Like bookmakers assessing the final form in a big horse-race, commentators in Monday's Italian papers weigh the last-minute odds on the "runners and riders" in the papal conclave.
Corriere Della Sera, which has gone so far as to run a daily summary of what other newspapers have been saying in the run-up to the conclave, sums up the majority view among the "Vaticanisti" or Vatican-watchers.
According to the paper's front page, early voting will divide between support for the conservative candidate Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and the figurehead of the more liberal camp, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.
But, the paper says, these two will act only as "standard-bearers" to test the strength of the two camps.
"A second scenario envisages the choice of an Italian to break the eventual impasse over the two names who receive most of the early votes," it says.
La Repubblica dubs Cardinal Ratzinger "the favourite", but adds that the two apparent front-runners "have let their supporters know that they do not appreciate being used as stalking horses" in the initial voting.
Rome newspaper L'Unita says the German cardinal's candidacy could make way for that of Camillo Ruini, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, while that of Cardinal Martini is likely to cede to that of moderate Milan Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi.
Other papers including Il Mattino speculate that any deadlock between the Italians will leave the field wide open to other candidates, with the South Americans tipped as strong contenders.
"From this evening, ideas will be clearer and (the cardinals) will be able to see the new pope emerging from the depths of the Sistine Chapel," says Il Messaggero.
But the final word must go to the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, standing above the media fray and dismissing talk of "intrigues" amongst the electors.
"In the media there has been a rush to identify the cardinal's decision, to guess who will be elected," its front page says.
"But the time-frame of the Catholic Church," it loftily reminds its readers and the world, "is not that of the media."
"There is no haste in the Church's journey. There is no fear of a void... even though the moment is serious and the sense of responsibility widely felt. The Church, particularly in these moments, is more united than ever," it asserts.
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