A month ago and the picture painted of AC Milan was one of a team ready to challenge the stranglehold their arch rivals Inter Milan held at the top of Serie A. Leonardo, the Rossoneri's Brazilian coach, was winning over the doubters and the team were on fire; led by a rejuvenated Ronaldinho seemingly on a mission to recapture the form that made him the world's best just four years ago.
However, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Inter, their second derby loss of the season, ended a passage of eight wins in nine league games and Milan have struggled since, losing to Udinese in the Coppa Italia and drawing with Livorno and Bologna in subsequent league meetings. Tonight's game has been brought forward to give Milan more time to prepare for their Champions League tie with Manchester United on Tuesday with Thiago Silva saying the players are determined to arrest their slump.
"In Udine we had a good game, but they were the ones who got the goal," said the defender, referring to their Coppa Italia exit. "It will be a tricky game because Udinese is coming off a great win over Napoli, while we are working toward getting our winning run back on track." Milan are now third, 11 points adrift of Inter - who drew 1-1 with Parma on Wednesday night - although Milan do have a game in hand. Udinese, meanwhile, have the league's leading scorer in Antonio Di Natale, who has hit 16 goals so far this season. A win tonight would give them back-to-back league wins for the first time since September.
* With agencies AC Milan v Udinese, 11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +1