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The Archive

December 2002

Ancelotti to launch SuperMilan
31.12 || Seamus

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti plans to field Fernando Redondo, Manuel Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Filippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko all together.

"It's my wish for 2003: nothing is impossible with all players working for the team. We can do it," he was quoted on the club's official site, before stating that he'd prefer to win the Champions League than Serie A.

He also went on to talk about his club's nearest Scudetto contenders.

On Inter, he said: "It's all lies that they play poorly. Cuper had to work hard at the beginning, but he had and still has first-rate players, like Emre. And their attack is formidable. They are our most dangerous competitor: they are albeit level with Milan."

And Juve?: "They are in the leading trio, they are only 4 points behind. And they will be even more competitive: Trezeguet will be a key-man in the second half of the season."

Finally Lazio: "They have been competitive and continuous, despite their financial problems at the club. They will be dangerous also in the future."

Now or never for Rui
30.12 || Seamus

Manuel Rui Costa maintains that if he doesn’t win a major honour with Milan this season – then he probably never will.

"I’m fighting for both the Serie A title and the Champions’ League," said the Potuguese ace. "This had never really happened to me before.

"But we are so strong this season that if we fail to pick up any silverware this year then it will be very hard for me to be a part of a winning side in the future. This is my chance."

The playmaker has been in the peninsula since 1994 but has only won two Italian Cups with Fiorentina.

Rui Costa joined the Rossoneri last summer from the Viola but his first season at the San Siro was plagued by injury and poor form.

However, the ace has been in inspirational condition for Carlo Ancelotti’s attack minded outfit in the current campaign.

But the ex-Benfica star is quick to praise all of his teammates for their start to the season – in particular Andrea Pirlo and Fernando Redondo.

"Tactically, Andrea has been key in his new deep midfield position for the balance of the side," added the 30-year-old.

"But if I had to give an award to someone then it would be Redondo. He’s been through a lot in the past few years with injury and it is great to see him back on the field of play.

"He is a determined champion yet a very simple person," concluded the Lisbon-born player.

The Argentine has just returned to action after undergoing three knee operations in the last 24 months.

Roque Junior rolling on
29.12 || Seamus

He may have lifted the World Cup this summer, but Roque Junior cannot find space at Milan and will be loaned out.

The Brazilian central defender has returned from a serious shoulder injury suffered in August, but is unable to push Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta out of the line-up.

His agents Claudio Guadagno and Alessandro Lucci reportedly met up on Friday to discuss the situation and agreed that a loan spell in a good club would keep his reputation up ahead of a summer move.

Real Madrid are in search of reinforcements in defence and are prepared to make a bid if he is cleared to play in the Champions’ League.

The Premiership offers Roque Junior further intriguing options for the next six months.

As for Milan, they would bring in Costa Rican international defender Martinez as a replacement.

The 23-year-old right-back has had an impressive debut season with Brescia and caught the eye of several top sides.

Lazio’s Jaap Stam is the other favourite for a San Siro switch during the January window.

Milan set attacking agenda
27.12 || Seamus

With the UEFA Champions League on its winter break, uefa.com will publish mid-term reports on the 16 remaining sides in the competition every day until 31 December. Today we look at Italy's four-time European champions AC Milan, who have impressed so far this season as they seek their first Champions League crown since 1994.

The story so far:
Milan's campaign began well with a 2-1 home win over RC Lens, Filippo Inzaghi getting both goals and beginning a rich vein of form that would see him find the net eight times in his side's first four European games. However, it was Milan's performance on Matchday Two that really made people sit up and take notice, as they secured a comprehensive 4-0 win at RC Deportivo La Coruña, with Inzaghi adding another three goals to his tally. Two wins over FC Bayern München, both achieved by the same 2-1 scoreline, put Milan in an unassailable position in the group while having the added advantage of virtually eliminating their German opponents, traditionally strong challengers for the Champions League, from the competition. Despite losing their final two games, the Italian giants still did enough to win the group and began the second group stage in equally impressive fashion with a 1-0 home win over perennial favourites Real Madrid CF and a 1-0 away win against BV Borussia Dortmund.

Strengths:
This is an extraordinarily attacking Milan lineup, with a lone striker closely supported by three midfield players. Coach Carlo Ancelotti is blessed with a number of world-class players, particularly in midfield, and has so far done well to rotate his ball-winning players, such as Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso, while perhaps his biggest success has been converting Andrea Pirlo into a deeper role. Ancelotti can call upon two top-class strikers in the shape of Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko, who recently returned from a knee injury. Rui Costa has rediscovered his best form and created Shevchenko's match-winner against Madrid with an astute defence-splitting pass. Meanwhile, Clarence Seedorf has been impressive since his transfer from city rivals Internazionale FC and summer signing Rivaldo, although not quite at his best yet, has shown flashes of brilliance. The defence was bolstered in the summer by the signing of Alessandro Nesta from S.S. Lazio, although the most impressive performer so far has been Paolo Maldini.

Weaknesses:
In many ways Ancelotti is spoilt for choice and deciding how to rotate his squad is a challenging task. For example, the coach favours playing only one of Shevchenko and Inzaghi at a time, meaning he will have to be careful how he balances his selection, as both forwards are eager to play in big games. Milan have a formidable look about them, and certainly possesses the firepower to worry any opponents, although as the competition progresses, it may be that Ancelotti is forced to rein in his side's attacking instincts rather than risk leaking goals at the back.

Key man - Paolo Maldini:
In a side packed with stars it is hard to single out one player, but the former Italian captain has been in imperious form this season, having retired from international football after the 2002 FIFA World Cup. His defensive organisation has been crucial, and is one of the main reasons why Milan have a respectable defensive record despite fielding such an attacking team. He has a wealth of top-level experience to draw on, and remains one of the best defenders in the world at the age of 34. The leader of this Milan side, his true value is shown when he is absent.

Best moment so far:
Inzaghi's 84th-minute winner against Bayern in Munich. Coming on the heels of Milan's demolition of Deportivo in Spain, it proved the Italian side were once again genuine challengers for the competition and sounded a warning to all their opponents.

Borriello open to transfer
24.12 || Seamus

Marco Borriello has told Milan that he will accept whatever they decide to do with him once the transfer window opens.

The Under-21 international has rarely featured for the Rossoneri this season and a host of clubs are keen to take him on loan for the rest of the campaign.

"I’ve told the club to do whatever they think is best," said the highly-rated striker. "It will be their decision.

"I have a great desire to stay here but in January the club could decide to release me so that I can play more regularly in the top flight.

"But I feel like a Milan player and if the club want me to remain for the rest of the campaign then I will do so with great honour."

Relegation strugglers Reggina and Atalanta are just two of the Serie A sides that have expressed an interest in the talented Italian. Empoli are also keen for his services.

Laursen ready to quit Milan
23.12 || Seamus

Martin Laursen is so desperate to play first team football that he is ready to leave Milan in the New Year.

The Danish international has sat out most of the campaign so far as Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta have been the club’s first choice central defensive pairing.

And although Laursen claimed to be happy with the situation earlier this season, the stopper now says he is ready to become an object of desire in the January transfer window.

"It is frustrating being left out of the side and watching the game from the bench. I was initially left out because of injury and then the side did well without me," he told Danish newspaper 'Ekstra Bladet'.

"Therefore it has become extremely difficult for Coach Carlo Ancelotti to change the side around. It is just so hard for me to earn myself a place in the team.

"For this reason, if Milan agreed terms with another club for me then I won’t have any doubts about considering a transfer.

"I would like to stay at Milan but the Coach can’t guarantee that I can be rewarded for all of my hard work. That is why I am considering my options."

Laursen has been linked with a number of Premiership clubs such as Tottenham and West Ham.

However, there is the possibility that he could be transferred to Lazio as part of a deal which could see either Jaap Stam or Juan Pablo Sorin move to the San Siro.



Coppa calendar released
23.12 || Seamus

The dates and times of the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia have been confirmed on Monday.

The Italian Football League have announced that Milan-Chievo will open up the proceedings, while Perugia-Juventus will end the schedule.

The first legs will be played between January 14 and 16, while the second legs are set for January 21, 22 and 23.

Tuesday 14 January
Milan – Chievo (21.00 local time)

Wednesday 15 January
Lazio – Bari (18.00)
Juventus – Perugia (21.00)

Thursday 16 January
Vicenza – Roma (21.00)

Tuesday 21 January
Bari – Lazio (21.00)

Wednesday 22 January
Roma – Vicenza (17.30)
Chievo – Milan (21.00)

Thursday 23 January
Perugia – Juventus (21.00)

AC Milan 0-0 Brescia - match report
23.12 || webmaster

Milan's 100 per cent home record is shattered by relegation strugglers Brescia as they fail to score for the first time this season.

Roberto Baggio returned to the San Siro and Brescia had a solid start, pressing on every ball in midifeld.

Milan almost scored on 26 minutes with some splendid build-up play, including a Manuel Rui Costa backheel, but the defence scrambled clear before it could reach Pippo Inzaghi.

The home side began to increase the pressure and Andriy Shevchenko's lob dipped just past the crossbar.

On the half-hour mark Andrea Pirlo's curling free kick from a very tight angle slammed the near post.

Yet it was ex-Milan man Baggio who nearly broke the deadlock moments later. The Divine Ponytail chested down on the edge of the box and Dida required a splendid one-handed save to prevent a Brescia goal.

Brescia sat back even more in the second half and closed down all possible spaces in midfield.

Shevchenko blasted a free kick wide, but there were few real scoring opportunities.

In the final minutes Brescia almost snatched a shock with with Baggio and Dainelli, but Dida was equal to them.

Milan: Dida; Simic (Helveg 75), Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Seedorf, Pirlo, Gattuso; Rui Costa (Leonardo 68); Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Brescia: Sereni; Dainelli, Petruzzi, Martinez; Bachini (Pisano 90), A Filippini, Matuzalem, Appiah, Seric; Baggio; Tare

Ref: Morganti

Seria A sides Milan and Roma fined by UEFA
20.12 || Seamus

UEFA fined AC Milan 150,000 Swiss francs ($105,000) on Wednesday after their fans threw several fireworks onto the pitch during the Italians' 1-0 Group C victory over Real Madrid at the San Siro in the Champions League on November 26.

AS Roma were fined 20,000 Swiss francs after their fans threw missiles during a 3-1 Group B defeat to Arsenal at the Olympic Stadium in the Champions League on November 27.

Redondo hails Milan team spirit
20.12 || Seamus

In an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport, Milan midfielder Fernando Redondo discussed the Rossoneri and his former club Real Madrid.

"I don't like making comparisons, each team is different from the others and also today's Real Madrid is different from the side in which I played a few years ago," the club's official site quoted him as saying in the paper. "But it's true that the atmosphere we can sense here is similar to the one at Madrid.

"It doesn't depend on play and templates: it's just the atmosphere which identifies winners. We get on very well, we help each other, we rejoice at exploits and comfort when we fail. There are no breaks between the players who are used the most and the ones who are often on the bench, because we all feel part of a project."
SA Italy

Boriello:"Milan, it's up to you"
20.12 || Seamus

Young Milan starlet Marco Boriello has told the Corriere dello Sport that it is up to the club whether he stays or goes on loan in January.

"I told officials to decide for my future," the club's official site quoted him as saying. "The choice is up to them now. As for me, I still want to stay at Milan and if I had another chance in January to show what I can do for them, they might decide to keep me until the end of the season."

The striker found the net in the Coppa Italia against Ancona this week.

"Forget about me Man Utd.", says Coppa Italia hero Tomasson
20.12 || Seamus

John Dahl Tomasson's Italian reputation received a much needed boost last night thanks to the hat-trick he scored against Ancona.

"I play in a great team, and therefore turnover is normal. I don't want to make any fuss for being frequently benched, even though my dream is to play more," said the Danish striker on Thursday.

"Even if Manchester United want me, I want to remain at Milan, because we are the strongest team in Europe. Manchester are a great team, but Milan are number one," added Tomasson, who was underfire in the past weeks for lack of marksmanship.

Also Arsenal are being linked to the 26 year old forward.

AC Milan 5-1 Ancona - match report
19.12 || webmaster

Scorers: Ganz 6 (A), Rui Costa 9 (M), Tomasson 13, 39 (M), Borriello 68 (M), Leonardo 88 (M)

Milan will face Chievo in the Quarter-Finals after a 5-1 win over Serie B battlers Ancona.


The best news of the night is that Leonardo and Fernando Redondo were able to play 90 minutes of this Coppa Italia tie.


The 1-1 first leg draw was almost immediately tipped in Gigi Simoni’s favour as Ancona took a sixth-minute lead at the San Siro with a Maurizio Ganz low volley.


It was a very lively start to the match and took just six more minutes to reverse their positions. Manuel Rui Costa’s angled drive and a Jon Dahl Tomasson tap-in sent the Rossoneri on their way.


Ancona refused to give in and wasted good opportunities with Marco Schenardi and Montervino, but Leonardo rattled the crossbar with a spectacular volley.


Before the break Rui Costa threaded through for Tomasson to spring the offside trap and dribble round the goalkeeper for his second goal of the night.


Leonardo could have made it four at the dawn of the second half when he met Tomasson’s low cross, but he opted to backheel it and sent the easy chance flying over the bar.


The scoreline was further enhanced when Under-21 international Marco Borriello rose to nod in a Leonardo free kick.


The two players switched places in the final minute as Borriello threaded through for Leonardo’s strong finish.

Milan assess Sorin option
19.12 || Seamus

Milan are believed to be considering a January bid for Lazio’s unsettled stopper Juan Pablo Sorin.

The Rossoneri do have a problem in the left-back position after Coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to move Paolo Maldini into the centre alongside Alessandro Nesta.

That has forced Georgian international Kakha Kaladze to adapt to the full-back role where he hasn’t totally convinced this term.

Now reports suggest that the San Siro side could look to resolve the problem by acquiring the former Juventus player.

The Argentine international only arrived at the capital club this summer but has failed to prove himself to boss Roberto Mancini.

That factor, plus Lazio’s financial problems in keeping up with their transfer payments to Cruzeiro, could see the Biancocelesti release the player in the New Year.

But Sorin is not the only man being linked with the Rossoneri on Thursday. Reports suggest that the club have also contacted Chievo over midfielder Simone Perrotta.

The newly capped Italian international is also of interest to Roma and Parma, even if Milan are willing to buy the star and allow him to remain at the Bentegodi until the end of the season.

Roma and Parma on the other hand would want the central midfielder immediately.

ESPN's World Club Top 25
18.12 || Seamus

AC Milan, boosted by a pair of victories away from home this week, held onto the top spot in the ESPN World Club Top 25 for the second consecutive week. Filippo Inzaghi scored the game-winning goal in Dortmund while Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko scored the winner over Como in Serie A action on Sunday.


The ESPN World Club Top 25, a computer based ranking of the world's top clubs, was developed by the staff at ESPN International in 1999. Now in its fourth season, the Top 25 formula takes into consideration performances in league, continental and cup competitions.

The Top 25 will be released every Sunday night throughout the football club season during ESPN's SportsCenter broadcast from Buenos Aires.

ESPN's World Club Top 25: December 15, 2002
Club Country Points Last Week Comment


1. AC Milan Italy 275.00 1 Serie A leaders en route to UCL quarterfinals

2. Arsenal England 265.44 2 1-1 draw in London derby at Tottenham

3. Valencia Spain 260.00 4 Carew: Two goals in win over Villarreal

4. Inter Milan Italy 259.50 6 Di Biagio: Two goals vs. Leverkusen


5. Manchester United England 259.36 5 Wins vs. Deportivo, West Ham at Old Trafford

6. Real Madrid Spain 257.38 8 Nine goals in last two league games

7. Bayern Munich Germany 246.10 3 Held to scoreless draw by Schalke

8. Lazio Italy 244.33 10 Fiore: Two goals in win at Juventus


9. Borussia Dortmund Germany 243.15 9 Rebound from Milan loss with 4-0 win at weekend


10. Juventus Italy 238.50 7 Loss at home to Lazio

11. Real Sociedad Spain 221.92 12 Third straight win; running away with La Liga

12. Ajax Netherlands 219.88 11 First loss in league play this season


13. Independiente Argentina 218.68 13 Idle

14. FC Porto Portugal 216.14 16 Still unbeaten in Portugal

15. Santos Brazil 213.39 25 First Brazilian league title in club history


16. Deportivo La Coruna Spain 211.57 19 Unbeaten in last eight in La Liga


17. Morelia Mexico 208.86 20 Advance to Mexican final

18. Liverpool England 207.56 14 2-1 loss at Sunderland

19. San Lorenzo Argentina 204.00 16 2002 Copa Sudamericana Champions

20. Newcastle United England 201.29 17 1-1 draw at Southampton


21. Boca Juniors Argentina 197.97 21 Idle

22. Celtic Scotland 197.50 24 Advanced to fourth round of UEFA Cup

23. Besiktas Turkey 195.66 NR Moved into fourth round of UEFA Cup

24. Werder Bremen Germany 195.40 NR Six points behind Bayern in Bundesliga

25. River Plate Argentina 194.73 23 Idle

Dropped out:
No. 15 Real Betis (Spain)
No. 18 Celta Vigo (Spain)


Arsenal and Valencia are chasing Milan for the top spot. The two clubs played to a scoreless draw in London this week in Champions League action.

Inter Milan and Manchester United are not far behind in the rankings. Both clubs also picked up a pair of wins this week.

Real Madrid rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Recreativo 4-2 in Madrid on Sunday. Raul netted his fifth goal in his last three overall matches.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich tumbled out of the Top 5 after being held to a scorless draw by Schalke.

Dutch league leaders Ajax suffered its first defeat of the season in a 4-2 loss to rivals PSV on Sunday.

Morelia advanced to Mexican Apertura final despite a 2-1 loss to UNAM on Sunday. Morelia will meet Toluca in the two-leg final this week with the hopes of winning its second winter title in three seasons.

Santos recorded its first Brazilian title since the league was created 30 years ago. Santos, the eighth seed in the playoffs, defeated Sao Paulo, Gremio and Corinthians en route to the championship.

San Lorenzo won the Copa Sudamericana with a 4-0 aggregate victory over Atletico Nacional this week. San Lorenzo, the 2001 Mercosur Champions, took home a trophy for the second straight season.

AC Milan returns to No. 1 as Real Madrid slides
18.12 || Seamus

LONDON (CNNSI.com) -- Real Madrid's hold on No. 1 after winning the World Club Cup lasted just a week, with AC Milan having returned on Monday as the top-ranked club in the CNN/World Soccer Top 10.

Milan stayed firmly on course for a spot in the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. The Serie A leader, which had started the second phase with a 1-0 home victory over Madrid, secured the lead in Group C courtesy of a Filippo Inzaghi strike early in the second half.

On Sunday, Milan enjoyed a 2-1 win at bottom club Como with goals from Massimo Ambrosini and Andriy Shevchenko to keep a one-point advantage in the Italian standings.

Continuing its slow but steady climb two more spots to No. 2 was a rejuvenated Manchester United. Ruud van Nistelrooy struck twice as Man Utd stamped its authority on Champions League Group D with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Spain's Deportivo Coruna at Old Trafford on Wednesday. In the Premier League on Saturday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Juan Sebastian Veron scored early to lead United to a 3-0 victory over West Ham.

Two first-half goals from Luigi Di Biagio helped Inter Milan -- steady at No 3 -- beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 in their Champions League Group A match on Tuesday, but the Italians were made to sweat in the final stages. On Sunday, Inter remained two points back in Serie A after beating Atalanta 1-0 at home thanks to a fine strike from Sierra Leone striker Mohamed Kallon.

An inspired second-half comeback from Lokomotiv Moscow earned a surprise 2-2 draw against title holder Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League on Wednesday, leaving the Spanish giants bottom of Group C and down to No. 4 in the Top 10. On Sunday, Madrid recovered from a two-goal deficit to beat bottom-place Recreativo de Huelva 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Backup goalkeeper Andres Palop defied Arsenal with four top-quality saves as Spanish titlist Valencia gained a 0-0 tie at Highbury in the Champions League on Tuesday, earning a move up one spot to No. 5. In Saturday's domestic action, Norwegian substitute John Carew netted two second-half goals as injury-hit Valencia beat Villarreal 2-0.

Swapping places with Valencia is Spanish league leader Real Sociedad, which overcame Mallorca 2-1 to maintain its unbeaten record this season.

Santos jumps three ranks to No. 7 after winning the Brazilian championship on Sunday, beating Corinthians 3-2 in the second leg of the final to win 5-2 on aggregate and claim its first domestic title since 1984.

Dropping from sixth to eighth is Arsenal, which followed up its Champions League draw by retaining a one-point lead in the Premier League with a fortunate 1-1 draw against London rival Tottenham on Sunday.

Joining the list at No. 9 is Lazio, which defeated Juventus on Sunday after eliminating Sturm Graz on Thursday in the UEFA Cup third round.

Rounding out the list is newcomer FC Porto, the Portuguese premier league leader that eliminated Lens from the UEFA Cup 3-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 loss on Thursday.

Dropping out of the Top 10 were Ajax and Juventus.

Others receiving votes were Independiente (Argentina), Ajax (Netherlands), Besiktas (Turkey) and Juventus (Italy).

The CNN/World Soccer Top 10 is a unique ranking of football clubs determined each Monday through voting by correspondents from CNN Sports and World Soccer magazine.


Rankings for Dec. 16
Rk. Team Country Pts.
1 (2) AC Milan Italy 120
2 (4) Manchester United England 83
3 (3) Inter Milan Italy 75
4 (1) Real Madrid Spain 72
5 (6) Valencia Spain 62
6 (5) Real Sociedad Spain 56
7 (10) Santos Brazil 43
8 (6) Arsenal England 38
9 (-) Lazio Italy 27
10 (-) Porto Portugal 23
Dropped out: Ajax, Juventus.
Others receiving votes: Independiente, Ajax, Besiktas, Juventus.

Portugal coach Scolari praises Ancelotti and Milan
18.12 || Seamus

New Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari praised Milan and their coach Carlo Ancelotti in an interview in Gazzetta dello Sport today.

"Ancelotti coaches as a Brazilian boss, this makes me proud," the club's official site quotes him as saying. "Today's Milan combine European and Brazilian typical qualities. A perfect mixture. It's evident that Ancelotti played with Falcao."

He also spoke about some certain individuals at the club.

"Pirlo is like Dida, the great midfielder of '58 and '62," he continued. "Nobody is killing in the box like Inzaghi. Rivaldo is doing well, but when he is at his top, you'll enjoy his pieces of magic. Nesta and Maldini are the defensive pair every coach dreams of: they have class, elegance, speed and get on very well."

Milan will ignore transfer window
18.12 || scharatz

Milan will not buy or sell any players in the January transfer window according to Coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The Rossoneri are currently top of Serie A and the tactician maintains that he is more than happy with the squad he has available.

"This squad will remain unchanged until next summer," he said. "Every player at this club is ready to give their contribution and that applies to the men who have featured rarely so far.

"It is possible that one or two players may ask to leave because they may not see as much action as they would like. But this club has no intention of releasing anyone."

The Rossoneri are next in action against Ancona in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday and Ancelotti has highlighted its importance to the club.

"The Italian Cup is our third objective," he smiled. "But it is still our objective to win it."

Ancelotti rejects pay-cut claims
16.12 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has denied claims that he is ready to take a pay-cut in return for a longer contract.

The Rossoneri are keen to extend Ancelotti’s stay at the San Siro until 2006 but reports suggest they want him to take £200,000 a year less as part of a longer deal.

However, the former Juventus tactician has rubbished claims that he is ready to accept those terms.

"In all honesty the club and I haven’t spoken about that possibility at all," a cautious looking Ancelotti told Italian TV show ‘Stadio Sprint.’

The ex-Milan midfielder was brought in by the club half-way through last season and his current contract doesn’t expire until 2004.

Ancelotti has been heavily praised this term as he has lost his defensive tag to field an attack minded outfit consisting of Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Shevchenko and Inzaghi.

The Milan giants are currently top of Serie A after they stayed ahead of the chasing pack with a 2-1 win at bottom of the table Como yesterday.

Ancelotti, a former Italian international, started his Coaching career with Reggiana in Serie B. He led them to promotion before moving on to Parma and Juventus.

Como 1:2 AC Milan - match report
15.12 || scharatz

Ambrosini 19 (M), Pecchia 21 (C), Shevchenko 41 (M)
Stadio Sinigaglia


Leaders Milan travelled to bottom of the table Como in a top to tail clash, so Carlo Ancelotti fielded Rivaldo in a new role behind front two Andriy Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi.

Como tried to close down the spaces and prevent the Rossoneri from playing, but the defence was unable to hold them down for long.

Milan steadily increased the pressure and broke the deadlock on 20 minutes. Inzaghi chested down a long ball forward for Massimo Ambrosini's powerful low drive from the edge of the box.

Como poured forward in waves and grabbed an equaliser almost immediately. Dida fumbled a long-range Bernoit Cauet effort into the path of Fabio Pecchia for an easy finish.

Shevchenko almost restored Milan's lead soon after, but his angled drive shaved the far post. Then the Ukrainian and Inzaghi just failed to reach a Kakha Kaladze low centre.

Como had penalty appeals waved away when Alessandro Nesta clashed with Sasa Bjelanovic, but the striker committed the first foul by holding his shirt.

Ambrosini turned goal provider before the break when he turned a corner back in for the head of Shevchenko.

Daniel Fonseca was given his first run-out with the Como shirt after he returned from retirement in South America.

The ex-Juventus and Roma man saw his header saved by Dida before substitute goalkeeper Alex Brunner blocked an Inzaghi volley with some difficulty.



Como: Ferron (Brunner 46); Gregori, Stellini, Juarez; Corrent (Tomas 46), Cauet, Pecchia, Allegretti (Fonseca 59); Rossi, Binotto; Bjelanovic

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze (Costacurta 87); Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rivaldo (Serginho 76); Shevchenko, Inzaghi (Tomasson 85)

Ref: Farina

Ancelotti urges concentration
15.12 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti asks his Milan men not to relax too much in today's trip to bottom of the table Como.

“There is the real danger of losing concentration and your fitness levels after big games,” warned the tactician.

After all, the Rossoneri only drew 1-1 at Empoli after beating Real Madrid and have had a very difficult week.

Just 24 hours after their crucial 1-0 Champions’ League victory at Borussia Dortmund, Milan played an exhibition match in Qatar as part of their sponsorship obligations.

“That draw at Empoli was considered a major slip-up at the time,” added Ancelotti, “but if you consider Juve’s 2-0 defeat at Brescia in similar circumstances, then it was a very valuable point for us.”

Como are propping up the table and are the only Serie A side still without a win, but they have shown improvements under new Coach Eugenio Fascetti.

“He is an excellent tactician and I’m sure he will have prepared this match in great detail. Como will rely on the counter-attack as they know we will take the initiative.”

President Silvio Berlusconi criticised Milan for their solid but not particularly inspiring performance at Dortmund midweek.

“The President is more than happy with our results so far,” assured Ancelotti. “We are capable of playing champagne football, but there are times when the result is the most important thing.”

Kakha Kaladze and Massimo Ambrosini are in doubt for today’s game with minor fitness problems, so Jose Antonio Chamot and Sam Dalla Bona may be drafted in.

Rivaldo might make his comeback from injury, though Gennaro Gattuso and Fernando Redondo are urged not to rush their returns.


Milan eyeing Chilean starlet
13.12 || Seamus

Milan are eyeing Chilean youngster Hugo Gabriel Bascunan, who is one of the most highly rated defenders in his country.

The 17 year-old stopper has played 23 times for his club Everton of Chile after only just signing on professional terms.

Bascunan has already been in Italy, when he traveled to Perugia in February, but failed to agree on a move because his agent Pablo Tallarico failed to agree on a deal.

“I was amazed that I would be playing against the likes of Colombian Oscar Cordoba and the Uruguayan Fabien O’Neill, but Tallarico did not find an agreement with Perugia so it remains a dream, said Bascunan.

Milan is now the latest club to be alerted by his talents, and they are thinking about coming in with a bid for the starlet.

Bascunan is regarded as a potentially great player, and his dream is to move to Milan and become the Chilean version of defensive lynchpin Franco Baresi.

“My dream is to one day become the Baresi of Chile, I know he is one of the legends of Milan,” he added.

No-frills AC Milan keep cruising
13.12 || Seamus

With all eyes on Real Madrid and their flamboyant strikers, AC Milan are showing that tight defence can be the key to Champions League success and are already dreaming of ending a frustrating wait for Italian clubs.

While Real, billed as top favourites with the fire power of Ronaldo, Raul and company, are stuck at the bottom of Group C with just one point from two games, AC Milan lead the group on six points and look ideally placed to reach the quarter-finals.

"This is a big step forward," coach Carlo Ancelotti said after his team's 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. "I like the position we're in."

Not since Juventus in 1996 has an Italian side triumphed in European club soccer's premier event but AC Milan now have to be listed among the most serious contenders.

It has been a great week for the five-times European champions, who beat AS Roma 1-0 on Saturday to recapture the lead in Serie A before travelling to Germany.

In both matches, the match winner was Filippo Inzaghi, whose return to form is a great boost for the Italian club.

"He is a man for important goals and he has often been decisive, especially in Europe," Ancelotti said of his striker, who has now scored nine goals in the current campaign.

Flamboyant attacking moves were not Milan's recipe for victory and Inzaghi hardly threatened until he latched onto a fine Clarence Seedorf pass to hit the winner from close range on 49 minutes.


ONE ENOUGH
Ancelotti's men produced a scintillating display to tame Real 1-0 in their opening Group C match but against Dortmund, on a frozen pitch not ideal for anything fancy, they concentrated on defending while waiting for counter-attacking opportunities.

Few materialised, but one was enough to seal the game.

"I can only remember one chance for them and that was the goal," said Dortmund's Germany midfielder Sebastian Kehl.

But Ancelotti was not complaining.

"We played well in our own half and our defence was excellent," he said. "I thought it was a good game from us."

Keen to avoid a repeat of a 4-0 thrashing by the same opponents on their last visit to Dortmund, in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final in April, Milan relied on a water-tight back four with commanding performances from seasoned defenders Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta.

The midfielders, and notably a tireless Seedorf, also played their part by making sure Dortmund's brilliant Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky never had enough space to show his skills.

Inzaghi did the rest in what will not go down in history as a classic but was reminiscent of the merciless, efficiency-first shows that made AC Milan such an intimidating force in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"They are one of the top sides in Europe at the moment, there's no doubt about that," said Dortmund coach Matthias Sammer, who slammed his team for being too passive.

With Rivaldo, who has just recovered from injury, coming on only as a late substitute, Milan did not bother to shine but did just enough to win -- a formula that could take them far in the competition, if not all the way.

Como vs AC Milan - match preview
13.12 || scharatz

Barely can things be any worse for little Como, and now they must entertain rampant Milan.

It's bottom versus top and there can surely only be one winner at the Carmine Gentile.

Como have paid the price for too many team changes in the summer, and have yet to win a match. No one in the team has scored more than one goal all season, while the defence tends to leak goals like the proverbial sive.

At least new Croat striker Sasa Bjelanovic scored his first league goal for the club to salvage a late 1-1 draw at Modena last week, as the team produced a more spirited display than in recent weeks. However, the sale of one of last season's star players Luis Oliveira still looks a bigger mistake as every day goes by.

Milan are fresh off the back of a fabulous 1-0 away win to Borussia Dortmund that sees them go into the Champions League winter recess with a maximum six points out of six and one foot in the quarter finals. It wasn't always a polished performance, as president Silvio Berlusconi pointed out, but the Rossoneri's ability to scrap and fight once again came to the fore, and they secured an invaluable three points thanks to Filippo Inzaghi's second-half effort. Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini were excellent at the back.

Carlo Ancelotti's side took over top spot in the league last weekend when beating AS Roma 1-0 courtesy of another Inzaghi goal. Again it wasn't a master class, but it once again demonstrated their ability to scrap and toil.


FORM GUIDE

Como: Last Six Matches: LLLLLD

Eugenio Fascetti's men ended a losing run of five matches with last week's late draw. Prior to that, they had been beaten by Inter, Roma, Bologna, Lazio and Perugia, conceding 11 goals in the process.

Milan: Last Six Matches: WWDDWW

The Rossoneri have had some massive games of late. Serie A wins have been secured over Inter and Roma, while Real Madrid and Dortmund have been disposed of in Europe. Otherwise, 1-1 draws have been secured against Empoli and Ancona in the league and cup respectively.


LATEST TEAM NEWS

Como: Fonseca is likely to make his debut, although only from the bench. Tarantino is out injured, but otherwise Facetti has a fully-ft squad to choose from.

Milan: Gattuso and Kaladze are doubtful, but Rivaldo should be fit, although may start from the bench. Roque Junior and Brocchi are both on the sidelines. Shevchenko and Inzaghi are expected to continue their partnership in attack.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sasa Bjelanovic (Como): after his first goal last week, the Croat's confidence is likely to be boosted so Nesta and Maldini will need to be on their toes.

Filippo Inzaghi (Milan): the Italian international is back in scoring form, and it will once again be interesting to see if his partnership with Shevchenko bares fruit.

Feiendly game: AC Milan 6:0 Qatar
13.12 || scharatz


A strong Milan side won their friendly in Qatar 6-0 yesterday.

The goalscorers were Leonardo (2), Serginho, Jon Dahl Tomasson (2) and Rivaldo.

After finding themselves 5-0 down at the break Qatar improved and searched for their first goal, but the Milan back-line held firm.

Milan power stuns Galliani
13.12 || scharatz


Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has admitted that even he is surprised by the club’s form in the Champions’ League.

The Rossoneri are in pole position to qualify for the quarter-finals after winning their opening two games of Phase Two against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

"I have to say that I am amazed with how we have done in the European Cup," he said.

"I didn’t even dream that we could have collected so many points considering the strength of the clubs that we have played against.

"I didn’t expect to collect 12 points in the first phase and I didn’t believe that we would have six points after our first two games in the second phase."

But the side are set to be even stronger once the competition starts again in February because they will have two more important additions.

"In January we will register both Leonardo and Fernando Redondo in our Champions’ League lists," he added.

"They are two quality elements that can give us even more chances of winning."

Leonardo joined the club in October while the Argentine was left out of the Milan squad for Europe as he continued his comeback from his two-year injury nightmare.

Meanwhile, young defender Mohammed Adama Sarr will rejoin Milan in January after failing to impress Galatasaray – and former Milan boss – Fatih Terim.

The Senegal stopper moved to Turkey on loan this summer but has failed to settle. It is likely that he will be immediately loaned to another club in Italy in the New Year.

Borussia Dortmund 0:1 AC Milan - match report
12.12 || scharatz


Inzaghi 49' (M)
Westfalenstadion (52,000)


A Pippo Inzaghi strike has ended Borussia Dortmund's two-year unbeaten home record and all but qualified Milan for the Quarter-Finals.
Milan travelled to Germany and maintained their 100 per cent record in the second phase, but faced an old enemy.

Last year's UEFA Cup Semi-Final saw a humiliating 4-0 defeat here and former Parma hitman Marcio Amoroso netted a hat-trick. The Brazilian has been out of action with an injury, but returned to full fitness in time for this showdown.

Milan had the first chance with Pippo Inzaghi, but a late Metzelder intervention blocked his path.

Kakha Kaladze returned from a foot injury and had a good opportunity on 12 minutes with a dipping volley from the edge of the box.

It was a very open game and Amoroso was ready to pounce soon after, but Kaladze's well-timed tackle stopped the Brazilian in his tracks.

Tomas Rosicky attempted to score the goal of the season on 20 minutes when he spotted Dida off his line, but the lob from 35 metres dipped just past the crossbar.

On the half-hour mark the Rossoneri stepped on the gas and notched up several good scoring opportunities with Inzaghi, Massimo Ambrosini and Clarence Seedorf.

At the dawn of the second half Milan finally broke through with their Champions' League top scorer. Seedorf's intelligent pass allowed Inzaghi to spring the offside trap and he netted with a fine left-foot finish.

The Rossoneri began to dominate and only sat back in the final ten minutes. Jan Koller just failed to touch a good cross and Metzelder ballooned over the bar.

There were tense moments for Borussia on 88 minutes when ex-Milan goalkeeper Jens Lehmann decided to chase Rivaldo halfway up the field, but Seedorf's chip did not slot into an empty net.

However, up the other end Rosicky almost snatched the equaliser when his magnificent half-volley rattled the crossbar.


Borussia Dortmund: Lehmann; Heinrich (Evanilson 72), Woerns, Metzelder, Dede; Frings, Kehl (Reina 82), Ewerthon (Ricken 64); Rosicky; Koller, Amoroso

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Serginho 76); Shevchenko (Laursen 92), Inzaghi (Rivaldo 86)

Ref: Frisk (Swe)

Ancelotti over the moon
12.12 || scharatz


Carlo Ancelotti has praised his Milan side for an historic win on German soil and admits they are almost through to the Quarter-Finals.

“This is a very difficult place to come and win,” he said after their 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund, “but we did it without suffering too much. It was a wonderful performance.”

“From the start we had the right attitude to get all three points. Obviously there was a lull towards the end, but we rarely risked an equaliser.”

It was particularly pleasing for Milan as last season they were humiliated 4-0 here in the UEFA Cup Semi-Final.

“We had a few problems developing beautiful football due to the state of the frozen pitch,” added Ancelotti, “so we had to adapt.”

“I won’t hide that a 1-0 result is not the most secure until the final whistle, but this is football and doesn’t make it any less impressive.”

The Rossoneri have a 100 per cent record and are further boosted by Real Madrid’s 2-2 home draw with Lokomotiv Moscow.

“Now we are leading the Group and it is looking good. Real’s draw makes it an even more comforting scenario, but we must wait until February to see what happens.”

Once again Milan have stepped on the gas during the big games, but seem to struggle with teams such as Empoli.

“I don’t know why that is,” confessed the Coach. “We have always won on home turf, so there aren’t always hiccups against the smaller sides.”

“The rotation system has been used well to stave off tiredness and we are waiting for the Winter break to catch our breath.”

Manuel Rui Costa was again one of the most impressive players on the pitch.

“It was extremely cold and to start with it was a little bit of a struggle. After a while the heat of the game got to us and we never lost concentration.”

“Borussia played with several forward players,” added the Portuguese international, “but we almost willed them on to push more so that we could hit them on the break.”


Ancelotti wants German points
11.12 || scharatz


A draw against Borussia Dortmund will keep Milan on course for Champions’ League qualification according to Carlo Ancelotti.

The Rossoneri won their opening game of Phase Two by beating Real Madrid and are keen to collect at least one more point tonight before the winter break.

"A draw would be a good result considering that our next two games in the competition will be against Lokomotiv Moscow," he said.

"While Borussia will have to play Real Madrid twice. But should we win then we would take a massive step towards qualification.

"But let us keep our feet on the ground because Borussia are a side to be fearful of and it will be a difficult game."

Ancelotti knows the potential of the German side after the lesson they served up against the Rossoneri eight months ago when they beat them 4-0 in the UEFA Cup semi-final first leg.

"They have hardly changed since that game and they remain a good side," Ancelotti added.

"We need to take advantage of that poor performance and make up for it because that defeat was one of the worst days of my career."

Ancelotti also made it clear who would be Borussia’s danger man. "We need to pay Tomas Rosicky close attention but also be aware of the danger they produce on the wings."

As for the Milan team news, it is expected that both Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko will play together from the start along with Manuel Rui Costa and Andrea Pirlo.

Rivaldo and Clarence Seedorf are in the squad but are doubtful as they are not fully fit.

Milan probable: Abbiati; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Pirlo, Ambrosini, Serginho, Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Borussia Dortmund vs. AC Milan - match preview
11.12 || scharatz


It is a safe bet that Borussia Dortmund's players got themselves hyped up for Wednesday's big tussle with AC Milan by watching archived footage from the 4th of April this year, when they made the Italian giants look positively puny by hammering them 4-0 at the Westfalenstadon.

That was the first-leg of the 2001/02 Uefa Cup semifinals and that was when former Parma goal-machine Marcio Amoroso produced his best performance in the yellow-and-black of the defending German champions by bagging a famous hattrick.

Matthias Sammer's side were very much a team on-song during that period and were leading the Bundesliga as well as going strong in the German Cup. It's not all gravy in Dortmund at the moment, however, as they are a full eight points behind their deadly rivals Bayern Munich in the domestic standings and have long since been bounced from the DfB Pokal.

Amoroso is (was?) struggling to shake off the last remnants of a serious injury he suffered during the summer but showed great promise of a personal resurgence by coming off the bench to produce a devastating two-goal performance to lift the Borussen past Kaiserslautern on the weekend. There is much hope in Dortmund that the Brazilian's apparent awakening will serve as the catalyst for a team-wide reinvigoration.

As each week goes by, Milan are convincing more and more critics that it is they, and not Juventus or Inter, who should be considered favourites for the Scudetto.

The Rossoneri have shown the spectacular this season -6-0 and 4-0 thrashings of Torino and Deportivo spring to mind- but also that invaluable ability to scrap and win games when not playing well. Saturday's 1-0 win over AS Roma was a perfect example. Filippo Inzaghi was lucky not to see his goal ruled out for a handball, while at the other end had Gabriel Batistuta not forgotten his shooting boots, Fabio Capello's men would surely have escaped with at least a point.

Milan, though, are no longer as free-scoring as they once were. This has coincided with the return of Andriy Shevchenko to the team, although the Rossoneri's minor problems in front of goal can surely not be put down to the former Dynamo Kiev man. The Ukrainian has looked sharp, is having no trouble finding the net, and also set up Inzaghi for his goal on Saturday. President Silvio Berlusconi is convinced the pair should play alongside each other all the time.

FORMGUIDE

Milan's Last 6 Matches (all comps): WWWDDW

The Rossoneri have squeezed past Parma, neighbours Inter, and Roma in Serie A, but were also held to a 1-1 draw by Empoli. The 1-0 win over Real Madrid in this competition, meanwhile, may prove crucial. Shevchenko scoring the goal.

Dortmund's Last 6 Matches (all comps): LWLWWW

Borussia are Bayern's closest pursuers in Germany yet still have plenty of catchup ahead of them due to being a daunting eight points behind. Consistency has been Dortmund's biggest problem this season, though they will be encouraged by having collected three straight victories against Lokomotiv Moscow, 1.FC Nurnberg and 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

LATEST TEAM NEWS

Milan: Ancelotti says that Rivaldo and Seedorf are doubtful, although could play a part. Inzaghi and Shevchenko are certain to play up front, with Rui Costa just behind. Goalkeeper Dida has recovered from a wrist injury and will start, while Serginho should also play.

Dortmund: Sammer has no major injury concerns going into Wednesday's encounter as Dede is back from suspension while Sebastian Kehl has made a timely recovery from an inner-thigh injury.

LOOK OUT FOR

Milan: Manuel Rui Costa - The Portuguese playmaker was in fine form in the clash with Real Madrid, and it was
his superb through-ball that set up Shevchenko for the only goal of the game. In the likely absence of Rivaldo, Rui Costa's performance could be key.

Borussia: Marcio Amoroso – According to Herr Sammer, the team's top-scorer from last year is still a ways away from his absolute best. Amoroso might grudgingly agree that he doesn't have ninety minutes in him but when he is in the mood he only needs a couple touches of the ball to decide a game anyway.

Ancelotti hopeful that Seedorf and Rivaldo will be fit for Dortmund
11.12 || Seamus

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is hopeful that Clarence Seedorf and Rivaldo will be fit for tomorrow's clash with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

"Seedorf and Rivaldo have still some problems, but we hope to have them recovered in time for the game against Borussia," he was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "Should they not be available, they would be deputised by other players who I consider competitive and important for the team all the same."

Ancelotti also paid tribute to the Germans, saying: "Borussia Dortmund are an attacking side who are formidable when they play at home. We want to face the game having fixed in mind the 4-0 defeat we suffered last season."

Thigh's the limit for Gattuso
9.12 || Seamus

AC Milan midfield player Gennaro Gattuso will miss the UEFA Champions League Group C match against BV Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday after failing to recover from a thigh injury.

Gattuso left out
The Italian international has been omitted from coach Carlo Ancelotti's squad for the Westfalenstadion trip having failed to respond to treatment on the injury which kept him out of Saturday's league win over AS Roma.

Training ground injury
Gattuso, 24, damaged his left thigh in training last week. His replacement will be Azzurri team-mate Massimo Ambrosini, who played alongside the former AC Perugia, Rangers FC and Salernitana Sport man in the 1-0 victory over Real Madrid CF on Matchday 7, two weeks ago.

Rivaldo in
Meanwhile, Ancelotti has included the Brazilian Rivaldo in the party, despite the thigh injury he picked up against Madrid which sidelined him for the Roma game.

Berlusconi calls for deadly duo
9.12 || Seamus

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has called for boss Carlo Ancelotti to always field Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko.

The Italian came off the bench during the game against Roma and the two strikers combined for Inzaghi to net the only goal of the tie.

"It was quite a tense match but Ancelotti made the right move by putting on Inzaghi alongside Shevchenko," said the Rossoneri supremo.

"I think that they should play together all of the time. When we play with two strikers they create space for the midfielders to break into.

"However, I am delighted to be watching this side that are playing real football. Something that the Rossoneri should be doing all of the time."

In the opening part of this season Ancelotti has cautiously fielded the two men together, preferring to alternate the pair with the Milan giants targeting Scudetto and Champions’ League glory.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi also expressed his delight after watching Fernando Redondo make his League debut – two years after signing for the club.

"Redondo’s Serie A debut was one of the real positives of the night. He may have played only a few minutes but he showed how good a player he is," Berlusconi added.

"It is a real shame that we have not had him available for the past two years but we know we can count on a real champion in the future."

The Argentine had been sidelined for the past 26 months after he damaged knee ligaments in training just days after his £10m transfer from Real Madrid.

Since then the classy playmaker underwent three operations before his appearance in the Coppa Italia against Ancona last week.

Hammers deny Milan raid talk
9.12 || Seamus

West Ham boss Glenn Roeder has played down talk of a move for AC Milan defender Martin Laursen when the transfer window reopens in January.
The under-fire Hammers manager has admitted he is keen to bolster his squad in the New Year in a bid to ensure the club pulls clear of the relegation zone.

West Ham currently sit bottom of the Premiership with no home wins to their name all season, and whilst Roeder admits he is an admirer of the 22-times capped Denmark international, he says the centre-half will not be moving to Upton Park in January.

He said: "It is speculation; I am very aware of him and his ability, and he wouldn't be at AC Milan if he wasn't a top class defender."

Speaking to the club's official site, he added: "He is 6ft 3ins and would be a fantastic addition to the squad, but apparently he is happy with life in Milan and, though he is not in the team at the moment, he is waiting to get into that team again so we have to accept that and look elsewhere."

Roeder admitted recently that one of the players he wants to sign is a defender, but with his admission that Laursen is happy in Milan, it seems the former Parma player will not be making a January move to east London.

