Pirlo set for derby return
30.4 || scharatz
Milan's hopes of beating Inter in the Champions’ League semi-finals have been boosted with the likely return of Andrea Pirlo.
The midfielder was expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season because of a knee injury but he has surprisingly returned to training.
The former Under-21 international captain picked up what seemed a serious knock in training but initial tests were misdiagnosed.
Pirlo returned to work with the rest of the squad on Tuesday and could feature against Como at the weekend.
But it is expected that he will start in the game against Inter next week as Milan look to ensure safe passage through to the Old Trafford final.
"We want to win the Champions’ League and we will win it," said boss Carlo Ancelotti. "Anything can happen in those two games but I’m optimistic.
"We are favoured because we’ve already beaten them twice in Serie A this term which means we know their weaknesses."
Milan’s other injured midfielders in Clarence Seedorf and Serginho are also set to return to training this week.
The Dutchman was thought to be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with knee ligament damage but is recovering quicker than expected.
While the Brazilian is still struggling with a leg injury he picked up in the home loss against Empoli. He won’t feature against Como on Saturday.
Rivaldo should be available for the San Siro clash though after he recovered from slight thigh strain.
Milan promise major swoop
29.4 || scharatz
Vice-president Adriano Galliani claims that Milan will sign either David Beckham, Luis Figo or Ronaldo this summer.
"We will make a major signing," said the Rossoneri chief. "One player from Beckham, Figo or Ronaldo will definitely arrive to wear our famous shirt."
The Manchester United winger has been linked for some time but the Italian giants will have to beat Real Madrid to his services.
Should the England captain move to Spain then that could open the door for Portuguese winger Figo to leave the current European champions.
The least probable arrival would be Ronaldo. The Brazilian left city rivals Inter at the start of this season but Milan seem seriously interested.
Speculation suggests that Milan would offer cash and Andriy Shevchenko in return for the international striker.
Meanwhile, Galliani has also hinted that Rivaldo - last summer’s major signing - may be released after just a year with the club.
"Rivaldo is free to decide his own future," said Galliani. "But obviously we are hoping that he will stay here with us."
The World Cup winner has had a tough debut season in Serie A and has been jeered by his own fans in recent weeks.
AS Roma 2-1 AC Milan - match report
27.4 || webmaster
Scorers: Cassano 60 (R), Tommasi 76 (R), Tomasson 81 (M)
Milan fall to their second consecutive Serie A defeat and now risk losing third place, as Roma continue to give the big clubs problems.
Roma have proved tough opponents for all the big clubs so far, but the absence of Marcos Cafu and Marco Delvecchio forced a change of tactics to a three-man defence. Gigi Sartor filled in for the injured Vincent Candela.
The Rossoneri were also struggling with injuries as the midfield was without Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Rivaldo, Gennaro Gattuso and Serginho. Pippo Inzaghi was rested after his match-winning performance against Ajax midweek.
The two teams will meet again in the Coppa Italia Final, although the dates have not yet been confirmed due to Milan's Champions' League comittments.
Roma had the first effort when a long range Olivier Dacourt drive was tipped round the post by Dida.
The Giallorossi had the better of the early play, but Milan looked dangerous on the break with Andriy Shevchenko shaking the sidenetting.
Vincenzo Montella is traditionally at the peak of his form during April and skipped past Paolo Maldini, only to see his shot squeeze wide.
Dida was tested again just before the break as Francesco Totti drilled a powerful free kick towards goal, but the Brazilian managed to palm it away for a corner.
It was an open game and Shevchenko turned a free header just wide of the post from Fernando Redondo's intelligent cross.
Totti attempted to score a spectacular bicycle-kick in the final minute of the first half, but it was over the bar.
Roma had their best chance of the game so far at the dawn of the second half. Damiano Tommasi ran onto an inspired Totti pass, got past two defenders and the goalkeeper, but former Lazio hero Alessandro Nesta got back in time for a crucial goalline clearance.
Milan had penalty appeals waved away for Jonathan Zebina's tug on Massimo Ambrosini, while Ivan Pelizzoli was at full stretch for a save on Shevchenko.
There was bad news for Roma when Totti limped off with a bruised thigh and was replaced by Antonio Cassano.
Carlo Ancelotti's men had a much stronger start to the second half, but Shevchenko opted to go for goal rather than cutting across for the unmarked Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Cassano proved an inspired substitution as within two minutes he broke the deadlock. Some good build-up play and a Dida parry on Emerson saw Cassano tap in from two yards.
Milan had to increase their strike power, but opted to switch Shevchenko for Pippo Inzaghi and introduce Sam Dalla Bona in midfield.
However, Alessandro Nesta limped off with a calf injury and brought Martin Laursen onto the field.
The Dane made an immediate impact as his clearance on Cassano's cut-back prevented Walter Samuel turning into an open goal.
As Milan pushed forward, they left spaces at the back and Roma took full advantage. Cassano sparked Francisco Lima's run and Damiano Tommasi rose to nod down their second.
The Rossoneri re-opened the match soon after with a Jon Dahl Tomasson strike. The Dane acrobatically latched on to a Sam Dalla Bona centre from ten yards.
Manuel Rui Costa almost completed an extraordinary comeback moments later, but Pelizzoli got a fingertip to his precise angled drive.
Roma: Pelizzoli; Zebina, Samuel, Panucci; Sartor (Aldair 78), Tommasi, Emerson, Dacourt, Lima; Totti (Cassano 57), Montella
Milan: Abbiati; Simic, Nesta (Laursen 72), Maldini, Kaladze; Brocchi, Redondo, Rui Costa, Ambrosini (Dalla Bona 70); Tomasson, Shevchenko (Inzaghi 63)
Trio missing for Milan
25.4 || Seamus
The Milan trio of Rivaldo, Gennaro Gattuso and Serginho have all been ruled out of the game against Roma tomorrow.
All three have been struggling with injuries and have not been included in the 21-man Rossoneri squad.
The Brazilian international, who has been struggling for form, and Gattuso are recovering from muscle strains.
While wide-man Serginho (pictured) has still not got over a knock he suffered on his leg in last Saturday’s surprise 1-0 home defeat to Empoli.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti is also still without the midfield pair of Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf who have been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Goalkeepers: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori.
Defenders: Chamot, Costacurta, Helveg, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Roque Junior, Simic, Kaladze.
Midfielders: Ambrosini, Ba, Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Redondo, Rui Costa.
Forwards: F Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson.
Milan close in on Kaka
25.4 || Seamus
Milan have moved closer to signing Brazilian sensation Kaka after Sao Paulo admitted they would sell the player this summer.
The 21-year-old has been constantly linked with a transfer to the Rossoneri and his club have confirmed they will cash in on the youngster.
"We will sell him this June to a great European club," stated sporting director Carlos Augusto de Barros y Silva.
That view was mirrored by Kaka's agent Wagner Ribeiro. He said: "Money is not a priority for my client. He just wants to move to Europe."
Vice-president Adriano Galliani is a massive fan of the attacking midfielder and is ready to pay around £14m for the player.
Galliani is hoping that Leonardo, his new assistant in Milan, can take advantage of his contacts in his homeland to conclude the deal.
The Brazilian international recently revealed that he would happily join the Italian giants if they came knocking.
"If they called me then obviously I would want the transfer to go through," he said earlier this week.
"I’m good friends with Milan’s Leonardo and Rivaldo, plus Dida and Roque Junior. Every time that I talk to them they encourage me to come to Europe."
Pirlo rushes return for derby
25.4 || Seamus
Ex-Inter star Andrea Pirlo is desperate to recover from a knee injury in time to face his old club in the Champions’ League semi-final.
“I will be back for the San Siro clash with Inter,” assured the Milan midfielder on Friday afternoon.
Pirlo was ruled out of action for two months by medical staff after fracturing a kneecap during a training ground clash.
However, he is recovering earlier than expected and resumed training this morning at the Milanello complex.
Clarence Seedorf was also told he could not play again this season after suffering a knee ligament injury during the 0-0 first leg quarter-final draw with Ajax.
“Pirlo and Seedorf have begun the rehabilitation process,” revealed Coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“It is too early to make predictions on when they will be back on the field, but for now the signals are positive.”
The two former Inter midfielders are hopeful of making their comeback for at least one of the semi-final ties.
The first leg is on May 7 – the Milan home game – whereas Inter are the hosts on May 13.
Saturday switch for Serie A
25.4 || scharatz
The Champions’ League success of Inter, Milan and Juventus will see the entire Week 31 and 32 schedule switched to Saturday.
The decision is set to be made official by the Italian Football League in order to give the three sides extra time to prepare for their respective European Cup semi-finals.
All Serie A games will have to be moved forward by 24 hours because rules state that all matches between Week 31 and 34 must be played contemporarily.
Milan will face Inter, while Juventus take on reigning European Champions Real Madrid in the last four of the Champions’ League.
Rome home first in Coppa
25.4 || scharatz
The Italian Football League have confirmed that the first leg of the Coppa Italia final between Roma and Milan will be staged in the capital.
The draw was made today at the League headquarters in front of Roma sporting director Franco Baldini and Milan’s Umberto Gandini.
However, no firm dates have been finalised for either game due to the possibility that Milan may reach the Champions’ League Final on May 28.
AC Milan 3-2 Ajax - match report
24.4 || webmaster
Scorers: Inzaghi 30, 91 (M), Litmanen 63 (A), Shevchenko 65 (M), Pienaar 78 (A)
Pippo Inzaghi's incredible stoppage-time strike annihilated Ajax 3-2 and set a semi-final date with Inter.
Milan needed a victory to qualify for the final four following the goalless first leg draw in Amsterdam.
Paolo Maldini was forced to play with a protective mask due to a fractured nose, while Manuel Rui Costa and Kakha Kaladze also returned from injury lay-offs. Christian Brocchi stepped in for the suspended Gennaro Gattuso.
Rui Costa had the first shot after seven minutes, but his angled drive was wide of the near post.
Moments later there was danger for Dida as a taut Sneijder centre swept past the entire face of goal without a decisive deflection. Then the goalkeeper came out bravely to pluck the ball of the feet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rui Costa is essential to their creativity and he threaded through for Andriy Shevchenko soon after, but his cross-cum-shot was just too long for Pippo Inzaghi.
