AS Roma 1:1 AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Mexes 4 (R), Gilardino 62 (M)
Alberto Gilardino cancelled out a stunning Philippe Mexes opener as Roma and Milan stalled each others' progress in a 1-1 draw.
These two teams met for the fourth time this season after two Giallorossi victories and a draw between Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It was a head to head battle for a Champions League spot and the Rossoneri fielded their Brazilian front three while welcoming back Alessandro Nesta from a four-month break with a shoulder injury. Daniele Bonera was suspended and Max Tonetto injured.
It was a blistering start at the Stadio Olimpico. Nelson Dida tipped a Francesco Totti header over and from the resulting corner Philippe Mexes smashed an unstoppable strike under the crossbar from the edge of the area. It was a fine way to celebrate his 25th birthday, which was on Friday.
Milan almost netted an equaliser after eight minutes, as Dario Simic nodded an Andrea Pirlo free kick inches past the upright. De Rossi's lob was over and Nesta performed a crucial tackle on Cristian Wilhelmsson inside the area.
Mexes almost handed Milan an equaliser, as he slipped on his own from 10 yards and Ricardo Oliveira failed to take advantage, hesitating and seeing his shot charged down.
An ambitious long-range Christian Panucci strike was smothered and another quickly-taken free kick from Francesco Totti stung Dida's palms. Mexes had an attempt deflected wide, as Roma's rapidity in taking set-pieces was causing real problems.
Amantino Mancini spun round between two defenders and unleashed a snapshot just over the bar, while Oliveira drilled a right-foot angled drive inches past the far post.
Ronaldo sprinted into the box and his strike was deflected over the bar by Panucci. A Nesta looping header did not have enough power to trouble Alexander Doni.
Milan threw on Alberto Gilardino for the disappointing Oliveira after the break and the substitute was halted for an offside position following fine build-up from Ronaldo's backheel and Kaka.
Mancini and Totti combined dangerously, then David Pizarro rolled past the near post. There was chaos on 58 minutes, as Dida spilled the ball off Wilhelmsson and only a Cafu deflection stopped Totti turning into an empty net.
Kaka skipped past Marco Cassetti and stroked his inside right shot over the bar.
The Rossoneri finally snatched an equaliser on the hour mark. Cassetti was booked for bringing down Ronaldo and the Pirlo free kick took a flick off Gilardino's head to slot into the far corner despite being held.
Another great Gila opportunity was cut short by the offside flag, so Roma introduced Simone Perrotta to shore up the midfield.
Doni came rushing out to clear from Ronaldo and caught a Marcos Cafu weak counter, but at the other end Totti's stunning pass sent Perrotta through only for the substitute to fire over on the bounce.
Moments later Mancini out-sprinted Cafu and some desperate defending prevented Taddei getting on the end of his cross. Totti's lobbed pass found Panucci totally umarked from six yards except for a Simic deflection to take it off his head. The move continued and Perrotta struck Dida from point-blank range.
Dida smothered a Cassetti strike from distance, so Gennaro Gattuso replaced Ronaldo to strengthen the midfield.
Milan really should have been 2-1 up 10 minutes from time. Kaka launched himself on the counter-attack and rolled across for Gilardino but, with only the goalkeeper to beat from eight yards, he somehow sidefooted it wide!
Yoann Gourcuff attempted to catch Doni out from 25 metres, but neither side was able to get the full points.
Roma: Doni; Cassetti, Mexes, Chivu, Panucci; De Rossi, Pizarro; Wilhelmsson (Perrotta 67), Taddei, Mancini (Tavano 84); Totti (Vucinic 81)
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Simic, Nesta, Favalli; Brocchi, Pirlo, Seedorf (Gourcuff 72); Kakà; Ronaldo (Gattuso 79), Ricardo Oliveira (Gilardino 46)
Spalletti wary of AC Milan
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Roma boss Luciano Spalletti is showing Milan great respect ahead of their clash on Saturday – despite already defeating them twice so far this season.
The Giallorossi won the first League meeting between the pair this term and then knocked them out of the Coppa Italia.
But the tactician, whose second-placed side are keen to defend their nine-point lead of rivals Lazio in the table, is aware that both teams are ready to give battle.
“I don’t think there is the risk that we might underestimate Milan,” noted the former Udinese and Sampdoria boss on Friday.
“They will be motivated by the fact that we have defeated them a few times this year and we know this will make them even more dangerous.”
Both teams go into the game with next week’s Champions League on their minds, but Spalletti insists that neither of the outfits – who could meet in the semi-finals of the competition – will snub their Serie A commitments.
“We are both determined to do well in the championship, even if we are the only Italian clubs left in the Champions League,” continued the 4-2-3-1 man.
“We will have to play to win as this also helps to create a winning mentality. A draw must only be the consequence of a failed victory.”
Roma will host Manchester United on Wednesday in the first leg of their European tie at a sold out Olimpico, but many supporters were left without tickets despite camping out overnight.
“I’m disappointed for those who won’t be at the arena,” he noted. “But this fact proves that we have been doing well this term and must motivate us even more.
“Our followers have shown their affection towards us and they are a very important factor for the team.”
Roma tie vital, says Ancelotti
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Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has underlined how key Saturday’s game against Roma is. “This is the start of a crucial phase of the campaign,” he warned.
The Rossoneri take on their rivals at the Olimpico tomorrow night in a bid to cut the four-point gap between themselves and fourth-placed Palermo.
“The Roma match will be very difficult as we are up against a strong opponent, but this tie represents the beginning of a crucial stage of the season,” he noted on Friday.
“I think my men are well-prepared and ready to face this game, as well as the others which we will play before the end of the term.
“We know all about Roma’s qualities and their defects,” continued the former Giallorossi midfielder.
“Francesco Totti is an important reference point for them and we will have to try to limit his impact. He would definitely be the man I would take away from the Giallorossi.”
Ancelotti has named a 20-man squad for the trip and has included ex-Lazio symbol Alessandro Nesta, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since November 26.
“We have been waiting for him and he has finally recovered completely,” added the Coach. “This is important.
“Now he will have to try to find some continuity, but his availability in this part of the season is positive news for us.”
Milan squad: Dida, Storari, Fiori; Cafu, Favalli, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo, Simic; Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka, Pirlo, Seedorf; Borriello, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Ricardo Oliveira, Ronaldo
Oddo: Roma still my rival
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Milan defender Massimo Oddo is looking forward to Saturday’s big match with Roma. “It still feels like a derby to me,” he said.
The defender joined the Rossoneri in January from capital rivals Lazio in a £5.5m deal and he’s admitted that facing the Giallorossi still has a special meaning for him.
“I spent five years with Lazio and Roma have always represented the derby for me, but this is also a match against a very strong side,” said Oddo to Sky Italia.
“This tie is special for me as we could help Lazio move closer to their Giallorossi cousins.
“Aside from the two Serie A derbies, there is great rivalry between the two clubs on who will end the season in the highest position,” added the World Cup winner.
“I am sure that everyone at Lazio would like to leapfrog Roma before the end of the present campaign.
“We will certainly do our best on Saturday, but mainly for our own good as Milan need to get some important points too.”
The San Siro outfit are currently fifth in the table with 43 points, four shy of Palermo who currently occupy fourth.
“We are aware that the match with Roma will not be an easy one as they are very strong,” continued the former Monza, Napoli and Verona man.
“We must try to remain serene, respect our opponents and give our all.”
Carletto delays Azzurri dream
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Carlo Ancelotti admits that he dreams of one day coaching the Italy squad, but insists that he is only focusing on Milan.
The Coach was linked with a job on the Azzurri bench last week, when the Italian media reported that Roberto Donadoni might face the axe.
“I have nothing to explain to Donadoni, I have already spoken to him in the past few days,” said Ancelotti after Italy’s 2-0 win over Scotland.
“I have no intention of working with the Nazionale, you might as well all put your minds at rest, now I want to stay at Milan,” continued the former midfielder.
“Donadoni is a friend, we really didn’t need to clarify anything because there is no problem at all.
“Every Italian Coach dreams of training the Nazionale and we all have the right to dream. Roberto is a great champion, an excellent professional, but most of all a friend.”
Ancelotti, a former member of Arrigo Sacchi’s Grande Milan alongside Donadoni, praised Italy’s performance against Scotland and stated that he believes the current boss can do well.
“I think he has all the qualities needed to manage the Nazionale. I enjoyed the match last night, the Azzurri played well and earned three very important points,” concluded Ancelotti.
Inzaghi’s pact with the Devils
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Filippo Inzaghi has dismissed reports suggesting he might be close to leaving Milan. “I hope to end my career here.”
The striker has struggled for form so far despite his bright start to the campaign and has recently been paired with a summer move.
Roma have been heavily linked with a bid for the veteran hitman, but Superpippo was eager to deny he is interested in a change of club.
“I have never had any negative thoughts, I think that the relationship with Milan is destined to last because there is something special between us,” Inzaghi told Italia 7 Gold.
“The goals and the victories are unique and are something that cannot be erased,” added the former Juventino.
“I still feel the trust of the entire environment, the club, the Coach and all the supporters. I really hope I can continue playing here until the end of my career,” concluded the 33-year-old.
Inzaghi was reportedly unhappy with Ronaldo’s arrival in January, as he considered the ex-Inter ace as a competitor for a spot in the first team.
However, the World Cup winner then declared that he was glad to welcome such an important player, even if that meant that he wouldn’t be able to play every match.
Gattuso beats the press
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Gennaro Gattuso has slammed the Italian media for their ‘massacre’ of Roberto Donadoni and warned Ukraine are the ones to watch.
“We knew it was going to be difficult. Even if their manager said he was going to come here to attack, we knew that would not be the case. We had to fight hard to break them down and did it,” he said after the 2-0 victory over Scotland.
It was a key result in Euro 2008 qualifying Group B, as there were claims Donadoni would be fired with anything less.
“We all really wanted this result. The Coach was absolutely massacred in the Press this week and we were all eager to take some of that pressure off his back, it was completely unfair what was said.
“The problem is that in Italy we play the games in the newspapers first and then on the field later. We heard nothing but how many points our opponents had and how disastrous our position became despite the fact we hadn’t played yet.”
The Azzurri now have 10 points thanks to three wins and two draws. Ukraine, France and Scotland are the joint leaders on 12, although the Brits have played an extra match.
“In my view, the only thing we are missing are those two points against Lithuania from the opening 1-1 draw. The rest was on target.
“I think the Ukraine have something more than Scotland to give in qualifying, so they are more dangerous in the long run. Let us not forget that were it not for the draw with Lithuania, we would be talking about a stunning start from the Azzurri.”
The Milan man has become a symbol of the Azzurri with his passion and played a key role in Luca Toni’s second goal.
“I have to work hard during the week to play the way I do. In a few years I won’t have this stamina any more and I won’t be the same player.
“I know full well these are my characteristics, I keep the tempo up. I have improved my technique, but my main strength is as an aggressive midfielder.”
Gattuso spent the formative years of his career at Glasgow Rangers and has always given great respect to the Scots.
“I had no doubts that the Scottish fans would be happy no matter what. Just think how much they’ve been drinking all day!” he joked. “My legs are bad enough on their own, imagine with a kilt! I’d look like King Kong.”
Real give up on Kaka
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Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon has admitted that Milan star Kaka is no longer one of the club’s primary transfer objectives.
“It will be very difficult to sign Kaka,” admitted the chief in an interview with the Marca newspaper.
“Obviously we would like to have him here as Real are a club who are used to making important signings, but only by following the rules of the market.”
The Brazilian was at the centre of a battle between the two outfits last summer, when the Rossoneri warned the Merengues against making any attempt to contact the ‘untouchable’ Kaka.
Nevertheless, the Blancos’ chief had recently confirmed his renewed interest in the midfielder’s services – after initially promising his arrival during his election campaign in June.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts, Calderon has now seemingly admitted defeat and will reportedly turn his attention to Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo instead.
Kaka, who has often reiterated that he is happy at Milan, extended his contract with the Rossoneri until 2010 last summer.
AC Milan lead Ronaldinho chase
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Milan have moved even closer to netting Barcelona ace Ronaldinho after his agent brother admitted they are leading the race to sign him.
The Rossoneri have claimed in the past few weeks that they are in pole position to snatch the sensation, should he leave the Nou Camp, and Roberto Assis has fuelled speculation on Wednesday.
“I will be in Milan next week and I will meet the club officials to discuss Ricardo Oliveira’s position, but it will also be an occasion to see what will happen with my brother,” said Assis.
“He is happy to play for Barcelona, but let’s wait and see what happens.
“What [President Silvio] Berlusconi and [Vice-President Adriano] Galliani have said is true – if my brother were to change club, Milan would represent an excellent solution,” he continued.
“We have a splendid rapport with them and with [Milan director] Leonardo. Also, have you seen how much Kaka and Ronaldinho enjoy themselves playing together?”
City rivals Inter were also allegedly ready to join the Ronaldinho chase, but Assis has insisted the Serie A leaders have no chance of grabbing his brother.
“I speak to many people about Ronaldinho and other players and I won’t deny that I also spoke to [Inter transfer consultant] Marco Branca,” he noted.
“However, let’s not talk about Inter. Milan are in a prime position compared to other clubs and I have already explained the reasons for this.
“When will we decide Ronaldinho’s future? I don’t know, maybe in one, two or four weeks,” concluded Assis.
The former Paris SG man is contracted to Barcelona until June 2010 and has a buy-out clause in his contract worth a massive £84m.
Ronaldo wants Brazilian reunion
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Ronaldo has urged Barcelona sensation Ronaldinho to join the Brazilian contingent at Milan next season.
The South American is again being linked with the Rossoneri today and Ronaldo is ready to welcome him with open arms.
“It would be great for Kaka, Ronaldinho and myself to play together at club level,” said the former Inter ace.
“But it won’t need Kaka or myself to convince him to move here because Milan are, after all, a great club.
“Every player dreams of wearing this jersey as Milan are one of the best sides in the world along with Real Madrid.”
Ronaldo left the latter for San Siro in January and he’s delighted with the way he has settled back into the Italian championship.
“Many good things have happened since I came here. I am finally happy and it is a delight to play and train,” he claimed.
“My physical condition is also still improving and I am close to reaching top form.”
The former Barcelona and PSV ace also moved to defend Adriano after the Inter man was allegedly involved in a recent nightclub altercation with an American basketball player.
“I was with him that night, but I left before he did,” he added. “While I was there nothing happened, but when I read the papers I called him and he swore there had been no fight.
“The things that are written about Adriano are often blown out of proportion, unfortunately at present he doesn’t feel that he is being protected by Inter.”
AS Roma vs. AC Milan - match preview
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Both Roma and Milan may have one eye on Europe but there’s still a tense battle in prospect as they clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening.
Roma’s task for the rest of the League season is to tread water in second place. With Inter now 18 points clear at the top, the Scudetto has long been a pipe dream and the priority is to ensure that their nine-point lead over third-placed city rivals Lazio stays intact.
While that doesn’t appear too demanding an objective, the Giallorossi won’t want to see the gap shrink before the Rome derby in Week 34 as defeat would ensure a nail-biting end to the season. Luciano Spalletti’s main worry here must be breaking down a tight Milan defence after his side were unable to rupture 10-man Fiorentina in Week 29’s stalemate.
Milan are running out of time in their bid to snatch a Champions League spot. Starting with an eight-point staggered start, the Rossoneri have clawed their way to within four points of the all-important final qualification spot but cannot afford any slip-ups now if they are to overhaul Palermo and fend off Empoli who are snapping at their heels.
Under-fire Carlo Ancelotti watched with relief as his side beat Atalanta 1-0 in Week 29 to help wash away the bitter memory of the derby defeat. However, despite a 15-game unbeaten run prior to the loss against Inter, a fifth-placed finish and the loss of Milan bragging rights will make for a miserable season unless Ancelotti can inspire a sprint finish to the campaign.
Roma upset Milan at the San Siro in Week 11 for the first time in 20 years thanks to a wonderful Francesco Totti brace. This time around a tight game looks likely – Roma have only conceded seven goals at the Olimpico all term and Milan have the best away defence in Serie A having only been breached 12 times. The pace may be affected by some tired legs with several players having played for the Azzurri against Scotland in mid-week. Both sides also have Champions League encounters to look forward to next week.
Spalletti has a strong squad but cannot call upon Matteo Ferrari who has a hip problem or long-term absentees Alberto Aquilani and Gilberto Martinez. Both Mirko Vucinic and Francesco Tavano are likely to start on the bench with Totti employed as a lone striker.
Milan’s recent selection problems are fading. Paolo Maldini is 50-50 with a knee injury and Kakha Kaladze will miss out, but Alessandro Nesta returns and Andrea Pirlo is available after serving a suspension. Daniele Bonera, who was dropped from the Italy squad to face Scotland, sits out once more as he has a one-match ban. Frustration continues to mount for Alberto Gilardino and Pippo Inzaghi who look set to warm the bench again with the Brazilian pair of Ronaldo and Ricardo Oliveira starting.
Man on fire: Simone Perrotta (Roma) – Has more than earned his Azzurri place in recent weeks. Having scored against Udinese in Week 28, only the brilliance of Sebastian Frey prevented him from being the hero against Fiorentina.
Last season: Roma 1-0 Milan
Form guide: Roma (W D D W D) Milan (W D W L W)
Maldini set to surrender?
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Milan captain Paolo Maldini has admitted that he may consider ending his career this summer if his knee problems persist.
The veteran, in his 23rd season with the San Siro outfit, has been suffering with fitness issues for some time and suffered a fresh setback against Inter on March 11 when he picked up another meniscus injury.
“The knee that I operated last year is doing well, but the other is now more or less in the same situation as the one that underwent surgery,” said Maldini on Tuesday.
“If things continue like this then it will be almost impossible to continue.
“Furthermore, this season has been far more intense as far as the number of games and the minutes played compared to last term.
“I have started this week well, working with the team despite the problems I had after the derby. We will see what happens.”
Although the 38-year-old wants to be as much use as possible to his beloved Rossoneri, he has accepted that he’s unable to stop the sands of time.
“I have also seen doctor Martens this week and he told me that I can forget about playing two games in a row,” he added.
“As for whether or not I will have to undergo more knee surgery, that depends on the swelling.”
Milan are confronted with a frantic end to the season and immediately face a couple of massive tasks when they will visit Roma and then host Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.
“I hope to be available for Roma or I would like to at least be on the bench,” continued the former Italy captain.
“Bayern are the same tough opponent as always, physically very strong, but I am optimistic about the Champions League.
“At this stage of the season Milan must show what they can do and we can’t be satisfied just yet. We must do even more than what we have done so far.
"As to finishing in fourth, it is closer than it was at the beginning of the season. It remains our minimum objective…”
Cruz ponders AC Milan option
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Julio Ricardo Cruz is reportedly ready to swap life on the bench at Inter for a career with city rivals Milan.
The striker is contracted to the San Siro outfit until 2008 but has yet to extend his deal, which has fuelled speculation that he may be considering a sensational transfer to the Rossoneri.
Despite often proving decisive when fielded by Inter boss Roberto Mancini, the 32-year-old Argentine has only played 10 Serie A matches this year, scoring five goals.
El Jardinero is eager for more first team football as a result, even though he will probably end this term with a Scudetto.
The former Feyenoord hitman would like to stay in Italy and Milan is an option, as the Rossoneri will need new blood upfront given the uncertain futures of Filippo Inzaghi and Ricardo Oliveira.
Cruz, who joined Inter in 2003 from Bologna following the loss of Hernan Crespo to Chelsea, could therefore become the latest Interista to directly move across the city after the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Giuseppe Favalli.
Bonera not feeling blue
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Daniele Bonera insists he wasn’t too disappointed to be dropped from the final Italy squad to face Scotland on Wednesday.
The Milan man was included in Roberto Donadoni’s initial 25-man party for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier, but was axed on Friday after the Coach whittled down his party to just 21 players.
“The national team makes you feel great,” noted the versatile former Parma defender. “I’m happy to be back in the Giro Azzurro, even if I won’t be travelling to Bari.
“Being in that squad is a positive and it is a magical environment, while wearing that shirt is something very special indeed.”
With his international commitments having come to a premature end, the ex-Brescia man is already focusing on Milan’s next Serie A match at Roma next weekend.
“It won’t be easy against Roma, especially because we are playing away from home,” he continued.
“However, some of our injured players are recovering and I think they will be ready for the closing months of the season.”
Milan are currently fifth in the League, four points shy of a Champions League spot.
Gattuso confident of Italy win
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Gennaro Gattuso is confident that Italy will beat Scotland in their Euro 2008 qualifying clash on Wednesday.
The Azzurri need to win the upcoming tie in Bari if they want to keep their qualifying hopes alive, but the Milan midfielder is sure that Italy can do well despite the strength of their opponents.
“I am sure they will have the same attitude showed by Celtic when they faced us in the Champions League,” said Gattuso.
“They will try to earn at least one point, but in any case it is better to face them rather than France or England,” added the Rossonero.
“We will need some luck, as the Scots had on Saturday against Georgia. We are mainly missing the two points dropped at home with Lithuania, but we can win.
“As to the other sides, I believe that Ukraine must not be underestimated, there will be four teams fighting for the qualification spots in this group.”
Gattuso also dismissed the latest reports suggesting that Roberto Donadoni might be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in the summer if they were to fail to winning their next match.
“Donadoni is a good Coach and knows his job. I understand the critics, our position in the table isn’t that good, but we can win on Wednesday and change things.
“Ancelotti is contracted until 2008, he isn’t an idiot and he would never want to take Donadoni’s place. He respects the current Coach very much, they also played together for many years,” concluded Rino.
Juan: Let me join AC Milan
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The Selecao is becoming a Rossoneri hunting ground after Juan also stated his desire to join Milan next season.
“My dream would be to join Milan,” he told the ‘Corriere dello Sport’. “They are a great club – the best, in fact.”
The central defender was on target in this weekend’s 4-0 friendly win over Chile and is eager to complete the San Siro Brazilian colony that already includes Nelson Dida, Kaka, Ronaldo, Serginho, Marcos Cafu and Ricardo Oliveira.
“It is a side packed with Brazilians and you can see their desire to get back to winning ways, much like Real Madrid.”
Juan currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen and turned 28 last month. He joined the Bundesliga outfit in 2002 for just over £2m.
“In all probability we will lose Juan,” conceded Bayer director and former Roma Coach Rudi Voeller. “It is not yet decided whether he will go to Roma or another southern European club.”
Milan have made no secret of their desire to increase their Brazilian contingent and the prime target is Barcelona’s Ronaldinho.
Milan buy Barca time for Ronaldinho
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Ronaldinho and Kaka combined beautifully for Brazil, but Adriano Galliani is trying to keep Milan in Barcelona’s good books.
The past few months have seen the Rossoneri repeatedly state that “If Ronaldinho leaves Barca, it will be to join Milan.”
However, for a player whose contract expires in 2010 and has a buy-out clause worth £84m, they are wary of rubbing the 2006 Champions League winners the wrong way.
“Right now I just want to focus on the players who are already at Milan and not think about Ronaldinho,” said the vice-President.
“I prefer to maintain a good rapport with Barcelona. They do not disturb us and we do not disturb them.”
Many of the big clubs have pacts to avoid a bidding war breaking out over joint targets and Milan have no intention of irritating the Blaugrana directors at such a delicate stage of negotiations.
This is particularly true in the wake of the Rossoneri reporting Real Madrid to FIFA for an illegal approach towards Kaka in the summer.
Kaka is set to be a key figure in the plan to entice Ronaldinho to Serie A and the two showed just what they can do together when Brazil beat Chile 4-0 in a friendly staged in Sweden.
Ronaldinho netted twice, including a debatable penalty, and Kaka volleyed in from nine yards. Juan finished off the rout in the second half.
Ze Roberto eyes AC Milan move
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Milan are becoming increasingly Brazilian, as reports suggest Santos star Ze Roberto will arrive in June.
“I will only make a decision after having finished the League and the Copa Libertadores,” he assured, although many believe the choice has already been made.
The midfielder may already be 32 years old, but he was the most impressive player for the Selecao in the 2006 World Cup.
He had been set for a move to the Rossoneri last July, only for an injury and consequent left knee surgery to nix the deal.
Ze Roberto has now fully recovered and is continuing to impress for Santos under former Selecao boss Wanderlei Luxemburgo in a new Fantasista role.
“In Europe they know me as a different player. It is better that way, as it means I can be three figures all in one.”
The South American is certainly no stranger to this continent, as he played in Germany for 10 years on the left flank, then moved to the centre for Brazil in an Andrea Pirlo-style position.
He penned a contract with Santos that only runs for 10 months, so he will be free to join the side of his choice in June 2007.
The search for a Pirlo alternative at Milan has been so far fruitless, with Johann Vogel and Yoann Gourcuff failing to adequately fill the role.
Nesta makes AC Milan comeback
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Alessandro Nesta and Serginho ended their injury nightmares by making their comebacks for the Milan Primavera team today and could face Roma.
“The test went well and now we are waiting for our Serie A return too,” said the Italian international.
Serginho is yet to feature this season and some thought his career was over due to a serious back problem, while Nesta has been out of action for three months.
Both were fielded in Coach Filippo Galli’s Primavera youth championship game against Cagliari today, in which the Rossoneri won 6-0. As there is no reserve team in Italy, injured players regain fitness with the youth side.
“If Carlo Ancelotti calls me, then I have no problem playing,” added Nesta. “I feel ready to play and I cannot wait to extend my contract with Milan.”
Ancelotti was in the stands and also seemed convinced that their injury nightmares are finally over.
“Both Nesta and Serginho went well after such long lay-offs. We will see how they work in training this week, but I believe they are ready for the game with Roma.”
That tie will be played next Saturday evening in a crucial battle for Champions League spots.
Ancelotti eyes Italy bench
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Carlo Ancelotti acknowledges he is looking to become Italy Coach, but is not going to rush Roberto Donadoni. “It’s an objective, but not now.”
Recent rumours suggest that Donadoni’s failure to beat Scotland on Wednesday would see him sacked during the summer and replaced by Ancelotti, with former Azzurri boss Marcello Lippi taking over at Milan.
“The Nazionale is an objective, even if not in the immediate future,” conceded Carletto. “It is certainly an aim of all Coaches to lead their own country. I hope it will be a little further on in my career.
“For the moment my future is certainly tied to Milan. I hope to stay here for many more years, because I am happy.”
However, Ancelotti is a divisive figure even at the San Siro. Just days after a similar package was sent to Inter headquarters, an envelope containing a bullet and insulting phrases towards the Coach and his players was sent to the Milan camp.
“I think what happened at Catania can comfortably be considered in a whole other dimension,” he said, recalling the February 2 riots in which police officer Filippo Raciti was killed.
“These are just nasty pranks done to get publicity and we must take them for what they are. At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less.”
The newspaper headlines are still packed with rumours of a summer bid for Ronaldinho, especially after the Brazilian commented that playing alongside Kaka would be wonderful.
“Ronaldinho is a dream for every club. Milan certainly like him, but so do many others, above all Barcelona.”
Ronaldinho invites AC Milan move
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Ronaldinho has spoken publicly about his hopes of joining Milan to play alongside Brazil teammate Kaka.
“I am happy at Barcelona, but in the future you never know what will happen,” said the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner.
The Rossoneri have made absolutely no secret of their intention to make a huge summer bid for Ronaldinho, with vice-President Adriano Galliani assuring they are “in super pole position should he leave Barca.”
Fellow Selecao stars Ronaldo and Kaka have also confirmed they rang up the player to recommend a move to the San Siro.
“It was a nice gesture,” he smiled. “Playing with Kaka is absolute pure joy.”
The two players are currently together for international duty in a tour of Sweden and it is the perfect opportunity to file away the final doubts.
“We have spoken about Milan and will do so again during this tour. But do not ask me for miracles,” confessed Kaka.
“I have many wonderful things to tell him, but after that it is down to the club to enter the fray.”
Milan are stepping up their bid for Ronaldinho after rumours that Inter were trying to intervene and snatch away the superstar.
Reports suggest that Nerazzurri director Marco Branca called up agent Roberto Assis – Ronaldinho’s brother and also agent of Milan striker Ricardo Oliveira – to discuss the possibility of their own proposal.
These claims were given credence by Rossoneri President Silvio Berlusconi. “If Ronaldinho leaves Barcelona, then we are taking him. The buy-out clause in his contract is not a problem. The important thing is to snatch him away from Inter.”
It’s believed that Ronaldinho’s buy-out clause for his contract that expires in 2010 is a staggering £84m.
Roma - AC Milan brought forward
24.3 || webmaster
The head to head battle for a top four place between Roma and Milan will be played on the evening of Saturday March 31.
The Stadio Olimpico is one of the stadiums that fits all the strict new security requirements, so there should be no appeal to have the game switched to an afternoon kick-off.
Reggina-Siena will also be played earlier that day, while the Serie A Week 30 closer is Udinese-Lazio on Sunday night.
Roma have also been told that their match with Catania in Week 31 will be at the Stadio Via del Mare in Lecce on Saturday April 7, 15.00 kick-off local time.
Catania must play all their games on neutral turf and behind closed doors until the end of the season following the Stadio Massimino riots on February 2.
The following kick-off times are for the UK.
Serie A Week 30
Saturday March 31
Sunday April 1
Serie B Week 32
Friday March 30
Saturday March 31
Cobolli Gigli confirms Buffon
24.3 || webmaster
Juventus President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli is certain that Gianluigi Buffon will remain with the Old Lady of Italian football.
The goalkeeper has been paired with a summer move and fuelled speculation that he might leave yesterday, by stating that he was willing to follow Marcello Lippi if he were to start a new job with an important club.
“When Buffon spoke about Lippi he was just praising his former Coach,” said Cobolli Gigli on Friday.
“He is a great champion and I am sure that he will just focus on the month of April, which is very important for us in order to secure our promotion to Serie A.
“After that, we will find a way to give him the motivation he needs for next season. I am sure he will stay with us.”
Buffon has reiterated in the past that he was willing to remain in Turin next season following their expected return to Serie A, so long as the club could build a competitive side.
Meanwhile, Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has again rubbished rumours that Buffon is still a target after Nelson Dida finally extended his deal with the Via Turati outfit.
“Buffon is an excellent player, but we confirmed our trust in Dida recently,” commented the former Lega Calcio chief. “He will still be our goalkeeper as he represents our future.”
Galliani also took the opportunity to dismiss links with Barcelona’s Gianluca Zambrotta and Mauro Camoranesi of Juventus.
“We went for Zambrotta along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic last summer, but we couldn’t sign them as we were not sure of our place in the Champions League,” he added.
“Therefore Zambrotta will not arrive and it is the same case for Camoranesi.”
Zambrotta denies AC Milan talks
23.3 || webmaster
Barcelona full-back Gianluca Zambrotta has denied speculation that he is set for a summer move to Milan. “This is science fiction,” he noted.
The former Juventus man was recently paired with the Rossoneri after seemingly opening the door for such a move to happen.
But the Italian international, currently training at Coverciano with the Azzurri, has distanced himself from a transfer.
“I never said that I wanted to leave Barcelona in order to play for Milan,” noted the former Como and Bari player.
“I only answered a question, stating that I have always liked the San Siro outfit, which is true,” added the world champion.
“However, stating that I will join them is science fiction. No one has offered me the chance of an Italian return.”
The versatile defender was close to joining Milan after the World Cup, but their involvement in Calciopoli saw Zambrotta opt for a foreign switch.
Zambrotta also recently underlined that he intended to honour his Barcelona contract until it expires in 2010, despite his initial problems in adapting to La Liga.
“I am not moving until the end of my current agreement,” he outlined. “I want to win all I can here and I will not leave. It wouldn’t be fair to do so after only one season.”
Kahn to miss AC Milan trip
23.3 || webmaster
Oliver Kahn will miss the first leg of the Champions League encounter with Milan after the Bayern Munich ace was banned for one game by UEFA.
The German goalkeeper was handed the 90-minute suspension for his behaviour after being called into the doping control centre following the Real Madrid tie.
The No 1 has conceded that he lost his temper at the time, but has refused to reveal as to exactly what occurred.
Kahn, who had sent a letter of apology to UEFA, was also handed a fine or around £9,000 with teammate Lucio – also present at the incident – netting a £4,000 punishment.
Both players may opt to appeal against the decisions.
Gilardino's AC Milan future uncertain
23.3 || webmaster
Alberto Gilardino hopes that Milan will show more trust in him in the future, stated the player’s agent.
The world champion signed a contract extension until 2011 in September, but has recently been paired with a summer move after struggling for much of this season with the Rossoneri.
“It would have been great if Milan had shown more trust in the player, it certainly would have helped him,” said the striker’s agent Beppe Bonetto.
“I think it’s too early to talk about the future, but we will have to discuss it with the club’s management.
“For the time being, I do not think that he will leave, he recently signed a new contract. In any case, we have no certainties on his future,” added the former Parma man’s representative.
Gilardino, who joined Milan in the summer of 2005 for £17m, has been linked with Juventus, where he might move in a swap deal including David Trezeguet, but is also a reported target for Fiorentina.
“I don’t think it would be fair to list our preference between these clubs, when the time comes we will evaluate the situation and make our decision,” concluded Bonetto.
Oliveira enjoys Brazil call
22.3 || webmaster
Milan striker Ricardo Oliveira could not hide his satisfaction after being included in Carlos Dunga’s Brazil squad.
The Rossonero had not initially been called-up for the matches with Chile and Ghana in Sweden, but will now replace Rafael Sobis, who’s knee injury has forced him to return to Betis.
The call-up follows the end of Oliveira’s sister’s kidnap, as the 35-year-old was found safe and well last week in Brazil after being abducted from her home in October and held for ransom.
“This is a very positive moment for me from a personal point of view,” the 26-year-old told the newspaper O Globo.
“This is a double joy for me, I am happy for Maria’s liberation and for the call-up for my national team. These past five months were very difficult, the worst in my entire life. I wasn’t able to work as I wanted.”
This is Oliveira’s second call-up since Dunga started to Coach the Selecao, after the friendly with Switzerland in November that ended with the South American side’s 2-1 win.
“This represents a new start for me, I am very happy and I can finally focus only on playing. This call-up is very special for me, it almost feels like the first one ever,” concluded the former Betis man.
Borriello feels betrayed
22.3 || webmaster
Marco Borriello’s ban for failing a drugs test has expired, but the young striker has slammed Milan for the way he was treated.
The Under-21 international tested positive for banned substances after the November 11 match with Roma, although he always professed his innocence.
“In my hometown of Naples, people went to my mother and told her that her son was a druggie. Those were terrible times.”
His girlfriend, model Belen Rodriguez, claimed the positive test resulted from a cortisone cream that she had given to him.
Borriello was suspended on December 21 and his ban expired today, but it is unlikely he will play again for the Rossoneri this season.
“The club excluded me from the Champions League squad list in January and that does disappoint me,” he revealed.
“Now I hope that the Coach will use a little common sense, perhaps giving me a few more chances to play in Serie A.”
Donadoni in Ancelotti's shadow
22.3 || webmaster
A defeat to Scotland could end Roberto Donadoni’s Azzurri tenure and bring in Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti from next season, insist reports.
The former Livorno Coach only took charge of the Italy squad in the summer after their World Cup win, but is already under immense pressure due to his record of a draw, a defeat and two wins in Euro 2008 qualifying.
If he does not take all three points against joint Group B leaders Scotland next Wednesday, Donadoni’s future and their hopes of reaching the tournament could be compromised.
Reports in the Italian papers today suggest that Milan Coach Ancelotti has already been picked to take over next season if there is failure at the Stadio San Nicola.
It would be another former member of Arrigo Sacchi’s Grande Milan taking on the bench after Donadoni.
In a curious twist, the media believes Ancelotti’s replacement at San Siro will be World Cup winning tactician Lippi.
However, FIGC Extraordinary Commissioner Luca Pancalli has defended Donadoni and urged for an end to this speculation.
“I have full faith in the Coach, just as the entire squad,” he assured. “What the Nazionale needs now is a relaxed atmosphere.”
Pancalli has already stated he will not be a candidate for the permanent job of Federation President, which has to be decided before the hosts of the Euro 2012 tournament are assigned.
“I have never even considered remaining. I will not deny, however, that if Italy are given the games then I would be happy to make myself useful in any way.
“This would not only be a sporting event, one that Italy have already proved they are excellent at organising, but also the opportunity to rediscover the credibility that our football is currently searching for.”
AC Milan suffer Van Bommel setback
22.3 || webmaster
Bayern Munich’s Mark Van Bommel will play in the Champions League return leg against Milan after having his two-match ban cut.
The Dutchman was suspended by UEFA as a result of his dismissal for a second yellow card in the knockout round second leg victory against Real Madrid.
However, the suspension was increased to two games after he was found guilty of making inappropriate gestures toward supporters after scoring his side’s second goal in the first leg in Spain.
As a result, the experienced international was all set to miss both quarter-final ties against Milan, scheduled for April 3 and 11.
But Bayern opted to appeal against the punishment and they were successful which means Van Bommel will now have the chance to play in the Munich showdown.
“This is great news for us in view of our duel with Milan,” said Bayern Munich Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld this afternoon.
“Mark is a decisive player for us and for our tactics. I’m delighted that he will play in at least one match for us against Milan.”
Ribery eyes Italian job
22.3 || webmaster
Marseille midfielder Franck Ribery has admitted that he would be happy to move to Italy during the summer.
“At the end of the season I will speak to the club’s management and I will tell them that I want to move to a foreign League,” said the fantasista. “Italy is certainly my preferred destination.”
The 23-year-old, who is considered as Zinedine Zidane’s successor for Les Bleus, played a vital role in France’s run to the World Cup Final last summer and instantly won admirers all over Europe.
