currently hold fourth place but AS Roma, who host Palermo, are charging up behind them on the back of a ten game spell in which they won eight times.

Juventus face what would on paper seem a difficult match away to Udinese, but the northerners have not won since October, when they topped the league. Since then they have lost eight and drawn three of their 11 matches, including home defeats to the bottom two, Reggina and Chievo.