But there was a great deal of controversy on 23 minutes. Christian Brocchi's looping drive was deflected into the air and somehow flapped out of the top corner by Lobont's save. It was a remarkable intervention from the goalkeeper, but replays suggest the ball may well have crossed the line.
It was a very open game and Billy Costacurta threw himself in front of Sneijder's powerful effort from ten yards.
The deadlock was eventually broken with a slice of luck for the Rossoneri. Some wonderful build-up play from Rui Costa and Massimo Ambrosini set Shevchenko running and his deflected cross put the Ajax defence off their stride, but not Inzaghi. The Italian international jumped up to nod in the opener.
Shevchenko almost netted a spectacular second before the break, but his delicate lob shook the roof of the net.
Then Inzaghi sprung the offside trap and saw his half-volley palmed out by goalkeeper Lobont. Dida was also tested with a one-handed save on Christian Chivu's free kick.
Ajax threw on veteran hitman Jari Litmanen for the second half in a bid to turn the game around. Ibrahimovic almost took advantage of a Dida error, but his glancing header was wide.
Milan had another good chance to double their lead on 53 minutes, but Lobont got down well to parry Shevchenko's powerful free kick.
However, Ajax snatched an equaliser on the hour mark. The Rossoneri had started to lower the tempo and Danny Van der Meyde cut across for the unmarked Litmanen by the back post.
It was a short-lived result and within 90 seconds the front two had constructed another Milan goal. Inzaghi battled through two defenders and a deflection lifted his cross over the goalkeeper for the head of Shevchenko.
Pienaar was perhaps Ajax's most impressive player and he put the Dutchmen back on 2-2 with twelve minutes on the clock. It was a similar move to the first goal, with Van der Meyde's centre and Pienaar wrestled off his marker to slot home.
It was a result that would put Ajax through on away goals, so Carlo Ancelotti threw on Rivaldo, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Fernando Redondo.
Shevchenko could have grabbed another soon after, but Lobont performed a desperate reaction save with his feet.
On the resulting corner kick an Ambrosini header was palmed out by the impressive Lobont.
Morale was low, but the indomitable Pippo Inzaghi turned it all around again. In the first minute of stoppages Ambrosini's header was hooked over the goalkeeper with a looping acrobatic effort. The entire San Siro willed the ball in and it dipped mercilessly into the top corner. Although Tomasson got a touch, the ball seemed to be going in anyway.
The tension rose and moments later Alessandro Nesta was left bleeding heavily from his eyebrow following an elbow from Litmanen. It seems as if the eyebrow has been fractured and Milan had run out of substitutions at this point.
Nesta carried on despite the injury and after the final whistle he had to be dragged away from Ibrahimovic.
Milan: Dida; Simic (Tomasson 83), Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Brocchi, Ambrosini, Kaladze (Rivaldo 79); Rui Costa (Redondo 85); Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Ajax: Lobont; Trabelsi, Pasanen, Chivu, Van Damme (Litmanen 46); Yakubu, Pienaar (De Jong 83), Sneijder, O'Brien; Ibrahimovic, Van der Meyde (Bergdomlo 88)
Ref: Mejuto Gonzalez (Spa)
Champions League: AC Milan vs Ajax
22.4 || scharatz
AC Milan can only have one outcome in their Wednesday night Champions League quarterfinal match to keep their season alive: a victory. The Rossoneri suffered a morale-shattering first league home defeat of the season at the hands of Empoli and can now forget about Lo Scudetto. The team's focus is now fully on the Champions League, which by Carlo Ancelotti's own admission, they must win. However, a first leg result of 0-0 will mean that Milan will have to be careful not to concede first. If they were to fall behind, they could find themselves chasing the game, which is always dangerous at this stage in the competition.
Ajax have fast become the draw specialists of European football, although so far it is proving to be a success, even if it won't be winning many fans among the neutrals that have endured their matches this season.
Ronald Koeman's side drew 1-1 away to Valencia, Arsenal and Roma in the last group stage and a repeat of that score would be enough to take them through to the semi-finals, which by all accounts would be a phenomenal achievement.
The Amsterdam outfit may well be out of contention for the Eredivisie title, as they lie eight points behind PSV Eindhoven, however with Feyenoord hot on their heels for a place in this very competition next season there is still much to play for domestically, which is testing Koeman's young squad as it has been decimated by injuries all season.
Ajax have a good record against Milan, having only lost one of their five previous meetings. The most famous of their three victories came in the final 1995 European Cup final.
Milan started their weekend clash against Empoli without Maldini, Simic, Kaladze, Pirlo, Seedorf, Serginho, Rui Costa, Gattuso & Shevchenko. That meant eight of the eleven that got Milan off to a flyer in both group stages of the Champions League were missing from the side. Luckily Simic is back from suspension and Shevchenko and Kaladze are back from injury. However, Gattuso is suspended and doubts still surround Rui Costa, Maldini and Serginho, whilst two of their finest – Pirlo and Seedorf – are out for the rest of the season. Ancelotti will probably call on veteran Billy Costacurta to replace Maldini while Rivaldo will deputize in the unlikely event that Rui Costa does not feature. Fernando Redondo is looking likely to come on for Serginho, who is losing his battle to make the match.
Saturday's win against Roda JC came at a cost for Koeman as both Rafael van der Vaart and Maxwell were taken off with injuries. Van der Vaart suffered concussion, but reports suggest he will be allowed to play in the San Siro, while Maxwell took a knock to the ankle. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also a doubt, which is the biggest concern for Koeman, while Jari Litmanen is struggling to be fully fit and is not expected to start.
Milan last 6 (all comps): WLDWWL
Milan's form had started to pick up with after a battling derby win over Inter and a Coppa Italian semi-final defeat of Perugia. But, injuries finally took a toll of the side and they slumped to a horrible 1-0 home defeat to Empoli. However, a full capacity crowd will be cheering them on in what is arguably the most important game of their season thus far. And for once, they will not be faced by a wall of defenders as Ajax will be on the attack as well.
Ajax: Last 6 (all comps): DLWDLW
Ajax's only two wins in their last six matches have come in the Eredivisie against RBC Roosendaal (4-1) and Roda JC (4-2) on Saturday. Last Wednesday the Dutch Cup holders were dumped out of the competition in the semi-finals by Feyenoord. They've also drawn six of their last seven Champions League matches.
Most of the men in Carlo Ancelotti's side have looked a bit off-colour of late. But, there is one man who seems to be performing at the highest level every time he takes to the pitch. He is Italian international defender Alessandro Nesta. Nesta has played very well lately, even scoring his maiden goal in a Rossonero shirt. His contribution against Ajax will be vital given that Milan will want to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the star of Ajax's season, especially in the Champions League, although he is a doubt for the game. The Swede's loss would be huge, as a goal for Ajax would give them a huge chance to progress after the goalless draw in the first leg. Their defence has been difficult to break in Europe this season and this is largely down to Romanian star Cristian Chivu.
It has been a rough year for one of the world's finest. Vitor Borba Ferreira Rivaldo came to Milan amidst great hype and has simply failed to impress at the San Siro. Only a great comeback by the Brazilian in these crucial stages of European competition could salvage his future as a Rossonero.
Ajax – none appropriate.
AC Milan (4-4-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Kaladze; Rui Costa, Brocchi, Ambrosini, Redondo; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Ajax: (4-4-1-1): Lobont; Trabelso, Chivu, Pasanen, Van Damme; Galasek, De Jong, Pienaar, Witschge; van der Vaart; Ibrahimovic
Ancelotti eyes qualification
22.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti is confident Milan can reach the Champions’ League semi-finals despite their many injury problems.
The Rossoneri take on Ajax at the San Siro on Wednesday needing a victory after the 0-0 first leg draw two weeks ago.
"We have many important players missing such as Pirlo, Gattuso and Seedorf but I’m confident that I can field a competitive midfield," he said.
"The game tomorrow evening is of vital importance to our season but I’m confident that we can get the result that we need.
"I’m still not sure what team I will field but I’m certain that whoever I select will do the job necessary."
In the absence of the suspended Gattuso and the injured Pirlo and Seedorf, Ancelotti is set to start with Massimo Ambrosini, Fernando Redondo and Manuel Rui Costa.
"Those three players are all fit and well," continued Ancelotti. "As for Serginho and Paolo Maldini, we will have to wait and see whether they are in good enough shape to play."
The Italian giants were far from impressive in the first meeting between the two sides but the tactician believes he has the right formula for success.
"We mustn’t give them too much time on the ball," he said. "They will keep possession and hope to rely on a few quality individuals.
"We need to play with patience and look to control the game from the very start. I want an organised yet aggressive side. I’m hopeful we can reach the last four."
Milan probable: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Redondo; Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Shevchenko
Milan keeping No 1 trio
22.4 || scharatz
Milan have insisted that they will make no changes to their goalkeeping line-up for the 2003/04 campaign.
Speculation in Italy has seen them linked with a possible move for Livorno’s Marco Amelia, while Christian Abbiati (pictured) has been associated with a switch to Sampdoria.
But the Italian giants have looked to end the rumours by issuing a statement on their official website.
"The three goalkeepers who will be in our squad for the new season will be Nelson Dida, Christian Abbiati and Valerio Fiori," read the note.
Abbiati has been consistently linked with a move away from the San Siro after he lost his first team place to Dida earlier this term.
With Samp looking good for promotion, numerous reports suggested that the Italian international could be sent on loan to the Marassi outfit.
In other Milan transfer news, the club are today being linked with a summer move for Marcos Cafu.
The Brazilian is set to leave Roma at the end of the season after turning down an offer of a new deal with a reduced salary.
Sources in Italy claim that the wide-man will be offered a two-year contract at the San Siro worth around £1.3m a season.
Cafu, the World Cup winning captain, was said to be close to joining J-League outfit Yokohama Marinos.
Milan’s new Serginho blow
22.4 || scharatz
Serginho’s injury hit campaign looks set to continue as he is likely to miss Milan’s game against Ajax this week.
The Brazilian pulled out of training on Monday after aggravating a slight knock he picked up in the 1-0 defeat against Empoli.
The wide midfielder is feeling pain in his left leg, in the same area where he was heavily caught by Ivan Cordoba in the Milan derby.
