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Wed 13 Feb 2008 07:13 AM

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Paloschi stills needs to grow up, says AC Milan coach

New teeange star homing in on his first start for European champions.

New teeange AC Milan star Alberto Paloschi is homing in on his first start for the European champions against Livorno on Wednesday, despite coach Carlo Ancelotti claiming the striker still needs to grow up.

The 18-year-old made a sensational debut when he scored with his first touch of the ball, 18 seconds after replacing Serginho in the second-half of Milan's game against Siena at the San Siro on Sunday.

What made that moment even more special for the locally-born teenager is that his goal also turned out to be a crucial winner.

Now Paloschi could even find himself in the starting line-up on Wednesday night.

"If [Filippo] Inzaghi struggles to recover Paloschi will play from the start alongside [Alberto] Gilardino, otherwise he will be on the bench," said Ancelotti.

With Pato and Kaka out injured and Ronaldo demonstrating in 45 insipid minutes against Siena that he is far from match-fit, that leaves three players in contention for two attacking berths against Livorno.

Inzaghi is struggling with a knock while Gilardino, who scored vital winning goals against Udinese and Reggina in 1-0 successes, is certain to start in Ancelotti's 4-4-2 formation.

Paloschi could get the nod alongside him, however Ancelotti revealed he is unlikely to be displacing Gilardino from the starting line-up, as Pato, also 18, did in January after he burst onto the scene in sensational fashion by scoring four goals in his first six matches.

"Paloschi is very young, like Pato, but unlike the Brazilian he can still grow and fill out. Pato is physically already developped."

"Kata at 20 and Pato at 18 quickly became first choice regulars. To play at Milan you have to be a very good player."

"For Paloschi it's different, he needs to grow, he needs to gain experience and character, it's better to stay cautious with him."

Paloschi's chances have been helped by Ronaldo's failure to recover any sort of match-fitness, despite impressing in three appearances in January, including against Napoli where he scored twice.

But his latest injury setback, his third this season, seems to have put him back several months.

"On Sunday he wasn't match-fit, if I'd have had other options he wouldn't have played," added Ancelotti.

"I thought it would have been too much to play Paloschi from the first minute, I didn't want to heap too much responsibility on him."

"Ronaldo's problem is not physical but it's his condition."

Ronaldo has only made five appearances this season after scoring seven goals in 14 league matches last season following his January transfer window signing.

His contract runs out at the end of this season and the talk is that he may return to Brazil at the end of it.

Ancelotti refused to be drawn on whether or not a new contract would be on offer for the injury-prone and overweight former three-time world player of the year.

"If Ronie rediscovers his top form in May and scores three goals in the Champions League final, I think he'll renew his contract," said the coach.

While Ronaldo is unlikely to play much part against Livorno, centre-back Alessandro Nesta is out injured while veteran Paolo Maldini will be rested but defensive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso is fit to play.

Milan have set their sights on fourth place, and a Champions League qualification place, which they will take over if they win.

"For us tomorrow is a great opporunity to return to the top four after a long absence," said Ancelotti.

"Of course it won't be a decisive step but it's very important pyschologically."

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