AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri is wary that returning Roma skipper Francesco Totti is ready to destroy the feel-good factor that is slowly starting to return to the Rossoneri
Totti is set to make his comeback from a month-long hamstring injury in Monday's night's crucial Serie A contest at San Siro.
While Roma will be looking to remain in touch with leaders Juventus, Allegri is hoping to build some momentum going into the winter break after Milan snuck through to the Champions League knockout phase in midweek.
They are the only Italian side to have done so and, on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run, face Roma and a derby clash with Inter next weekend before heading off for Christmas.
Results in both matches would help ease the pressure on Allegri - Milan are a whopping 19 points adrift of second-placed Roma - although he fears the return of their talisman Totti could undo his best-laid plans.
``Totti may be 37 but we will have to watch him very closely,'' he told a press conference on Sunday.
``Totti is an example to all young players on how to become a great player. I would prefer that Totti was not playing tomorrow because he is the catalyst for their football and raises the quality level of the whole team.''
Allegri is hardly under-estimating the rest of a Roma side that has allowed just five goals in 15 league games though.
``They are again getting the best out of Daniele De Rossi, while Gervinho has been an important signing,'' he said.
``Adem Ljajic and Mattia Destro are promising young players, so they are a difficult team to face.
``They are a team that are difficult to get on level terms with when they go in front.''
Roma coach Rudi Garcia hinted that Totti would play - after he sat on the bench in last weekend's 2-1 win over Fiorentina - although the veteran is unlikely to see out a full match.
``We're stronger with Francesco, but if the captain doesn't have 90 minutes in his legs then we'll need to assess the conditions.,'' he said.
``The captain had a full week of training and he's certainly more ready now to help the team, but he's still not at 100%. That's normal. The good thing is that he's back.''
A bullish Garcia warned Milan his side would play with ``ambition'' as they aim to take three points from their trip north.
``Everyone knows AC Milan have players of the highest calibre. You can't advance from your Champions League group without strong players in your team,'' he said.
``They're talented and we have to be careful. We're going there for the three points. It'll be tough, but that's our goal. We'll play with ambition.''
Garcia will be without suspended midfielder Miralem Pjanic while Marco Borriello turned an ankle in training in midweek.
Milan striker Stephan El Shaarawy returned to the injured list in the midweek 0-0 draw with Ajax and is out for three weeks while Ignazio Abate is also sidelined.
Daniele Bonera and Mattia de Sciglia return while Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata are available.