Ribery remained with OM this term even though it now seems likely that he’s heading out of Ligue 1 in the near future.
Whispers suggest that the player has already found an agreement with President Pape Diouf, who has previously admitted that Serie A would allow the player to fully express his talents.
The Frenchman, a starlet who is also being monitored by Real Madrid, Arsenal, Bayern Monaco and Milan, is contracted to his current club until 2010.
However, Juventus could win the race for his signature as boss Didier Deschamps is a massive fan of the £14m-rated attacking midfielder.
There is one major hurdle though which could see Ribery’s Serie A dream evaporate should Marseille be bought by a new owner.
Businessman Jacques Kachkar has been in talks to buy the Stade Velodrome outfit and he would be keen to keep Ribery at the club.
Milan double Zambrotta-Ronaldinho swoop?
21.3 || webmaster
Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani has reiterated that they are in “super pole position” for Ronaldinho, but Gianluca Zambrotta could be included in the huge deal.
The Rossoneri have repeatedly stated this season that if the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner should go for a change of scenery, there would be only one option.
“I don’t think that Barcelona will let Ronaldinho go, but if they do decide to sell, he will certainly come to Milan and not any other club,” stated Galliani this evening at the ‘Milan Business Forum’.
“We are in super pole position for the player and President Silvio Berlusconi will not hold back in his attempts to sign Ronaldinho.”
The Brazilian’s links with Milan – complete with Kaka, Ronaldo and Ricardo Oliveira publicly calling for his move – are nothing new, but there are developments.
According to the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’, Barcelona could be tempted by a huge transfer swoop for Ronaldinho and teammate Zambrotta.
The former Juventus full-back was all set to join the San Siro giants after the World Cup, but told the media he was pushed into choosing an overseas option following the Calciopoli demotion.
He has found life difficult at the Nou Camp and told another Italian magazine this week that the future is not in La Liga.
“It is my dream to end my career in Italy,” said Zambrotta in ‘Chi’. “Barcelona are my favourite foreign club, but in Italy I really like Milan. Last summer I was very close to joining the Rossoneri.
“I am 30 years old and don’t have that many seasons still ahead of me. I would be sorry to leave Barca immediately, but in football you never know.”
Ronaldo makes Milan pledge
20.3 || webmaster
Ronaldo has pledged his future to Milan after an impressive start to life in the Rossoneri shirt.
“Milan is the present and the future for me. I love playing in this jersey and I want to win things here,” he told CNN.
Speaking from Marseille where he will take part in UNICEF’s ‘Match Against Poverty’ between a team of his friends and a side chosen by Zinedine Zidane, Il Fenomeno explained his decision to leave Real Madrid for the Diavoli.
“I needed to carry on playing football at the highest level and Milan gave me an enormous opportunity,” he stated.
“It’s a great world-class club playing on the biggest stage.”
Despite doubts over his fitness upon his arrival in January, Ronaldo has already found the net three times in just seven starts – including a goal against his former employers Inter – and has injected life into a stuttering attack.
The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year was booed with every touch in Week 28’s Derby della Madonnina which ended in a disappointing 2-1 defeat, but he remains philosophical about his relationship with the Milanese public.
“I was just focused on the game with everything else is in the background,” he stressed.
“Of course I wasn’t happy with the reception I got from the Inter fans, but I’m used to looking forward instead of backwards.”
Dida pleased to extend
20.3 || webmaster
Milan goalkeeper Nelson Dida is pleased to have finally renewed his contract with the Rossoneri.
The Brazilian’s deal was set to expire in June and there were strong reports hinting that he was set for a summer move.
However, the Diavoli No 1 agreed to a new deal with the Via Turati outfit ten days ago, committing his future to Milan until 2010.
“I am very happy about the new contract. We finally found an agreement, that is what I wanted,” said Dida before leaving for Marseille, where he is scheduled to play a charity match.
“I will play here for the next three years and I will do my best for this team,” added the ‘keeper.
Dida also confirmed that he remained calm in the past few months, despite his initial refusal to renegotiate financial terms with the club, and wants to continue working hard and giving his all for Milan.
“I have always trained calmly and I will continue doing so. I want to prove my affection for this team,” concluded Dida.
Kaka calls Ronaldinho
20.3 || webmaster
Milan star Kaka has admitted he might try to convince Ronaldinho to move to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
The Barcelona man is a known target for next year and was reportedly closer to joining Serie A after his brother and agent Roberto Assis was sighted in Milan last week.
However, Barca Vice-President Ferran Soriano has since denied those claims, describing the reports as ‘groundless’.
“I haven’t spoken to Ronaldinho yet, but I will see him next week when the Seleçao play the friendlies against Chile and Ghana,” Kaka told Sky Italia.
“What will I tell him? First of all I will see what his questions are. Then I will explain that Milan is a great club and I will maybe try to convince him to come here,” added the Brazilian.
Teammate Ronaldo had also urged ‘Dinho to move to the San Siro next season in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS last week.
“Ronaldinho is a friend of mine and I would be happy to have him here. I am sure he would like it at Milan and he would adapt well to the club’s way of working,” stated the former Real Madrid man.
“I haven’t spoken to him personally, but I know that both President Silvio Berlusconi and Vice-President Adriano Galliani have stated that Milan would be in pole position if Ronaldinho were to leave Barcelona.”
Assis’ presence in Italy fuelled speculation that the player might be on the verge of a sensational move, although the agent denied that there are any problems with his brother’s current outfit.
“Nothing has changed between us and Barcelona, the relationship remains excellent,” said Assis. “Everyone knows that I was in Italy, but only to talk about Ricardo Oliveira.”
Galliani cautious on Carletto
19.3 || webmaster
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has stated that Carlo Ancelotti’s job relies on his results this season.
The tactician is in his sixth year with the Rossoneri and both Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard have been paired with their former club.
Ancelotti insisted over the weekend that he wanted to be the club’s Sir Alex Ferguson with a 20-year spell on the bench, but the San Siro officials may have other ideas.
“We have always felt a deep affection for Ancelotti, since he was one of our players,” Galliani told Sky Italia.
“However, it is logical and evident that the confirmation of any Coach depends on the results he achieves, it has always been this way,” added the former Lega Calcio chief.
Milan are currently in fifth place after the 1-0 home win over Atalanta, but the Via Turati club has already started planning their next signings, which Galliani explains are discussed with the team veterans.
“Milan are a democratic club, the new signings are agreed to by the management, the Coach and the veterans,” explained the official.
“I have always asked Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta their opinion before buying a new player, I think that is normal.
“That is how it works here, club, Coach and veterans, so no one can blame only one of the parties involved if things don’t work out as expected,” concluded the Rossonero.
AC Milan 1:0 Atalanta - match report
18.3 || webmaster
Scorer: Ambrosini 40 (M)
Massimo Ambrosini's header proved enough to get Milan back on track against the Orobici.
The pressure was mounting on Carlo Ancelotti after the derby defeat and he faced another local rival from nearby Bergamo. Inter ended Milan's 15-match unbeaten run and Andrea Pirlo was suspended along with the injured Paolo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze, Alessandro Nesta and Serginho. Atalanta had drawn three of their last four trips to San Siro, but had Nicola Ventola, Davide Bombardini, Riccardo Zampagna and Christian Vieri out of action, so Coach Stefano Colantuono had to reinvent Cristiano Doni as a centre-forward.
Atalanta had the first chance when Ferreira Pinto got away from Marek Jankulovski down the right and Marino Defendi failed to give accuracy to his header. Ricardo Oliveira's goal was correctly disallowed for an offside position.
Massimo Oddo's cross found Massimo Ambrosini clear at the back post, but Alex Calderoni rushed out and his acrobatic attempt was wide. Ricardo Oliveira completed the Brazilian trident attack and smashed a fierce effort round the upright.
Milan wasted an incredible scoring opportunity. Oddo's cross found Ronaldo, but his shot was charged down from six yards and Oliveira thumped the follow-up over with Calderoni already to ground.
The former Betis Seville star was again disappointing from Kaka's assist, firing straight at the goalkeeper when he was sent through clear on goal. Ronaldo had been extremely quiet, but on 39 minutes he sprung to life with a slalom run that Calderoni tipped out. From the resulting Kaka corner, specialist Ambrosini rose for a glancing header.
Ronaldo threaded through for Kaka's shot deflected and Calderoni beat away a Ricardo Oliveira snapshot. However, Atalanta were livelier in the second half and Simone Loria's header whistled wide.
Kaka battled through two defenders inside the area and, from the ground, managed to flick up a cross over his head for Ronaldo, intercepted by the goalkeeper.
Milan couldn't seem to kill off the game and Alberto Gilardino saw his fine strike pushed over the bar by an outstretched Calderoni arm.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Bonera, Simic, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Brocchi (Favalli 77); Kakà; Ricardo Oliveira (Seedorf 72), Ronaldo (Gilardino 81)
Atalanta: Calderoni; Rivalta (Ariatti 85), Talamonti, Loria, Bellini; Bernardini, Donati (Cisse' 75), Migliaccio; Ferreira Pinto (Tissone 59), Defendi; Doni
Ancelotti: I'll be AC Milan's Sir Alex
18.3 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti shook off questions about his future by saying he wants to be Milan’s Sir Alex Ferguson with a 20-year tenure on the bench.
“You make choices in your life in a bid to improve. Seeing as I believe I’m already with the best club in the world, I have not thought about the possibility of going elsewhere,” he told the media who have repeatedly linked him with Real Madrid and Barcelona.
This is his sixth year with the Rossoneri and Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, according to the Italian Press, have considered his job.
“I am very happy in Italy and have the good fortune to work with a club that respects and appreciates me. From a professional standpoint, this place gives me great motivation. That is why I confirm I would like to be Milan’s Ferguson.”
The other big club in Ancelotti’s playing career was Roma and he makes no bones about who he hopes will win the Old Trafford Champions League quarter-final.
“The Red Devils have been playing some of the best football in the competition, but they will not reach the Final. I don’t know if they’ll go out in the quarters or the semis, but you know full well I’ll be shamelessly supporting Roma in the next round.”
The Rossoneri are also through to the quarter-finals and will face Bayern Munich, but Ancelotti is facing a tactical mutiny from Clarence Seedorf, who protested at his wide role.
“We have played with a lone striker many times, using Kaka just behind, for instance against Celtic and Palermo. I know Seedorf’s feelings on the matter because there is free speech at Milan and we have often discussed it.
“I know his desire to play behind the forwards, but I also realise that he has always played in other roles with great effectiveness. Kaka loves to run into space, so for him a pure striker position is unsuitable.”
Nelson Dida has been welcomed back to the fold after finally extending his contract – which was set to expire this summer – but still earned a reprimand from the Coach.
“Dida let this whole contract issue hang in the air for a long time – probably too long. An unusual situation was created, but now Dida has agreed to stay and did not have any agreement with other clubs. He is an excellent goalkeeper, even if he has made a few too many mistakes recently.”
Milan are without Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Serginho and Kakha Kaladze for today’s game with Atalanta.
Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Favalli, Grimi, Jankulovski, Oddo, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka’, Seedorf; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Ricardo Oliveira, Ronaldo
Maldini 'fit for Bayern clash'
18.3 || webmaster
Specialists have told Paolo Maldini he could be ready for the first leg of the quarter-final with Bayern Munich.
The Milan captain suffered a new left knee setback during the Milan derby and there were fears he could require surgery for the persistent problem.
However, the club website announced he had visited specialist Professor Marc Martens in Belgium and that an operation would not be necessary.
The medic recommended continuing with physiotherapy to solve the issue and, although “the situation will be monitored daily,” it’s believed Maldini can be back within six weeks.
The defender can therefore be ready for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich on April 3.
Alessandro Nesta is expected to return this weekend after several months out with a shoulder injury, while Serginho is also close to a comeback following a groin strain.
Seedorf denies Ancelotti rift
17.3 || webmaster
Clarence Seedorf denies he is at loggerheads with Carlo Ancelotti and gave a mixed reception to the potential arrival of Ronaldinho.
“I always respect Ancelotti’s decisions,” insisted the Milan midfielder. “I may not always agree with him, but I do give him my support. The players must do their best to give the Coach what he asks for.”
The former Inter and Ajax man has repeatedly been caught having a touchline argument with his tactician, but assures there is nothing rebellious about it.
“I always put the team first. I play with a clear conscience, thinking what is best for the squad. I can make mistakes, when I hear people say I am a ‘slow midfielder’ I tell them to ask my opponents what they think about my pace. I take praise and criticism equally, as I know I act in service of Milan.”
Nonetheless, there is still some tension between the two men in terms of tactics, above all the recent switch back to a Christmas Tree formation with Kaka as support striker.
“This side has always shown great character. I come from the Dutch school of attacking football, but with a combination of attack and defence Milan have done extremely well in recent years. When it is necessary, we must all adapt. I would like to play behind the strikers with Kaka in front, but Ancelotti always explains his decisions.”
The Rossoneri had their 15-match Serie A unbeaten run ended by rivals Inter in the 2-1 derby defeat last week, but ex-Real Madrid man Seedorf is confident they can get right back on track.
“There is a reason why Milan have been the most competitive club in Europe over the last five years. It’s that we all put the team as our priority – the complete opposite of what happened at Real Madrid.”
After Ronaldo’s arrival, the San Siro giants have made it clear their next La Liga target is Barcelona’s Ronaldinho.
“He is a friend of mine and I am his fan, so it would be wonderful to have him at Milan. The real question here is – do we need him or not? The choice is not up to me.”
Seedorf showed admirable fair play when asked to look back on their ‘failures’ this term, including losing both derbies for the first time since 1981-82.
“We went out of the Coppa Italia and lost against Inter, but these are acceptable defeats. You have to hold up your hands and admit when your opponent plays better. Our objectives remain the same, though – third place in Serie A and the Champions League Final.”
Bayern duo banned at AC Milan?
16.3 || webmaster
Oliver Kahn and Lucio have been charged by UEFA for “improper conduct” during a doping test and could be suspended for the quarter-final against Milan.
The official website states that the two players “were found to have breached basic rules of good conduct” in a post-match doping control after the second leg victory over Real Madrid in Munich last week.
Bayern won that game 2-1, progressing to the next phase of the competition on the away goals rule, 4-4 on aggregate.
The German club is set to face Milan in the quarter-finals on April 3 and 11, but the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body will give its verdict on March 22.
It is possible both goalkeeper Kahn and Brazilian defender Lucio – who scored in that game – will be suspended.
Bayern will already be without Mark Van Bommel, who was handed a one-match ban for using an offensive gesture towards the Real Madrid fans in the Bernabeu.
Kaka makes AC Milan pledge
16.3 || webmaster
Milan star Kaka has reiterated that he is happy at Milan and does not want to leave, despite Real Madrid’s courtship.
The Brazilian was paired with the Merengues last summer, when the Spanish giants first started their moves to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu, despite Milan’s statements that the 24-year-old was not for sale.
Real Madrid renewed their interest in the player recently, but Kaka reassured the Rossoneri fans that he is going nowhere.
“Milan and this city are very important for me, more from a human point of view than as a footballer,” said the attacking midfielder, who is contracted to the club until 2011.
“I have only played in two sides, Sao Paulo and Milan. I feel affection for the clubs I represent, I am a faithful person when it comes to football, just like I am with my friends and my wife,” added ‘Ricky’.
“Last year I renewed my deal to show that I wanted to stay. I play in a team that I like.
“I want to give my all for Milan and I would like to be remembered in the club’s history as one of the players who have won a great deal. In any case, I want to tell the supporters that I will see them all next year.”
Kaka is only one of the Rossoneri’s Brazilians and he admitted that he was pleased after Ronaldo’s arrival at the San Siro in January.
“He has always been an example for me, I grew up looking at him and today I am very excited to be able to play beside him. Football is a special sport, especially for the strong emotions it can give you,” concluded Kaka.
Meanwhile, Chelsea star Andriy Shevchenko rang up the ‘Milan Channel’ programme to wish Kaka all the best for this season. The two players said they hoped to meet again in Athens for the Champions League Final.
Ronaldo makes Ronaldinho call
16.3 || webmaster
Ronaldo has urged Brazilian international teammate Ronaldinho to join him at Milan next season.
The Barcelona star is a known Rossoneri transfer objective and reports are gathering pace that ‘Dinho is on the verge of what would be a sensational switch.
“Ronaldinho is a friend of mine and I would be happy to have him here,” said Ronaldo in an interview to AS.
“I am sure he would like it at Milan and he would adapt well to the club’s way of working,” added the former Real Madrid man.
“I haven’t spoken to him personally, but I know that both [President] Silvio Berlusconi and [Vice-President] Adriano Galliani have stated that Milan would be in pole position if Ronaldinho were to leave Barcelona.”
Ronaldinho’s brother and agent Roberto Assis was in Milan on Tuesday and met Rossoneri officials, fuelling speculation that the player might be close to moving to Italy.
“Nothing has changed between us and Barcelona, the relationship remains excellent,” noted Assis. “Everyone knows that I was in Italy, but only to talk about Ricardo Oliveira.”
Meanwhile, Ronaldo has dismissed speculation that Kaka could consider a move at the end of the season to Real Madrid.
“I think that transfer would be impossible,” noted the former Barcelona star.
Kaladze eyes European triumph
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Milan stopper Kakha Kaladze has no doubts about what the club need to achieve this season. “We have to lift the European Cup,” he noted.
The Rossoneri have had a difficult campaign which has been affected by their eight-point Calciopoli deduction and poor form, but they are still in the Champions League and Kaladze has European ambitions.
“Our objective is to be at 100 per cent for the Champions League,” noted the experienced Georgian international.
“This is a decisive stage of the season. Domestically we have to keep winning to make sure we finish in the top four, while in Europe we must lift the Cup.”
However, reaching the Athens Final will be tough enough with Bayern Munich up next. They will then meet either Roma or Manchester United in the last four if successful.
“We know Bayern very well,” added the former Dynamo Kiev ace. “They haven’t changed that much from last season [when Milan won 5-2 on aggregate].”
Kaladze has spent the last few weeks of the season in the treatment room, but he’s on the verge of a return.
“I’m getting better all of the time, even if I’m still not feeling really good,” continued the defender. “But I’m sure everything will be sorted with me physically after the international break.”
Belletti snubs AC Milan option
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Juliano Belletti is unlikely to join Milan after the defender signed a new contract with European champions Barcelona.
The Argentine was being strongly linked with a move to Milan at the end of the season, but he’s today committed his future to the Spanish giants.
Belletti secured himself a place in the Nou Camp history books last May when he scored the winner in the Champions League Final against Arsenal.
The 30-year-old right-back came off the bench in Paris to net his first Barcelona goal in their memorable 2-1 win.
"Everyone here has told me that what happened in Paris was the fruit of my professionalism," the stopper said after putting pen to paper until 2009.
"I believe it is for this reason, and not just for scoring that goal, that the club have extended my contract."
Barcelona netted Belletti from Spanish rivals Villarreal in 2004 when he jumped at their offer of a four-year contract in Catalonia.
