Ancelotti: It's Showtime...
30.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti realises Sunday will be one of the most important days of his career and compared it to a European Cup Final.
“This clash is worth as much as the Champions’ League Final to us,” stated the Milan boss. “Roma are the best opponents in this division and deserve to be challenging, but we’ve already beaten them and hope to continue that trend.”
These two sides have already met three times this season between Serie A and the Coppa Italia with every result going 2-1 to Milan. A victory at the San Siro would crown them Champions of Italy.
“We are in great condition coming to this match and can close up the title in front of our own fans,” continued the tactician and former Roma player.
“I just can’t wait for this game to kick off. Psychologically it’s a less difficult encounter than the one with Empoli, because we know that it can be the decider, while at the same time we have an advantage to take care of in case things go wrong.”
The gap at the top was cut down to just six points when Milan were held at Udinese last week, but with only two games left after this showdown even a defeat might not prevent them taking the Scudetto.
“You need patience in every match, but I think the final minutes will be decisive. Individual players are always important and with so many technically gifted stars out there anything could happen.”
The most eagerly awaited players on the day will be Francesco Totti and Brazilian starlet Kaka’.
“It isn’t really fair to compare the two as Totti has already matured,” pointed out Ancelotti. “Kaka’ has already proved what a great talent he is, but he has time to grow and improve. It would be wonderful to see them play together one day.”
Totti’s alleged agreement with Real Madrid has shaken the Giallorossi ahead of this crucial game, so the Coach knows this comment will spark further speculation that Milan are considering a bid for the captain.
These two tacticians know each other well, as Ancelotti was part of the Scudetto-winning Rossoneri squad Coached by Fabio Capello in the early 1990’s.
“Capello knows how to read a game very well and can put his ideas across in a way the players understand. Roma will be without Cristian Chivu, but I think he will stick with the four-man defence.”
The title could be sealed on Sunday and Ancelotti claims the fixture list could not have been drawn up better.
“The two best teams in the division will face off and the tension is rising. It is a fitting end to a wonderful season.”
Milan will buy big
30.4 || scharatz
Milan have promised fans that they will buy two big name players during the summer transfer window.
The Rossoneri have been the dominant force in Italian football this season and they have no intention of loosening their grip.
"We will make two great signings before next season," revealed Vice-president Adriano Galliani.
"That is because Milan want to remain one of the top eight or 10 sides in the European game right now."
Galliani mentioned no names but one of those players is almost certain to be Lazio defender Jaap Stam.
The Dutchman will leave the Stadio Olimpico at the end of this season and he has hinted at a Rossoneri switch.
The identity of the other player is rather more difficult to pinpoint even if the club have been associated with some real talents.
Barcelona ace Edgar Davids is a reported target, especially as he would be available on a free transfer.
The San Siro outfit have also been linked with Roma midfielder Emerson and Adrian Mutu of Chelsea.
Galliani also confirmed that the club had no plans to sell any of their star players who are currently on their books.
"It has got to the stage when hardly any clubs enquire about our players because they already know what our answer would be," he concluded.
Maldini smells Lo Scudetto
29.4 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini has commented on how his Milan side are preparing for the Scudetto showdown against Roma.
"It feels like the run up to a Cup Final rather than a League game," the captain told Milan Channel.
"Sunday’s match is a great chance for us to put an end to a season which has simply been formidable for us.
"I remember that we celebrated our Champions’ League and Italian Cup wins against Roma last season. It would be great to celebrate in front of them again this term."
Milan have shattered numerous records this season, starting with the points tally of 75. They already have 76 with three games still to play.
"I don’t think any other team will be able to do as well again," he added. "We’ve travelled at quite a pace.
"We won our last title here with just 70 points and we thought that was good. Now we could reach 84 which underlines what a magical season it has been."
However, Roma do have the chance to cut Milan’s lead at the top of the table to just three points if they win in the Week 32 tie.
"They are certainly a strong side who have enjoyed a good season themselves," added the stopper.
"But we are playing at home and we have always done very well against the top sides so far this season."
Milan dismiss Totti option
29.4 || scharatz
Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani has ruled out any future bid for Roma captain Francesco Totti.
Reports have linked the Italian with an exit from the capital but the Rossoneri don’t seem too keen to make an offer.
"People often say that buying Totti is a dream of President Silvio Berlusconi but that is not true," Galliani told ReteSport.
"Our patron loves to see clubs who have symbols. A player like Totti needs to remain where he is.
"He is a Roma fan, he was born and raised in the capital and he is an emblem for the Giallorossi."
Milan will face Totti on Sunday as he will attempt to spoil the Rossoneri’s proposed Scudetto celebrations.
Although the San Siro side have had a record-breaking season, Roma still have a chance of pipping them to the title.
"The capital outfit have had a splendid campaign," added Galliani. "Yet that is mainly down to the performances of Totti. He is the best Italian player around."
Milan move for unsettled Mutu
27.4 || scharatz
Adrian Mutu could be ready for a return to Serie A as he is reportedly in talks with the Rossoneri.
The Romanian was a massive hit for Parma and scored 18 goals in the 2002-03 campaign, earning him a £17m switch to Chelsea.
Despite a promising start to his Stamford Bridge career, the arrival of more players such as Damien Duff and Hernan Crespo pushed him on to the sidelines.