Serginho is expected to undergo treatment on the injury today as the Rossoneri look to recover him for tomorrow’s Champions’ League game.
However, boss Carlo Ancelotti has been boosted with the return to fitness of Kakha Kaladze, Fernando Redondo and Manuel Rui Costa.
All three could feature at the San Siro tomorrow as Milan look to book themselves a place in the semi-finals after the 0-0 draw in Holland two weeks ago.
Milan point finger at refs
21.4 || scharatz
Vice-President Adriano Galliani has hit back at accusations of a conflict of interests following some controversial decisions against Milan.
“If there is a conflict of interests,” snapped Galliani, “then it is working against me, because recently any dubious offside decision goes against Milan.”
The Vice-President caused controversy earlier this season when Roma and Inter, among others, accused him of influencing referees by virtue of his position as President of the League.
However, a late Pippo Inzaghi equaliser at Parma was incorrectly disallowed, and this Saturday Empoli won at the San Siro with a controversial Antonio Di Natale strike.
“The Inzaghi goal at the Stadio Tardini was nowhere near as far offside as the Di Natale goal,” continued Galliani.
That defeat has all but ended Milan’s Scudetto hopes, but an injury crisis left them with precious few options.
“At this tough period of the campaign we cannot rotate the squad. We only hope that some of the most important players can recover quickly.”
Manuel Rui Costa, Paolo Maldini and Fernando Redondo are struggling to be ready for the midweek Ajax game in the Champions’ League.
“Tiredness can be an issue now,” noted Galliani, “as we are the only team still in all three competitions.”
AC Milan 0-1 Empoli - match report
19.4 || webmaster
Scorer: Di Natale 12 (E)
Milan have fallen to a shock home defeat to ten-man Empoli as goalkeeper Gianluca Berti put in a man of the match performance.
Milan needed to beat Empoli in order to maintain their Scudetto hopes, but were forced to deal with an injury crisis. Manuel Rui Costa, Paolo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze, Fernando Redondo, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf are out of action, while Gennaro Gattuso and Dario Simic are suspended for this game.
Therefore there were sweeping changes to the midfield and defence, giving Rivaldo centre stage behind Jon Dahl Tomasson and Pippo Inzaghi.
Milan had a strong start with Inzaghi going close, but it was Empoli who struck on the counter-attack. Tommaso Rocchi's run saw a sweeping pass across to Antonio Di Natale. The forward is a Rossoneri youth product and scored against his former club, but there were doubts over a potential offside position.
The Rossoneri almost drew level soon after, but Inzaghi and Tomasson just failed to turn in a low Serginho centre, then the Brazilian saw his own shot charged down.
The game was played almost entirely in Empoli's half, but the Tuscans were constantly dangerous on the counter-attack.
Tomasson had the opportunity to score when goalkeeper Berti lost the ball, but the Dane could not squeeze past the last defender to fire into an empty net.
Before the break the pressure increased and Berti punched away a splendid Tomasson volley and Serginho's follow-up was over the bar.
The second half started in a similar vein as Berti palmed away a diving Inzaghi header and performed another fine save on Tomasson's half-volley.
There was a good chance on the hour mark when Milan were handed a free kick from six yards as the goalkeeper picked up a backpass, but Rivaldo's effort was charged down by Berti and deflected off the line by defender Stefano Lucchini. On the resulting corner, Alessandro Nesta's looping header edged wide.
There was controversy soon after when Pratali appeared to push Inzaghi in the box as a cross came in, but the referee waved play on. Empoli had Pratali sent off for a second bookable offence.
Berti made a spectacular save on Martin Laursen's piledriver, then Inzaghi failed to beat him from close range as it turned into a siege.
Five minutes from time Berti made one of the saves of the season on Rivaldo from close range, but it was not to be. Empoli run out winners at the San Siro - their first home defeat of the season.
Milan: Dida; Helveg (Ba 46), Laursen, Nesta, Costacurta; Brocchi, Ambrosini (Shevchenko 68), Serginho (Kaladze 78); Rivaldo; Tomasson, Inzaghi
Empoli: Berti; Belleri, Cribari, Lucchini, Pratali; Giampieretti, Ficini; Buscè, Vannucchi (Cupi 73), Di Natale (Tavano 86); Rocchi (Borriello 94)
Sent off: Pratali 71 (E)
Milan relying on Rivaldo
19.4 || scharatz
A spate of injuries puts Rivaldo centre stage against Empoli and Carlo Ancelotti is certain he won't miss this opportunity to shine.
“Rivaldo has had a few knee problems during this season,” pointed out the Milan boss, “but now he is fine and will play. The team and fans are by his side.”
The World Cup winner arrived this summer in a blaze of glory, but has since given the tifosi precious few glimpses of his talent.
“Rivaldo is very sensitive and altruistic. We need to help him by creating the right conditions for him to reach his potential.”
There were reports that divorce proceedings had affected his performance this season, but with Manuel Rui Costa, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Fernando Redondo out, the pressure is on.
“These injuries are causing a few problems,” conceded Ancelotti, “but the players are not tired despite the packed fixture list. We are confident that the squad can get through this.”
The Rossoneri are still on for the Treble after booking a Coppa Italia Final spot against Roma and must prepare for next week’s Champions’ League clash with Ajax.
“A win with Empoli is crucial for several reasons. It will boost morale, keep us in the Scudetto chase and help us prepare for the Ajax match.”
“But beware,” warned the Coach, “that Empoli will be no pushover. This fixture ended 1-1 in Tuscany and they are back on form following a brief struggle. They are a dynamic side that will try to strike on the counter.”
Milan: 12 Dida, 2 Helveg, 24 Laursen, 13 Nesta, 19 Costacurta, 32 Brocchi, 23 Ambrosini, 27 Serginho, 11 Rivaldo, 15 Tomasson, 9 Inzaghi. (Subs: 18 Abbiati, 4 Kaladze, 25 Roque Junior, 83 Aubameyang, 31 Ba, 28 Dalla Bona, 7 Shevchenko).
Empoli: 1 Berti, 7 Belleri, 3 Cribari, 25 Lucchini, 2 Cupi, 20 Giampieretti, 27 Ficini, 24 Busce', 23 Vannucchi, 9 Di Natale, 22 Rocchi (Subs: 16 Cassano, 8 Pratali, 28 Padoin, 81 Cappellini, 77 Carparelli, 10 Tavano, 21 Borriello).
Borriello sets Milan trap
19.4 || scharatz
Marco Borriello aims to make his mark against the club that owns him with a winning display for Empoli.
The Under-21 international was loaned out to the Tuscans over the January transfer window and is certain this experience will help his career.
“I will be pleased to step back into the San Siro after six months away,” said the striker, “and to see some old friends. But over the 90 minutes all that will be forgotten.”
Empoli had gone through a dismal series of results in recent weeks, but last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Chievo put them back on track.
“That game gave us enthusiasm and boosted morale, not an element to be underestimated.”
The Rossoneri could get back into the title chase thanks to Juve’s difficult encounter with Roma, but Borriello has a warning for his former teammates.
“Empoli are aware they have nothing to lose, but can also come here and play their own game. We won’t give Milan an easy ride.”
Laursen extends Milan stay
19.4 || scharatz
Milan have ended speculation of a Premiership move for Martin Laursen by confirming the defender will stay another year.
“We met with Laursen’s agent,” revealed Vice-President Adriano Galliani, “and all are in agreement that he will remain at this club next season.”
The Danish World Cup star has been at the centre of continuing rumours he is set to join Tottenham or another English side over the summer.
“It was a very positive meeting,” added Laursen. “The club respects me and wants me to continue contributing to the Rossoneri cause. This can only make me happy.”
The central defender joined from Verona in the summer of 2001, but has barely featured this year.
The Danish international is considered to be a replacement for Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta and will probably get his chance on Saturday as the captain is out with a fractured nose.
“I am certainly not on Maldini’s level,” he conceded, “but when I am called I try to give 100 per cent. I think I still have a lot to give for this Milan side.”
Manuel Rui Costa is also out of action for this weekend’s clash with Empoli, but World Cup winner Roque Junior is among the 21 players called for this game.
AC Milan v Empoli - match preview
19.4 || Seamus
Rivaldo's Performance Will Be Crucial04/18/2003. AT STAKE
AC Milan host Empoli with a slight chance to reduce the gap at the top to three points. Milan are the only team left in the league with an unbeaten home record and they will be hoping for a shock Roma win in Turin (combined with a home win for themselves) to get them snapping at the Bianconeri's heels.
Empoli are not totally safe. Silvio Baldini's men are out of the bottom four, but with six games remaining, they can only hope that results go their way. Nonetheless, they have impressed in recent outings against Piacenza and Chievo Verona and they will have to play to that level to salvage anything from this clash.
Carlo Ancelotti's side is decimated with injuries and probably is at the moment the most injury-ravaged squad in Europe. Skipper Paolo Maldini is out with a broken nose while Kaladze and Roque Jr. are recovering from long-term injuries. Dario Simic's suspension adds to the woe and hence the back four will be composed of Helveg-Nesta-Laursen-Costacurta. Seedorf and Pirlo are out for the rest of the season while Redondo is still recovering from a sprain. Rui Costa is also ruled out due to an ankle injury and Gattuso is suspended. The only good news comes from the return of Serginho. The Brazilian wing wizard is expected to start alongside Ambrosini and Brocchi. Rivaldo returns to the starting lineup to orchestrate an attack spearheaded by Inzaghi and Tomasson. Andriy Shevchenko is rested for the key clash against Ajax.
Silvio Baldini is boosted by the return of his finest player, Antonio Di Natale. Apart from the suspended Grella, the manager has a full first-team available. Injuries have sidelined former Milan striker Luca Saudati, and fringe players Atzori and Borollo. Berti, who had a fantastic game against Milan last time round, mans the posts ahead of a four-man defence composed of Belleri-Cribari-Lucchini-Cupi. The young Brazilian Cribari has an extra incentive to continue his fine season as he is tipped to be on the Rossoneri's shopping list. Ficini and Giampieretti provide solidity in midfield behind the ultra-attacking quartet of Busce, Di Natale, Vannucchi and center-forward Tommaso Rocchi.
