MILAN, May 2 (Reuters) - Inter Milan will retain their Serie A title if they beat a hungry AC Milan on Sunday in what has been billed as one of the most important city derbies ever.
Milan, in fifth, are desperate for three points to aid their bid to overhaul fourth-placed Fiorentina, who visit strugglers Cagliari on Sunday. They are two points above Milan in the final Champions League qualifying place with three games left.
'Sunday will be something special, past derbies I've played in don't compare, England included,' Inter and former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira told Thursday's Gazzetta dello Sport.
'What an atmosphere. I raise my game under pressure. These are the games I live for.'
A victory is possibly more important to European champions Milan given that Inter have a six-point lead over second-placed AS Roma and would triumph if the pair finished on the same points because of a superior head-to-head record.
Inter coach Roberto Mancini has even hinted he would rather win the scudetto at home to Siena on May 11 so that more fans could celebrate the triumph. Milan are designated as the home team for Sunday's derby at the shared San Siro.
Inter owner Massimo Moratti is more excited than his manager, saying this week the derby was as important as a Champions League final.
The two clubs played in a 2003 Champions League semi-final when Milan went through while they also prevailed in a 2005 quarter-final when keeper Dida was struck by a flair thrown from the Inter end in the abandoned second leg.
Moratti feels Sunday is more crucial but a repeat of any violence is unlikely given a security crackdown after a series of incidents in Italy in recent years.
Milan captain Paolo Maldini, yet to decide if he will retire at the end of the season, is again expected to be unavailable because of a thigh injury, while Inter's leading striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to miss out with ongoing knee trouble.
Roma will look to take advantage of any Inter slip when they visit sixth-placed Sampdoria, who have an outside chance of beating Milan and Fiorentina to the final Champions League spot.
Third-placed Juventus, who secured their place in the Champions League qualifiers last weekend, have not given up hope of overtaking Roma and bagging an automatic berth.
Claudio Ranieri's side are five points behind Roma and travel to mid-table Siena on Sunday.
The relegation battle is extremely tight with three to play and complicated by the fact many of the strugglers meet each other in the final weeks of the season.
Bottom side Livorno, who brought back coach Fernando Orsi this week after sacking Giancarlo Camolese, go to Atalanta, where even a defeat would not spell the end, although they would have to win their last two matches and hope results went their way.