MILAN - The colour of his shirt has
changed but Zlatan Ibrahimovic's brutal effectiveness in Serie A
is the same as ever and hope is burgeoning at AC Milan that the
Swede can propel them to a first league title since 2004.
Ibrahimovic, who won three scudettos with Inter Milan, has
continued where he left off in Serie A after a difficult one
season interlude at Barcelona.
Sampdoria are next in line to try to stop the tall and
skilful striker in Genoa on Saturday but so far few
others have managed to control him as Ibrahimovic has banged in
seven goals in 13 games to propel Milan to the top.
Critics used to say Inter were a one-man team when
Ibrahimovic played for them and now the accusations are being
levelled at their city rivals, not that Milan are bothered.
"If we are reliant on Ibra then Barcelona are reliant on
Lionel Messi," Milan chief executive Adriano Gallaini said this
week. "You need great players."
The problem for Milan could come if injury or suspension
With Alexandre Pato and Filippo Inzaghi injured, coach
Massimiliano Allegri cannot afford to rest him although
Tuesday's progress to the Champions League last 16 means the
striker may skip the dead rubber against old club Ajax on December 8.
Samp can only look on with envy at Ibrahimovic's seamless
reacquaintance with Serie A after struggling to score before
Giampaolo Pazzini's hat-trick in Sunday's 3-2 win at Lecce.
Their shyness in front of goal was chiefly a product of
creative talisman Antonio Cassano being suspended by the club
for grossly offending the president and the Italy forward's
future at Samp now looks dead with an arbitration hearing due.
Inter's Samuel Eto'o will miss Sunday's home game with Parma as he serves the first game of a three-match ban for
headbutting Cesar in the chest during last weekend's 2-1 defeat
That loss left the sixth-placed champions nine points adrift
of Milan and although beating Twente Enschede on Wednesday
secured Champions League last 16 qualification and boosted
confidence, injuries and Eto'o's absence pose large challenges.
Second-placed Lazio, three below Milan, entertain Catania on
Sunday while Napoli in third go to Udinese.
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