The Italian press also maintains that Mutu is unhappy with the atmosphere within the club and wishes to move on this summer.
The former Inter and Verona star had many admirers in the Peninsula who could not afford to match Chelsea’s cash upfront bid last season.
Therefore a return to Serie A seems the most likely next step in the career of the 25-year-old international.
It is well known that Milan are seeking an attacking player with more width to partner Andriy Shevchenko, so Mutu would fit the bill.
It is a return to the San Siro for him, as he started his Italian career at Inter in December 1999 with a switch from Dynamo Bucharest.
The only obstacle to this deal is his price-tag, but it is claimed that Chelsea would be willing to accept as little as £10m for the versatile forward.
Rules changed for Milan - Roma?
27.4 || scharatz
The Federation is considering a change of the refereeing rules so that Pierluigi Collina can be assigned to Sunday’s Scudetto decider.
The regulation currently states that an official can only oversee a club six times within a season, therefore ensuring impartiality.
Collina is widely considered to be the best referee in the world, but having already taken charge of six Roma games in the current campaign he is ineligible for the most important encounter of the entire Championship.
However, the FIGC and AIA (Italian Referee’s Association) are now working on a change to the rules so that Collina can wield the whistle in the San Siro showdown.
The decision will be made on Friday, but the only other options for this match are Gianluca Paparesta, Roberto Rosetti and Matteo Trefoloni.
Paparesta would be the least popular choice for Roma fans, as he was in charge during the controversial Milan games against Empoli and Chievo, while Rosetti disallowed a Giallorossi goal in the recent Rome derby.
It has also now been officially confirmed that the Milan-Roma match will go ahead as planned on Sunday afternoon, as the Rossoneri did not agree to a late kick-off.
Inzaghi to miss Euro 2004?
27.4 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi could miss Euro 2004 after it was revealed that the Milan ace is set to undergo minor surgery.
Rossoneri medics yesterday seemed confident that he wouldn’t need to go under the knife but that hope has been shattered today.
Inzaghi has been suffering with a foot and ankle problem in recent weeks, which has forced him onto the sidelines.
He today underwent a series of tests which have confirmed that he will require an operation which will be carried out on Wednesday.
"I’m disappointed but this was the only solution," said the striker. "The club and I thought it best to have the operation as soon as possible.
"Especially as there are still some important League games and the European Championships to follow.
"We tried to deal with the problem with intensive treatment but we’ve seen today that surgery is needed.
"In all honesty, I’m just relieved that we have finally found the exact reason why I have been suffering so much pain."
Initial reports suggest that Inzaghi should be available to make the 23-man squad to Portugal this summer.
However, he only has less than a month to prove his fitness to Azzurri boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
Juventus striker Marco Di Vaio will now be even keener to impress Trap during tomorrow’s friendly against Spain seeing as Inzaghi is a doubt.
Inzaghi surgery ruled out
26.4 || scharatz
Milan have confirmed that Pippo Inzaghi should be fit enough to make the 2004 European Championships.
The Italian has been sidelined recently with a foot problem amid fears that he would require surgery.
However, the Rossoneri medical staff have today confirmed that the player will not need to go under the knife.
"Surgery is not needed," stated a Milan statement. "In all probability, he should be available for Azzurri selection."
The 30-year-old has been hampered by fitness issues all season which was a major concern for Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
The former Juventus ace is currently training alone at Milanello in a bid to regain full fitness.
There are hopes that he could at least start on the bench against Roma next weekend even if no decision will be taken until the end of this week.
Late kick-off for title decider?
26.4 || scharatz
Sunday’s Milan-Roma Scudetto showdown could be switched from an afternoon to an evening kick-off.
Italian rules do state that all fixtures from Week 31 onwards must be played simultaneously in the interest of fairness.
However, broadcasters Sky Italia are set to ask the Italian League to switch the tie to an 8.30pm kick-off.
Milan and Roma are understood to be open to the idea but they will also need a green light from Juventus.
That is because the Bianconeri do still have a mathematical chance of beating the Giallorossi into second.
The Italian Football League are set to make a definite decision by Wednesday evening at the latest.
Sao Paolo star calls Milan
26.4 || scharatz
The San Siro is about to welcome another Brazilian starlet as hitman Luis Fabiano has confirmed talks with the Rossoneri.
"To play in Italy would be fantastic," announced the hitman, "and Milan are just the ultimate club for any player."
The 23-year-old is already a superstar in his native Brazil, where he is fast approaching Antonio Careca's record of 112 goals with Sao Paolo.
"Milan is an historically famous club," continued the man who has netted 110 for his club. "And a strong side that already has many Brazilians in its ranks. With my friend Kaka, we would make a stellar partnership."
The Rossoneri already have strong trade links with Sao Paolo, as they signed Serie A revelation Kaka from the club last summer for less than £6m.
It has been no secret that Carlo Ancelotti is seeking a tall and powerful centre-forward to partner Andriy Shevchenko.
Luis Fabiano would cost just £5.5m – considerably less than prime targets Fabio Bazzani of Sampdoria and Lazio's Bernardo Corradi – so negotiations to close the deal are already in place.
Udinese 0:0 AC Milan - report
25.4 || scharatz
Milan could have taken the title this weekend if they had beaten Udinese and Roma failed to beat Empoli, but their lead is cut to six points and it will all go down to next week's showdown.