AC Milan last 6 (all comps): LWLDWW
Surprisingly, all the injury problems have only made Milan fight harder and play better. The Rossoneri have truly appeared to return to the sort of football they played at the beginning of the season, largely thanks to the return to form of Manuel Rui Costa. It will be Interesting to see if Rivaldo can replace him adequately. Milan's wins over Inter and Perugia both bore the stamp of the Portuguese playmaker and now it's time for the Brazilian to deliver.
Empoli last 6 (all comps): LWLDLW
Empoli have lost seven away games on the trot. The last time they did something significant away from home was on Dec 22nd, when they tied fellow relegation strugglers, Atalanta, 2-2 at the Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, that too only thanks to two goals in the last five minutes. It is unlikely that Empoli can beat Milan at the San Siro, but they can surely look for a tie against this injury ravaged side.
AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Helveg, Nesta, Laursen, Costacurta; Brocchi, Ambrosini, Serginho; Rivaldo; Tomasson, Inzaghi
Empoli (4-2-3-1): Berti; Belleri, Cribari, Lucchini, Cupi; Ficini, Giamperetti; Busche, Di Natale, Vannucchi; Rocchi
Milan get Rui Costa boost
17.4 || scharatz
Milan’s injury problems are easing with the news that Manuel Rui Costa should be fit enough to face Ajax.
The Portuguese ace badly twisted his ankle in the 2-1 win over Perugia on Tuesday but is recovering well.
It was feared that the midfielder would not only miss the Empoli game on Saturday but also the crucial Champions’ League return clash against Ajax next Wednesday.
But there have already been marked improvements on his fitness and the former Fiorentina man looks almost certain to feature against the Dutch outfit.
Captain Paolo Maldini should also be available after undergoing surgery on his broken nose at the start of this week.
Further good news surrounds Fernando Redondo. The Argentine should be back in full training on Friday after recent fitness problems.
His availability is crucial as first choice playmaker Andrea Pirlo has been sidelined for the next four weeks with a knee injury.
Rui Costa joins injury list
16.4 || scharatz
Manuel Rui Costa is the latest Milan star to suffer an injury and is in doubt to face Ajax next week.
The Portuguese international limped off during yesterday’s 2-1 Coppa Italia semi-final win over Perugia with an ankle problem.
Tests have confirmed no serious damage, but the slight sprain to the left ankle will rule him out of Saturday’s Serie A match with Empoli.
Medical staff are hopeful of recovering the midfielder in time for the upcoming Champions’ League quarter-final with Ajax at the San Siro.
Rui Costa is the latest addition to an injury list that already includes Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Rivaldo, Fernando Redondo, Kakha Kaladze, Roque Junior and Paolo Maldini.
Serginho is also sidelined with a bruised knee he suffered during the Milan derby, but the Brazilian resumed running during today’s training session.
Maldini is in doubt to feature against Ajax as he is still recovering from surgery on a fractured nose.
Gennaro Gattuso will definitely miss the date with the Dutch masters as the midfielder is suspended.
Milan deny Rivaldo bust-up
16.4 || scharatz
Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has dismissed stories that Rivaldo and boss Carlo Ancelotti have had a fall out.
The Brazilian was left out of the squad for last night’s 2-1 Coppa Italia win over Perugia with injury – even if reports suggested otherwise.
It was claimed that the former Barcelona ace had pulled himself out of the squad in protest at having played just 10 minutes in the derby against Inter on Saturday.
"Rivaldo didn’t feature against Perugia because he has a minor injury," said Galliani. "Journalists simply write certain things to fill the papers. There are no problems with him."
The attacking midfielder joined the Italian giants last summer but his debut campaign in Italy hasn’t been one to write home about.
He’s only featured 18 times in Serie A, where he has scored five goals, but has also missed two penalties.
He’s scored twice in 11 Champions’ League games and appeared just once in the Coppa Italia.
In recent months his form has dipped considerably, with some blaming the breakdown of his marriage as a major factor for his below par performances.
Coaches proud of Coppa squads
16.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti and Serse Cosmi both emerged from tonight’s Coppa Italia semi-final with their heads held high.
“We are one step closer to one of our goals for this season,” commented the Milan boss after his side ran out 2-1 winners. “It is not true that we consider the Coppa Italia to be an inferior competition. We want this trophy.”
Ancelotti had precious few options at his disposal following a string of injuries, but fielded a strong side against Perugia in the San Siro clash.
“We dominated for an hour or so, but I saw the lads relax into the lead far too much towards the end. That can be dangerous, as was proved this evening.”
Perugia fought back in the final minutes to make it 2-1 and almost snatched an equaliser that would have seen them through on the away goals rule.
“Perugia can leave the Coppa Italia with their pride and dignity intact,” noted Coach Serse Cosmi. “That is the most important thing.”
Fabrizio Miccoli rattled the crossbar in stoppage time and Giovanni Tedesco was left weeping after his close-range effort glanced wide in the last kick of the game.
“This club has never even reached a Coppa semi-final before, let alone a Final. This was like a Champions’ League Final to us and that is perhaps what caused our stunted first half performance.”
The Grifoni have already beaten Milan once before this season in Serie A and caused them real problems in the second half.
“The first period was one-way traffic,” concedes Cosmi. “Milan were just too good for us and we had nothing to counter them with. But we had to come out of our shells eventually and fought with real heart and soul.”
“It just wasn’t to be. But Perugia did themselves proud tonight and the fans will appreciate that fact.”
Milan will face either Roma or Lazio in May’s two-legged Final.
Coppa: AC Milan 2:1 Perugia
16.4 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta scored the winner in a tense 2-1 win over Perugia and earned a Coppa Italia Final spot against one of the Roman clubs.
Milan needed to win this game after a 0-0 first leg result at the Stadio Renato Curi and came out fighting.
The choices were limited, as Rivaldo, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Serginho and Paolo Maldini are injured.
It was a tense game from the outset and the Rossoneri went close after just three minutes.
Andriy Shevchenko’s drive stung the palms of Zeljko Kalac and Jon Dahl Tomasson pounced on the loose ball, but he incredibly fired it straight back at the goalkeeper.
Kalac was once again tested when he wisely punched a dangerous Brocchi cross as Shevchenko was bearing down on it.
Brocchi was rather less impressive when going forward and on 21 minutes he ballooned wide from a good scoring position.
Perugia’s midfield was no match for Milan’s and after just 20 minutes Chris Obodo was introduced for a tactical change.
It did not seem to make much of a difference as soon after Tomasson’s looping header was deflected onto the roof of the net.
Rui Costa was on sparkling form and threaded through a splendid pass for Tomasson, but Kalac bravely crowded him out.
From the resulting corner the Australian goalkeeper performed a crucial fingertip save on Massimo Ambrosini’s header.
Milan eventually broke the deadlock in chaotic circumstances before the break. Another wayward Brocchi shot took a deflection off Alessandro Nesta and Tomasson was quick to redirect it into the net from six yards.
Perugia were forced to fight back and it was a much more even game with Fabrizio Miccoli a particular danger.
But that left the kind of space to counter-attack that Milan relish and they doubled their lead with a rare Nesta header from Rui Costa’s free kick. It was the defender’s first goal in a Rossoneri shirt.
The Grifoni did not give in and Giovanni Tedesco nodded Fabio Grosso’s set-piece just wide.
Soon after there were penalty appeals when Ambrosini appeared to drag back Grosso by his shirt, but the referee waved play on. The midfielder was more accurate with a crucial tackle to halt Ze Maria’s mazy run.
Tomasson had the opportunity to make it three for Milan when he sprung the offside trap and left Kalac behind, but slipped just as he prepared to shoot.
The pressure eventually paid off and substitute Andrea Caracciolo set up a pressurised final six minutes. His volley took Christian Abbiati by surprise and the goalkeeper must take some of the blame for this goal.
An equaliser would take Serse Cosmi’s men to their first ever Final on the away goals rule and Emanuele Berrettoni nodded wide.
Stoppage time was particularly tense and Abbiati punched out Berrettoni’s fierce drive.
The San Siro held its breath when Miccoli’s free kick from the edge of the box rattled the crossbar.
Even Kalac came up for the final set-piece, but Tedesco and several others just failed to tap in a taut centre.
Milan 2-1 Perugia (2-1 on agg)
Scorers: Tomasson 40 (M), Nesta 52 (M), Caracciolo 84 (P)
Milan: Abbiati; Helveg, Nesta, Laursen, Costacurta; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Rui Costa (Ba 84), Brocchi (Dalla Bona 88); Shevchenko (Inzaghi 67), Tomasson
Perugia: Kalac; Di Loreto, Viali, Sulcis (Berrettoni 66); Zé Maria, Tedesco, Blasi, Fusani (Obodo 20), Grosso; Miccoli, Vryzas (Caracciolo 51)
Month out for Pirlo
15.4 || scharatz
Andrea Pirlo’s season is virtually over after his knee injury turned out to be more serious than previously thought.
The Milan man picked up a slight knock in training last week which should have only kept him sidelined for 10 days.
However, the playmaker underwent further tests on Monday evening which revealed he would be out for a month at the very least.
The absence of the Italian international is a massive blow for boss Carlo Ancelotti in this crucial stage of the season.
The Rossoneri are still in with a chance of the treble but have been depleted by injuries in the last few weeks.
Worse still is that Pirlo’s natural replacement in the side is Fernando Redondo, yet he too is currently sidelined with fitness problems.
Milan take on Perugia tonight in the Coppa Italia with a host of first team players such as Maldini, Rivaldo, Serginho, Roque Junior, Kaladze and Seedorf all missing.
Carlo wants Coppa glory
15.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the Coppa Italia is a serious objective for Milan ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final against Perugia.
The Rossoneri take on the Umbrians at the San Siro needing a victory after last month’s first leg 0-0 draw.
"Having got this far, winning the trophy is just as important as the Scudetto or Champions’ League," said the tactician.
"I’ll pick my best team possible against Perugia even if I do have a lot of injuries to contend with."
Ancelotti’s selection problems were made worse this afternoon after Rivaldo joined Maldini, Serginho, Kaladze, Redondo, Pirlo and Seedorf on the sidelines with a knee injury.
"We’re playing at home so that should be an advantage but we need to be as focused as we were for the derby against Inter," added the tactician.
"Perugia have been looking forward to this game for some time. They will be fully concentrated on trying to get to their first ever Italian Cup final."
