ROME, March 19, 2010 (AFP) - AC Milan could end a tumultuous week which saw two of their star turns end up under the surgeon's knife by sitting atop Serie A for the first time this season.
On Sunday AC Milan are at the San Siro to play Napoli with the Serie A summit in sight - an unlikely scenario given they were ten points adrift of Inter Milan less than a month ago.
Leonardo's side moved to within one point of long time leaders Inter following last Sunday's 1-0 win over Chievo in which David Beckham ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Beckham underwent surgery in Finland on Monday which wiped out the rest of his loan period with Milan and his dreams of appearing in a fourth World Cup.
The same day the club's veteran central defender Alessandro Nesta had an operation to repair his injured right knee.
Midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who scored the stoppage-time winner against Chievo, said: "We hope their absences will give us more strength to repay their efforts with many more wins this season."
And AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani told the club's tv channel: "From Sunday onwards 10 delicate games await us, as it should be when you are one point away from the top position.
"Against Napoli it will be tough, just like against the other opponents. There are 30 points up for grabs, we must try not to make mistakes."
Leonardo believes that despite his side's climb up the table Inter are still in the box seat.
The Brazilian said: "I think Inter still have the ball in their court.
"They've been winning for a long time, have many resources and are very strong.
"We must continue our path without making too many calculations. There are 10 games to go and we need to focus only on what we achieve. Then, step by step, we'll see where we end up."
Defending champions Inter suffered just their third loss of the campaign as they fell to a surprise 3-1 reverse at Catania last weekend.
|Jose Mourinho is pictured in the tunnel before kick off against Chelsea during their UEFA Champions League Second Round match at Stamford Bridge in London, on March 16, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
And Jose Mourinho's team face a rigorous examination of their title defence capabilities at fourth-placed Palermo on Saturday.
But any title nerves should have been allayed after their triumphant trip to Mourinho's old stomping ground, Stamford Bridge, to dump his former club Chelsea out of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Mourinho's presence has been missing from the dug out in Inter's last three league games as he served a touchline ban, and his side have suffered, picking up four points from a possible 12.
Inter captain Javier Zanetti is pleased to see the return of the Portuguese coach for the game at La Favorita where Palermo have not lost this term.
"Mourinho helps us to win," said Zanetti. "He is very experienced and his support is very important to us."
Roma, lying third, five points shy of second-placed Milan, will fancy their chances of picking up a precious three points to keep the top two teams on their toes against lowly Udinese.
Fifth-placed Juventus, sent crashing out of the Europa League by Fulham on Thursday, travel to Sampdoria hoping to give their fight for fourth-place and Champions League action next term a shot in the arm.
Down at the other end bottom clubs Siena and Atalanta, both on 22 points, host Bologna and Livorno respectively.
Fiorentina v Genoa, Palermo v Inter Milan, Roma v Udinese
AC Milan v Napoli, Atalanta v Livorno, Bari v Parma, Cagliari v Lazio, Chievo v Catania, Siena v Bologna, Sampdoria v Juventus