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Undefeated Inter still getting new players involved

Inter Milan is undefeated in Serie A _ and still discovering new players to help it win.

sports Updated: Jan 24, 2008 18:22 IST

Inter Milan is undefeated in Serie A _ and still discovering new players to help it win.

Portuguese midfielders Maniche and Vitor Hugo Gomes Passos, nicknamed "Pele," and Colombian defender Nelson Rivas each played key roles in a 2-2 draw with Juventus in the Italian Cup on Wednesday. And Patrick Vieira has returned from injury. On Sunday, Inter visits fifth-place Udinese.

Inter leads the league with 49 points. AS Roma is second with 42 points, followed by Juventus with 37, Fiorentina with 34 and Udinese with 32.

Maniche was signed on loan from Atletico Madrid earlier this month and played his first full game for Inter against Juventus. Pele and Rivas got a full 90 minutes, while Vieira came on in the second half.

"He's recuperating well, but we've got to proceed with caution," Inter coach Roberto Mancini said of Vieira. "But I liked the 20 minutes against Juve. Just like I was pleased by the performance of Rivas and Pele."

Inter played virtually the entire game with only 10 men and Julio Ricardo Cruz scored twice before Juventus rallied. "I'm satisfied with the entire squad," Mancini said. "This performance gives us tranquillity."

Also, Marco Materazzi appears back at full strength after undergoing thigh surgery in August. Juventus scored both of its goals after Materazzi exited.

The draw snapped Inter's streak of 13 straight wins in all competitions. In the league, the defending champions are undefeated with 15 wins and four draws.

Roma hosts struggling Palermo on Saturday and could see the return of captain Francesco Totti and midfielder Simone Perrotta, both of whom have been out with the flu.

Roma also played to a draw in the first leg of the Italian Cup quarterfinals, finishing 1-1 with Sampdoria after losing defender Philippe Mexes early for two yellow cards.

Palermo has won only twice in the six games since Francesco Guidolin was rehired as coach. Any more failures could prompt club president Maurizio Zamparini to make another change. Juventus visits Livorno and will be without midfielder Marco Marchionni, who could miss the rest of the season with a left foot injury sustained against Inter.

Juventus is close to signing midfielder Mohamed Sissoko from Liverpool.

Fiorentina, which was playing Lazio in the Italian Cup on Thursday, faces Empoli in a Tuscan derby Sunday.

AC Milan, which lost to Atalanta 2-1 in a rescheduled match Wednesday, hosts Genoa and desperately needs a win to make up part of its 25-point gap behind Inter.

Sampdoria hosts Siena on Saturday.

Also Sunday, it's: Atalanta vs. Reggina; Cagliari vs. Napoli; Catania vs. Parma; and Torino vs. Lazio.