Milan are currently on a high after the 1-0 win over Inter on Saturday which coincided with Juventus’ last gasp 2-2 draw at Bologna.
"To be honest there isn’t a great difference whether we are five or six points behind them, even if the draw obviously gives them a morale boost in the way it was achieved," he added.
"Yet we still believe that we can catch them, after all we took two points off their lead at the weekend.
"I’m hopeful that we can still win the Scudetto because there have been some remarkable comebacks in recent years."
Milan: Abbiati; Simic, Nesta, Laursen, Costacurta; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Rui Costa, Brocchi; Shevchenko, Tomasson.
Perugia: Kalac; Di Loreto, Viali, Rezaei; Ze Maria, Tedesco, Blasi, Fusani, Grosso; Miccoli, Vryzas.
Eight day absence for Maldini
14.4 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini will miss Milan’s next two games after he underwent surgery on his broken nose.
The captain picked up the injury after an accidental elbow from Christian Vieri in the 1-0 win over the Nerazzurri.
The Rossoneri medical staff have confirmed that the legend should be available for selection in eight days time.
Maldini will definitely miss Tuesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final clash against Perugia but also Saturday’s game against Empoli.
The stopper’s return has been pencilled in for the second-leg of the quarter final Champions’ League tie against Ajax on April 23.
Samp eye Abbiati swoop
14.4 || scharatz
Sampdoria are interested in signing Milan’s Christian Abbiati this summer if they win promotion to Serie A.
The goalkeeper has had a tough season with the Rossoneri after losing his first team place to Nelson Dida at the start of the campaign.
Abbiati has insisted that he is happy to remain at the club but could be tempted by a loan switch to the port club.
Samp President Riccardo Garrone has reportedly already made contact with the player’s agent regarding the move.
Abbiati joined the San Siro giants in 1998 after two impressive seasons with Monza in Serie C1 and B.
Should he be allowed to leave Milan, then it is expected that the Italian giants would make a move for Matteo Sereni who is currently at Brescia.
Milan duo have title faith
14.4 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini are convinced that Milan still have a chance of winning the Scudetto.
The Rossoneri are currently six points behind Juventus but are high on confidence after their 1-0 win over rivals Inter.
"We are not dead yet because we are well aware of our strength," said Inzaghi. "We have no choice but to win the rest of our games and hope that others make mistakes.
"Juventus are in pole position but they are not infallible. We shouldn’t forget what has happened in recent seasons. We still believe that the title is up for grabs."
Midfielder Ambrosini was just as confident after he had just witnessed Juve’s 2-2 draw with Bologna.
"We don’t feel as if we are out of it," he told Italian TV show ‘Controcampo’ last night. "We’ve come from behind to win the Scudetto once before and we can do it again."
Ambrosini was referring to Milan’s last title victory in 1999 when they somehow managed to pip Lazio to the Scudetto.
However, Ambrosini also insists that Inter still have a chance as both Milan clubs are currently joint second in the standings.
"We may have beat them on Saturday but they are still a concrete side," added the international.
"The fact that they have accumulated so many points over the last two seasons is proof that they are a good team."
Nesta berates 'Nasty' Inter
13.4 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta believes some of the injuries sustained during the Milan derby could have been much worse.
“Some of the challenges were just hideous,” commented the Rossoneri defender. “Serginho really could have broken his leg. He was lucky.”
Ivan Cordoba was sent off for that very high tackle on Serginho’s knee, but reports from the team doctors suggest he has not sustained ligament damage.
Paolo Maldini is in worse condition, as he was stretchered off with a fractured nose following a clash with Christian Vieri.
The striker jumped with his arms out and caught the captain in the face during Inter’s 1-0 defeat.
The official Milan website admits Maldini may undergo surgery to reduce the fracture on Monday.
“We dedicate this victory wholeheartedly to Maldini,” noted teammate Nesta. “It was a nasty collision, but I don’t feel that Vieri did it on purpose. These things can happen. We hope that he can recover as quickly as possible.”
Andriy Shevchenko suffered bruised ribs when Marco Materazzi mistimed his challenge to such an extent that he kicked the Ukrainian in the chest.
“That foul was really terrible,” continued the former Lazio man. “He was fortunate to stay on the field.”
The derby win gives three precious points and can throw Milan right back into the thick of the Scudetto chase.
“We really needed this result to boost morale, as after the 0-0 draw at Ajax we were a little depressed.”
Inzaghi Dedicates Goal To Samuele
13.4 || scharatz
Filippo Inzaghi dedicated his goal in Milan's 1-0 win over Inter to a friend who died recently.
"It was important to win, for me it's a double joy," he was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "After scoring against Juventus, I found the net also in the derby. I dedicate this goal to our captain (Maldini), who was forced out injured during the game, but also to Samuele, a friend of mine who has recently died, and his parents.
He went on: '"Against the big teams we have always made excellent performances, I think also this evening we deserved the victory. We even wasted more than once in the box the chance to add a second goal. However, now we must keep hopes alive and wait for a Juventus slip-up."
Inter coach Hector Cuper felt tiredness played a part in the Nerazzurri's defeat.
"I think we played quite well in the first half, but our tiredness was evident in the second half," he said. "After the goal and especially after the sending-off we didn't manage to get into their penalty area. It was too difficult."
Inter 0:1 AC Milan - match report
12.4 || scharatz
A second-half strike from Filippo Inzaghi handed Milan a richly deserved win over Inter in the derby.
Once again Juventus were the ones left smiling as a victory in their match against Bologna will see them move eight points clear at the top of Serie A.
On six minutes Francesco Toldo had to be on his mettle to tip over a long-range shot from Gernnaro Gattuso.
The former Fiorentina keeper then had to be alert when clearing a long-ball from the back with Filippo Inzaghi closing in.
On 17 minutes Manuel Rui Costa came so close to his first Serie A goal for Milan. His header from Serginho's corner was cleared off the line by Javier Zanetti.
Emre had Inter's first real chance and should have done better than shoot straight at Dida from inside the box.
As Inter stepped up a notch Emre fired wide. But not long after the impressive Andriy Shevchenko fired a powerful effort over the bar. Serginho then dragged an effort wide from the left side of the box. He looked in two minds on whether to cross or shoot.
At the other end Luigi Di Biagio stung the fingers of Dida. Milan, though, were looking the more effective side and a superb Marco Materazzi tackle prevented Shevchenko getting a shot away after a barnstorming run into the box.
Six minutes into the second-half Toldo denied Inzaghi after the Milan striker had got into the box and nutmegged Cannavaro. Shortly after there was controversy when Maldini had to be stretchered off after being struck by a Vieri elbow. Martin Laursen was introduced.
After Toldo had gathered a shot from the somewhat disappointing Serginho, Materazzi twice denied Shevchenko who always looked dangerous.
On 62 minutes came the decisive moment. Rui Costa, who enjoyed a good second-half, found Inzaghi just inside the area. The former Juventus striker fired the ball first time into Toldo's bottom right corner. The fox in the box indeed.
Rui Costa then went on a super run down the right, only to scuff his final shot.
Ivan Cordoba perhaps denied Inter any chance they had of getting back into the game on 67 minutes when he was deservedly sent-off for a reckless challenge on Serginho who later had to be substituted. Pure frustration from the Colombian.
But the Nerazzurri weren't out of it, and Recoba forced a fingertip save from Dida with a vicious curling effort.
At the other end Shevchenko muscled his way into the box, but after a superb run, he shot wide.
Recoba, who had little impact on the game, produced another good save from Dida with a fierce low effort, before a flurry of substitutions which saw Rivaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and Carlos Gamarra introduced.
The final goal mouth action saw a Shevchenko shot deflected into Toldo's arms, but the Rossoneri fully deserved this win against an Inter side whose final ball was often very poor. Their need for a quality playmaker was once again apparent.
Inter vs AC Milan - match preview
9.4 || scharatz
The Milan derby is a bitter occasion at the best of times, but when the loser effectively bows out of the Scudetto chase it becomes a pivotal moment in the campaign.
Last week saw disappointing results for both teams and morale will be in dire need of a boost. Inter threw away a 3-1 lead over Roma only to be caught 3-3 at the death and the terrifying spectre of last season’s collapse came flooding back for the disgruntled fans.
Juventus extended the gap to five points and anything less than a win this Saturday may well hand Marcello Lippi the title for a second successive season.
Milan lost 1-0 at Parma and saw their mountain grow a few more feet as now there are eight points to climb. It could be argued that the Rossoneri were unlucky, seeing a late Filippo Inzaghi equaliser erroneously disallowed for offside, but the performance was not up to scratch.
Carlo Ancelotti rested several stars for their Champions’ League trip to Ajax and may be tempted to repeat the trend as it has become clear that Europe is their main aim this year.
The side that is in the worst condition going into the game often wins the derby, but both teams are moving along similar lines so we are sure to see an intriguing encounter.
The Rossoneri ran out 1-0 winners earlier this season, but we should see Serginho start on the wing. He was a major player in the now infamous 6-0 demolition of Marco Tardelli’s Inter and has at last returned following months of fitness worries. Carlo Ancelotti faces a tactical dilemma as playing two strikers upfront forces out one of his many creative midfield stars.
Hector Cuper is under increasing pressure to adapt his 4-4-2 formation to fit in more creative players. Alvaro Recoba was successful as a support striker, but only at the expense of Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo. It is unlikely both will be left on the bench again for this showdown, but all the forward stars cannot be thrown on together.
Inter: (Probable) Toldo; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Cannavaro, Coco; Okan, Di Biagio, C Zanetti, Emre; Recoba, Vieri
Milan: (Probable) Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Rui Costa, Gattuso, Pirlo, Serginho; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Seedorf out for the season
9.4 || scharatz
Clarence Seedorf’s knee injury is worse than at first thought and the Milan star has been ruled out for the campaign.
Seedorf limped off during the opening minutes of yesterday’s 0-0 draw at Ajax following a clash with defender Trabelsi.
The midfielder immediately asked for a substitution and was thought to be suffering from a sprained right knee.
However, tests this afternoon highlighted a tear in the collateral ligament and the Dutchman will be out of action for at least two months.
The former Inter midfielder will need to wear a support to keep his knee protected for four weeks, then another month to recover fully from this setback.