Barca deny Ronaldinho claims
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Barcelona Vice-President Ferran Soriano has described the reports that Ronaldinho could join Milan as ‘groundless’.
The Italian press claimed on Wednesday that the player’s brother and agent Roberto Assis had met Milan representatives the day before, confirming them as the double FIFA World Player of the Year’s preferred destination.
“All rumours about Ronaldinho’s transfer to Milan are a joke,” Soriano told Radio Catalogna.
“Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani stated that the news was not true and that they are not interested in buying Ronaldinho,” added the Nou Camp official.
“In any case, we are not a club which is keen on selling and we believe that none of our players want to leave,” concluded Soriano.
Galliani in fact preferred to play it cool, as he is eager to avoid the confrontations he had with Real Madrid last summer when they courted Kaka through the media.
“I don’t want to put pressure on anyone, Ronaldinho still has three years on his contract and I don’t think there are any problems with the club,” stated the Rossonero.
“If he decides to change he knows that Milan are here, ready to welcome him, but I do not want another Kaka situation,” explained the former Lega Calcio chief.
Robinho invites AC Milan approach
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Milan approached Robinho before settling for Ronaldo, revealed the striker, but he is ready to reconsider the move this summer.
The Rossoneri looked at several options to reinforce their front line in January and the 24-year-old Brazilian had been suggested as a potential target.
Now Robinho himself has told website Globoesporte.com that it was more than a simple rumour in the Press.
“During the January transfer window Milan came looking for me,” he explained. “Real Madrid chose to keep me, so the Italian club turned its attention towards Ronaldo.”
It may be considered quite a snub that Il Fenomeno was not first choice in the Real squad, but the two could end up being teammates again at San Siro.
“If things keep going like this, I think it will be difficult for me to stay in Madrid. I would go elsewhere and try to find more space.”
That club could well be Milan, who are said to be unsatisfied with the progress shown by Alberto Gilardino and Ricardo Oliveira this term.
Although Ronaldinho has repeatedly been named as the primary target, it won’t be easy to tempt him away from Barcelona.
Robinho had been linked to Milan when he was still at Santos in the summer of 2005, although he has found life tough under Fabio Capello’s regime.
“He does not have faith in me. If he did, then I would be a first team player, not a reserve. It’s only logical and I take nothing back,” continued the fiery youngster.
“I was asked if I was happy and I said yes because I live in a nice house in a lovely city. But I am only truly happy on the field and no player can be when he is only allowed a few minutes in the second half.”
Nesta snubs Lazio reunion
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Alessandro Nesta has again dismissed rumours of a Lazio return by insisting he wants to end his career at Milan.
The stopper, who is recovering from a shoulder injury which has sidelined him since November 26, has been constantly paired with the Biancocelesti – a club he left in 2002 after a nine-season spell.
“I have already made it clear to Milan that I want to return to action and finish my career here,” he insisted.
“I don’t know how many more years I will be able to play for, but I will do so here for as long as I can.
“After I recover my best condition, we will sit down and talk about a new contract. Rome is my home, but Milan have given a lot to me and I want to end my career here.
“Renewing a contract with an injured player would not be a good investment for a club, that is why I want to play as soon as possible.”
Nesta is eager to put his boots on again and is hoping that could be as soon as Sunday when the Rossoneri host Atalanta at the San Siro.
“I hope to return quickly, maybe even by Sunday. I am working hard to recover my physical condition and as soon as the Coach sees me doing well then I am sure he will use me,” he added.
“My objective is to return to the field of play, but above all else to recover my best shape. I really miss football and the wonderful nights at the San Siro.
“As for Sunday’s match, if the Coach thinks I can be useful he will put me on the bench.
“I have also spoken to Roberto Donadoni as I think I can still play for the Nazionale, but we will see how things go. We must evaluate the situation day by day.”
Serginho set to return
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Versatile Milan ace Serginho says he is ready to make an impact for the Rossoneri in the closing months of the season.
The Brazilian has had an injury-plagued campaign and hasn’t played since a hernia operation in December, but his return to action seems imminent.
“I am working hard so that I can return as soon as possible,” he told Milan Channel. “At this point the most important news is that my back doesn’t hurt any more.
“I am not yet on top form and I still have a lot of work to do in the gym.
“I would say that I will probably be available after the international break rather than for this weekend’s game against Atalanta,” added the attacking defender.
“Not being able to give my contribution to the team has been tough as I had never been out for so long before.
“Now though the toughest moment of my career is over and I am totally focused on my daily work. I can’t wait to play again.”
Milan will need as many options as possible to them seeing as Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Inter saw their 15-match unbeaten run come to an end.
“We have been doing well and we weren’t lucky in the derby,” he added. “It was a tough defeat, but it absolutely doesn’t change what we have accomplished so far.
“We were doing well and we must continue on this path. We have two fundamental objectives in front of us – the Champions League and fourth place in Serie A.”
AC Milan close in on Ronaldinho
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Ronaldinho has moved closer to a sensational Milan switch after his brother and agent met Rossoneri officials on Tuesday.
Roberto Assis, who also represents Ricardo Oliveira, flew into the Italian city to officially speak with Oliveira after his kidnapped sister was found safe and well.
However, Assis also dined with Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani and sporting director Ariedo Braida where they are understood to have discussed his brother’s future.
The Corriere dello Sport reports that the two parties involved are close to reaching an agreement over personal terms, even if convincing Barcelona – who have ‘Dinho under contract until 2011 – to sell is a different matter.
Nevertheless, the newspaper suggested that Assis and Galliani have agreed on a pact which would guarantee Ronaldinho’s move to Milan if he were to leave the Blaugrana.
“Barcelona deserve all our respect, there are no problems and we have an excellent relationship with them,” said Assis.
“My brother, however, cannot deny that he likes Milan. There are many Brazilian players here who form a family and always welcome him warmly, how could you not do the same?”
Galliani, though, is playing it cool and is keen to avoid the kind of confrontations he had with Real Madrid in the summer after they openly courted Kaka through the media.
“I don’t want to put pressure on anyone, Ronaldinho still has three years on his contract and I don’t think there are any problems with the club,” he stated.
“If he decides to change he knows that Milan are here, ready to welcome him, but I do not want another Kaka situation.”
President Silvio Berlusconi, who has made no secret of his wish to see ‘Dinho wear Milan’s jersey, also confirmed that his dream might be close to coming true.
“Ronaldinho could join us and there is a good chance that this will happen,” underlined the former Italian Prime Minister.
Relieved Oliveira praises AC Milan
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Ricardo Oliveira has thanked Milan for their total support during his sister’s kidnapping ordeal. “Now I want to prove my true value,” he noted.
The former Real Betis hitman joined the Rossoneri last summer, but has failed to make an impact so far – a fact not helped by his sister’s abduction in Brazil last October.
However, Maria de Lourdes Silva de Oliveira was found safe and well on Tuesday and Oliveira is looking forward to getting back to reality.
“I have finally received this good news from Brazil and I am happy that she is doing well,” said the 26-year-old.
“I want to thank the fans, my teammates, the President and everyone for how great they have been during this difficult period.
“I didn’t know if my sister was alive or if she was okay, but now I can finally focus on playing football for this side,” continued the striker.
“I want to do everything I can to repay this club for what it has done for me. I want to say thank you to Milan because they have been really great with me.”
Rumours had suggested that Oliveira’s San Siro stint would be brief given his lack of form, but Vice-President Adriano Galliani confirmed on Tuesday that the Brazilian will remain at the club next season.
“Now I will certainly be more relaxed and will be able to do better on the field of play,” added the Brazilian international.
“I will try to do what people are expecting of me. I want to prove to everyone that I was a good signing.”
Milan will host Atalanta over the weekend, as the fight for a Champions League spot continues, although the defeat in the derby has left the Rossoneri six points shy of fourth-placed Palermo.
Oliveira's abducted sister found
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Ricardo Oliveira is flying high on Tuesday after it was confirmed that his sister’s five-month kidnap ordeal has come to an end.
Maria de Lourdes Silva de Oliveira had been taken from her Sao Paolo home in October, to be held for ransom, after two masked men tied up her husband and eight-year-old son.
Thankfully the 35-year-old has now been found safe and well as the Milan website has confirmed this morning.
“I’m very happy, just as happy as Ricardo when he told me that his sister was finally free and was doing well,” said Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani.
“I told him that we are all supporting him and that we are counting on him.
“He is a great player as we see what he does in training. As Carlo Ancelotti says, we are sure that he will also soon prove his talent in official matches.
“He will certainly stay next year and I believe that time will confirm that he was an excellent buy for us.”
Oliveira was the second Milan player to be caught up in a kidnap case. Kakha Kaladze’s younger brother was also abducted in Georgia on May 23, 2001, but the 21-year-old was unfortunately found dead.
Maldini survives surgery threat
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Paolo Maldini’s latest knee injury will not require surgery – but the Milan man may still be out of action for up to six weeks.
The veteran has been suffering with knee problems for some time and ended Sunday’s 2-1 derby defeat in visible pain after damaging his meniscus yet again.
The defender underwent a series of scans on Monday and Milan’s medical staff confirmed with a note on their website that an operation is currently not needed.
“Maldini is feeling better and is in less pain,” explained an official Via Turati statement.
“His situation will be followed closely over the next 48 hours and only after that period will it be possible to make a prognosis on the time needed for his full recovery and return to action.”
Maldini has admitted that this latest setback does worry him in such a crucial stage of the season for his beloved club.
Whispers around Milanello are suggesting that Maldini is likely to miss the Champions League last eight ties against Bayern Munich on April 3 and 11.
Milan suffer Maldini blow
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Milan have suffered a severe blow, as captain Paolo Maldini will be sidelined for at least six weeks after damaging his meniscus.
The Rossonero, who celebrated his 600th Serie A appearance in Sunday’s derby defeat to Inter, might need to undergo surgery after the problem in his left knee deteriorated recently.
The former Italy international, in his 23rd season at Milan, has been suffering with knee problems for some time, fuelling speculation that he might end his extraordinary career at the end of the current term.
Maldini, 38, is expected to undergo additional scans on Monday, although it seems likely that the defender will need to be operated on and is set for a six-week stop.
Reports suggest that the player could be treated by Doctor Marc Martens, an orthopaedics specialist who already operated on him last season.
The legendary stopper, who has not yet decided what he will do after hanging up his boots, has won seven Scudetti with the Rossoneri and 126 caps for the Nazionale over 14 years, an all-time Italy record.
Rijkaard set for AC Milan?
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Frank Rijkaard could leave Barcelona for Milan at the end of the season, according to reports in Italy.
The Dutch tactician is allegedly looking for a house in Milan, fuelling speculation that he might replace Carlo Ancelotti on the San Siro bench.
Rijkaard is contracted to the Blaugrana until 2008, but his deal has a clause which would allow him to leave the Nou Camp one year in advance.
The defeat in Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina has also increased the chances of seeing Ancelotti end his relationship with the Via Turati outfit in the summer.
“I believe my future here depends on the results I will obtain,” admitted the Rossoneri Coach.
“I would like to stay here for many years, but I know how things go in football,” added the tactician, who joined Milan in 2001.
It is believed that much will depend on Milan’s future in the Champions League, as well as their qualification for next season’s competition.
Yesterday’s defeat left the Diavoli six-points shy of the top four and only a victory in the Athens Final in May might convince the Rossoneri management to extend the Coach’s stay.
Rijkaard had already been linked with the Via Turati club, as he is allegedly tired of the tension between himself and the dressing room.
If the news were to be confirmed, reports suggest that Ancelotti might move in the opposite direction to La Liga, with Real Madrid allegedly interested in the Coach’s services.
Carletto praises Ronaldo
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Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti was impressed with Ronaldo’s performance in the derby and believes he can still improve.
The Rossoneri were defeated 2-1 by Inter in Sunday’s match at the San Siro, after the Brazilian scored the opening goal against his former club, confirming that he is slowly returning to his best.
“I have always admired him as a player and working with him has strengthened my opinion that he is a great footballer, with a unique talent,” Ancelotti told Rai Radio Anch’io Sport.
“He has never played with great continuity, but when he gives his best he is decisive. I think he can still improve his condition.
“Next year he will be at his top, but I must say that I am already glad to see him playing like he did yesterday, with great motivation,” added the former midfielder.
“Ronaldo is an important man and he will be even more so next year. In any case, we are pleased with what he has done so far.”
The Rossonero also commented on Nelson Dida’s performance, as the Brazilian goalkeeper was accused by some of not doing his best to prevent Julio Cruz’s equaliser.
“Dida has made some mistakes this year, but this one is not that serious, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross was very strong,” explained Ancelotti.
“If we had had the strength needed to keep control of the match, the mistake would have had no influence on the final result,” concluded the Rossonero.
Milan are currently sixth in the table with 40 points, six points shy of a Champions League spot.
Ancelotti loses sight of European spot
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Carlo Ancelotti concedes that fourth place is going to be very difficult for Milan after their derby defeat.
“We are six points adrift of that Champions League spot. It is not an abyss, but neither will it be easy to reach this goal,” commented the Coach.
The Rossoneri had been leading Inter at half-time with a goal from Ronaldo, but the final score was 2-1.
“In the first half we didn’t allow Inter much room, while after the break we were lacking something in terms of aggression. They took control of the game and we could no longer double up our marking.”
Ancelotti suggests it was also a fitness issue, as the game arrived just days after Celtic took them to extra time in the Champions League.
“Aside from individual incidents, the team was very organised in the opening 45 minutes. We felt the strain from the Celtic match over time and Inter took command.”
Substitute Alberto Gilardino failed to make much of an impact, but Pippo Inzaghi was banished to the stands.
“Having four strikers at my disposal, one of them had to be sacrificed,” shrugged the tactician.
The Rossoneri are currently in sixth place, preceded by Lazio, Palermo and Empoli, while Fiorentina are also in the race for Europe.
“It is true that Milan have not been particularly scintillating this season, so we will have to use other talents at our disposal. I am sure the side will do well. We don’t need to modify our approach. After all, we have the motivation to reach the Final in Athens.”
Mancini relishes incredible Inter
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Roberto Mancini maintains Inter are having an “extraordinary season” despite their Champions League exit.
“It is very satisfying to win the derby. If we continue like this, then it really will be an extraordinary season and the lads will deserve it,” he said of the 2-1 win over rivals Milan.
“It’s a shame we are out of the Champions League, as we deserved to eliminate Valencia, but things went badly. It is a fascinating competition, but if you are less than perfect on just one evening, you risk going out.
“The 2-2 draw in the home leg was not the right result considering the way we played. It is disappointing, but our moment will come. We hope to celebrate our Centenary next year with the Champions League.”
Some feared the Nerazzurri bubble would burst following that exit and Ronaldo’s goal giving Milan the half-time lead this afternoon, but they fought back through Julio Cruz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to maintain their 16-point leadership.
“In the first half we played well, but weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. The second period was much better,” continued Mancio.
The Coach was criticised for his substitutions in Valencia, but here Cruz netted within moments of stepping on to the field, while Ivan Cordoba’s switch to full-back with Nicolas Burdisso in the centre of midfield proved effective.
“I expect it was just a coincidence that Cruz scored after eight seconds, but he did well to be in the right place at the right time. Burdisso’s move was pretty much forced upon me by Olivier Dacourt’s injury and the lack of alternatives.”
Nonetheless, Mancini isn’t counting his chickens just yet, as depending on Roma’s result against Udinese this evening, the lead could even be larger than 16 points.
“We were in a good situation to rotate the squad for our Champions League campaign, but there are still 11 games left and the Coppa Italia Final with Roma. It is our duty to do as well as possible until the end, as this is a campaign that cannot be repeated. It’ll make a wonderful memory in 20 years’ time.”
Ronaldo enjoys derby day
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Ronaldo insists he enjoyed the Milan derby despite the defeat to Inter and showed respect to his old teammates.
“I felt some wonderful sensations today, as it’s always enjoyable to play in a derby like this,” said Il Fenomeno after the 2-1 loss.
“We lost against a great team today that deservedly is far out in front in the Serie A table. They are almost unbeatable.”
Ronaldo had been afforded a noisy welcome by the Nerazzurri fans, who bought 30,000 whistles for the season ticket holders to heckle him every time he touched the ball.
There was also a selection of insulting banners, such as ‘Ronaldo Iscariot’ and a reference to the Valencia player who broke Nicolas Burdisso’s nose with a punch: ‘Ronaldo like Navarro, evil.’
Others stated ‘Better one day like Recoba than 100 as Ronaldo’, ‘You left as a rabbit and returned like a pig’ or ‘Watch out for your knee…’
Despite that atmosphere in the San Siro, he had opened the scoring for Milan with a well-taken left-foot strike.
“We played an excellent first half in which we dominated the match,” insisted the Brazilian. “My teammates were fantastic today. It was a very tough game.”
In his goal celebrations, Ronaldo lifted his hands to his ears, inviting yet more of those whistles.
“I didn’t want to say anything in particular after the goal. I was just happy for myself and my team.”
With Inter President Massimo Moratti in the stands, a man he had called ‘like a father’ when he was at the club, there was a message for his old friends.
“I hope that he and all those in the stadium enjoyed themselves, because it was a great game.”
He had not netted at San Siro since Inter’s 3-1 win over Piacenza on April 28, 2002. This was his third goal since joining Milan.
Internazionale MIlano 2:1 AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Ronaldo 40 (M), Cruz 55 (I), Ibrahimovic 75 (I)
Ronaldo scored against his former club, but Inter fought back to secure their second Milan derby win of the season.
This was the 266th Milan derby, the first with an afternoon kick-off in 14 years, but all eyes were on Il Fenomeno. The former Inter man faced his old club for the first time and supporters prepared 30,000 whistles to heckle him every time he touched the ball. Adriano, Esteban Cambiasso, Patrick Vieira, Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze and Serginho were injured, with Douglas Maicon and Marco Borriello suspended. Paolo Maldini celebrated his 600th Serie A appearance.
Both sides were on splendid form, Inter unbeaten in all competition since September and Milan without a Serie A defeat in 15 games. While the Nerazzurri suffered a surprise Champions League exit in Valencia midweek, their cousins were taken to extra time by Celtic. Neutrals were hoping for a repeat of the 4-3 result earlier this season.
Hernan Crespo failed to make the most of Daniele Bonera's early error and Marek Jankulovski fired over from distance. Milan slowly increased the pressure and Ronaldo was brought down by a double tackle from Marco Materazzi and Olivier Dacourt on the edge of the area. From the free kick, Andrea Pirlo curled inches past the near post.
Things got worse for the Nerazzurri, as Fabio Grosso limped off with a thigh strain.
Kaka and Ronaldo combined for a dangerous counter-attack, then on 19 minutes Kaka charged forward on one of his trademark runs and only some desperate defending managed to charge down the series of shots.
Inter were under the cosh in these early stages and Julio Cesar flew to fingertip Pirlo's long-range effort out from under the crossbar.
The 'home' side managed to break the siege when Jankulovski gifted Crespo a chance that he fired off target and threatened with a series of corner kicks.