The Friuli outfit is the only side to have beaten Milan in Serie A this season, grabbing a shock 2-1 victory at the San Siro in December, while they also wanted points for their UEFA Cup bid.
The Rossoneri made a surprising tactical switch, pushing Clarence Seedorf up to a supporting role with Kaka' behind lone striker Andriy Shevchenko. Gennaro Gattuso also returned to the right flank of midfield, while Pippo Inzaghi, Kakha Kaladze and Giuseppe Pancaro were out injured.
Andrea Pirlo had the first real scoring opportunity when his free kick curled inches wide of the woodwork.
Kaka' thought he had grabbed the opener on 24 minutes when he sprinted into the box and managed to go round Morgan De Sanctis, but the goalkeeper managed to deflect it round the upright with his elbow.
Udinese became increasingly dangerous as half-time approached and Dida got down well to block a powerful Marek Jankulovski free kick.
Milan had the first chance of the second half with an ambitious Shevchenko volley with the inside of his right foot, but it was off target.
Kaka' continued to be the Rossoneri's most dangerous player and charged forward on the hour mark with a stunning solo run, but the finish was just inches wide of the woodwork.
Shevchenko's attempt also caused problems for the Udinese defence as Milan stepped up a gear in the second half, then substitute Jon Dahl Tomasson brought a tough save out of De Sanctis.
Luciano Spalletti also changed his tactics with Martin Jorgensen supporting lone striker Vincenzo Iaquinta and Lucas Castroman volleyed on to the side-netting.
In stoppages Tomasson's deflected effort looped inches over the bar, then Christian Brocchi's attempt was saved.
Udinese: De Sanctis; Bertotto, Kroldrup, Felipe; Alberto, Pizarro, Muntari (Rossitto 67), Jankulovski, Jorgensen (Pierini 87); Fava (Castroman 74), Iaquinta
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Gattuso (Brocchi 87), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf (Tomasson 70), Kaka (Rui Costa 80); Shevchenko
Ref: De Santis
Udinese vs. AC Milan - preview
24.4 || scharatz
LIVE on British Eurosport (KO 2pm UK time)
Milan will have a score to settle on Sunday when they take on Udinese – that’s because the Bianconeri are the only side to have beaten them in Serie A this season. The Bianconeri collected a shock win at the San Siro just before Christmas to underline their giant killing pedigree.
However, since then Milan have been irresistible. They are clear at the top of the table and another win on Sunday would surely go a long way to securing them their 17th Scudetto. The 2-1 win at Siena showed that they have got over their shock Champions’ League exit.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti is set to stick with the 4-3-2-1 formation given the fact that Pippo Inzaghi and Jonh Dahl Tomasson have fitness issues to resolve. Ambrosini may also retain his place in the side at the expense of Clarence Seedorf. Giuseppe Pancaro may also be missing.
Udinese will have Gianpiero Pinzi suspended yet again, while Nestor Sensini is also a doubt. Vincenzo Iaquinta could start ahead of Dino Fava in attack after his recent rich vein of form.
Udinese (probable): De Sanctis; Bertotto, Kroldrup, Felipe; Alberto, Pazienza, Pizarro, Muntari, Jankulovski; Jorgensen; Iaquinta
Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Simic; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Rui Costa, Kaka; Shevchenko
Seedorf: The Scudetto is ours
24.4 || scharatz
Milan need another five points to be mathematically certain of the title, but Clarence Seedorf has already placed the champagne on ice.
“I am never worried by the results of other teams,” he assured. “We must be absolutely convinced that the Scudetto is ours.”
The 1-1 draw in the Rome derby midweek left the Rossoneri eight points clear at the top and Milan would be crowned Champions on Sunday if they win at Udinese and Roma fail to beat Empoli.
“There is a certain tension surrounding the squad right now, but it is a positive emotion as we are nearing a moment of great joy and satisfaction.”
The Dutchman has not yet won a Serie A title, but has already experienced this triumph in Spain and Holland.
“In Italy there were at least six teams who could aim for the Scudetto this season,” he explained, “and the eventual winner is always the deserving one because this tests your consistency. In a Cup competition one moment can change everything.”
This has been one of his best ever seasons on a personal level and the former Inter man admits he is maturing.
“Every year I improve and I think I can still get better in the future. I feel more complete now and can feel my potential as a player is being realised at last.”
Ancelotti can taste the Scudetto
22.4 || scharatz
The derby draw gives Milan an eight-point lead over Roma and Carlo Ancelotti admits the title is within reach.
“The result of the Derby della Capitale is certainly positive for us,” he said after the 1-1 draw at the Olimpico.
“Now the finish line is even closer. However, it would be a terrible mistake to get distracted now as nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet.”
The decider looks set to be the head to head clash between Milan and Roma at the San Siro on May 2, although the Rossoneri will face a tricky trip to Udinese this Sunday.
“The psychological impact of this result on Milan is certainly a good one,” added Vice-President Adriano Galliani.
“I just spoke to Andriy Shevchenko on the phone and he said that if we win at Udine then the Scudetto is ours.”
Udinese are the only team in Serie A this season able to get the better of the leaders with a 2-1 victory before Christmas.
“An eight-point gap with four games to go is a great advantage,” he confessed, “but obviously we cannot say anything until we are mathematically certain to take the title.”
