Ferrara desperate to win battle of rookies

ROME - Under pressure Juventus boss Ciro Ferrara is in desperate need of a victory against visiting AC Milan on Sunday, in what promises to be an intriguing encounter against a side coached by fellow rookie Leonardo.

Third-placed Juve's laboured 2-1 win at Parma on Wednesday snapped a run of three defeats in all competitions but it did not end talk of Ferrara's job being on the line.

Indeed, speculation that Russia coach Guus Hiddink is being lined up as a replacement continues despite denials from the Turin club.

Milan, in contrast, are in fine fettle after a 5-2 demolition of Genoa that keeps them eight points behind leaders Inter Milan with a game in hand, and one point ahead of Juve.

Ferrara knows the grit his side displayed at Parma to grind out a result from another uninspired showing is unlikely to suffice this weekend.

"We won and we'll talk about my situation a little less for the next three days... until the next match," Ferrara told reporters.

"I know this world too well not to know what is in store, but I'm not worried about it. My concern is to resolve the problems we have, game after game.

"This determination might not be enough on Sunday, an improvement in our play is needed too."

The position of the two coaches has reversed since the start of the season, when Juve won their first four games and Leonardo looked to be the out-of-his-depth new boss as his side stuttered.

Now he is the toast of the Italian sports media for turning Milan into an attractive team with a clear identity that are still in the running in the Champions League, while Juve bowed out at the group stage.

Part of Ferrara's problem is that he has struggled to find a formation that brings out the best in Brazilian duo Felipe Melo and Diego, who have been disappointing since joining the club in big-money, close-season deals.

Leonardo, on the other hand, has settled on a system of play with an attacking trident that suits the talents of his Brazilians, Alexandre Pato and a revived Ronaldinho.

He has also shown his ability to adapt, successfully fielding David Beckham in an unusually advanced position against Genoa to cover for the injured Pato in the England winger's first match since returning to Milan on loan from LA Galaxy.

Pato is a doubt for Sunday's game along with Clarence Seedorf after the Dutchman also missed the Genoa clash.

Defender Martin Caceres will be suspended for Juventus because he was sent off at Parma and forward David Trezeguet looks set to miss out with an ankle problem.

Inter will be able to gain ground on at least one of their title rivals by beating bottom side Siena at home on Saturday.

Forward Mario Balotelli will be suspended, defender Cristian Chivu is set for a long spell out after fracturing his skull during Inter's 1-0 win at Chievo Verona on Wednesday and midfielder Patrick Vieira is poised to join Manchester City.