There was controversy when Ibrahimovic was booked for simulation after a potential penalty challenge from Bonera. Although the Swede did appear to accentuate, there was certainly contact.
Ronaldo did hit the back of the net, but it was disallowed for an offside position. Inter were now in control before the break, as Crespo's header skimmed the far post.
Luis Figo ran rings around Massimo Oddo and his angled drive flashed across the face of goal with Crespo failing to get on the end of it by a matter of inches.
However, against the run of play, it was Milan who broke the deadlock with - who else? Ronaldo gathered the ball from Gennaro Gattuso in midfield, took on Maxwell and smashed a left-foot strike past Julio Cesar into the far bottom corner of the net.
Dacourt also suffered an injury, so this required a defensive and midfield reshuffle. Ibrahimovic sprung the offside trap and his low strike was well parried by Dida at the near post.
Gattuso of all people nearly scored Milan's second, his angled drive flashing across the face of goal and going out by inches with Julio Cesar beaten.
Roberto Mancini completed his substitutions with Julio Cruz coming on for Crespo and within 20 seconds he scored the equaliser! Ibrahimovic ran down the right flank and his low cross was only prodded by Dida into the path of Cruz from six yards.
Cruz almost scored the goal of his career soon after. Ibrahimovic disposessed Ambrosini and put in another cross, this time from the left, and without the time to turn around Il Jardinero performed a backheel flick that was just over the bar!
The Nerazzurri were in control of the play with Dejan Stankovic having a good chance, so Milan introduced Marcos Cafu for Oddo and a central Pirlo free kick was comfortably smothered.
Ronaldo scuffed a volley wide and Alberto Gilardino came on for Seedorf in a 4-3-1-2 system. Jankulovski fired over frm a corner kick, but Inter took the lead for the first time 15 minutes from the end.
This time Cruz was the provider to take advantage of a Jankulovski slip and cut back for Ibrahimovic to sidefoot home from nine yards.
Paolo Maldini failed to get on the end of a dangerous cross and Inter held on under late pressure to win their second derby of the season.
Inter: Julio Cesar; Burdisso, Cordoba, Materazzi, Grosso (Maxwell 18); Zanetti, Dacourt (Samuel 46), Stankovic, Figo; Crespo (Cruz 54), Ibrahimovic
Milan: Dida; Oddo (Cafu 66), Bonera, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso (Gourcuff 79), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Gilardino 68); Kakà; Ronaldo
Matrix ready for Ronaldo battle
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Marco Materazzi was Ronaldo’s teammate and remains a good friend, but warns that for 90 minutes they will be at loggerheads.
“I fear this match will be sold as ‘Inter v Ronie’, even if he is part of the past,” said the defender ahead of today’s Milan derby.
“Ronaldo came to help Inter win and gave us some wonderful memories. He made a difficult decision and I respect him for that.
"However, after the pre-match handshake, he’d best no longer consider me a friend! I believe the same goes for him, he’ll do everything he can to beat us.”
Il Fenomeno wore the Nerazzurri jersey for five years before his switch to Real Madrid, but few expected him to return to the other side of the San Siro.
“I expect he’ll be very motivated, because the sword of Damocles is hanging over his head. He must prove that he remains Ronaldo, but we in turn will try to show he’s not!
"Today, in my view, Milan’s real star is Kaka. He is one of the most decisive players in the world and Celtic saw it on Wednesday. He is a leader, a future Ballon d’Or winner.”
Materazzi is hardly famed for his technique, but insists he has a great deal in common with Kaka.
“I can see myself in him, because hard work does pay off. He has class and technique, the gifts from Mother Nature. I have desire and determination – with those I achieved remarkable things in my career.
“In that sense, in what we have achieved, I feel myself very much the same as Kaka. We exemplify how a player can do well with different strengths. It’s a good lesson to teach children.”
Others would suggest Materazzi’s counter-part in the Milan derby is battling midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.
“It’s true we both have that competitive edge. I swear Rino would give a leg rather than lose a match! Yet in Valencia, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and myself were the calmest people there.
“It was almost like a reverse reaction. When we saw that usually relaxed players like Ivan Cordoba and Julio Cruz went mad trying to defend their ‘brother’, as we consider all our teammates, then we thought to ourselves ‘This situation seriously needs to be taken down a few notches.’”
That Champions League exit hurt Inter badly and the derby after only a few days will give them the opportunity to patch up that wound.
“Of course we are disappointed, but these are two different competitions. We want to take three precious points away from Milan so that they won’t have to play the preliminary round this summer. That way we can all have a nice long holiday in the sun together,” grinned the ‘generous’ Materazzi.
“We knew the Rossoneri were one of the contenders to win the Champions League and, considering the squad, they’ll reach the Final. We will win the Scudetto that everyone says is ‘ugly’ because Roma are 16 points behind, but the same side beat the great Lyon.
“There’s one of two realities here. Either there is another Roma side in Serie A or we have done something good this season.”
Stankovic opens Centenary celebrations
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Inter officially begin their Centenary year and Dejan Stankovic wants to kick it off with a derby victory.
“All I will say to my teammates is this: keep your head up high and run your heart out, just as we did that night when we beat Milan 4-3 earlier this season. It wasn’t any old night for us,” said the midfielder.
He was on target in that extraordinary match and hopes to net his fifth career goal against the Rossoneri.
The timing of this clash is particularly intriguing, as Inter turned 99 on Friday, so the club is in its Centenary year.
“Milan have no choice but to try to win in order to reach the Champions League places. We are playing only for ourselves and our Scudetto, but if we manage to create a few problems for our ‘cousins,’ then that is a bonus. It is not our primary concern, though.”
Ronaldo is the key figure for the Rossoneri, although Stankovic is eager to spread his worries across the board.
“I respect all of Milan, not just Ronaldo. They may be a little tired after extra time against Celtic, but when they put their foot on the pedal collectively, they can really do damage. Inter in the derby must have great players, great respect and a great game.”
Although they remain unbeaten in all competition since September, Inter are psychologically perhaps not quite as strong as Milan right now following the Champions League exit at Valencia.
“We are still very, very disappointed about that. We have to transform that into sporting aggression. Looking at the draw and the number of other big clubs to go out, I’m not sure if Inter would’ve won it, but we would have gone far.”
The tie was essentially lost at San Siro, where the 2-2 draw allowed Valencia to relax and eventually go through on the away goals rule.
“I didn’t see any faults other than the two distractions in the first leg. I don’t want to find excuses, but in the second half at the Mestalla, Valencia did everything possible to stop us playing.”
Roberto Mancini complained last week that the media in Italy has not given Inter the respect they deserve for their achievements in this Calciopoli season.
“When we are involved, there always has to be something wrong,” agreed Stankovic. “This team is not losing momentum. The truth is that we travelled at a breakneck pace since October. That is a different matter entirely.
“Perhaps on a personal level I am not quite as sharp as two months ago, but I find nothing odd in that. We are not machines. This year I am satisfied with my consistency, lacking the ups and downs I had last season.”
Julio Cesar challenges Dida
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There will be another derby within today’s San Siro showdown, as Julio Cesar takes on Brazilian rival Nelson Dida.
“I don’t like to talk about myself. Dida is an excellent goalkeeper, but I think that Julio Cesar will be on the winning team,” smiled the Inter shot-stopper.
Yet both of them have had their positions threatened by potential summer bids for Juventus star Gianluigi Buffon.
“I am relaxed. I just have to work well and with my performances take this option out of their minds – if indeed it exists.”
There are other Brazilian dualities in the derby, although they won’t be played this afternoon, as Douglas Maicon is suspended and Adriano injured.
“Is Maicon better than Marcos Cafu? Let us say Maicon is younger and since he has arrived, he’s been proving his strength and quality. Cafu is a champion and a model professional. I have to take my hat off to him, he has won everything in his career.
“In my view, when he is on form, Ronaldo is the best in the world. It’s astonishing to watch him, a striker that can score like no other. Adriano has strength and power, he’s really a beast that way. When he’s in good shape, he too can decide a match.”
The goalkeeper has other links to Il Fenomeno, as he is married to Susana Werner, Ronaldo's ex-girlfriend who for many years was nicknamed Ronaldinha.
Julio Cesar was one of the few Inter players who escaped the mass brawl at the end of Tuesday’s Champions League exit at Valencia.
“I’m so sorry for Nico (Burdisso, ndr) getting his nose broken. I only saw what happened afterwards, as I had to immediately leave the field for the anti-doping test. I was probably lucky that way.”
Mancini plays down derby tension
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Roberto Mancini insists Inter must focus only on the three points against Milan rather than Ronaldo or their Euro exit.
“We have to win in order to consolidate our position in the table, not for any other daft reason,” slammed the Coach.
“Points would give us the possibility to keep fighting for an important achievement and maintain our distance from Roma. We will play to win, as we always do.”
All eyes are on Ronaldo and the Nerazzurri supporters urge revenge for his 2002 departure and shock return to the other side of the San Siro.
“I think Milan are improving from a few months ago. Ronaldo has extraordinary class and adds something to the side, while Kaka is on incredible form. We will have to be very careful.”
The 266th Derby di Milano also sees the two teams recovering from a fiery midweek test, as Inter crashed out of the Champions League with a brawl in Valencia, while Celtic pushed the Rossoneri to extra time.
“We have already forgotten the disappointment of that exit,” assured Mancio. “Those feelings last for a maximum of 24 hours, especially when you’re having a season like ours. We did what we could to qualify, but over the two legs I believe we were unlucky.
“Valencia played in cynical fashion after scoring those two away goals, but this is football and you have to accept when you are eliminated. Milan will be a little happier than us, but I repeat those feelings of disappointment wash away very quickly.”
Ancelotti trusts in Ron Basten
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Carlo Ancelotti has compared Ronaldo to the legendary Marco Van Basten, assuring he’ll do what’s needed against Inter.
“Ronaldo has the quality to say to me what Van Basten did when he saw I was tense before a game. He told me not to worry, just give him the ball and then run to embrace him when he scores,” smiled the former Milan midfielder.
“We don’t need to know if he is at 50, 60 or 70 per cent fitness. We do know that when Ronaldo is called upon, he is very dangerous. All we have to do is give him the right kind of service.”
All eyes will be on Il Fenomeno on Sunday afternoon, as he faces his former squad for the first time. The Ultras have already prepared 30,000 whistles to heckle him every time he touches the ball.
“I couldn’t say what would happen if he scored, but he has the quality to net against any side. The Inter fans can manifest their feelings towards him any way they see fit, but that won’t affect Ronaldo. He has too much experience for that.”
Adriano is out of action for Inter, so the danger man will definitely be considered Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their current top scorer on 12 Serie A goals.
“If I could take one player off them, it’d be Ibrahimovic. In the past he was aesthetically wonderful, but not all that effective. Now he is the one making the difference for Inter in the League. He has developed finishing skills and at the moment he is their most decisive player.”
With Pippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino off form and Inter’s notorious midfield strength, it is possible Ancelotti will stick with the 4-4-1-1 system seen against Celtic.
“Milan will play with two strikers,” insisted Ancelotti, although he has often referred to Kaka in the past as a forward.
Both sides had a fiery midweek Champions League experience, Inter crashing out amid violent clashes in Valencia and Milan taken to extra time to eliminate Celtic.
“This is a game that does not change with external factors. The derby is in and of itself, open to any result. The favourites don’t always win and I don’t believe there will be any extra tension from what happened this week.”
There will, however, be the desire for revenge after the incredible 4-3 defeat earlier this season.
“That result was a launch pad for Inter, who gained courage and confidence from the win. For us it was the start of a difficult moment that we have now left behind. I think our performance will be completely different, as we have moved on.
“The Nerazzurri will want to win this game because they are deservedly getting closer to the Scudetto. Our situation is more complicated, as we are challenging with many other sides for fourth place.”
Milan squad: Dida, Kalac, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Favalli, Grimi, Jankulovski, Maldini, Oddo, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka'', Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Ricardo Oliveira, Ronaldo.
Dida pens new AC Milan deal
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Nelson Dida has put the transfer gossip and controversy behind him by extending his contract until 2010, confirmed Milan.
The goalkeeper’s deal was set to expire this summer and there were strong reports he had already agreed a switch to Barcelona on a Bosman.
The situation – and his repeated refusal to renegotiate the terms – made for a tense rapport with the club, Coach and especially the fans.
However, this afternoon the Brazilian put pen to paper on a new contract tying him to Milan until June 30, 2010.
The club’s official website also reported that when Dida attended the training session, he was given a round of applause by his teammates upon hearing the news.
Adriano out of AC Milan derby
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Adriano, Esteban Cambiasso and Patrick Vieira will not take part in tomorrow’s Derby della Madonnina.
“Adriano is out of action,” explained Coach Roberto Mancini. “He’s not in great shape and we prefer not to run any risks. We hope to have him back for next week.”
L’Imperatore has been struggling with a muscular problem for the past week and was expected to recover in time for either the midweek Champions League tie with Valencia or Sunday afternoon’s clash with Milan.
However, he has not been included in the 19-man squad announced by Mancini and will therefore be in the stands.
He is joined by Cambiasso, who has also failed to recover in time from a thigh strain, and Vieira continues treatment for a long-term knee injury.
It is therefore believed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will partner ex-Milan striker Hernan Crespo upfront.
Nicolas Burdisso is included despite fracturing his nose in the Mestalla brawl on Tuesday, while Alvaro Recoba returns to the side. Douglas Maicon is suspended.
“The swelling around Nicolas’ eye has gone down and the nose is also better. He’s a fighter, he won’t pull back,” added Mancio.
Inter squad: 1 Francesco Toldo, 12 Julio Cesar Soares; 2 Ivan Ramiro Cordoba, 4 Javier Zanetti, 6 Maxwell, 11 Fabio Grosso, 16 Nicolas Burdisso, 23 Marco Materazzi, 25 Walter Samuel, 77 Marco Andreolli; 5 Dejan Stankovic, 7 Luis Figo, 15 Olivier Dacourt, 21 Santiago Solari, 91 Mariano Gonzalez; 8 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 9 Julio Ricardo Cruz, 18 Hernan Crespo, 20 Alvaro Recoba.
Maldini hits 600 and marches on
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Paolo Maldini will mark his 600th Serie A appearance in the Milan derby tomorrow, but is reconsidering his retirement plans.
“Now that my knees seem to be working again, I’d like to carry on for another season,” he told ‘La Stampa’ newspaper. “It would have to be centre stage, though.”
The Rossoneri hero had hinted this would be his final campaign after recent years were blighted by a series of knee injuries.
Last term he managed just 14 Serie A appearances – albeit with two goals – and this season he has put together 21 games between the League and Europe.
Already the player with the most Serie A caps of all time, Maldini is set to round out that figure on Sunday afternoon with his 600th top flight match – all with the Milan jersey.
“We have a very clear promise with Paolo. If he wants to continue his playing career, then all he has to do is come to the club headquarters and sign the contract,” assured Vice-President Adriano Galliani.
Of the players still in activity, the only one even close to matching this target is Ascoli goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca on 592.
Maldini played his first Derby della Madonnina in a 2-2 draw on December 1, 1985 and on Sunday will face Inter for the 52nd time.
Inter fans to 'deafen' Ronaldo
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Inter supporters have planned 30,000 whistles to heckle Ronaldo throughout the derby, but Gennaro Gattuso assures his teammate is ready for anything.
This will be the first time Il Fenomeno has faced his former club since joining Milan and the fans have prepared a welcome that is not so much warm as incandescent.
The ‘Boys’ Ultras club have prepared 30,000 whistles to hand out at San Siro so that fans can deafen Ronaldo with the noise every time he touches the ball.
Nonetheless, teammate Gattuso is certain that the unusual situation will not trouble Ronie too much.
“Ronaldo is in good shape, wants to do well and I think he’s been dreaming about this match for a very long time,” smiled the midfielder.
“It’s only normal he’ll have an incredible desire to prove he is not finished as a player, regardless of what some might say.”
Ringhio has never scored in the Milan derby and is none too confident of his chances on Sunday afternoon either.
“I get the feeling if I hit the back of the net against Inter there would be a lot of heart attacks on the pitch! It’s better to let that thought go, nobody expects Gattuso on the scoresheet in a derby, but in football you never know.”
Milan and Roma are through to the Champions League quarter-finals, but the all-conquering Inter have crashed out against Valencia.
“Nobody can change my mind on the fact that if Inter had the entire squad at their disposal, they would have beaten Valencia easily. I think this is one of the strongest teams in Europe at the moment for the way they are set up and the type of football they play.”
Galliani admires Bayern
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Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani says there are close ties with Champions League opponents Bayern Munich.
“Bayern are a great side and a club we are friendly with,” he said after the quarter-final draw.
“We know President Franz Beckenbauer well and the way in which they play. They are very solid and compact. The team proved that once more against Real Madrid.”
The Germans eliminated Fabio Capello’s side on the away goals rule, 4-4 on aggregate, but have a poor recent history with Milan.
Last season the Rossoneri held them to a 1-1 draw in Munich and went on to win the second leg 4-1 at San Siro.
Galliani has been campaigning for some time for the Champions League draws to be changed, bringing the UEFA club ranking into play from the second round onwards.
“I think the modifications suggested by new UEFA President Michel Platini will come closer to our position,” he revealed.
While the quarter-final is a very important stage in their season, Milan face another showdown on Sunday afternoon when they take on rivals Inter. Above all, it will be the first time that Ronaldo has confronted his old club since joining the Rossoneri.
“Will it be a huge emotional rush if he scores? Not for me. Once I was about to injure myself when we scored in a summer tournament,” smiled the notoriously excitable director. “I never fail to have an emotional reaction to this team.”
The club is also hitting the headlines with President Silvio Berlusconi’s repeated assertion that they are in “pole position” to sign Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Barcelona star Ronaldinho this summer.
“I don’t want to say anything about Buffon and Ronaldinho,” insisted Galliani. “Juve President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli knows full well that if he wants to release Buffon, then we will be interested, but we don’t want to create a Kaka-style situation elsewhere.”
Milan famously reported Real Madrid to FIFA for illegally approaching Kaka, although the Spaniards continue to claim they will bring him to the Bernabeu next season.
Ancelotti: Beware of Bayern
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Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti has underlined that Bayern Munich will be difficult to beat in the last eight of the Champions League.
The Rossoneri were drawn against the German club on Friday, but the tactician is aware that facing the side who knocked Real Madrid out of the competition will be problematic.
“Bayern are one of the strongest sides amongst the top eight, they have a great tradition and are a very physical side,” commented Ancelotti after the draw.
“They had some difficulties during the winter months, but then were able to eliminate Real Madrid. It will be a very balanced tie as they are one of the hardest teams to face,” continued the player.
“They have a very good Coach [Ottmar Hitzfeld] and he has proved his qualities in the two-legged match with Real. However, I am glad we didn’t draw Roma or Manchester United.”
Milan and Bayern have 10 European crowns between them and met most recently in the first knockout round of last season’s competition, when the Italian side won 5-2 on aggregate.
