Is Juve-Milan already a second-place play-off?

It's hard for Juventus and AC Milan to accept having been second best to Inter for such a long period of time.

So acute is the risk of an inferiority complex, it would come as no surprise if the Bianconeri and Rossoneri turned up to this weekend's face-off toting their security blankets.

More than likely a relaxed Jose Mourinho will be sitting with his feet up and 11 points clear at the top (Inter having played bottom-placed Siena earlier in the afternoon) when his two closest title rivals walk out at the grandly-named, but Serie B-sized, Olympic Stadium in Turin.

It may be only January, but time is running out to make the title chase interesting before the last of the snow has melted away Scudetto dreams for another season.

A draw, as they say, does neither side any favours so hopefully both teams will adopt a have-to-win attitude instead of their usual must-not-lose position, which produces nothing more than a war of attrition.

THE MIDWEEK GAMES: BECKS AND (CAT)CALLS

The midweek round got the New Year off to a typically cantankerous start, Inter slipping out of Verona with the boos of the Chievo fans ringing in their ears after the referee missed Ricardo Quaresma punching the ball away in his own area in the dying seconds.

NEWS, Wed Jan 6: Battling Inter win at Chievo

There were boos of a different kind aimed at Mario Balotelli and it doesn’t take much imagination to decipher their nature and intent.

The youngster scored the only goal of the game and apart from kicking the ball away to earn a yellow card, demonstrated resilience under the physical onslaught from the home players and the mental torment from the home fans.

Ironic applause aimed at his tormentors on his substitution earned the teenager a 7,000 Euro fine from the Italian FA for “provoking the crowd.”

NEWS, Fri Jan 8: Inter to appeal Balotelli fine

This one-eyed approach should deter future generations from carrying on the age-old chants and taunts aimed at a player because of his colour - and then hide behind the claim that he brought it on himself with his attitude.

No danger, though, of David Beckham receiving anything but the white noise of endless fawning.

Leonardo pretended to play him on the right of a three-man attack against Genoa, but in reality Becks occupied the role we have all become accustomed to seeing him in – on the right of midfield – doing what we have all become accustomed to seeing him do – crossing the ball.

BLOG, Wed Jan 6: How Becks might struggle to get in Milan's team

Genoa played their part of course with their usual lambs-to-the-slaughter performance away from home – six defeats on the road so far.

Only Udinese and Siena have suffered more from travel sickness.

It was an entertaining 5-2 in the end, but goodness knows what the score would have been if Clarence Seedorf and Alexandre Pato had been playing.

NEWS, Thu Jan 7: Becks shines on Milan return

Milan have claimed that Seedorf will not be fit to face Juve, but they should be doing everything to ensure the speedy Pato starts to keep Fabio Grosso pinned back.

If Beckham does get the nod in that pretend attacking role he could well end up spending more time having to track back and mark the opposing left-back. Milan's young Brazilian would produce the opposite effect.

NEWS, Fri Jan 8: Previews - Beckham likely to keep his place

Juve are of course not soft-centred Genoa and Ciro Ferrara would like nothing better to be going toe-to-toe with the likes of Massimo Ambrosini and Rino Gattuso, knowing that Christian Poulsen and Felipe Melo are their equals when it comes to the physical dust-up.

Both sides may have the appetite for the battle but are they hungry enough to win?

If not, then a certain Portuguese will be a very contented man on Sunday evening.

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