Fallen Samba stars set to be among spectators

MILAN - A few years ago crowds flocked to stadiums just to watch Ronaldinho and Adriano but on Saturday the fallen idols are likely to be among the spectators when Serie A leaders AC Milan host AS Roma.

The bench beckons for both Brazilians given Ronaldinho's alarming dip in form for Milan and Roma coach Claudio Ranieri's refusal to consider Adriano from the start for big games.

The stepovers, dropped shoulders, ever-present grin and mesmeric skill which once delighted Barcelona supporters are a distant memory for Ronaldinho, just like his compatriot's barnstorming runs and immense strength shown at Parma and Inter Milan.

The duo's inability to break into their sides have led to media reports in Brazil that both may move home in January with Palmeiras chasing Ronaldinho and Corinthians interested in Adriano, who only joined Roma in the close season.

Ronaldinho's Milan deal is up in June and so far there have been no clear signals that the club will offer him a renewal, although coach Massimiliano Allegri dismissed suggestions he would offload the player before the end of the season.

"Ronaldinho can be useful to the team and is staying until June at least," he told reporters.

The ex-Cagliari coach, an almost unknown outside Italy when he was appointed before the start of the campaign, has shown that no ego can be bigger than the club and has boldly left out Ronaldinho.

Milan appeared to have proved him right by charging six points clear at the top.

His current front three of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Kevin Prince Boateng, all new signings, have scored a goal each in their last two league wins so rotation looks unlikely as a three-week winter break begins after this weekend's matches.

Last term's runners-up Roma are sixth, 10 points behind Milan, but with the ability to cause in-form Rossoneri goalkeeper Christian Abbiati real problems with former Milan frontman Marco Borriello especially keen to do well.

Champions Inter, not in Serie A action this weekend because they play the Club World Cup final, could slip 16 points behind their city rivals if Milan win.

Second-placed Juventus are six adrift of Milan and travel to Chievo on Sunday buoyed by last weekend's last-gasp win over rivals Lazio, who entertain Udinese.

Napoli, level with Juve and Lazio, host Lecce with a smile after becoming the only Italian side to reach the Europa League knockout stages with a 1-0 win over Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday when striker Edinson Cavani netted in stoppage time.

The traditionally colourful Genoa derby will round off the action before the festive break with Sampdoria still struggling for goals since Antonio Cassano was dropped.