The quarter-final line-up also saw Chelsea paired with Valencia and PSV Eindhoven with Liverpool, while Roma will meet Manchester United.
Should both Italian sides prove victorious then they will meet in an all Italian European Cup semi-final.
“It would be stimulating to play Roma as it would mean that an Italian club would be sure to play in the Athens Final,” concluded Ancelotti, who appeared in midfield for the Giallorossi as a midfielder.
AC Milan line up star duo
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Milan chief Silvio Berlusconi insists that he is interested in signing both Gianluigi Buffon and Ronaldinho in the summer.
The President had already previously stated that the club was in pole position if Juventus and Barcelona were to let their stars leave and he confirmed that he is ready to invest in both men.
The former Prime Minister noted: “Why would I have to choose between one of the two? Buffon is a great champion and so is Ronaldinho.”
Milan did struggle on the transfer market last summer, but Berlusconi seems set to dig very deep at the end of the season even after their January reinforcements.
“This is a really different Milan from the one that started the season, thanks to the arrivals of [Massimo] Oddo and Ronaldo,” he continued.
“We overcame the shortfall in the summer transfer window, which came about from having to pre-qualify for the Champions League.
“We already had Gianluca Zambrotta [now at Barcelona] and Zlatan Ibrahimovic [who joined Inter] lined up but we had to let them go.”
Vice-President Adriano Galliani has also confirmed that the club is planning important signings in the summer and believes that Nelson Dida will remain at the San Siro.
“There is still a financial disparity between what he wants and what we can offer, but he is a great ‘keeper so waiting for him is not a problem,” said the former Lega Calcio chief.
“He hasn’t signed with any other club and I am sure he will stay.
“Ronaldinho and Buffon? I do not like to talk about players from other sides, but Barcelona and Juventus know that Milan are interested in these two champions.”
Milan will face Inter in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, when they will hope to confirm their good state of form.
The Diavoli are unbeaten in 15 matches and are just three points short of a Champions League spot.
CL QF Draw: AC Milan vs. Bayern Munich
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AC Milan will play against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The 1st leg will be played at home.
If we qualify, we'll meet the winner of AS Roma - Manchester United in the semi-finals.
Duo await Champions draw
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Roma and Milan will learn the names of their Champions League last eight opponents following Friday’s draw in Athens.
The Giallorossi qualified for the quarter-finals by defeating Lyon at the Stade de Gerland on Tuesday, whereas the six-time winners defeated Celtic at the San Siro on Wednesday thanks to an extra time goal by Kaka.
England have three representatives in Liverpool, who defeated reigning champions Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea, who reached the quarter-finals for the third time in four years after knocking out 2004 winners FC Porto.
The line-up is completed by four-time European champions Bayern Munich, 1988 winners PSV Eindhoven and Valencia, who eliminated Serie A leaders Inter.
According to the principles governing the draw, no teams will be seeded and sides from the same country may play each other.
The ceremony at the Megaron International Conference Centre is scheduled to begin at 12:00 CET and the quarter-final draw will be immediately followed by the semi-final one.
The quarter-final first legs will be played on April 3 and 4, with the return matches scheduled for April 10 and 11. The semi-finals will take place on April 24 and 25, then May 1 and 2.
The 2006-07 Champions League Final will take place on May 23 in Athens – the venue of Milan’s 4-0 drubbing of Barcelona in the 1994 showdown.
Ronaldo left out by Brazil
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Brazil boss Carlos Dunga has opted to ignore Milan striker Ronaldo for the Selecao’s upcoming friendly tests.
Brazil will play Chile and Ghana in Sweden this month and Il Fenomeno was hoping in a call-up, after his promising start with the Rossoneri following his January move from Real Madrid.
Although the former Fiorentina midfielder has admitted that he is monitoring the striker, Dunga insists he’s not yet ready for samba selection.
“We are watching and observing him,” said Dunga to reporters. “As soon as his performances interest us and he is near to his best then he will be selected.”
Ronaldo’s teammate Nelson Dida also failed to make the 22-man Brazil roster. Roma man Amantino Mancini, despite his outstanding performance in the Champions League match with Lyon on Tuesday, was omitted too.
The 1994 World Cup winning captain has only selected two Serie A players in the shape of Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Milan star Kaka.
There was also no place for Adriano. The Inter striker, selected just once by the Coach so far, is recovering from the injury which ruled him out of the Valencia clash in midweek.
Brazil have played six matches under Dunga so far, suffering their first defeat under his management against Portugal at the Emirates Stadium last month.
Brazil squad – Goalkeepers: Helton (Porto), Julio Cesar (Inter)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Sevilla), Ilsinho (Sao Paulo), Gilberto (Hertha Berlin), Kleber (Santos), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Alex Rodrigo (PSV Eindhoven), Juan (Bayer Leverkusen), Luisao (Benfica)
Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Arsenal), Mineiro (Hertha Berlin), Dudu Cearense (CSKA Moscow), Elano (Shakhtar Donetsk), Josue (Sao Paulo), Diego (Werder Bremen), Kaka (Milan)
Forwards: Ronaldinho (Barcelona), Robinho (Real Madrid), Fred (Olympique Lyon), Rafael Sobis (Real Betis), Vagner Love (CSKA Moscow)
AC Milan - Roma? No thanks…
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Milan stopper Daniele Bonera and Roma boss Luciano Spalletti have admitted that they would prefer to avoid each other in the last eight of the Champions League.
Both sides progressed to Friday’s draw after second leg wins and they could meet in the next stage of the competition.
The Rossoneri came through a tough tie against Celtic after extra time, but an all-Italian affair doesn’t interest Bonera.
“I’m convinced that Roma are a great team and I would rather avoid them,” said Bonera. “I also fear Liverpool and Manchester United.
“However, after last night’s win, we are all aware that we can now go on and reach the Champions League Final.
“The last round saw a few surprises, like the exit of Barcelona, but there are great sides still in the competition.
“Yet I have great faith in this Rossoneri squad which has all the experience needed to go all of the way.”
Roma caused somewhat of an upset by seeing off Lyon in France on Tuesday and although Spalletti is happy Milan are in the draw, he feels it is too soon for them to meet.
“I was delighted for Milan and my friend Carlo Ancelotti who deservedly went through,” noted the former Udinese boss.
“But if I could have one wish then it is for us to meet at a later stage of the tournament.
“Who would I want in the draw? It is impossible to choose between the eight,” he continued. “You can’t really have any preference.
“All the teams are organised, they play good football as well as having character and personality.”
Ronaldo slams Capello
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Ronaldo has slammed his former Coach Fabio Capello stating that his methods are old fashioned, but Hector Cuper was worse.
The Brazilian returned to Italy in January, joining Milan from Real Madrid in a £5m move, also motivated by the lack of faith Capello seemed to have for him.
But now the Merengues’ poor performances in both La Liga and the Champions League have confirmed the Coach’s difficult relationship with his players.
“He is clearly in difficulty, he cannot be trusted any more,” Ronaldo said in an interview with weekly newspaper Panorama.
“He must understand that the time for authoritarian Coaches has ended, his way of dealing with his players is not up-to-date,” added Il Fenomeno.
“However, with Cuper it was even worse. Capello at least has a history behind him, he has won a lot. What has Cuper won?” added the striker, who controversially left Inter in 2002.
Inter and Milan meet on Sunday afternoon in the Derby della Madonnina, when Ronaldo will face his former teammates for the first time since his move to their city rivals, which did not please Nerazzurri chief Massimo Moratti.
“I understand his criticism, he had to say those things about my transfer, it was inevitable. In private however it is different, I have a deep affection for him.”
The former Golden Ball winner could not avoid a question on his weight either, which he answered with a smile on his face.
“Sooner or later I will take some pictures naked, so all this gossip on me being fat will finally end!,” he grinned.
Cafu eyes Euro triumph
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Defender Marcos Cafu believes Milan can go all the way in the Champions League. “We have what is needed to win.”
The Rossoneri advanced to the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive season thanks to the 1-0 victory over Celtic at the San Siro and the Brazilian is pleased with the club’s performances in the tournament so far.
“We have a very strong group of experienced players,” Cafu told UEFA’s website.
“Given the negative situations we had to face at the beginning of the season, I believe we are doing an excellent job in the Champions League. I think we can succeed,” added the former Roma player.
The Giallorossi are also among the eight teams included in Friday’s draw in Athens and Francesco Totti stated that he would be glad to face Milan in the next round.
“It is hard to choose, all the teams left are very strong. However, I would like to avoid Roma, I played there for a long time, I have many friends there and they have great supporters, I would not like to face them.”
Milan could also draw Liverpool, who defeated the San Siro outfit in the 2005 Final in Istanbul after trailing 3-0 at half-time, a defeat the Rossoneri fans will never forget.
“I promise we will do all we can to win if we have to face them. What happened in Istanbul is incredible, one of those things that will never happen again,” said Cafu.
“I was devastated after the match, but these are episodes that can occur in this great game called football,” concluded the defender.
AC Milan target Boruc
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Celtic star Artur Boruc has been targeted by Milan as they continue their search for a new goalkeeper, according to the latest reports.
Current No 1 Nelson Dida has not extended his contract with the San Siro outfit, which expires in June, and seems set to join Barcelona despite the Blaugrana denying the latest transfer reports.
At the time being, Gianluigi Buffon remains the first name on the club’s wish list, but Boruc’s saves in the Champions League first knockout round matches against Milan impressed them.
The Rossoneri might now consider making a move for the 27-year-old if Buffon were to pledge his future to Juventus.
The Polish international is contracted to Celtic until 2009, with an option for an extra year, but reports suggest the Diavoli hope to convince him to leave the Bhoys in advance.
The projected cost to bring Buffon to Milan is approximately £43m, an investment the Via Turati club might not be able to make if they have other market goals, whereas Boruc might move to Italy for just £3.5m.
Berlusconi eyes Euro glory
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President Silvio Berlusconi believes Milan are the strongest amongst the top eight teams of the Champions League.
The Rossoneri qualified for the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive season, defeating Celtic 1-0 after extra time thanks to Kaka, and Berlusconi could not hide his satisfaction after the win at the San Siro.
“We behaved perfectly on the pitch tonight, we deserved to progress and now we have the chance of winning the Champions League, just as in the last years,” said the former Prime Minister.
“We are the only side from last term who are n the top eight teams again. Furthermore, Milan are the best club amongst the eight as to history and technical qualities, also seeing as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter were eliminated,” added the Rossonero.
The draw for the quarter-finals will take place on Friday, but Berlusconi insists that there isn’t a team he would prefer to face in the next round.
“They are all fine for me, Milan give their best against great opponents,” explained the President, who confirmed his interest for Ronaldinho, who might be closer to leaving Barcelona after their exit from the competition.
“As I already said in the past, we will be in pole position if the player decides to leave Spain,” he concluded.
Galliani: AC Milan are the best
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As Milan are the only team from last year’s quarter-finals to reach this stage again, Adriano Galliani insists they are the best club in the Champions League.
“Milan have confirmed themselves for the fifth time the top team in Europe, as we are clear in the UEFA rankings and the only side from last season who reached the quarter-finals again,” said the Vice-President.
The Rossoneri go into Friday’s draw with Roma, Manchester United, Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven.
“We are sorry that Inter went out, but it’s good that Roma are through as well so that the Italians are still having their say in the quarters.
"I would never want to face another Serie A side in Europe, as we want as many of our clubs to progress as possible.”
There has been a total revolution from the quarter-final line-up last term, as holders Barcelona and finalists Arsenal are among those eliminated, along with Fabio Capello’s Real Madrid.
“There is a very balanced outlook throughout the Champions League now and games can be decided by the tiniest incident like a great save or defensive error.
"I think that among the top 16 teams in Europe there isn’t much difference between them,” assured Galliani.
“I am convinced that experience and history counts. Liverpool are the clearest example, as in the Premiership they don’t always impress, but when it comes to the Champions League they bring something else out there.
"I was only a kid, but I remember the Milan Finals in 1958 and 1963, so our contact with this competition stretches way back.”
Yet the side struggled to beat Celtic, only prevailing with a Kaka goal in extra time after both legs ended 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes.
Carlo Ancelotti has been criticised in the past for opting to use only one striker, but Galliani stood by his Coach.
“I am mad with joy tonight. I totally agreed with Carlo’s choices, as it was a difficult game and we would’ve struggled if we gave Celtic superiority in midfield.
“We were very patient and felt that sooner or later the goal would come. It was unlucky we hit the bar and brought some fine saves out of Artur Boruc.”
The main tactical switch saw Massimo Ambrosini come into midfield in place of another striker, pushing Kaka into a more advanced role behind lone forward Pippo Inzaghi.
“Ambrosini is very important for us, as he gives the midfield strength and power in the air. He has characteristics that are different from all our other players in that role.”
President Silvio Berlusconi also agreed that the Rossoneri have to be considered contenders for the Final.
“Now we have the opportunity to win the trophy, as this team should always strive for. In terms of prestige, technique and talent, I can say Milan are the strongest side in the Champions League,” he noted.
“Frankly I would’ve preferred two strikers, but that’s not something we should quibble on now.”
Strachan hails Celtic heart
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Celtic tactician Gordon Strachan hailed the squad that forced Milan to extra time before submitting to a Kaka strike.
"I'm very proud of them. If there was a Champions League trophy for guts and determination then we must be in with a chance of winning it,” he said after the 1-0 aggregate defeat.
"There were two great teams - one with more technique, one with incredible heart, will and determination. If we can improve on technique we'll be a good side. That's the vision - we've got an incredible will to win."
The Scottish outfit were the underdogs going into this clash and were kept in the hunt by a string of Artur Boruc saves, while the crossbar denied Kaka.
It was a particularly impressive achievement considering the Hoops had an appalling away record in the Champions League, losing all but two of their 13 previous games outside Parkhead.
Both teams had penalty shouts – Milan for a push on Pippo Inzaghi that the referee judged to be just outside the area and Celtic for Paolo Maldini’s handling offence that was considered involuntary.
"I don't want to sour the night with headlines about referees,” insisted Strachan. "The night belongs to the players who played the game and supporters of both sides. I'll leave the rest for everyone to get on with."
Celtic earned much praise from the Italian media, both for their performance on the pitch and the way their fans dealt with the defeat.
Ancelotti sets sights on trophy
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Carlo Ancelotti says he never doubted Milan would beat Celtic and warns any potential quarter-final opponents to be worried.
“Milan can challenge anyone out there, with no exceptions. For the last five years we have at least been in the quarter-finals and are here again this season.”
In fact, the Rossoneri are the only side from last term who are again in the top eight teams of the Champions League.
“President Silvio Berlusconi complimented us, as he always talks to the side about his philosophy of play – entertaining and going for the goal for the whole game,” he said after the 1-0 victory in extra time.
“I think we did that today, as we knew that with one centre-forward we could create plenty of chances and maintain control of the midfield.
“We weren’t by any means prudent. We have a midfield of great quality that was aided by Massimo Ambrosini, who is excellent in the air, while the fullbacks pushed very hard. The last five or six minutes of normal time were shaky, as we poured forward and took some risks, leaving spaces at the back. Other than that, I was confident that if we played patiently, we would score.
“We can certainly do better. We did create the chances, though, and Kaka was unlucky when he hit the woodwork. With players like this, the goal arrives sooner or later.”
The Brazilian netted the winner three minutes into extra time to sink Celtic and, with Ronaldo cup-tied, it seems the team is increasingly dependent on the Champions League top scorer.
“Three weeks ago there was all this talk of Kaka in crisis and not playing well, but now he has proved those critics wrong,” smiled Ancelotti.
“To say we are Kaka-dependent is not an insult. With him in a more advanced role, it gives the team more options and him extra space, so it’s a role that gives him considerable advantages.”
Milan struggled more than was expected to eliminate Gordon Strachan’s side, but the Coach warns this is not an achievement to be diminished.
“We showed maturity tonight. It’s true we haven’t expressed our true potential, but let’s not forget we had to start the season with a Serie A points penalty and the qualifying round without any time to prepare in the summer, then we were hit by a series of injuries.”
The draw for the quarter-finals will be performed on Friday and with many of the favourites out, the Rossoneri move up the rankings.
“It’s a very uncertain Champions League this year, as teams like Inter, Real Madrid, Arsenal and holders Barcelona have gone out, so it’s full of surprises. Liverpool are the toughest side, along with Valencia, but Manchester United and Chelsea have more quality. I won’t pick a favourite opponent, I’ll just say that anyone who faces us should be worried.”
Francesco Totti said yesterday that he hoped Roma would be paired with Milan in the next phase of the competition, but Ancelotti did not agree.
“Roma deserve praise for what they did against Lyon and Totti presumably wants to face us because in Serie A and the Coppa Italia they have beaten us recently. However, I’d prefer us both to take on the Brits in a real battle and even out the playing field a little.”
Kaka enjoys hitman status
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Kaka confirmed his status as the Champions League top scorer with a fine individual effort to secure Milan’s quarter-final spot.
“It was a very tough game and Celtic showed they deserve to come this far,” said the Brazilian who had also rattled the crossbar in normal time before netting his sixth Euro goal of the campaign.
“It was tiring and stressful, but we managed to qualify and I am going home tonight very happy for what I’ve done for my team.”
He ran from the centre circle to nutmeg Artur Boruc and it was calculated he covered 43 metres in 5.5 seconds - at a speed of 28km/h.
The Rossoneri join Roma in the next round, along with Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Valencia, Chelsea and Liverpool.
It is a complete turnaround from last season, where only one quarter-finalist remains in competition at this stage – Milan.
The draw will be made on Friday and on Sunday afternoon Milan face Inter in the Serie A local derby.
“This result will give us a boost ahead of the derby and it’s bound to be very entertaining, especially as Inter are now out of the Champions League.”
AC Milan 1:0 (AET) (1-0 on aggregate) Celtic Glasgow - match report
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Scorer: Kaka 93 (M)
Milan hit the crossbar and Artur Boruc forced extra time, but Kaka's solo effort eliminated Celtic and took the Rossoneri to the quarter-finals.
The Rossoneri knew they needed a victory to progress after the 0-0 draw at Parkhead, but Ronaldo was cup-tied and Alberto Gilardino off form, so Carlo Ancelotti put his faith in the returning Pippo Inzaghi supported by Champions League top scorer Kaka. Massimo Ambrosini bolstered the midfield and gave them something more in the air, while Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu were back from injury, but Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze and Serginho remained sidelined. Celtic had never won a Champions League game outside Scotland, managing one draw and 11 defeats.
Milan had a great chance after less than four minutes, as Clarence Seedorf set up Kaka for a right-foot shot towards the far post, bringing a one-handed save out of Artur Boruc. Moments later Celtic threatened as a Shunsuke Nakamura free kick found Jiri Jarosik unmarked and Maldini's sliding tackle charged it down, though perhaps with his arm.
The captain picked up a knock in the opening minutes and so Dario Simic warmed up practically from the start. Seedorf scuffed his shot, then Kaka threaded through for Marek Jankulovski, who was closed down as he prepared to pull the trigger from nine yards.
