MILAN, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Midtable AC Milan head to fourth-placed Udinese on Sunday hoping new Brazilian striker Pato can have the same galvanizing effect as he did in last weekend's 5-2 win over Napoli.
The 18 year-old scored in Milan's first home victory this season and the Italian press has gone wild with 'Patomania' for the past week even though the forward looked decidedly nervous before his goal.
All is still not well at Milan, who remain 12th before the halfway point of the season and were dumped out of the much-maligned Italian Cup at the last 16 stage by Catania on Wednesday.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti fielded a weakened side and hinted that elimination was a positive thing for the season, even if general confidence has taken another knock.
'Our priorities are elsewhere. I didn't want to run any sort of risk in this game,' he told reporters.
Kaka, Pato and Ronaldo, the Brazilian front three now known as Ka-Pa-Ro, are all expected to return in Udine, where Italy foward Fabio Quagliarella will be looking to continue his recent good form for the hosts (1400 GMT).
Third-placed Juventus, 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, have a defensive crisis for Sunday's visit of Sampdoria and their in-form striker Antonio Cassano.
Giorgio Chiellini is out for at least a month after injuring his knee in Tuesday's cup win over Empoli, leaving Claudio Ranieri with a real headache given fellow defenders Jonathan Zebina and Jorge Andrade are also injured.
Error-prone Jean Alain Boumsong may now have to anchor the defence with Juve's problems made worse by the surprise decision to loan promising young centre back Domenico Criscito to Genoa.
Inter, who play Reggina in the Cup on Thursday, host Parma in Sunday's late league game (1930) with new signings Maniche and Cristiano Lucarelli available for the respective teams.
Second-placed Roma, seven behind Inter, welcome Catania on Sunday with Francesco Totti fresh from scoring his 200th career goal in Wednesday's Cup win over Torino.
Atalanta may struggle to concentrate on Saturday's trip to Genoa (1700) with their president Ivan Ruggeri in a coma while under-pressure Delio Rossi takes stuttering Lazio to Napoli for the second time in four days on Sunday following Thursday's Cup encounter.