The real extent of the lead had been up in the air for a month, as the original Rome derby was abandoned on March 21.
“For weeks now we have been unclear on exactly how much of an advantage we had, but now we know it’s a lot more reassuring.”
“We need five more points to be sure of the Scudetto,” concluded Galliani, “so we’d best start by picking up three on Sunday afternoon.”
Milan rule out Davids bid
22.4 || scharatz
Milan have dismissed speculation that Barcelona’s Edgar Davids will be wearing the Rossoneri shirt next term.
Some reports in Italy yesterday suggested that a three-year deal had already been agreed but the Italian outfit have denied the claim.
"There is no chance of us signing Davids," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani. "We already have a squad that we intend to keep as it is."
Davids, who is currently on loan at the Nou Camp, will be a free agent in the summer once his contract with Juventus expires.
Galliani has also commented on whispers that boss Carlo Ancelotti could be on his way out of the club.
Chelsea have been linked with the former midfielder as Claudio Ranieri is set to be axed at Stamford Bridge.
"We’ll keep him even if he loses the Championship," he insisted. "Ancelotti is not tempted by anyone.
"He is happy here and he will certainly remain with us for next season too."
Cafu fears Friuli double
21.4 || scharatz
Udinese are the only Serie A side to have beaten Milan this season and Marcos Cafu warns they could repeat the trick at the Stadio Friuli this Sunday.
“Udinese are fighting to get into the UEFA Cup places,” noted the Brazilian, “and are playing great football. It will be a very special and difficult match for us.”
The Rossoneri remain unbeaten on their travels and have only lost one match throughout the entire campaign – a 2-1 home defeat to Luciano Spalletti’s men before Christmas.
“We won’t go to the Friuli in search of revenge,” assured the winger. “We will step on to that field to perform well and take all three points.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s side is close to its first Scudetto under this Coach, but have struggled to hit top form in the last few weeks.
“We made mistakes in two or three games, but that doesn’t mean we are in a crisis. It just shows that on that particular night our opponents were better and we must admit that.”
Cafu was referring to the 4-0 thrashing by Deportivo La Coruna in their shock Champions’ League exit.
Pippo Inzaghi and Giuseppe Pancaro have been ruled out of Sunday’s trip with injuries, but Jon Dahl Tomasson returns to the squad.
“We cannot blame fitness worries every time we don’t get a victory,” continued the World Cup winner. “This will be a decisive month for us and the entire squad will give 100 per cent.”
Milan’s record away to Udinese is relatively balanced with nine wins, 14 draws and five defeats.
The most recent setback was last season when David Pizarro’s penalty ensured the home side emerged with a 1-0 victory.
Milan snap up Davids - report
21.4 || scharatz
Barcelona ace Edgar Davids has reportedly agreed to return to former club Milan in the summer.
Rumours in Italy allege that the Dutchman flew into Milan yesterday for talks with the Rossoneri.
The Italian giants have admitted that they are keen on the player and it is alleged that an agreement has been reached.
The international will sign a three-year contract with the San Siro outfit worth around £2.3m a season.
Davids was also wanted by Inter but he has opted to join Milan – a club that has a track record of winning.
The player, who is currently on loan at Barcelona from Juventus, will be a free agent in the summer.
The Spanish club have stated that they want to keep hold of him but he seems to have already made up his mind.
No official announcement has been made but it is believed that his arrival will be confirmed at the end of the season.
Davids had an unhappy stint with the Rossoneri after his 1996 move from Ajax. However, he was sold to Juventus in December 1997 and proved to be a key signing.
Davids excelled in Turin under boss Marcello Lippi and then Carlo Ancelotti – the man he should now be working with again next season.
Ancelotti celebrates late win
17.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti insists that Milan deserved to get the better of Siena and Andriy Shevchenko reveals why he raised his arm.
“When Siena were left in ten men our chances of winning certainly improved,” conceded the Coach after Simone Vergassola's dismissal, “but we did everything we had to throughout the entire 90 minutes. We deserved this victory and played well against a tough opponent.”
Kaka’ grabbed the winner, although he had been disappointing up until that moment and some expected him to be substituted.
“Kaka’ is more of a goal scorer than Manuel Rui Costa, so right now it is more important to keep the Brazilian on to the field.”
Siena had temporarily equalised just before the break with a penalty, but Ancelotti assures referee Pierluigi Collina took the right decision.
“It was a penalty, even if Andriy Shevchenko had a perfectly good reason to hold up his arm as ten days ago his teeth were smashed in.”
Serie A’s top scorer underwent surgery less than two weeks ago for a split lip and chipped teeth following an accidental collision while on international duty.
“That was very unfair,” commented the Ukrainian, “as if you look carefully I already had my elbow in front of my face before the ball was struck. I had to protect myself and had no intention of deflecting the ball anywhere other than away from my face.”
Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani was in the stands and noted that the Euro exit to Deportivo La Coruna has been washed away.
“The seventeenth Milan Scudetto isn’t sealed up yet, but this was a very important step towards it and the team played very well.”
“If we should win the title this year then it has been a great season, especially with the Champions’ League trophy and Coppa Italia adding to our tally over the last two campaigns.”
Siena 1:2 AC Milan - report
17.4 || scharatz
Shevchenko 26 (M), Chiesa pen 38 (S), Kaka' 79 (M)
A late Kaka' header puts Milan another step towards the Scudetto by beating ten-man Siena.