Kaka again sent the Czech fullback clear and this time his cutback was put out for a corner by Darren O'Dea before it could reach Inzaghi. On the resulting corner, Kaka ballooned over. Andrea Pirlo curled a trademark free kick just wide of the near post.
The Rossoneri went closer than ever on 23 minutes. Kaka was once more the key, sending Seedorf clear down the left to cross low for Inzaghi, but Lee Naylor slid in for a desperate goal-saving tackle to take the ball off his foot as he swung from six yards.
Jankulovski intelligently blocked a Celtic attack by tackling Nakamura in his own area and immediately sparked Kaka's counter, but the Brazilian drilled an angled drive off target.
A rare Maldini howler almost granted Celtic a goal, as his weak pass was intercepted by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, but Massimo Oddo cleared before he could make the most of it. On the counter, a tackle closed down Inzaghi in the area. Oddo exchanged passes with Kaka down the right and the cross was punched out with some difficulty by Boruc.
It didn't seem to be Kaka's night, as he again latched on to a Seedorf cutback from the left, but slipped at the crucial moment and could only bring a save out of Boruc. As the move continued, Ambrosini's header smashed against the bar, but it wouldn't have counted for an offside flag.
There was almost a bizarre own goal, though, as Vennegoor of Hesselink's header ricocheted off Oddo's chest and into the path of Nelson Dida. Stephen McManus was booked for a foul on Kaka and will be suspended for his next game, and Ambrosini was also carded.
A promising counter-attack was spoiled as Kaka and Gennaro Gattuso comically clattered into each other going for the ball! Jarosik flashed an angled drive well wide.
There was controversy after the restart, as Kaka was brought down and the ball rolled on to send Inzaghi clear against Boruc, but the referee halted play to award the free kick rather than giving the advantage. Boruc held a Pirlo free kick and came out to intercept Inzaghi on Kaka's headed assist.
Inzaghi's volley struck the side-netting from Jankulovski's cross, but Inzaghi was furious when he was brought down by Naylor on the very edge of the box. The referee booked the Celtic man and awarded a free kick practically on the line, but replays suggest the contact may have occurred inside the area. Jankulovski's set-piece was charged down by the wall.
Maldini needed a crucial sliding intervention on McGeady's cross to stop Nakamura tapping in at the back post following an Oddo error. Celtic were on the whole pinned back into their own half, so Thomas Gravesen replaced Jarosik.
There was absolute chaos in the Rossoneri area, as Daniele Bonera's mistake saw both Vennegoor of Hesselink and Gravesen's volleys charged down.
O'Dea hooked a Maldini cross off the foot of Inzaghi and from the resulting corner Boruc failed to beat Inzaghi to the ball, but it was cleared off the line. The corner came in from the other side and Ambrosini's header was deflected past the post.
It was turning into a siege and Alberto Gilardino came on for Inzaghi, the ex-Parma man heckled by an area of the Milan fans. Oddo slipped from seven yards, but McGeady also missed Gravesen's cross. Cristian Brocchi replaced ex-Rangers hero Gattuso for a more attacking option.
Pirlo flashed a long-range effort wide, but on 84 minutes the midfielder created a fantastic opportunity for Maldini. The chipped pass over the defence found the captain clear on goal, but Boruc parried his first attempt and Maldini couldn't readjust his position in time to turn in the loose ball.
As the move continued, Celtic went on the counter and Nakamura fell under an Ambrosini challenge, but the referee was close by and waved play on.
Boruc kept his side in the game with a stunning one-handed save to tip Seedorf's curling free kick out of the far top corner. If the Polish shot-stopper was already a prime candidate to replace Dida at San Siro next season, he certainly did enough to impress his potential future employers.
The Rossoneri were pouring forward and moments later Kaka's splendid strike with the inside of his right foot thumped the the crossbar and his follow-up hit teammate Gilardino.
Ambrosini lashed a snapshot over from distance, but neither side could find a way through and the tie went to extra time.
Three minutes into the supplementary period, Kaka finally broke the deadlock. Having had so many chances throughout the 90 minutes, he shrugged off a defender in the centre circle, sprinted up the field and nutmegged Boruc with a cool finish. Ancelotti dived on top of his players during the wild celebrations.
Moments later Gilardino combined with Pirlo and Boruc had his palms stung by the ex-Inter midfielder's strike. Kaka volleyed a corner kick well over and Gilardino just failed to get is head to Seedorf's cross. Gordon Strachan threw on forward Craig Beattie for Evander Sno.
Kaka's pass was intercepted by Gravesen and he unleashed a rocket from midfield that Dida smothered with two touches. At the other end, Boruc again flew to palm away a Pirlo snapshot from 20 metres that was heading for the top corner.
Beattie nodded a Telfer cross over and Seedorf's shot was charged down. Kaka won the ball back in midfield only to strike a Celtic player from the edge of the area.
The second period of extra time kicked off with a substitution, as Kenny Miller replaced Nakamura for a Celtic trident attack. Seedorf and Brocchi ballooned over, but Dida did well to pluck Neil Lennon's cross out of the air with Vennegoor of Hesselink threatening.
McGeady's shot was charged down, but Celtic were now pinning back a hesitant Milan. Kaka's cutback failed to find Brocchi or Seedorf and Brocchi drilled well wide from distance. Simic replaced Oddo at right-back and a powerful but inaccurate free kick was off target for the Scots.
Milan: Dida; Oddo (Simic 116), Bonera, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso (Brocchi 79), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Kaka; Inzaghi (Gilardino 72)
Celtic: Boruc; Telfer, McManus, O'Dea, Naylor; Nakamura (Miller 105), Lennon, Sno (Beattie 97), McGeady; Jarosik (Gravesen 62), Vennegoor of Hesselink
Ref: Plautz (Aus)
Ancelotti trusts in Dida
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Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Nelson Dida will start in goal against Champions League rivals Celtic.
The Brazilian was heckled by his own fans in the 3-1 win over Chievo on Saturday after he was responsible for the Verona side’s goal, but the Coach is confident that Dida will prove his worth on Wednesday.
“Dida will play,” said Ancelotti at Milanello on Tuesday. “After all, he is one of the best ‘keepers in the world.
“I am sure he will have a great game tomorrow. He has been here for some time and we know him well.
“There is not even the slightest chance that he won’t react to the mistakes he made against Chievo.”
While Dida will start, Ancelotti is still unsure whether he will be able to field captain Paolo Maldini in defence.
“Yesterday he worked with the team, but we need to verify his condition again even if we hope he will be available,” added the former midfielder.
Milan are in pole position to qualify after the 0-0 draw in Glasgow, but Ancelotti is demanding focus from his troops in the last 16 tie.
“We don’t have to think about making any calculations. I think that if we play with consistency and conviction for 90 minutes then we have a good chance of doing well,” he explained.
“Celtic are a physical side and we are not the favourites, the game will be played out on the field. However, I believe that our fans will know how to help us.
“I know that there are still some unsold tickets, but I think that between now and tomorrow many people will rush to buy them.
“Will I field one or two strikers? I don’t have any doubts, I am sure we will do well no matter what. In any case, we will play with two strikers, although I’m not sure how you consider Kaka…”
Celtic clash vital, says Gattuso
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Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso rates Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Celtic as the most important game of the season so far.
The Rossoneri were held to a goalless draw in the first leg and the former Rangers man is aware of what is at stake at the San Siro tomorrow night.
“There is no doubt that it will be a memorable night. This match is the most important one of our campaign and it won't be easy to forget that,” said Gattuso to Il Corriere dello Sport.
“It’s a very delicate encounter and we have to face it with a winning mentality. The Scottish side will be dangerous and will never give up.
“I believe we can turn the dream into reality, qualifying for the quarter-finals would confirm that we are one of the strongest sides in Europe.”
Milan will start the tie as favourites, but Ringhio has requested that the Rossoneri supporters turn out in force.
“I want to call on our tifosi,” he added. “My teammates and I want to see a full Meazza as their encouragement can help us in this difficult match.”
The northern giants have had a problematic campaign, but normality seems to be returning to Carlo Ancelotti’s squad.
“Milan are even better and more amazing than in the past,” added the Italian international.
“This team has managed to overcome enormous difficulties at the start of the season, mainly because it is strongly equipped, proud and brave.
“Furthermore, our Coach has created a group of players who are willing to do their duty for Milan and the results are evident.”
AC Milan ponder Gomes move
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Milan are interested in Heurelho Gomes of PSV Eindhoven as it becomes increasingly likely that goalkeeper Nelson Dida is on his way out of the club.
The Rossoneri No 1 seems set to leave once his contract expires in the summer as extension talks have stalled over Dida’s financial requests.
Milan are therefore looking for a valid replacement and have targeted Gomes, who recently earned a call-up from Selecao Coach Carlos Dunga.
The 26-year-old Brazilian is currently contracted to the Dutch giants until 2010, but might be allowed to leave for something around £5m.
Juve ace Gianluigi Buffon also remains a primary target for the Via Turati outfit, as confirmed recently by President Silvio Berlusconi.
Christian Abbiati, on loan at Torino, and Gregory Coupet of Lyon are also reportedly on their wish-list too.
Meanwhile, reserve ‘keeper Zeljko Kalac renewed his deal with the Rossoneri on Monday, extending his contract until 2009.
Oddo believes in qualification
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Milan defender Massimo Oddo is certain that the Rossoneri will succeed in qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals.
The San Siro club host Celtic on Wednesday following the 0-0 first leg draw and the World Cup winner has no doubts that his side will triumph.
“Milan are Milan, we are playing at home and have all the credentials needed to progress to the next round,” said Oddo.
“Celtic don’t have an impressive squad. They play very well at home, but away from home they are not irresistible,” continued the former Lazio man.
“Milan are superior and I am sure we can qualify for the last eight.”
Oddo has also defended Ronaldo, who has not always been at his best so far since joining the club at the end of January.
“It isn’t easy to swap clubs during the season, you can encounter some difficulties,” declared the defender, who himself arrived after Christmas.
“He has great qualities and an undeniable class. He just needs to adapt to this squad and then he will give his contribution.
"Ronaldo cannot be doubted as a player.”
Sheva not coming back
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Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko has declared that he is happy with the Blues and has no intention of going back to Milan.
The Ukrainian striker joined the London club in the summer in a £31m move, but struggled to adapt to his new life in the Premiership, thus fuelling rumours that he might consider a sensational return to the San Siro.
“At the beginning it was difficult, I had to change the way I played and adapt to English football,” said Shevchenko in an interview with Radio Italia.
“I believe it’s normal to have a period of adjustment. I arrived here after a difficult season for me, now I have finally overcome that hard time,” continued the former Dynamo Kiev star.
“I made my choice, I arrived in England and now I want to continue on this path, I am not going back.”
The striker is still a close friend with club President Silvio Berlusconi, who is the godfather of his son, and admits that leaving the Via Turati outfit wasn’t easy.
“I speak with Berlusconi often, it was extremely difficult for me to tell him that I wanted to leave,” said the international.
“I will never forget Milan. It was a very important experience for me, which allowed me to become the player I am,” concluded the former Rossoneri star.
AC Milan derby clash moved
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The Italian Football League have confirmed that the Milan derby has been switched to an afternoon kick off.
The Inter-Milan tie was set to take place at 20.30 local hours next Sunday night, but it’s been brought forward to a 15.00 start.
The decision was taken on safety grounds after tight new security measures were introduced following the Catania riots last month.
Next weekend’s night games will be Sampdoria-Cagliari on Saturday and Roma-Udinese on Sunday evening.
Kaka wants fans' support
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Milan star Kaka is optimistic ahead of the Champions League tie with Celtic and hopes in the fans’ support.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side hosts the Scottish team on Wednesday at the San Siro after the goalless draw in the first leg in Glasgow.
The Rossonero is looking forward to playing in a crowded stadium following UEFA’s confirmation that there would be an official capacity of 67,500 for the match.
“We are all ready for this game, the Champions League is always a special competition and this year it is even more so,” Kaka told Milan Channel.
“We can feel the importance of the tournament and we know that we have to give our all for this match,” added the Brazilian.
There are more than 20,000 tickets yet unsold for Wednesday’s clash, but Kaka hopes that there will be a large crowd to cheer the side on.
“I don’t know why they didn’t sing during Saturday’s match with Chievo, it was a really strange feeling.
“I am glad they then decided to cheer us on. They might not be aware of it, but I want our fans to know that they are very important for us,” explained the 24-year-old.
“We must focus only on ourselves. We played well in Glasgow and we must try to repeat that performance.
“I mainly fear Shunsuke Nakamura, he is a strong and intelligent player. Celtic are dangerous on free kicks and high crosses and he is very good at both,” concluded Kaka.
The match at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza will kick-off at 8.45pm local time and will be refereed by Konrad Plautz of Austria.
Gilardino wary of Celtic threat
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Milan striker Alberto Gilardino has warned his teammates against underestimating Celtic in their Champions League tie on Wednesday.
The Rossoneri go into the second leg as favourites, having held the Scottish club to a goalless home draw two weeks ago, but the former Parma man knows that the clash will not be an easy one.
“We must not underestimate Celtic and we won’t, they have been playing well this year and have won a lot,” said Gilardino.
“This will be a very important game for us, we have to try to score and win,” added the world champion, who was pleased with UEFA’s decision to confirm San Siro’s full capacity of 67,500 for the match.
“Hopefully, we will have the full support of our fans, we need them. Supporters are fundamental and really important to us.”
Milan earned an important win 3-1 over Chievo on Saturday, when they managed to come back after conceding a goal to the Verona-based side thanks to a howler by goalkeeper Nelson Dida.
“I am pleased I scored the equaliser, it was important in helping us turn the game around. This is an important result in view of the match with Celtic.
“We are still alive and our morale is good, we showed strength and the necessary determination to come back from a goal down,” concluded Gilardino.
The Rossoneri, who have not lost in 14 matches and are sixth on the table with 40 points, three points shy of a Champions League spot.
Bonera takes Dida blame
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Daniele Bonera has taken the blame for Nelson Dida’s disastrous performance, but the Milan fans have turned on the want-away goalkeeper.
Chievo took the lead at San Siro last night when Bonera clattered into Dida as he was trying to protect the ball, allowing Sergio Pellissier to waltz into an empty net.
“I was first to the ball, then Dida called and so I left it. Let’s just say I’ll take the blame, as I could’ve cleared it,” insisted the defender. “Perhaps I was pushed from behind, but I take my responsibility.”
However, the fans did not see it that way and Dida was widely jeered throughout the match, although there was a ‘strike’ on in the Curva so the Ultras restrained from cheering.
“I think the booing was amplified because the Curva was silent, but in any case it’s normal to be criticised when things aren’t going too well. The crowd has a right to make its feelings heard. I’m sure Dida will be able to react and won’t suffer the situation too much.”
The rapport with the goalkeeper has been on edge for some time and has now reached breaking point.
Dida has refused to extend his contract, which expires at the end of the season, and Rossoneri directors have all but confirmed it is because he already has an agreement with Barcelona.
With this in mind, his recurring injuries this season and woeful form shown in the Chievo game, it’s possible Zeljko Kalac will be picked to play against Celtic on Wednesday.
“This wasn’t an easy game, especially in terms of the physical strain. Chievo are dangerous upfront, but when Milan move as we know how, we can really scare anyone,” continued Bonera.
“I am also glad for Alberto Gilardino’s goal. I hope it bodes well for the Champions League game with Celtic and the Milan derby.”
Ronaldo revs up for derby
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Ronaldo went off with cramp last night, but insists he’ll be at the top of his game next Sunday – against Inter in the Milan derby.
“It was a good performance and all I was missing was a goal,” he said of the 3-1 win over Chievo, in which he set up Massimo Oddo’s strike.
“I knew that slowly I would rediscover my form. Physical fitness is the most important thing and I hope to be at the top of my game for the derby.”
It will be the first time Ronaldo has faced his former Inter teammates since the switch to their arch rivals, though he is not feeling anxious ahead of the March 11 showdown.
“I cannot play in the Champions League, so I have a whole week to train before the big match. I aim to take full advantage of that opportunity,” added Il Fenomeno.
“I’d like to score in every game, but I know that won’t be possible. Actually, I was told that the goal I had disallowed in the first half for offside was valid, but these things happen.”
Ronaldo is cup-tied and will be in the stands for Wednesday’s European encounter with Celtic, as his teammates must win to reach the quarter-finals following the 0-0 first leg result in Glasgow.
“I do miss the Champions League, but I’ll be there to support Milan and hope all goes well against Celtic. We know we have no choice but to win this one game.”
Ronaldinho continues to be linked with the Rossoneri and his fellow Brazilian was asked to comment on newspaper rumours the Barcelona ace had also put on a lot of weight.
“People make up stories and then we have to deny them. Ronaldinho lifted up his shirt to show he wasn’t overweight, but he didn’t even need to prove anything. The same goes for me…”
President Silvio Berlusconi added more fuel to the Ronaldinho fire despite his claims he would stay at Barca for life.
“If he leaves the club, Milan will be in pole position for Ronaldinho. I guarantee it,” said the former Italian Prime Minister. “I don’t believe in these lifetime pledges.”
Del Neri 'scared' Rossoneri
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Luigi Del Neri’s Chievo were beaten 3-1, but maintains his minnows shook up San Siro giants Milan.
“There is no shame in losing at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. The important thing is to do it with dignity, as we did this evening, and we even managed to scare Milan.”
Sergio Pellissier had put the visitors ahead by taking advantage of a Nelson Dida howler, but Alberto Gilardino, Massimo Oddo and Clarence Seedorf turned the game around.
“We had a lot of young players out there and played very well. The equaliser was perhaps avoidable, but Oddo’s goal was excellent,” continued Del Neri.
“You need to use up a lot of energy when facing the Rossoneri, so inevitably you end up drained towards the final minutes. Perhaps with a little more concentration and good luck, we would have left here with a result.”
The Chievo Coach was sent off for dissent during the first half, but insisted he was not upset.
“These things happen in football and I have already cleared the air with the officials. I asked the linesman for an explanation on the offside flag against my players. When the game is over, I’m perfectly calm. The important thing is not to offend anyone.”
Ancelotti sees the light
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Carlo Ancelotti says Milan can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” after their hard-fought victory over Chievo.
“We took a bit of time to get the right tempo. It was a bland start from us and Chievo put us under pressure with their pace,” he said of the 3-1 result.
“Fortunately, we did well for the rest of the match. We have a real consistency now and kept our heads in a tough moment of the tie.”
The Flying Donkeys were leading 1-0 before the fightback was completed by Alberto Gilardino, Massimo Oddo and Clarence Seedorf.
“Recently we have reshuffled our midfield. This limits the quality of possession a little bit, but we had to make the most of what we had in this situation. It has been a troubled season, but we can now say that we see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Kaka has moved to a wider role and, although he doesn’t like it very much, he finds more space there and did well against Chievo. Now we hope to progress in the Champions League.”
The Rossoneri were again at the centre of an injury crisis for this match and Ronaldo went off in the final minutes suffering from cramp.
