Pato out as Milan look to stretch lead

ROME - Brief news ahead of Saturday's Serie A matches.

Leaders AC Milan must do without striker Alexandre Pato and defender Alessandro Nesta for the trip to second-bottom Brescia on Saturday. The livewire Brazilian picked up a thigh strain and could be out for up to three weeks.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored in Milan's 2-2 draw with Palermo in the Italian Cup semi-final first leg in midweek, is still suspended, leaving Antonio Cassano and Robinho to lead the frontline as the Rossoneri attempt to open a nine-point gap at the top.

Second-placed Napoli travel to rejuvenated Palermo with speculation surrounding the future of striker Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has said he wants to stay but Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini offered advice to his Napoli counterpart.

"I've read he (Cavani) now wants his salary doubled," he told Radio Radio of the ex-Palermo forward. "De Laurentiis is having the same problems I had with him."

Fourth-placed Lazio will be without defender Stefan Radu for Saturday's trip to the San Siro to face Inter Milan, who are a place and three points above them. The Romanian, likely to miss the final five matches of the season, will be replaced at left-back by Javier Garrido. Francesco Matuzalem is suspended but Christian Brocchi returns to the heart of midfield.

Lazio sporting director Igli Tare has confirmed the club have reached agreement with veteran coach Edoardo Reja over a new contract. Working on a shoestring budget, the former Napoli boss guided the Biancoceleste to safety last season before this term's challenge for a Champions League place.

"Reja will coach Lazio next year," Tare told reporters. "We will announce details of the deal very soon."

Fifth-placed Udinese have talismanic forward Alexis Sanchez back but Antonio Di Natale is still struggling with injury for the visit of Parma. Samir Handanovic, who saved Cavani's penalty in the 2-1 win at Napoli last weekend, is suspended and Emanuele Belardi will replace him.

Sixth-placed Roma, just a point ahead of Juventus in the final European qualifying spot, have disgruntled striker Marco Borriello fit for the visit of Chievo Verona after the Italian suffered a head injury in Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Inter in the Italian Cup semi-final first leg.

According to reports in Rome-based newspaper the Corriere dello Sport, Jeremy Menez's future at the Stadio Olimpico looks bleak. The Frenchman's car was stoned after the Inter defeat and he was involved in a training ground bust-up with coach Vincenzo Montella. Skipper Francesco Totti is expected to lead the line against Chievo.

Seventh-placed Juventus welcome back defender Giorgio Chiellini for the visit of Catania, who are four points clear of the drop zone.

While the Turin giants battle for a Europa League spot to salvage something from a season that has turned sour, the race to land the coaching role for next season when the club move to their brand-new stadium is hotting up. After Fabio Capello and Luciano Spalletti, Roberto Mancini is the latest face most prominently pictured in the Italian press.

"(Gigi) Del Neri has one year left on his contract but it's clear that at the end of the season we will evaluate many things," general director Giuseppe Marotta told reporters.


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