The Rossoneri were forced to adopt a 4-3-2-1 system after injuries ruled out Pippo Inzaghi and Jon Dahl Tomasson, while Alessandro Nesta was able to start despite bruised ribs. Clarence Seedorf was surprisingly dropped down to the bench in favour of Massimo Ambrosini.
Siena have the joint strongest home defensive record in Serie A along with Roma and were confident of getting a result with front two Tore Andre Flo and Enrico Chiesa.
Milan had the first scoring opportunity after eight minutes. A slide-rule pass found Shevchenko and he opted to cut back for Kaka' rather than place an angled drive past the goalkeeper, but Leandro Cufre' dived in with a crucial clearance to save Siena.
At the other end of the field Alessandro Nesta's sliding tackle prevented Chiesa sprinting towards goal on his own. There were timid penalty appeals soon after for Alessandro Costacurta's shirt tug on Gianni Guigou, but contact was minimal.
The pitch was slippery from the heavy rain and Dida was tested with a fierce long-range drive from Chiesa that squirmed away from him.
The former Fiorentina and Parma man aimed another swerving effort from distance, but this time Dida was ready for it.
But it was Milan who broke the deadlock on 26 minutes. Manuel Rui Costa's angled drive was only parried by goalkeeper Marco Fortin and Shevchenko was ready to pounce on the loose ball for his 21st of the season.
Three minutes later the Ukrainian could have doubled his tally with a bullet header on Cafu's cross, but this time Fortin got a strong hand behind it.
Kaka' also tried to test Fortin with a powerful shot from 20 metres, but the goalkeeper luckily managed to block with his legs after a deflection took him away from the ball.
There was controversy on 36 minutes, as a Chiesa free kick struck Shevchenko's raised elbow in the wall and referee Pierluigi Collina pointed to the spot. Chiesa stepped up and blasted it into the net to draw Siena level.
Milan tried to hit back immediately and Massimo Ambrosini nodded a corner kick over the bar, but it was Siena that grew in confidence and Flo's shot was charged down by Nesta.
The visitors had a strong start to the second half and Andrea Pirlo's long-range effort skimmed the crossbar, then Shevchenko's wayward attempt squirmed wide.
A Bruno Cirillo sliding tackle prevented the Ukrainian facing Fortin in a one-on-one situation as the pressure continued to build.
They went extremely close to restoring their lead on 58 minutes, when Shevchenko ran on to a Rui Costa pass and placed his angled drive mere inches past the far post.
Fortin was again severely tested on the hour mark by a stinging Gennaro Gattuso effort from 25 metres up the field.
Kaka' was overall disappointing and squandered a good chance by drilling it wide, then Andrea Pirlo's free kick was off target.
The first changes were made on 73 minutes. Winger Nikola Lazetic replaced Flo, while Under-21 international striker Marco Borriello was given a rare appearance to take over from Rui Costa.
Moments later Shevchenko hooked down a long Pirlo pass, but he slipped on the wet surface and allowed Fortin to recover.
There was bad news for Siena on 78 minutes, as Simone Vergassola saw his second yellow card for kicking out at Kaka'.
Less than a minute later Milan had taken the lead. A corner kick was nodded across the face of goal by Borriello, but the final touch was from Kaka's diving header in the six-yard box.
The Rossoneri kept on pushing and Gattuso's fierce effort was palmed out for a corner at the near post.
The tension was nonetheless high and a scuffle broke out between Shevchenko and Siena substitute Fernando Menegazzo with both players booked.
Siena refused to give in and Lazetic curled a shot just over the bar in the closing minutes, while Borriello saw a close-range effort deflected off target.
Siena: Fortin; Cirillo (Menegazzo 82), Juarez, Mignani, Cufrè; Taddei, Vergassola, D'Aversa, Guigou; Flo (Lazetic 73), Chiesa (Ventola 77)
Milan: Dida, Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta; Gattuso (Brocchi 88), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Rui Costa (Borriello 73), Kakà (Serginho 83); Shevchenko
Sent off: Vergassola 78 (S)
Ancelotti feels the strain
17.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti admits the tension is rising as he closes in on his first Scudetto title with Milan, but first faces today's tricky trip to Siena.
“When you come nearer to your goal,” explained the Coach, “the tension and worry rises within you. I wouldn’t call it fear, but you do want to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.”
Ancelotti has been in this position before with Juventus, only to throw the title away on the last day of the season, so he is more concerned than most at Milan’s recent stuttering form.
“Some players aren’t at the top of their game at the moment, but the overall situation is good. From a psychological perspective there have been real improvements since the win over Empoli.”
That 1-0 victory was marred by controversy following the winning penalty for a dubious foul on Jon Dahl Tomasson.
“I think that Milan’s points have been completely deserved,” snapped Ancelotti. “We won at some very difficult arenas and it is inevitable that every year there is a row over refereeing favouritism.”
Pierluigi Collina has been chosen for this delicate trip to Siena – a side that has conceded just nine goals on home turf all season.
“This is a crucial crossroads in our campaign,” continued the tactician. “A victory would be incredibly important. It won’t be easy in such a passionate Stadium packed out with fans, while Siena are always aggressive opponents.”
Injuries force Ancelotti to stick with a lone striker upfront supported by Manuel Rui Costa and Kaka’, as Tomasson and Pippo Inzaghi are injured.
