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By ESPN Staff

Milan old boy Donadoni ready for Rossoneri

AC Milan could hardly have asked for a more difficult opponent to face before the Christmas break than in-form Livorno.

Livorno are much smaller in every respect, from fan base to players' wages, yet that has not stopped the team on Tuscany's coast from making a serious run at Champions League qualification this season.

Sunday's 2-0 win at Palermo - their third straight Serie A success - has guaranteed Livorno will finish the year in at least fifth position, with Chievo trailing four points behind them.

Maybe it's something in the Tuscan air because Fiorentina are also flying high in fourth place, two points clear of their neighbours.

But Livorno coach Roberto Donadoni is weary of expectations growing too fast and has urged the club's supporters to maintain a sense of reality.

'We are going through a positive time,' said Donadoni, who won a host of major trophies in over 10 years in the Milan midfield.

'We are playing well but we shouldn't be talking about Europe or the relegation zone. We should simply focus on our next game against Milan.'

Donadoni is worried that over-confidence might see his team suffer the same lesson as Messina did on Sunday, when they were thrashed 4-0 by the Rossoneri.

'Milan have a lot of value and if we go out on the pitch thinking that we are worthy of Europe we will concede five goals,' he added.

However, if the Amaranto show the same solidity against the Rossoneri that they have done so far at the Armando Picchi stadium, that is an unlikely scenario.

Livorno remain unbeaten at home having won six of their eight games in Leghorn, in which they have conceded just two goals.

'It's going to be a very difficult game for us,' admitted Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko. 'But it's an important game for us and we have to make an effort to win and take home a positive result.'

Milan will be desperate to break their disappointing away form, having lost their last three away games against Fiorentina, Chievo and Inter - which, of course, was in their home stadium as the Milan rivals share the San Siro.

Carlo Ancelotti's outfit took advantage of Juve's draw at Lazio by beating Messina, a result which allowed them to reduce the deficit with the leaders to nine points.

A victory in Leghorn could see the Rossoneri regain second place provided Inter, a point clear of Milan, fail to beat Empoli on Wednesday.

Donadoni will have all his players available with the exception of injured striker Raffaele Palladino.

The visitors will be without injured striker Filippo Inzaghi and Brazilian full-back Cafu, who is yet to recover from injury.

The good news for Ancelotti is that captain Paolo Maldini has returned to fitness and is expected to be back in the heart of defence alongside Alessandro Nesta, who missed Sunday's clash through suspension.