AC Milan continue their pursuit of Inter Milan this weekend, boosted by David Beckham's revelation that he wants to stay in Italy rather than end his loan deal in March. The former England captain joined i Rossoneri from Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of December, and is due to return on 9 March, one day after Milan host Atalanta in Serie A.
But having previously kept diplomatically quiet regarding the subject of staying, Beckham made it clear following Wednesday's 2-2 friendly draw with Rangers in Glasgow that he wants to continue his Italian experience for as long as he can. "I have enjoyed my time here," said the 33-year-old.
"I knew I would enjoy it but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have. I've expressed my desire to stay here for a while but at the moment I'm still a Galaxy player. I respect the Galaxy and everything they have done for me. They have always been great to me.
"But I hope they can come to an agreement and it's down to the clubs now. To be given the chance again to play at this level at my age is pretty incredible, and I've enjoyed it so much I would like to continue it."
Beckham himself, and many others, felt that when he left Real Madrid for Los Angeles Galaxy 18 months ago, at the age of 32, he was stepping into semi-retirement. But his desire to keep representing his country, and to overhaul Bobby Moore's record 108 England caps for an outfield player, has inspired him to continue to perform at the highest level and to try to keep in England coach Fabio Capello's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ plans.
"I want to have a chance of being involved in 2010 and I believe my best chance of doing so is to remain here (at Milan)," he said.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player's continued presence in the Milan team will only help them in their chase to catch Inter, who are six points above their arch-rivals at the Serie A summit. Carlo Ancelotti's side are unbeaten in Beckham's five matches, during which time he has already scored twice, while last weekend he set up two goals in the 3-0 win at Lazio with trademark crosses.
Inter, Juve search for form
Inter, on the other hand, have been inconsistent since Serie A resumed following the winter break, losing 3-1 at Atalanta and being held to home draws by both Cagliari and lowly Torino. They face a trip to Lecce on Saturday, to play a team that has lost only once since the turn of the year, while Milan play at home to rock-bottom Reggina.
The other team still in the title race are Juventus, who are desperate for a victory to reverse their recent slump. They have lost their last two league matches against Udinese and Cagliari, and were taken to a draining penalty shoot-out by Napoli in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.
Juve's trip to Sicily to face Catania on Sunday will be far from straight-forward, particularly for a team jaded from its midweek exertions. However, they are at least strengthened by the return of Gianluigi Buffon, who has recovered from flu, while former France striker David Trezeguet is pushing for his first start of the season since recovering from a knee problem.
The other significant match this weekend will be in the capital, where sixth-placed Roma host Genoa in a crucial battle in the race for fourth place and UEFA Champions League football next season. Genoa hold third place just ahead of Fiorentina, who host Lazio.
Roma-Genoa, Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal and Porto-Benfica are among the matches on the FIFA World Leagues Predictor's Round 22 menu. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning this weekend's prize.