“Playing with just Andriy Shevchenko upfront won’t be a problem. We have already used this tactic before with excellent results.”
Alessandro Nesta is part of the squad travelling to Tuscany, but remains a real doubt to start the match.
“He is still not sure of a place in the line-up,” revealed Ancelotti. “It all depends on whether he can play despite this pain in his ribs.”
Siena vs. Milan - match preview
16.4 || Seamus
Carlo Ancelotti's Milan are cruising toward this season's scudetto.
In their wake, they are leaving a trail of dazed and confused teams.
The secret to the rossoneri's success is their consistency.
With the exception of one game, they have taken points from each encounter they have played this season.
Not suprisingly, Milan look like continuing this practice when they visit Giuseppe Papadopulo's Siena at the Artemio Franchi Stadium on Saturday night.
It is unlikely that the bianconeri will give the rossoneri any real problems in this clash.
By talking of "anti-Milan" tactics – like he did when the two sides met last year – coach Papadopulo has at least generated some pre-match interest in the encounter.
But within minutes of the game commencing, the differences between the hosts and the visitors will be made patently clear.
Siena: Eager to make sure that his team do not go the way that so many others have gone this season against the visitors, Papadopulo had the bianconeri practicing tactics designed to thwart Milan at training on Friday morning.
It seems the team boss wants his charges to go into the game believing they have answers to the magic that coach Ancelotti's boys weave on and off the ball.
This may or may not be the case.
Either way, Papadopulo is to be congratulated for trying to instil added confidence in his players.
This should not be too difficult a task for him after his side walloped local outift Apollosa 13-0 on Thursday afternoon
Milan: With five games to go before the season finishes, do no talk to Cafu about the rossoneri being in crisis.
The veteran Brazilian defender said that there was nothing wrong with the side, who are on top of the table, nine points clear of Fabio Capello's Roma.
"We have drawn two games in the championship and lost one in The Champions League," he said.
"We have only messed-up the Intercontinental Cup (against Carlos Bianchi's Boca Juniors) and the clash with Deportivo La Coruña this year," he said.
"And on these occasions, we played two teams who had fantastic games."
One who will not be having his usual fabulous outing for Milan this week is Nesta.
On Tuesday at training, he injured his ribs in an exercise with Pirlo.
If he had thought that he would come away from the incident and play against Siena, he was wrong.
Life at Milan is characterised by good sense.
And this means that Nesta will be sidelined for seven days as a precautionary measure.
"It seems that I am paying for the luck I had last season when nothing happened to me," the talented defender said.
Probable Team Line-Ups
Siena (4-4-2): Fortin, Cirillo, Juarez, Mignani, Cufre, Taddei, Vergassola, D'Aversa, Guigou, Flo, Chiesa.
Milan (4-3-2-1): Dida, Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka, Rui Costa, Shevchenko
Players To Watch
Siena: Fortin will be the key to keeping the bianconeri in the game.
Watch him deal with the rossoneri's crosses and corners to the best of his considerable ability.
Milan: Kaka will bring a little Brazilian sunshine to the pitch.
See him weave effortlessly through the hosts' rag tag defence and score or set up opportunities for Shevchenko.
Tomasson misses Siena trip
16.4 || Seamus
Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has an attacking headache after Jon Dahl Tomasson joined Pippo Inzaghi on the sidelines.
The Dane is having a few physical problems and he hasn’t been included in the squad to face Siena on Saturday.
Ancelotti now only has Andriy Shevchenko and youngster Marco Borriello available to him for tomorrow’s clash.
That is likely to see the tactician revert to the 4-3-2-1 formation with Kaka and Manuel Rui Costa supporting lone striker Shev.
However, there is some good news after Alessandro Nesta was surprisingly made available for selection.
The Italian was set to miss the game because of a rib injury but he may now feature at the Stadio Franchi.
Milan have a healthy advantage at the top of the table but captain Paolo Maldini insists the Scudetto has still not been won.
"Roma are not about to just give up now," said the veteran. "But we are optimistic because we know how good we are.
"We are expecting a difficult game at Siena but we are still unbeaten away from home in the League. We also know that a win will be fundamental for us."
Squad: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori; Cafu, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo, Redondo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho; Borriello, Shevchenko.
Milan: Dhorasoo who?
16.4 || scharatz
Milan chief Adriano Galliani has cast doubt on reports that his club have signed Vikash Dhorasoo.
The French media are convinced that the Lyon midfielder is on his way but Galliani is giving little away.
"I don’t know whether we’ve signed a Frenchman," he said. "Ariedo Braida (director general) doesn’t tell me anything anymore. The name Dhorasoo doesn’t tell me anything either.
"As I have already said on numerous occasions this term, we’re only prepared to discuss transfers in the summer."
The 31-year-old ace is available for nothing at the end of this campaign as his contract is set to expire.
The player himself also denied claims that he had agreed to a Milan switch, even if he did admit that he had received three foreign offers.
Dhorasoo denies Milan deal
15.4 || scharatz
Lyon midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo has dismissed reports that he has agreed to join Italian giants Milan.
Stories in France this morning insist that the 31-year-old has penned a two-year contract with the San Siro outfit.
Yet the player maintains that is not true. "I will be leaving Lyon and the club are aware of that fact," he said.