“He could have done better with his finishing towards the end, but overall he impressed me. He was excellent in the one-on-one and it’s always difficult to get the ball off him.”
Chievo’s opener from Sergio Pellissier came from a Nelson Dida howler and it wasn’t the goalkeeper’s only mistake of the night.
“Dida made an error on the goal and also felt the knock-on effect of that blow to the head for the rest of the game,” explained Ancelotti.
Celtic visit San Siro on Wednesday evening and Milan need a victory to reach the quarter-finals after the 0-0 draw in Scotland.
AC Milan 3:1 Chievo Verona - match report
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Scorers: Pellissier 17 (C), Gilardino 33 (M), Oddo 55 (M), Seedorf 93 (M)
Despite Nelson Dida's goalkeeping howler, Milan turned their game around to beat Chievo 3-1 with Massimo Oddo's first goal for the club.
The Rossoneri were still dealing with an injury crisis and had to do without Paolo Maldini, Marcos Cafu, Alessandro Nesta, Serginho, Kakha Kaladze, Alessandro Costacurta and Pippo Inzaghi, while there was also pressure to rest players ahead of the Champions League match with Celtic. Chievo were in trouble too, as Luciano, Victor Obinna, Vincenzo Sicignano and Federico Cossato were injured with Fabio Moro and Erjon Bogdani suspended. As before every game this weekend, there was a minute's silence for the death of respected journalist Giorgio Tosatti.
Dida almost gave away a goal after four minutes with a terrible clearance straight to Paolo Sammarco, but the pass found Sergio Pellissier offside. Kaka and Ronaldo combined to thread through for Alberto Gilardino, whose first touch let him down in front of the goalkeeper.
Moments later Il Fenomeno hit the back of the net, but the whistle had already gone for an incorrect offside decision.
Dida flapped at a long free kick to take it away from Pellissier and from the resulting corner Davide Mandelli nodded wide.
The uncertainty was even more evident when Chievo took the lead in comical circumstances. Daniele Bonera was trying to protect the ball from Pellissier, but ended up clattering into Dida instead and allowed their opponent to waltz into an empty net!
Moments later Milan nearly equalised with Gilardino's glancing header well saved by Squizzi, then the goalkeeper flew to fingertip a splendid Andrea Pirlo free kick out from under the bar.
Massimo Oddo also had a set-piece smothered, but Vincenzo Italiano saw Dida off his line and attempted a strike from 30 metres.
The Rossoneri drew level and it was again thanks to a defensive error. Squizzi beat away a sudden Kaka snapshot and Gilardino pounced on the loose ball, chipping it over the scrambling goalkeeper.
Mandelli did well to nod Oddo's sweeping cross off the head of Ronaldo from six yards. Chievo Coach Gigi Del Neri was sent off for insulting the linesman and fourth official after 35 minutes at San Siro.
Ronaldo took on three men with a series of step-overs before his shot was deflected for a corner, but Gennaro Gattuso was booked for a tactical foul on Giuseppe Cozzolino as he launched a counter-attack.
Ronaldo spun round to leave a defender for dead, but the finish from the edge of the area was too weak to truly trouble Squizzi.
After the restart Kaka believed he was brought down on the counter, but the referee waved play on. Pirlo's free kick was controlled and Gattuso had an effort closed down.
Milan were passing the ball around with more pace in this half and Ronaldo combined with Gilardino to reach Oddo on the very edge of the area. The ex-Lazio man let go of a right-foot foot screamer into the far corner to turn the game around.
However, Dida was having a nightmare and he completely missed a cross moments later, clattering into Dario Simic and Pellissier, but fortunately for him the ball swung just wide of the open goal.
Brocchi's pass went through a Kaka dummy to Ronaldo and he slashed the shot wide, while at the other end Dida had to deal with a tricky backpass under pressure from Paolo Sammarco.
A Kamil Kosowski cross went past everyone - defenders and forwards - with only a touch needed to score and Simic attempted an audacious strike from over 30 metres.
It was an all-Brazilian move on 70 minutes with Kaka's change of pace and Ronaldo spinning round, but the ex-Inter man was closed down when he should perhaps have passed back to his teammate.
Ronaldo was even more egotistical soon after, as on the counter he took advantage of Salvatore Lanna's slip and tried to chip the 'keeper, but Kaka was totally unmarked in the centre.
The former Real Madrid star had another effort charged down by Malago' and tried to break through three players, while Kosowski drilled wide for Chievo. Kaka's cutback for an unmarked Ronaldo at the back post was charged down for a corner and on the resulting set-piece Il Fenomeno tried to dribble through only to suffer from cramp.
Clarence Seedorf secured the victory in stoppages with a classic free kick. The Dutchman curled a fine finish into the near top corner, leaving Squizzi immobile.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Simic, Bonera, Jankulovski; Gattuso (Seedorf 80), Pirlo, Brocchi; Kaka; Gilardino (Ambrosini 76), Ronaldo (Favalli 88)
Chievo: Squizzi; Malagò, Mandelli, D'Anna, Lanna; Sammarco (Rrudho 80), Italiano, Troiano (Brighi 46); Semioli, Pellissier, Cozzolino (Kosowski 60)
Del Neri admires AC Milan
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Chievo Coach Gigi Del Neri has called this afternoon’s opponents Milan “an entire squad of Fenomeni, not just Ronaldo.”
The Flying Donkeys pay visit to San Siro and the questions focused on Ronaldo, although there was much more as far as the tactician was concerned.
“Milan are a squad full of great players. You just have to mention the names Paolo Maldini, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and now Ronaldo as well. The whole side are Fenomeni.
“If we are to beat them, then we must try to block their initiatives and maintain a very high level of concentration throughout. Also, as they play at a slower tempo than Roma, we’ll focus more on raising our pace.”
The 2-2 draw with Roma midweek impressed, especially as Chievo are still in the midst of an injury crisis that has ruled out Federico Cossato, Vincenzo Sicignano, Luciano, Cesar Prates and Victor Obinna, on top of the suspended Fabio Moro and Erjon Bogdani.
“We are playing good football and proved that against the likes of Inter, Palermo and Roma,” continued Del Neri.
“When you pick up points against the big clubs, it’s worth something in terms of morale as well as in the table, especially as they are unexpected. Those results gave us confidence and certainty in our capabilities.”
Sergio Pellissier is expected to start upfront alongside Franco Semioli and Giuseppe Cozzolino in a 4-3-3 system.
“I don’t want to hear talk of an emergency situation, as those who played on Wednesday, like Giovanni Marchese and Michele Marcolini, showed they were up to the task. Perhaps we are missing a few people in key roles, so to get round that we will look at the system we’ll adopt.”
Chievo squad: Brighi, Concetti, Cozzolino, D'Anna, Italiano, Kosowski, Lanna, Malagò, Mandelli, Mantovani, Marchese, Marcolini, Pellissier, Rickler, Rrudho, Sammarco, Scurto, Semioli, Squizzi, Troiano.
AC Milan derby moved?
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There are suggestions the Milan derby could be played in the afternoon to prevent crowd trouble, but this weekend’s Sicilian derby will be open to all.
Under the new guidelines set out following the death of police officer Filippo Raciti, only one match per day can be played in the evening.
Although the Milan derby has rarely been considered a high-risk encounter, it is possible that on Sunday March 11 there will be no late kick-offs at all.
This would push even one of the biggest games in the calendar to a 15.00 local time, 14.00 in the UK, start.
“If that is the case, I don’t think it will make much of a difference,” said Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti. “Although I must say that the evening gives a tie a certain aura.”
Meanwhile, this Sunday’s Sicilian derby between Messina and Palermo will be welcome to fans from both clubs.
The Stadio San Filippo has passed all safety requirements and another inspection today confirmed there was no reason to limit the number of supporters.
Matters are slowly returning to normal elsewhere, as in Serie B Napoli have been given the go-ahead to let in their own season ticket holders for Saturday’s game against Spezia.
The Stadio San Paolo had been shut until now, but enough work has been done installing turnstiles to allow in the 19,500 locals.
Brescia’s Stadio Rigamonti lags behind, though, and failed another inspection today. The turnstiles are considered insufficient and not up to standard, while the CCTV system is also inadequate.
The Serie B encounter with Juventus on March 10 will have to be behind closed doors. But, as this is the biggest gate of the season for them, the club could decide to play on neutral turf in a stadium that is up to code.
Ancelotti rediscovers 'old' AC Milan
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Carlo Ancelotti insists his Milan side are now back to their potentially lethal best. “We can beat anyone,” he maintained.
The Rossoneri’s campaign looked to have gone horribly wrong after a slump in form, coupled with their Calciopoli ban, left them on the wrong side of the standings.
But seven wins and two draws in their last nine League games have seen them climb back to the verge of a Champions League qualifying spot.
“The game against Palermo on Wednesday [0-0] showed that we are at a level with the big clubs and I’m happy with this fact,” noted the tactician on Friday.
“Now we can beat anybody who we face as we have found our consistency and strength again.”
The Italian giants are now just three points shy of fourth and will entertain Chievo on Saturday.
“Chievo have started to find some form again,” added the Coach. “They are a dangerous counter-attacking side and are tactically organised.”
Turning to his own tactics, Ancelotti confirmed that Ronaldo will start against the Flying Donkeys after he began on the bench in Sicily.
“He will certainly play, although I’m not yet sure if he will feature just alongside Kaka or also with Alberto Gilardino.
“Elsewhere, Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski will recuperate. It will be tough for Paolo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze and Marcos Cafu to do the same.”
Although short of options in defence, Ancelotti – who also confirmed that Massimo Ambrosini would be rested – wanted to highlight the recent form of Daniele Bonera.
The stopper has taken his time to settle since his summer move from Parma, but is now starting to show some real promise.
“The way he can lead the defence is an excellent surprise for me,” continued the boss. “He is proving himself to be of the standard needed to be a Milan player.”
The pre-match Press conference inevitably turned to transfer matters with reports that Real Madrid target Kaka is on his way out, with Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldinho possible summer arrivals.
“Kaka is getting tired of answering the same question,” the former midfielder responded. “He likes it here and has a long contract with us.
“Ronaldinho? We’ve survived without him and that won’t change if he doesn’t come here. As for Cannavaro, I bossed him at Parma and I can only speak well of him.”
Real make new Kaka bid
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Real Madrid have made a fresh and ambitious offer for Milan sensation Kaka, according to reports.
The Brazilian star is known to be Real’s primary summer transfer target and they’ve formulated yet another offer to test Milan’s resolve.
Stories in the peninsula on Friday morning are claiming that the Madrid giants are ready to offer a tempting player plus cash bid which would have to be evaluated.
Chief Ramon Calderon has reportedly given the green light for Real to offer Fabio Cannavaro and Mahamadou Diarra, plus around £20m, for the former Sao Paulo ace.
As an added incentive, Real are also prepared to sign Kaka’s brother Digao, who is currently playing in defence for Rimini after joining the club on loan from the Rossoneri.
Netting Cannavaro and Diarra plus such an amount of cash would normally be welcomed by the Italian giants, but seemingly not if Kaka were to be sacrificed.
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has constantly insisted that the fantasista is untouchable at any price.
The attacking midfielder again underlined his ability in the midweek 0-0 draw at Palermo in Serie A.
Although he did miss a first half penalty, the Selecao regular was immense at the Stadio Barbera in spells.
The 1982-born starlet joined the Via Turati outfit in August 2003 after Chelsea were pipped to his signature.
Cannavaro going nowhere
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Fabio Cannavaro’s agent has this evening slammed suggestions that his client is on the verge of leaving Real Madrid for Milan.
Stories in Spain this morning claimed that the Rossoneri were in pole position to net the struggling defender at the end of the season.
But Gaetano Fedele has insisted that the man also linked with a Juventus return has no plans on a summer switch.
“Fabio has said that he’d like to go back to Italy, but only after his contract at Real expires,” Fedele claimed. “He will still be at Madrid next season.”
Cannavaro signed a three-year contract with Real in June after Juventus’ demotion to Serie B was confirmed following the Calciopoli investigations.
Yet his Liga career has been difficult despite the immense impact he made at the World Cup for Italy last summer.
Although his representative is seemingly certain of the Neapolitan’s future, the player himself does have doubts.
Cannavaro has admitted that he’s struggled to deliver since his latest switch and he’s been in the game long enough to know how football works.
"I want to stay here, but I know that when you fail in a season at the age of 33 then a club looks around,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I have to admit that I’m pleased to read that I’m of interest to Italian clubs and that includes Juventus.
“However, we have to wait until June and then we’ll see what happens.”
Ronaldinho shuts AC Milan door
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Ronaldinho has distanced himself from a Milan move. “I’m convinced that I’ll remain at Barcelona for some time yet,” he declared.
The Italian giants have been fuelling rumours of a summer move for the sensation after President Silvio Berlusconi, Vice-President Adriano Galliani and director general Ariedo Braida all confirmed he is a target.
However, the player himself has seemingly shot down the possibility that he could be joining countrymen Ronaldo and Kaka at the San Siro next term.
“The more time passes, the more I’m convinced that I will stay at Barcelona for many more years,” the former Paris SG ace noted. “I’m happy here.”
The South American has undeniably had a difficult campaign at the Nou Camp with rumours of unrest in the Barca squad.
After being blasted by teammate Samuel Eto’o during the latter's recent verbal outbursts, the Spanish media then attached a ‘Gordo’ tag to him after claims that he was overweight.
But Ronaldinho, 16 goals in La Liga this term, has silenced his critics with some awesome displays for the European giants recently.
“I’ve had a difficult week because of those photographs which appeared to show that I was overweight,” he added.
“It was a tough situation for me, with people telling me that I needed to eat less.
"But I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw that I’m just fine. The incident simply fuelled my motivation.”
Gilardino and Trezeguet swap clubs?
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After being linked to Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose, Juventus have reportedly set their sights on Alberto Gilardino to replace David Trezeguet.
The Bianconeri have always had a link to the former Parma striker, who used to be a Juve fan as a child, and Gilardino is now at the top of their wanted list for the summer transfer window.
During January Milan were thought to be interested in David Trezeguet, so it is inevitably being rumoured that the two clubs could come to an exchange agreement over the pair.
Gila is yet to find his best form at the San Siro, despite being in his second season there. The arrival of Ronaldo has threatened to limit his playing time and the frequent Ronaldinho rumours have forced Gilardino to consider his future.
The negotiations could also include Juve ’keeper Gianluigi Buffon. It is no secret that the Rossoneri are looking for possible replacements for Nelson Dida as the Brazilian will be a free agent in June.
It will be hard to convince Juventus though, and it is claimed that the only way they will get the goalie would be by offering the 25-year-old striker, who has a contract with Milan until 2011.
“It is more important who is here right now than who will come here this summer,” commented Bianconeri defender Federico Balzaretti.
“It isn’t great to hear so many names linked to Juventus and it is not fair towards the players who have decided to stay and give their all to earn promotion to Serie A.
“If we want to win the Scudetto we will need some new players, but at the moment we would be as good as Palermo or even better. That’s why I believe that the base of the new team should be the current one,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Alberto Gilardino isn’t the only name on the Bianconeri shopping list.
Coach Didier Deschamps has also asked for an attacking midfielder with Portuguese star Deco and French revelation Franck Ribery leading the candidates.
AC Milan close on Cannavaro
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Milan have begun negotiations with Real Madrid to bring Fabio Cannavaro back to Serie A, according to reports in Spain.
Spanish newspaper AS claims that talks between Rossoneri Vice-President Adriano Galliani and Real chief Ramon Calderon have already started.
While negotiating Ronaldo’s transfer during the January window, Milan showed their interest for the Italy captain and have received a positive response from the Spanish giants.
However, Cannavaro has recently announced that he misses Juventus and that he would like to return to his former club at the end of the season.
Real Madrid are having a tough time in La Liga this term and the Golden Ball winner has been harshly criticised by both fans and the Press at the Bernabeu.
“I know I am not on top form, but I am happy here in Spain,” said the Neapolitan native, who had also been linked with a return to Napoli where he would team up with his younger brother Paolo.
“I’ve never made so many mistakes in my career, but I’m working hard on getting back to being the player I was at Juventus and the World Cup, I’m sure I’ll succeed,” he concluded.
According to AS, the Merengues have already lined up the world champions replacement in the form of Getafe youngster Alexis, who has also been targeted by Milan in the past.
Zamparini attacks Galliani
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Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini is mad at Milan’s Vice-President Adriano Galliani, after Rosanero director Dino Foschi was chucked out of the Rossoneri coach at the end of yesterday’s game.
According to Zamparini the Sicilians’ director intended to greet Galliani, but his gesture was far from appreciated.
“I am really angry with Galliani. At the end of the match Foschi wanted to meet him, but he was pushed away and offended,” said the furious President.
“Galliani shouted at Foschi: ‘You and your President are not football men’. I cannot accept this behaviour and I do not intend to be Galliani’s friend.
“I am really upset by this. I hoped that Galliani had changed a bit, but he is still the same. Who does he think he is?” added Zamparini.
Apparently the Rossoneri Vice-President wasn’t happy with the comments made by Zamparini just a few days before the game regarding the selection of the referee.
Zamparini claimed that the referee assigned for the clash wasn’t quite up to the importance of the game.
“I am sure they have got something against me,” continued the President.
“Every time they get the chance they are trying to punish me for what I do and what I say. My impression is that they are looking for a vendetta,” concluded Zamparini.
The game between Palermo and Milan ended with a goalless draw. The Rossoneri are still eight points behind the Sicilians, which are holding the third position in the table.
Ancelotti sticks up for Kaka
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Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has praised Kaka despite the Brazilian’s costly penalty miss in today’s stalemate with Palermo.
Injury-hit Milan were forced to settle for a point at the Renzo Barbera, but could have recorded a much-needed win in the race for Champions League football had Kaka not seen a debatable early spot-kick smartly saved by Alberto Fontana.
However, the South American star put in a superb performance and received only words of encouragement from his Coach after the 0-0 draw.
“He had a first half like I hadn’t seen at Milan,” Ancelotti said. “He read the game well and created chances for us with his quality.
“Kaka always scores penalties, but today he was unfortunate. We’ll have to see, but I think he’ll continue to take them.”
The spot-kick itself was a debatable decision, as the goalkeeper seemed to make minimal contact with Alberto Gilardino.
“Was it a penalty? It doesn’t matter now, seeing as Fontana saved it,” mused Ancelotti. “I’m happy with the way we played, especially considering how many difficulties we had going into the game.”
The Rossoneri had 10 players out injured or suspended – including eight defenders – so Cristian Brocchi played as a makeshift full-back.
While the result sees Milan lose ground on both Empoli and Lazio, Carletto spoke of his satisfaction at the way his side acquitted themselves.
“I’m not delighted with the result, but it was a good performance especially in the first half when we created the chances to win the game,” he claimed.
“The second period was tougher. We gave the ball away and struggled a lot more.”
Milan’s crucial fortnight continues with the visit of Chievo this weekend, before Celtic arrive at the San Siro for the second leg of their Champions League clash next Wednesday.