Andrea Pirlo is also out of the Milan derby after bruising his right knee. Medical staff confirm he will be back in a week to ten days.
Milan suffer double blow
9.4 || scharatz
The Milan duo of Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo are doubts for the derby against Inter this weekend.
Both men, who joined the club from the Nerazzurri in the past, are suffering with knee injuries that may rule them out of the San Siro clash.
Italian international Pirlo collected a knock on his right knee during Monday’s training session when he clashed with Gennaro Gattuso. No serious damage is expected to be done.
However, there are real fears over the injury sustained by Seedorf in last night’s 0-0 draw with Ajax.
The Dutchman twisted his knee following a tackle by Tunisian defender Haitem Trabelsi in the Champions’ League clash.
Seedorf is set to undergo tests later today but there is a strong possibility that he could be ruled out for a substantial period of time.
Milan content with Dutch draw
8.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti maintains he is satisfied with the 0-0 draw in Holland and explained his tactical decisions.
“It was a tough and nervous game and both sides were more intent on protecting the draw rather than attacking,” confirmed the Milan boss.
“It is a positive result for us and it is difficult for any side to come away from here with anything.”
The Rossoneri certainly seemed to settle for the goalless draw, but the Coach reveals it was not team orders.
“It was not a conscious decision to sit back, but we had problems creating our own chances and gradually pulled away to prevent conceding a goal.”
The 4-4-2 formation again pushed back the creative forces in favour of a solid midfield and Manuel Rui Costa was particularly sacrificed in a wide role.
“I was satisfied with Rui Costa’s performance,” insists Ancelotti, “and when he moves into the centre then Gennaro Gattuso pushes out to cover.”
“It was our inability to keep the ball for long periods of time that penalised our more creative players.”
It was a sluggish display from the Rossoneri and the two strikers rarely got hold of the ball.
“It is hard to say why we reacted this way, but Ajax are a dangerous opponent as they can spread out all over the pitch and their midfielders can push up at will. Perhaps we felt the need to defend more than attack and that is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Milan are unscathed going into the return match at the San Siro, but have no away goals to fall back on.
“It will be tough in the second leg, but I believe we can reach the semi-finals. Ajax are very dynamic and it is hard to find space against them, especially as they are very good on the counter-attack and we did not want to risk that.”
Ancelotti has relied heavily on the rotation system this season and rarely fields the same starting eleven twice.
“It’s certainly not easy to deal with such a large squad, but we are still waiting for others to come back from injury, such as Kakha Kaladze, Thomas Helveg and Roque Junior, so I’ll have even more choices to make.”
The tactician agrees that goals are becoming a real problem for them in recent weeks.
“We could have had a more offensive attitude to create a few more chances, and I was a little upset about that, but overall the result is solid.”
Christian Chivu was impressive and no doubt confirmed his position as one of the main transfer targets of the summer.
“He is a good defender and still young, but I think Milan have more than enough good central defenders.”
Ancelotti now dives right back into Serie A football with Saturday’s Milan derby against Inter.
“The derby is always a special occasion and we really want to win it. Even if the Scudetto is out of reach, we can still aim for second place.”
Manuel Rui Costa refused to blame the tactics for his disappointing showing, but was perhaps penalised by being forced to move out wide in a 4-4-2 formation.
“I do the best I can in that position,” commented the Portuguese international, “and it is not my ideal, but I will play anywhere that helps Milan.”
“This was a tough game for any team coming to Amsterdam and we did well to come away unscathed.”
Christian Chivu is the captain of Ajax at the age of 22 and was one of the most impressive on the field tonight.
“I think we played well, but I cannot say if any one side deserved to win,” commented the Romanian. “We created more chances and played a good game, but Ajax should have scored at least once.”
“I think Milan is a strong team and one of the favourites to win this tournament. We believe in our chances and want to keep going. We’ll see what happens at the San Siro, but we do respect the Rossoneri.”
Chivu is a familiar face to Serie A followers as he has been linked with a number of clubs including Inter, Juventus, Roma and Milan.
“We’re in the middle of the season and I am not in a position to discuss my future,” he noted. “We’ll see in the summer, but I can’t comment right now.”
Champions League: Ajax 0-0 AC Milan
8.4 || scharatz
A sluggish Milan performance still came away from the Amsterdam Arena with a precious draw in the first leg of their quarter-final.
Milan had a bright start and within five minutes Andriy Shevchenko's rising angled drive had brought a difficult save out of the Dutch goalkeeper.
Ajax were pinned into their own half for the opening minutes, but began to push further forward and got into good positions, even if the finishing was weak.
There was controversy on 14 minutes when Pippo Inzaghi's shot just inside the box was charged down by what appeared to be Yakubu's arm, but the referee waved play on.
There was bad news soon after when Clarence Seedorf, who was a star for Ajax before his move to Serie A, fell badly on his right knee and was forced off the field. Serginho stepped on to take charge of the left flank.
Ajax were dangerous from set-pieces and Massimo Ambrosini performed a tricky clearance, while Dida plucked a Rafael Van der Vaart header out of the air.
Gennaro Gattuso was booked for a hefty challenge on O'Brien and will be suspended for the second leg at the San Siro.
As the first half wore on, Milan began to sit back and allow Ajax to come at them, reacting on the counter-attack when possible. The common problem shown this season of lowering the rhythm of the game too much reared its head once again and they found it difficult to react once the ball had been won back.
There was also a distinct lack of creativity without Andrea Pirlo, as this 4-4-2 forced Manuel Rui Costa to move out wide and defend rather than thread passes through for the two strikers.
Shevchenko had another good run at the start of the second half, but Pasinen's splendid tackle blocked his path as he ran into the box.
Carlo Ancelotti's men were clearly more confident after the break and began to move off the ball with more fluency.
Luckily for Milan, when Ajax did get into scoring positions their finishing was woeful. On 56 minutes Ibrahimovic scuffed wide from the edge of the box after good work from Pienaar.
Moments later the home side wasted the best chance of the game on the counter-attack. Pienaar ballooned well wide with only Dida to beat and even Van der Vaart's close-range correction by the back post was off target.
But for all their possession, Ajax barely managed a shot on goal and Milan were more dangerous. On 68 minutes a fine Rui Costa run brought a tricky save by the near post.
Some poor defending on a corner left the ball at Ambrosini's feet from eight yards, but it caught even him by surprise and could not squeeze a shot through.
Ancelotti's first tactical substitution was ex-Feyenoord striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, while veteran Jari Litmanen came on for the final push.
Rivaldo was the final gamble as the Rossoneri were increasingly pushed back into their own half, but when Tomasson did get into a scoring position he hesitated and allowed the defence to recover, while Rivaldo was flagged offside.
Deep into stoppage time a Serginho cross floated towards Tomasson, but the Dane just failed to make contact.
Ajax: Lobont, Trabelsi, Pasanen (De Jong 73), Chivu, O'Brien; Pienaar, Galasek (Sneijder 67), Yakubu, Maxwell; Van der Vaart, Ibrahimovic (Litmanen 72)
Milan: Dida, Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Rui Costa, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Serginho 26); Inzaghi (Tomasson 73), Shevchenko (Rivaldo 78)
Ref: Teje Hauge (Nor)
Champions League: Ajax vs AC Milan
8.4 || scharatz
Tuesday's supposedly less glamorous Champions League quarterfinal takes place at the Amsterdam Arena where Dutch champions Ajax host Italian giants AC Milan. While it is rather easy for the novice football fan to marvel at the glittering clash in Madrid, the veterans will recall that much of the late 80s and early 90s were dominated by the two sides meeting in Amsterdam. In fact, the clash is a repeat of the 1995 Cup final when Ajax beat Milan thanks to a late Patrick Kluivert goal. But, both sides have had similar misfortunes after that. Both have faded from the forefront of European football and have only shown flashes of brilliance domestically. There is also another deep link between the two clubs as the Italian side has often raided the Amsterdam outfit for some of their finest, most notably the flying Dutchman, Marco Van Basten.
Ronald Koeman's side are certainly the smallest team left in the Champions League, but they've already shown that they are more than a match for the big boys of European football. Their brave exploits in the second group stage to qualify ahead of Arsenal and Roma were nothing short of fantastic and furthered the reputations of their young manager and a host of their young players.
Possibly as a result of their European adventures this season, Ajax look set to miss out on retaining their Eredivisie title. They are eight points behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven, who have excelled since being knocked out of Europe. However, Ajax must make sure they finish second to qualify for this competition again and that is the priority, as Koeman confirmed during the weekend.
Milan, on the other hand, wish they had the same excuse. The most in-form team in Europe has withered into a stuttering engine that only seems to rise to the occasion when put under pressure. The pressure couldn't be more after the five-time European champions were put out of the domestic title race by Parma AC over the weekend. With the Milan derby looming next weekend, it is critical that Milan win in Amsterdam to boost their morale and reaffirm themselves as top contenders for the European crown.
Ajax last six: WDWDLW
The Amsterdam giants recovered from losing 2-0 at rivals PSV by crushing RBC Roosendaal 4-1 at the weekend. Before the defeat at the Phillips Stadium they won three Eredivisie matches against Vitesse (2-0), Zwolle (5-0) and Excelsior (2-1). They reached the quarterfinals despite only winning one match in the group, a 2-1 win at home to Roma. Their other five matches all ended in draws.
AC Milan last six: DLDLWL
Milan have simply failed to produce the form that saw them crush the likes of Deportivo La Coruña and Bayern Munich away from home. However, it must be said that luck hasn't favored them either of late. They were desperately unlucky to not beat Chievo at home and even more unfortunate as they succumbed to a 0-1 defeat this weekend to Parma to rule them out of the title race. However, they did beat Juventus at home showing glimpses of the form that has brought them this far in the competition.
Koeman will have to do without Andy van der Meyde as he is suspended. However, Ajax are set to add three players to the side that trounced RBC Roosendaal on Saturday. Romanian defender Cristian Chivu was rested, Tunisian full-back Hatem Trabelsi was suspended, while Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic wasn't risked due to a thigh injury. Regarding the Swede, Koeman said: "He didn't play against RBC because it was too big a risk, not only because of the next game against AC Milan but also for the other games to come." Stefano Seedorf, nephew of Milan's Clarence, will miss the chance to play against his uncle as he is injured, but a survivor from the 1995 side, Jari Litmanen, is fit and should take his place on the bench.