AC Milan 1:0 AS Roma - match report
8.12 || scharatz


Despite starting on the bench, Filippo Inzaghi was once again decisive. The Milan striker, who replaced Sergihno in the middle of the second half, gave Milan a precious 1-0 win over Roma at the end of a very difficult and often boring match.

A huge determination and tactical care was not enough for the Giallorossi, who stopped Milan's attacks with an impressive defensive effort and went even close to the lead before Inzaghi's winner. Following this defeat, the gap that separates Capello's men from the top of the ranking raised up to 12 points.

The first half of the match was dull to say the least. Milan started strongly and created two good chances in the firts five minutes, first with a wonderful heel-kick by Serginho which skimmed Roma's bar and then with a header by Shevcehnko, easily saved by Antonioli.

The following 40 minutes were almost entirely commanded by the Rossoneri, led by a quite inspired Rui Costa, but Roma's accurate 4-4-2 prevented Ancelotti's men from creating any other scoring chance and forced them to make plenty of turnovers.

On the other hand, as expected, the lack of Totti deprived the guests of inspiration on the offensive side. A few effective insertions on the right wing by Cafu were everything Roma managed to produce inside the opponent's half, but Milan's defence didn't have any problem in stopping Cassano and Montella. Indeed, Abbiati was a spectator of the match.

Things didn't change at all in the first part of the second half. Nothing but mistakes by both sides, plenty of turnovers and not even the shadow of a scoring chance. However, as the minutes passed, the guests realized that they could dare something more and increased their pressure, giving an ineffective Milan some trouble.

The first shot at goal of the whole match for the Giallorossi was a header by Cassano in the 59th minute, but following this chance Roma's wonder boy was replaced by Batistuta. After a few moments, the Argentinean striker fired a free kick just over the bar, while in the 67th minute a shot by Zebina finished just wide at the right of Abbiati.

Precisely in Roma's best moment, Milan managed to score the winning goal with Inzaghi, who replaced Serginho in the 62nd minute. The Italy international took profit of a perfect supply by Shevchenko and gave Milan the lead with 17 minutes to go. Roma reacted furiously and wasted a huge chance in the 81st minute with Batistuta, who shot wide despite being all alone in front of Abbiati.

The Giallorossi dominated the final part of the match, but Milan defended their precious lead with a huge determination and nothing major happened in front of Abbiati's net.

Ancelotti: We can kill Roma dreams
7.12 || Seamus

Carlo Ancelotti maintains that a defeat to Milan at the San Siro would kill off any remaining Scudetto hopes Roma may have.

“The Giallorossi have hardly changed their squad since last season,” explained the tactician, “and therefore remain a competitive outfit.”

“They have paid a high price for a few mistakes in defence, and that is something we can take advantage of. It would be very difficult for them to intercept the title chase if Roma are 12 points adrift of the leaders.”

Former Roma player Ancelotti revealed the attitude with which his men would take on this encounter.

“We will try to take control from the start, pushing our style of play onto Roma, but not forgetting the strength of the opposition.”

The Giallorossi are slightly less competitive than usual for this match due to bans on Francesco Totti and Vincent Candela.

“Undoubtedly Totti’s absence will make a big difference to their performance,” conceded Ancelotti, “but Fabio Capello is an excellent Coach who can read games very well.”

The Milan boss must also look ahead to the Champions’ League trip to Borussia Dortmund, while Kakha Kaladze, Gennaro Gattuso and Rivaldo are out of action.

We could therefore see Serginho played in the same more advanced position that he took up in the Milan derby win over Inter.

“Either Pippo Inzaghi or Andriy Shevchenko will start,” noted Ancelotti before adding, “or possibly both.”

Milan close in on Cribari
7.12 || Seamus

Milan have jumped ahead of Juventus in the race to sign highly rated Empoli youngster Sanchez Emilson Cribari.

The Brazilian has been linked with a host of Italian clubs for a number of months now but Milan could play a crucial card in January.

It is claimed that the Rossoneri will offer Empoli the loan signing of Under-21 striker Marco Borriello in order to get first refusal on the defender next summer.

Cribari himself has admitted that he would be delighted to seal a switch to the San Siro in the future.

"I’ve read the stories in the newspapers and I would walk to Milan in order to play for the Italian giants," said the 22-year-old.

"You can’t get much better than playing alongside Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta for one of the world’s greatest clubs."

The South American was signed by the Tuscan outfit in 1998 from little known Brazilian club side Londrina.

Meanwhile, it is also believed that Milan will offer Torino the services of midfielder Ibrahim Ba for free.

The Frenchman’s contract expires in June and the struggling Granata side are desperate for reinforcements in January.

Milan vs. Roma - match preview
6.12 || Seamus

Two Serie A giants heading in opposite directions will face each other on Saturday evening in the Stadio San Siro, where they will renew one of Italian soccer's most traditional rivalries.

Second-placed Milan will be hoping to extend their impressive home winning streak to seven matches, while troubled Roma desperately need a positive result in order to keep their slim Scudetto hopes alive.

Like everybody expected after their powerful summer transfer market, the Rossoneri are enjoying a very good season, both in the Serie A and in the Champions League.

Carlo Ancelotti managed to reach his goal, that's to say transforming a group full of hyper-talented players into an entertaining and effective side, although last week's draw against Empoli proved that Milan are still looking for some consistency on the road, at least in the domestic league.

Everything seems to be going the wrong way for Roma, although in their last outings the Giallorossi have shown a definite improvement compared to their shaky start to the season. Unfortunately for Capello's men, a bit of bad luck, some controversial decision by the referees and most importantly a number of awful defensive performances prevented them from collecting the points they needed in order to keep an acceptable distance from the top of the ranking, which is currently ten points above them.

Roma have the fourth worst defence of the league and conceded ten goals in their last four outings against Inter, Parma, Arsenal and Juventus.

Things aren't going any better in the Champions League. Capello's men struggled to qualify for the second phase and opened it with a disheartening home defeat at the hands of Arsenal. To make things even worse for AS Roma fans at this point of the season are a team called S.S Lazio, who currently hold the top spot of the Serie A table.

TEAM NEWS

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti will surely miss his midfield pitbull Gennaro Gattuso, who still hasn't recovered from his thigh injury and will likely be replaced by Ambrosini. The Rossoneri are expected to play with a 4-3-2-1 lineup, with Shevchenko and Rui Costa supporting Inzaghi on the offensive line. However, the former Juventus trainer could also choose a different option, advancing Sheva and fielding a 4-man midfield with Serginho on the left wing. Rivaldo is recovering very quickly from his injury: the Brazilian superstar will undergo a late fitness test and could surprisingly be available.

As for Roma, Fabio Capello is desperate with the lack of his most influential player, skipper Francesco Totti. Along with French left wing-back Candela, the Italy international will serve a one-round ban following last week's ejection in the match against Juventus. The two players will be replaced by wonder boy Cassano and Uruguayan Guigou respectively, while Montella could be preferred to Batistuta in the middle of the offensive line. Midfielder Damiano Tommasi is still bothered by a foot injury and will surely be sidelined.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milan: Filippo Inzaghi. I strongly feel that Milan's man of the match could be Superpippo. It's true that the shape of the Italy international has collapsed compared to the first part of the season, when he scored almost every time he touched the ball. However, Ancelotti keeps on giving him confidence and Roma's troubled defence might be what Milan's number 9 needs in order to show that he's still one of the best strikers in the world.

Roma: Emerson. The Brazilian midfielder has been looking just awesome so far. He's just dominating in the middle; he recovers dozens of balls per match and transforms a big part of them into effective offensive plays. The former Leverkusen midfielder is just essential to Fabio Capello's team.

Ref. Pierluigi Collina

Rui shows Roma respect
5.12 || scharatz

Struggling Roma will still provide a tough test for Milan this weekend according to Manuel Rui Costa.

The capital side, stuck in mid-table, face the Rossoneri on Saturday without the suspended duo of Francesco Totti and Vincent Candela.

"I’m surprised by how far off the Scudetto pace they are but they have the potential to beat anyone – even without the suspended Totti and Candela," said the Portuguese ace.

