Cassano can prove Inter wrong

MILAN - Sampdoria's Antonio Cassano, snubbed by Inter Milan when they were searching for a playmaker, has the perfect chance to show the champions they were wrong when the sides clash on Saturday (1600 GMT).

Cassano has matured into the standout player in Serie A so far this season, helping Samp win their opening four games of a top-flight season for the first time.

The skilful attacker, whose play in the past was undermined by childish antics on and off the field, was equally inspirational last term but Inter decided to sign Wesley Sneijder in the transfer window instead.

"Antonio Cassano does not figure in Inter's transfer strategy," Inter president Massimo Moratti told reporters in the biuld-up to this weekend's game.

"He is demonstrating what he is, a great champion, a footballing artist. Experience will help him to improve. However, he does not enter into our plans."

Cassano joked before the season the only two people who did not want him were Inter coach Jose Mourinho and Italy boss Marcello Lippi, who continually overlooks the ex-Real Madrid man despite constant media calls for his inclusion.

Mourinho, Italian soccer's other great showman, quipped in reply that Cassano was not brought to the San Siro because he had the audacity to score against Inter last term.

The comedy will stop in Genoa on Saturday with Sampdoria needing to rediscover their form after Wednesday's 2-0 defeat at Fiorentina knocked Luigi Del Neri's side off top spot.


Mourinho returns to the Inter bench following his one-game ban in Wednesday's 3-1 home win over Napoli and could make changes to the lineup with one eye on Tuesday's Champions League clash against Rubin Kazan in Russia.

While Inter are moving into top gear, AC Milan are still scratching around for their best eleven and some fluidity.

Coach Leonardo said he was reasonably happy with the performance in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat by Udinese and Ronaldinho's bright display as a second-half substitute could put him in line for a start at home to Bari on Sunday (1845).

Brazilian compatriot Alexandre Pato has looked off the pace upfront in recent matches and may be rested.

In-form Juventus, who travel to Genoa later on Thursday, host Bologna on Sunday (1300) while Napoli coach Roberto Donadoni needs a win at home to Siena after four points from the first five games has led to speculation about his future.