"But I would like to add that I haven’t yet signed a contract with any other team that has come forward for me.
"I have received offers from three foreign sides but I have yet to make a decision on where to go.
"I want to take my time to consider the offers. But that isn’t as important as trying to win the League again with Lyon this season."
Dhorasoo will be available on a free transfer in the summer and it is believed that Arsenal are also interested.
Nesta to miss Siena trip
15.4 || scharatz
Milan’s Alessandro Nesta is unsure whether he will be fit enough to face Siena at the weekend.
The defender has picked up a small rib injury and he’s a major doubt for the Rossoneri’s game on Saturday.
"I’m feeling quite good," he stated. "I did do a little training today but we will have to see whether I will be available for Siena.
"This season started out really well for me but then I picked up a number of injury problems. But these things happen, especially as I had none at all last season."
Nesta is likely to be replaced by Billy Costacurta in a game that the former Lazio star believes will be tough.
"It won’t be easy and we may find more difficulties than the game against Empoli," continued Nesta.
"I expect Siena to attack us but we are in really good physical shape right now and I’m confident that we will see a great Milan performance."
The Azzurri hero should return to the Rossoneri side for the Week 31 clash at Udinese.
Cafu wary of Siena
15.4 || Seamus
On Saturday, Milan will face relegation-battlers Siena, the first of two consecutive away matches which might pave the way for the rossoneri's seventeenth Scudetto.
However Brazilian full-back Cafu is wary of the bianconeri and does not believe that Milan will have easy life against Papadopulo's squad.
"It will be a very difficult match," said Cafu, "We saw them play against Sampdoria and they really played a great match. They are in-form, they run a lot and will surely give their best against Milan by playing the game of their life."
Milan sign Dhorasoo - report
15.4 || Seamus
Media reports in France claim that Lyon’s Vikash Dhorasoo has agreed a two-year contract with Milan.
The 31-year-old will arrive on a free transfer, according to the L’Equipe newspaper, as his current deal with the French club expires in the summer.
Dhorasoo, who originates from Mauritius, has been a sensation at Lyon since his 1998 move from Le Havre.
The midfielder played a crucial role in his side’s League success last term where he was also voted as the club’s Player of the Season.
Lyon were keen to hold onto him but he’s decided to try out a new adventure after also being linked with Paris Saint Germain, Marseille and Arsenal.
Dhorasoo’s arrival will now probably lead to a Milan departure in midfield - with Fernando Redondo the favourite to leave as his contract is also up in June.
If the move is confirmed then Dhorasoo will become the eighth Frenchman to star for the Italian club.
The previous ones were: Nestor Combin, Jean-Pierre Papin, Bruno N’Gotty, Patrick Vieira, Christophe Dugarry, Ibrahim Ba and Marcel Desailly.
Inzaghi considers surgery
14.4 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi is sidelined for a week with a left foot problem, but doctors won’t rule out surgery.
The Milan hitman has been struggling with a series of injuries throughout the campaign and he flew out to Antwerp for a consultation with specialist Professor Martens.
Tests revealed that a problem in the bones of his left foot and ankle have caused a painful inflammation in that area.
It is not a serious condition, but doctors have ordered a week of complete rest and refused to rule out the chance of surgery to clean up the affected area.
“The eventuality of keyhole surgery will only be evaluated at the end of the season,” assured club doctor Jean Pierre Meersseman.
Inzaghi will definitely miss this Saturday’s trip to Siena and remains a risk for the following away game at Udine.
Surgery would be a particularly bitter blow for the off-form striker, as it would almost certainly rule him out of the Euro 2004 tournament.
Ambro: "I considered quitting Milan"
13.4 || webmaster
Massimo Ambrosini admits he still hopes to be part of Italy’s Euro 2004 squad, but assures he won’t leave Milan even if there is a lack of first team football.
“My situation hasn’t changed,” noted the midfielder who last month hinted at a summer switch.
“Of course I’d love to play more regularly and I won’t hide that I did think about moving on, but I also realise how important I am to this team and quite frankly just being a member of the Milan squad is a prestigious achievement.”
However, spending so much time on the bench has inevitably harmed his chances of flying to Portugal.
“Coach Giovanni Trapattoni called me for the most recent Italy friendly and I hope with all of my heart to be part of these Championships with my teammates. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll have nothing to blame myself for. It simply wasn’t to be.”
Ambrosini was also asked to discuss the controversial 1-0 win over Empoli and the subsequent row over refereeing errors.
“I don’t believe all this rubbish about the referees favouring Milan,” he snapped in today’s press conference. “If that was the case, then why did he not award a penalty for that foul on Andriy Shevchenko just a few minutes earlier?”
The 4-0 defeat at Deportivo La Coruna has put pressure on the Rossoneri to win the Scudetto, but the midfielder suggests too much is expected of them.
“I think that this defeat, and the 4-0 to Lazio in the Coppa Italia semi-final, were so awful that they had to be nothing more than an off-day. Unfortunately, this season our few dips in form have been spectacularly low.”
Refs convene as Milan rage
13.4 || webmaster
The row over refereeing errors is escalating as the FIGC called an emergency meeting to discuss the scandal, while Milan chief Adriano Galliani blamed the press.
The last weekend has seen a spate of controversial decisions in Serie A that include the winning penalty awarded to Milan against Empoli, a Cesar goal disallowed at Juventus and the late Inter winner at Perugia.