Ancelotti is sweating on the fitness of his key duo, Andriy Shevchenko (who strained a muscle in the clash versus Parma) and Filippo Inzaghi (who is suffering from a slight temperature). This almost certainly means that both Rui Costa and Rivaldo will play. Meanwhile, Kakha Kaladze has still not recovered from his strain and will be replaced by Alessandro Costacurta at left back. Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini are both expected to start, which means Andrea Pirlo (who is one yellow card away from suspension) will start from the bench.
Ajax: Koeman's youngsters have been performing as well as anyone could have expected them to given their inexperience. A trio of their players in particular look set to leave for greener pastures in the near future. They are Chivu, Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahimovic; of who the former two have been linked to AC Milan. However, there is also a new set of even younger players who are making headlines as a result of this seasons European exploits.
AC Milan: Ancelotti's side are not particularly in great form, but if one were to observe the past games, two of their finest, namely Andriy Shevchenko and Clarence Seedorf have been in fantastic form. It is needless to say that the latter will probably do his best to play like a champion in front of his home crowd. But, the recovery of the Ukrainian from injury could be as vital given that he is (when in full flow) one of the most lethal strikers on the planet.
Ajax: It is impossible to criticize any Ajax player at the moment.
AC Milan: Paolo Maldini has certainly seen better days. The man who was getting rave-reviews for playing like he was 10 years younger than his actual age has been struggling of late. He has often been caught off-guard and been responsible for some of Milan's goals. But, let us not forget…a poor Maldini is probably still better than most defenders in this world!
PROBABLE STARTING LINE-UPS
Ajax: Lobont; Trabelsi, Chivu, Pasanen, O'Brien; Pienaar, Galasek, Yakubu, Maxwell; Van der Vaart, Ibrahimovic
AC Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Rui Costa, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Rivaldo, Shevchenko
Ancelotti ponders anti Ajax
8.4 || scharatz
Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has admitted he still has selection doubts ahead of the Champions’ League clash against Ajax.
The Rossoneri take on the Dutch masters in Amsterdam on Tuesday in the first leg of the quarter-finals, but is still pondering his starting line-up.
"I still haven’t decided who will play or what formation I will use," said the boss. "But I’m confident that we can do well."
There are doubts over the fitness of strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi, yet Ancelotti has hinted that both will start.
"Andriy is in reasonable shape and there shouldn’t be any problems for him," added the tactician. "I’ll decide about Pippo just before the game."
The Italian giants go into the clash fresh from a 1-0 defeat at Parma in which the Milanese giants have been heavily criticised for.
"We were not taught a lesson," maintained the former midfielder. "We know how to play football and I’m expecting a great performance against Ajax from whoever I choose to start the game."
Meanwhile, Ajax boss Ronald Koeman is confident that Milan’s style of play will be of a benefit to his young guns.
"It is important to not concede any goals but I expect a game with a lot of scoring opportunities," said the Dutchman.
"Milan play an open brand of football and not a counter-attacking game. That should favour us."
Ajax: Lobont; Trabelsi, Pasanen Chivu, O'Brien; Pienaar, Galasek, Yakub, Maxwell; Van der Vaart, Ibrahimovic
Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Rui Costa, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Inzaghi, Shevchenko
Ref: Teje Hauge (Nor)
Milan back Coach Carlo
7.4 || scharatz
Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has given boss Carlo Ancelotti a new vote of confidence after another defeat.
The Rossoneri lost 1-0 at Parma on Saturday, their third loss in their last five away games, which leaves them eight points behind leaders Juventus.
"Ancelotti will stay with us as Coach and that is for certain," said the Rossoneri chief.
"When a side creates six clear scoring opportunities in 45 minutes like we against Parma, then you can’t simply shift the blame for a defeat on the players or the Coach."
Speculation in recent weeks has suggested that Milan could look to replace the tactician at the end of the season if the club fail to lift any silverware.
But Galliani has acted angrily to reports that Roma boss Fabio Capello or Luigi Del Neri of Chievo are being lined up as possible replacements.
"That’s sheer stupidity," continued the San Siro official. "The truth of the matter is that agents are using Milan to get their men into the headlines."
Ancelotti is tied to Milan until 2005 after recently agreeing terms to extend his contract with the Italian giants.
Parma 1-0 AC Milan - match report
5.4 || webmaster
Scorer: Adriano 77 (P)
A spectacular Adriano goal and controversial disallowed Pippo Inzaghi strike may prove the end of Milan's title hopes.
Milan needed a victory to have any hope of cutting down the five-point gap from leaders Juventus, but were also preparing for their Champions' League quarter-final against Ajax.
The 4-4-2 system that saw off Juve was repeated, but Manuel Rui Costa and Clarence Seedorf were rested in favour of Serginho and Massimo Ambrosini.
Milan had a strong start, but Pippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso fired over from good positions.
Parma were forced to reshuffle their tactics due to Hidetoshi Nakata's injury, so changed to a 4-3-3 with Mark Bresciano and Adrian Mutu fanning out around hitman Adriano.
In the opening minutes the Rossoneri tried to push forward with their two strikers, while the home side opted for rapid counter-attacks and saw Adrian Mutu's fierce effort dip over the bar.
The Gialloblu were often dangerous from set-pieces, but Adriano saw his effort by the back post charged down and a header well saved.
The first half was certainly busy with both teams rushing from one end of the field to the other, but there were relatively few actual shots on goal.
Serginho drilled inches wide of the near post, but the first real save belonged to Dida. In first half stoppage time Mark Bresciano's run was blocked, but Mutu gathered the loose ball and brought a desperate reaction save out of the Brazilian goalkeeper.
Carlo Ancelotti opted to introduce Rivaldo for the second half in place of Shevchenko, even though the Ukrainian appeared to be more on form than Inzaghi.
Serginho found a little more freedom and after just three minutes provided a perfect cross for Inzaghi, but the striker incredibly ballooned over the bar from less than a metre out.
Moments later Inzaghi wasted another golden opportunity when Giuseppe Cardone's error freed him, but the finish was wide.
Clarence Seedorf was also thrown on in place of Andrea Pirlo, moving Ambrosini and Gattuso to muscle up the central midfield.
Seedorf proved impressive with a free kick and fierce volley well saved by Sebastien Frey, but Parma continued to put pressure on the Milan defence.
And it was the home side that opened the scoring thirteen minutes from time. Adrian Mutu's strong run down the left provided a perfect centre for Adriano and the Brazilian backheeled the ball past the helpless Dida. It was a spectacular goal and the cheekiest of finishes from the former Inter star.
Milan fought back with an Inzaghi effort charged down and Jon Dahl Tomasson giving extra height upfront.
The Rossoneri were unlucky not to draw level moments later when Seedorf's powerful angled drive cannoned off the underside of the crossbar.
Milan thought they had equalised on 84 minutes when Ambrosini's shot was palmed into the path of Inzaghi for a tap-in, but the linesman disallowed it for offside. The replays showed that Inzaghi was level with the Parma defender and the goal should have stood.
Adriano turned provider in stoppage time, but Emanuele Filippini's free header was well wide.
Parma: Frey; Bonera (Benarrivo 75), Cardone, Ferrari, Junior; Lamouchi, Barone, Filippini; Bresciano, Adriano, Mutu (Pierini 89)
Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Ambrosini, Gattuso (Tomasson 81), Pirlo (Seedorf 61), Serginho; Shevchenko (Rivaldo 46), Inzaghi
Ancelotti: This is the real Milan
5.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti believes that the 2-1 win over Juventus was a turning point in their campaign and can replicate that form against Parma tonight.
“I would love to see the same concentration and intensity we showed against Juve,” revealed the Coach. “That performance was perfect in both attitude and tactical awareness.”
That result cut the gap from the leaders to just five points, but the Rossoneri are immediately thrown into another high profile encounter with Parma.
“I am confident as my players are all highly motivated and you can see their desire to do well for the remaining weeks of the season.”
Ancelotti travels back to the Stadio Tardini, where he was never a particularly popular Coach, and next week faces Inter in the Milan derby.
“I am expecting a tough run-in to the campaign, but not a particularly bitter one. Milan are lucky to enter this run of tough games when we are hitting form again.”
“We have struggled to make the most of our chances so far and it is time to reap the fruits of our labour.”
Captain Paolo Maldini has recovered from a twinge in his knee, but Kakha Kaladze has been left at home to regain full fitness.
“Rivaldo is well,” revealed Ancelotti, “and Serginho is also ready despite a minor bruise.”
It seems likely Rivaldo will again sit on the bench in favour of the fluid 4-4-2 formation that beat Juventus.
Manuel Rui Costa will therefore back the Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko strike partnership.
Milan squad travelling to Parma:
Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori
D: Chamot, Costacurta, Helveg, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic
M: Ambrosini, Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Pirlo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho, Ba.
F: Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson
Parma vs. AC Milan - match preview
4.4 || Seamus
Serie A resumes after a short respite and the action couldn't be hotter with just eight weeks to go. In one of the clashes of the weekend, AC Milan travel to the Ennio Tardini hoping to win and keep the pressure on the top two clubs. Only a few weeks ago, Milan's title ambitions seemed to be all but blown away as they saw the gap between them and league-leaders Juventus extend to 8 points. But, the Rossoneri beat the Old Lady on the last matchday to put themselves back in with a chance of making a late sprint to the finish line. However, failing to win this crucial clash would surely leave them with a near impossible challenge.
The home team on the other hand are no slouches. Many have already forgotten that Parma were struggling at one point in the season and their young players were being criticized of not living up to their ability. However, Prandelli's men have completely turned around their season with a few phenomenal performances. Parma are one of the on-form teams in Italy and are probably favourites to take the 4th CL berth despite being three points adrift of Lazio, who are currently occupying that position.
Cesare Prandelli welcomes back his star Adrian Mutu who missed the side's hard-earned win over Lazio due to suspension. The Romanian has been in top form and is rumoured to be on the watch list of several clubs including Milan. Another player who returns from suspension is Emanuele Filippini who will prove to be a valuable recovery as Matteo Brighi is injured and hence unavailable for the clash. Parma will operate with their newfound trident of Adriano, Mutu and Nakata with the former as a centre-forward and the latter duo as fantasistas.