"The absence of the Italian will be felt by Roma but they are still a strong side. I’m saddened because I would have wanted to play against him."

In Totti’s absence, boss Fabio Capello could turn to Gabriel Batistuta despite his poor run of recent form. A presence that worries his former Fiorentina teammate Rui Costa.

"I know Batistuta well and I am sure that he will be able to get back to the very top of his game," added the ex-Benfica ace.

Milan are currently second in Serie A, just one point behind leaders Lazio. But the playmaker maintains that the title will not be sorted out until the closing weeks of the campaign.

"I don’t think that one of the leading pack will be able to pull away. It will be a battle until the very end. There is Juventus, Inter and Lazio, a team who have surprised me," he said.

"But I don’t fear one side in particular. We need to try to beat everyone and hope that other clubs fear us more.

"I hope that this Milan side can develop into the team of my dreams. We have a great squad and there is the desire to win every competition that we enter."

Redondo: I’m finally back
4.12 || scharatz

Fernando Redondo has expressed his delight after finally making his Milan debut – two years after signing for the club.

The Argentine played 45 minutes in last night’s 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Ancona after undergoing three knee operations in the last two years.

"I’m really happy. After waiting so long I have finally taken my first step towards my comeback," said the ace who signed for the Rossoneri in the summer of 2000.

"I didn’t have any fear and my knee has given me the necessary answers. It is not causing me any pain or problems and that is important.

"My only objective was to get back onto the field of play. The battle was hard but I’m satisfied," the former Real Madrid ace continued.

"I need to now concentrate on getting myself in top condition and also working on my match fitness."

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti was also relieved that the classy playmaker could finally be at his disposal.

"He played his first 45 minutes for over two years and we are delighted," said the tactician.

"Everything is going as scheduled and he will be an important figure for us in the New Year."

Ancelotti also praised the return of Leonardo who scored in the game. He was signed by the club in October and hadn’t played a competitive match for 12 months.

"Leonardo too played well even if he hasn’t had any fitness problems. He simply hadn’t played at this level for some time but he will also prove important."

Roma duo miss Milan trip
4.12 || Seamus

The Disciplinary Commission has confirmed one-match bans for Roma duo Francesco Totti and Vincent Candela.

Both saw red during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Juventus, along with Bianconeri defender Alessandro Birindelli.

However, it was feared that Totti may face a greater suspension due to the nature of his offence. The Italian international received a straight red for “insulting the referee” towards the end of the match.

It is often the case that the Commission will come down hard on captains who are sent off for dissent as they should be setting an example, but Totti’s ban was only mixed with a £1,000 fine.

The Disciplinary Commission also opted not to use television evidence on an earlier incident where Totti and Paolo Montero were caught on camera trading reaction fouls.

The other players handed one-match bans this week in Serie A are Chris Obodo (Perugia), Jonathan Bachini (Brescia), Gigi Di Biagio(Inter) and Matteo Ferrari (Parma).

Coppa Italia report - Ancona 1:1 AC Milan
4.12 || scharatz

Scorers: Robbiati 5 (A), Leonardo 44 (M)


Milan’s 1-1 Coppa Italia Third Round draw in Ancona was an event as it marked the return to the playing field of Leonardo and Fernando Redondo.

The Brazilian had not featured in almost 12 months following a spell in his homeland, but opted to come out of retirement in order to play one more season with Milan.

Redondo’s journey here was even more tortuous as it was his first ever appearance in a Rossoneri shirt, but came two and a half years after he signed for the club.

A knee injury in his first training session since the £10m move from Real Madrid lead to a series of operations and the Argentine refused to accept wage payments until he was able to play.

However, while all eyes were on this duo, it took Serie B side Ancona just five minutes to break the deadlock. Anselmo ‘Spadino’ Robbiati drilled a splendid left-foot drive into the top corner from the edge of the box.

It was a very entertaining game and Milan thought they had equalised with Jon Dahl Tomasson’s tap-in, but it was disallowed for a dubious offside decision.

Just before the break the equaliser did come from the foot of Leonardo, turning in following some fine build-up play from Serginho and Tomasson.

Redondo could only play the first 45 minutes, while the impressive Leonardo lasted an hour.

Both sides had plenty of chances with Sam Dalla Bona’s fierce effort parried, while goalkeeper Alessio Scarpi also proved decisive on Tomasson’s close-range drive.

Ancona had their opportunities with Drazen Bolic firing wide from four metres and Francesco Montervino’s drive was off-target.

Milan grew in stature towards the end of the match and are undoubtedly favourites to qualify for the Quarter-Finals when Ancona travel to the San Siro in a fortnight.


Coppa Italia preview: Ancona vs. AC Milan
3.12 || scharatz

A very emotional contest will take place on Wednesday evening at the Conero stadium, where Ancona and Milan will face each other in the 1/8 finals of the Coppa Italia.

This will be everything but a meaningless match for the Rossoneri. Like all of the Serie A giants, Milan rate the domestic Cup as the less important competition of the season, and considering the forthcoming match against Roma, coach Carlo Ancelotti will certainly rest almost all of his regulars.

However, there's something which makes this match a very important one for Milan, as Fernando Redondo will finally make his debut with the red and black jersey, 28 months and 3 surgeries after his last appearance with Real Madrid. The Ancona match will also mark the comeback of Brazilian forward Leonardo.

Ancona are doing very well in the Serie B. The Dorici, whose roster is filled with experienced players such as Ganz, Maini, Robbiati and Luiso, are currently seventh in the ranking, just three points below the promotion zone. The hosts have a veteran is on the bench as well, former Inter coach Gigi Simoni, who will surely be hoping to give some trouble to his old city rivals.


PROBABLE LINEUPS
ANCONA (4-4-2): Scarpi; Daino, Bolic, Giacobbo, Lombardi; Schenardi, Montervino, Maini, Tarana; Robbiati, Ganz.

MILAN (4-4-2): Abbiati; Helveg, Chamot, Costacurta, Aubameyang; Dalla Bona, Redondo, Brocchi, Serginho; Leonardo, Tomasson

Leonardo & Redondo set for action
3.12 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Fernando Redondo and Leonardo will play against Ancona on Tuesday.

Football Italia reported yesterday that the Argentine was likely to start the Coppa Italia tie and Ancelotti has confirmed his presence.

"Redondo is well and he will play at least 45 minutes," he said. "We are delighted that he can once again play football at the highest levels."

The former Real Madrid ace hasn’t played a single minute for Milan since his transfer in 2000 because of knee ligament surgery.

But he will play today, in Andrea Pirlo’s role just in front of the defence, after a 26 month absence.

Meanwhile, Brazilian legend Leonardo will also put on the Rossoneri shirt later this evening after his surprise signing in October.

"It is a great feeling to once more play for Milan," said the former Paris SG star.

"The club have given me a great gift and playing today will be like making my debut for the club.

"It may only be a Coppa Italia game but this tie will be of great importance and very stimulating for Redondo and myself."

Empoli 1:1 AC Milan - match report
1.12 || scharatz

AC Milan came down from their European heavens to dip themselves back in the Serie A engine room, where peones Empoli were waiting for them at the Castellani.

The match proved more difficult than expected, as the Rossoneri conceded a goal shortly before half-time.

Empoli, in front of a capacity crowd, proved they truly were one of the season's most exciting sensations despite missing newly-capped Antonio Di Natale through injury.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti had to reshuffle the cards early in the game as Gennaro Ivan Gattuso limped off the pitch to leave his place to Clarence Seedorf on 18 minutes.

A good chance by Rui Costa missed on 4 minutes left Milan reeling as Empoli took control and eventually snatched the lead on 37 minutes: Tommaso Rocchi raced clear from a long pass by Grella to beat Dida.

Six minutes into the second half, Andriy Shevchenko scored his second goal in two matches with a successful header from an Ambrosini cross.

Ighli Vannucchi sparked the game up in the last 30 minutes, during which Sheva and Ambrosini gave away good chances to bring all three points back to Milano.





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