Milan welcome back Kaladze, Serginho and Ambrosini from injury. The trio rested well during the break and are available for selection, but will probably start from the bench. Two other key players, Inzaghi and Gattuso have shaken of niggling injuries and will start. Ancelotti is expected to switch to a new 4-4-2 formation that worked well against Juve. Rui Costa will operate on the right wing, while Seedorf will patrol the left wing. Gattuso and Pirlo will provide a nice balance of grit and creativity in midfield. To the delight of the fans, Pippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko will continue their wonderful partnership up front.
Parma last 6 (all comps): LWDDWW
Parma had been in some of their best form of the season before the break for European qualification. The away thrashing of Chievo Verona stunned everyone and the Gialloblu followed that up with a wonderful win over Champions League berth rivals Lazio. It will be key to the Emilian side's ambitions that they maintain that sort of form and not suffer against Milan on Saturday.
Milan last 6 (all comps): DDLDLW
Milan seem to have come out of a rather poor spell relatively unscathed. Well, it remains to be seen if they will actually come out of that spell, but after a string of poor results in the league (mostly home draws), they have given themselves a whisker of a chance by beating Juventus at home. The two losses were inconsequential games in the Champions League that were suffered after the team had secured quarterfinal qualification.
Parma (4-3-2-1): Frey; Bonera, Cardone, Ferrari, Junior; Lamouchi, Barone, Filippini; Nakata, Mutu; Adriano
Milan (4-4-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Maldini; Rui Costa, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Inzaghi, Shevchenko
Milan keen to close Kaka negotiations, according to agent
4.4 || Seamus
According to the agent of Sao Paulo midfielder Kaka, Milan want to tie up a deal for his client in the imminent future.
"Yesterday I had a talk with Leonardo on behalf of the rossoneri and he has explained the desire of the club to close the negotiations as soon as possible," Wagner Ribeiro told Brazilian TV.
"I also recently spoke with Jorge Valdano and Real Madrid, but nothing official or definitive came of that."
Dida handed seven-month suspended sentence
4.4 || Seamus
AC Milan's Brazilian shotstopper Dida has been given a seven-month suspended prison term for knowingly falsifying information to obtain a Portuguese passport.
Though the punishment handed by the Milan court sounds severe, the 29-year-old former Corinthians star will only have to serve the time if he is found guilty of commiting another offence within the next five years.
Rui Costa’s Milan sacrifice
4.4 || Seamus
Manuel Rui Costa says he is ready to play out of position so long as he is part of the Milan side.
The Portuguese international was fielded on the right hand side of midfield against Juventus and boss Carlo Ancelotti is expected to use the same 4-4-2 system against Parma on Saturday.
"I don’t care where I am fielded so long as I play," said the attacking central midfielder. "I’m ready to make whatever sacrifices are needed.
"I remember when I was at Fiorentina, boss Claudio Ranieri even played me as a left-back. This is part of the game and I’m just happy to be a key member of the cause."
However, the former Benfica starlet admits that his right wing position was down to the shortage of Juventus strikers in the 2-1 Milan win.
"To be honest I wasn’t supposed to play there," he revealed. "I started quite centrally but I was forced wide because Juve only had Marcelo Zalayeta up front.
"They had five across the midfield and I had no option but to drift out there really. I wanted to come inside but wasn’t able to do so as I would have liked."
Ancelotti unfazed by rumours
3.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti is confident that his spell as Milan boss will continue for some time to come.
Reports over the past few months have suggested his job may be on the line, with the latest rumours claiming that Fabio Capello could return if the Rossoneri finish the season empty handed.
"When I saw that story I thought it was a joke but then I realised it wasn’t April 1 but April 2," he told TV station ‘Antenna 3 Lombardia’.
"I am happy here and Milan are a club that I feel are very close to me. They have given me a lot in my career and this is no ordinary club.
"Obviously anything can happen in this game but I have great faith in Milan’s judgement."
The former Rossoneri midfielder, who recently signed a new deal with the club until 2005, also dismissed the possibility that he could one day return to Coach Juventus.
"They are a part of my past and I don’t think I could ever go back there," he explained. "I’m just focused on Milan."
Turning to the immediate future, Ancelotti’s side travel to Parma at the weekend as they look to narrow the five point gap between themselves and League leaders Juventus.
"All we can simply do is to try to win all of the games which are remaining and I’m confident that we can do well," he added.
"No one knows at this stage how it will end. We are in a good position even if we have to rely on both Inter and Juventus to drop points."
Final thoughts were dedicated to the speculation that Milan are lining up summer swoops for Real duo Michel Salgado and Luis Figo, plus Man Utd’s David Beckham. "No to all three," concluded the Coach.
Inzaghi scared of failure
3.4 || scharatz
Milan’s Pippo Inzaghi says his biggest fear is ending the current campaign without a single honour.
The Rossoneri are still in with a chance of winning the treble even if they face stiff competition in the Scudetto race, the Coppa Italia and the Champions’ League.
"It would be a major regret in my life if we end this marvellous season empty handed," he said.
"I hope that my goals can help us to lift a trophy or all our hard work over this season would have been wasted."
The San Siro giants are currently five points behind leaders Juventus, face Ajax in the last eight of the Champions’ League and Perugia in the Italian Cup semi-final.
The former Juventus man has won every major honour in the club game apart from the European Cup.
Meanwhile, Inzaghi also revealed that he was desperate to get back into the national set-up after missing the Finland game with injury.
"I’m hoping for a swift return to the Azzurri squad," he added. "And I’m confident that I will be back even if I know that no one is guaranteed a first team shirt."
Shevchenko: I'll decide in June
2.4 || scharatz
Andriy Shevchenko has officially put off all talk of contract renegotiations or transfers until the end of the season.
“I believe it is right to discuss my contract with Milan at the end of the campaign, not now,” said the Ukrainian when asked if he would accept a pay cut. “But I assure the club that I do not want to leave here yet.”
The San Siro side is exercising a new policy on contracts based on lower wages and Paolo Maldini, Massimo Ambrosini and Carlo Ancelotti have already signed reduced deals.
The hitman has been decisive for the Rossoneri in the past, but this season a string of injuries and rumoured rows with the Coach have made it a disappointing year.
“I do not feel hard done by in any way. I have had many happy moments with Milan and although there were problems, this is part of life. I feel stronger now and I learned never to give up.”
Shevchenko is a hot property on the transfer market and last year Milan confirmed they rejected a £50m bid from Real Madrid. It is reported that a similar offer would not be turned down again.
Nonetheless, his fine goal and performance in the 2-1 win over Juventus seems to be a turning point in Shev’s season.
“We strikers did well in that game to move continually and help out the overall team play,” he noted.
That match saw him partner Pippo Inzaghi in a fluid 4-4-2 formation, one of the only times Coach Ancelotti has opted to field the two forwards together.
“I enjoy playing with two strikers upfront because it means I have more opportunity to move around and go deep to pick up the ball. Besides, Pippo and I get on well and have proved we can certainly share the field.”
Milan are still in the Scudetto chase, but with a five-point gap from leaders Juventus and just eight games remaining, it seems to be a tough test.
“The next two months will be exhausting,” added Shevchenko, “but we must prepare well for what is to come.”
The Rossoneri are also contending the Champions’ League quarter-final against Ajax and the Coppa Italia semi-final with Perugia.
“In the Champions’ League you know it is win or you are out, so it has a different atmosphere.”
“The Scudetto can still be within our reach, but we cannot afford to lose a single match. Perhaps being in all competitions is beginning to take its toll.”
Max extends Milan stay
2.4 || Seamus
Massimo Ambrosini has ended speculation regarding his future by signing a new contract with Milan.
The international has agreed a two-year contract extension which will run until 30 June 2005.
The midfielder had been linked with a summer move to Juventus or Chelsea after failing to command a regular starting shirt with the Rossoneri.
Yet the former Vicenza man has decided to follow Coach Carlo Ancelotti and captain Paolo Maldini who also recently agreed new deals until 2005.
It is also believed that Ambrosini has accepted to take a cut in wages in line with the club’s new policy in the current financial climate.
"We wanted to start with our Coach and our captain," revealed Vice-president Adriano Galliani.
"The deals we have been offering are not really renewals but new contracts. They are lower in financial terms but longer in duration which are of benefit to the club.
"We are looking to tie down most of the squad until 2005 because after that date we have no idea what sort of money will come in from the next TV contract."
Van Der Vaart Adds Fuel To Milan Rumours
2.4 || Seamus
The chances of seeing Rafael van der Vaart in the famous rossoneri of AC Milan have increased dramatically after the Ajax prodigy admitted that a switch to the San Siro would fill him with "great joy".
"To play in the team that was symbolized by my idol Marco Van Basten would fill me with great joy," the 19-year-old ball-wizard admitted to Dutch daily 'Nrc Handelsblad'.
The Holland star went on to explain that Van Basten had actually personally arranged talks with AC Milan and hinted that an imminent pre-contract agreement was a distinct possibility.
"I thank Marco for his interest in my situation and he assured me that I would find the ideal environment at Milan," Van der Vaart added. "My wishes were to stay at Ajax for a while longer but it is a very interesting offer. My agent Soren Lerby had a long conversation with Vice-President Adriano Galliani on Monday
Leo hangs up his boots
1.4 || scharatz
Milan veteran Leonardo has retired from the game to take up a new role with the Italian giants.
The Brazilian will now act as an assistant to Vice-president Adriano Galliani and be a middle man between the club and the players.
"On March 31, 2003, Leo’s career as a footballer came to an end," stated Galliani. "From today he has been offered a new contract in a different role."
The former international, full name Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo, came out of international retirement in October to return to Milan.
But the now former player maintains he will not grace the field of play again. "This is my final decision," he stated.
"I decided to call a stop to my career before the end of the season because I have a lot of work to get on with.
"It would have been impossible to continue training and also take care of my new responsibilities."
Leonardo has a wonderful relationship with Milan and President Silvio Berlusconi after his first stint at the club between 1997 and 2001.
"I’m absolutely delighted that I ended my playing days wearing the Milan shirt at the San Siro against Brescia in December," he continued.
"It is wonderful to continue living here and working for a club that on a daily basis confirms their respect for me."