“I don’t really blame the referees,” noted Lazio Coach Roberto Mancini, “but the rules are unclear. We need to know what the situation truly is, or the assistants are put in a difficult position.”
The new interpretation of the offside rule and what makes a player active or not are causing serious problems in the Italian League, so FIGC President Franco Carraro has called an emergency meeting set for tomorrow afternoon.
“This get-together has as its objective an evaluation of the refereeing situation, taking into account the recent League problems,” explained a statement.
Carraro will be joined by League President Adriano Galliani, Players’ Association (AIC) chief Sergio Campana, Coaching Association (AIAC) President Azeglio Vicini and Referees’ Association (AIA) leader Lanese.
Meanwhile, Galliani has caused controversy of his own by claiming that a committee should be set up to monitor the television use of the ‘moviola’ – slow motion replays.
“I am scandalised by what has happened,” the Milan director told the ‘Corriere della Sera’ newspaper.
“When played at normal speed, everyone thought that Empoli ‘keeper Daniele Balli’s contact with Jon Dahl Tomasson was a penalty. If it’s slowed down, then obviously it looks less dangerous.”
Italian television is filled with discussion shows that examine every detail of controversial incidents to seek out errors, but Galliani believes the conspiracy is not within the referees but rather in the hands of the media.
“Whoever chooses which footage to show and from what angle has enormous power to put pressure on officials,” argued the League President. “A hostile pundit in this sense can destroy a club.”
The majority of the pundits in this case are former referees and one such person, Graziano Cesari, suggests there is no issue.
“The replays can only act as a teaching tool so that the same mistakes are not repeated. I have vast experience in this sport and know full well how difficult it is to be a referee.”
Meanwhile, David Di Michele has escaped with only a one-match ban for his red card against Udinese, despite the fact the Reggina man had to be dragged away by several officials and club representatives.
In all eleven Serie A players have been suspended this week:
Di Michele (Reggina), Pizarro (Udinese), Balli (Empoli), Caracciolo (Brescia), D’Anna (Chievo), Emerson (Roma), Dacourt (Roma), Mihajlovic (Lazio).
Milan assess Zotti option
13.4 || webmaster
Milan will look to sign Roma’s Carlo Zotti if goalkeeper Christian Abbiati decides to leave the club.
The latter (pictured) has been relegated to second choice at the San Siro over the last two seasons as No 1 Dida continues to impress.
That may see the international decide to swap clubs in an effort to win regular first team football.
Palermo and Sampdoria have been linked with Abbiati – who may now miss out on Euro 2004 after a lack of action this season.
Zotti has caught the eye this term after stepping in on a number of occasions for first choice Ivan Pelizzoli.
The Under-21 international has impressed and he could be tempted to join the Rossoneri over the summer.
Roma would like to keep hold of the shot stopper but it appears that Zotti is not overly impressed with their new contract offer.
Meanwhile, Milan stopper Roque Junior could be on the verge of joining Benfica at the end of this campaign.
The Brazilian international is currently at Siena after a poor loan period in the Premiership with Leeds earlier this season.
The 28-year-old doesn’t seem to have a future at the San Siro and he is likely to accept a move to Portugal.
Milan to keep Tomasson
13.4 || scharatz
Jon Dahl Tomasson will be handed a contract extension with European champions Milan.
The Danish ace still has two years left on his current deal but the Rossoneri are set to reward him with a new agreement.
"I would really like to stay at Milan," Tomasson told Politiken. "There is no better football club in the world.
"I can certainly see myself playing for this Italian outfit for a long time after 2006."
Tomasson has proved his worth this season by adequately stepping in for the constantly injured Pippo Inzaghi.
"I think that I have had a fantastic season at Milan up to now," continued the former Newcastle flop.
"I have developed as a player during my time here and I am now more of a striker than I was at Feyenoord."
It is believed that Milan are likely to extend the Dane’s contract for a further two season to take him up to 2008.
Milan make Cheva contact
12.4 || scharatz
Lecce ace Javier Ernesto Chevanton has moved closer to a Milan switch according to reports in Italy.
The Uruguayan spent time in Milan over the weekend where he allegedly met with Rossoneri officials.
It’s believed that they discussed terms over the four-year contract that he was supposedly offered.
Chevanton has been heavily linked with a move to the European champions after a splendid season with the southern minnows.
Stories suggest that he will definitely move to the San Siro even if the two clubs have yet to reach an agreement.
Lecce want £13m for the player even if Milan don’t want to pay more than £8.5m for the 23-year-old.
There is also the possibility that a few players could be involved in the negotiations. Cash plus Sam Dalla Bona and Marco Borriello could be offered to Lecce.
AC Milan 1:0 Empoli - report
10.4 || scharatz
Pirlo pen 85 (M)
Stadio San Siro
A controversial late Andrea Pirlo penalty ensures Milan maintain their nine-point lead at the top of the table.
The Rossoneri need to get their act together if they are to avoid losing their nine-point lead in the Scudetto race. The team is at panic stations after picking up just two points in their last two games and frittering away a 4-1 first leg lead to suffer a shock Champions' League exit at Deportivo La Coruna.
Carlo Ancelotti returned to his favoured system with Kaka', Manuel Rui Costa and lone striker Andriy Shevchenko upfront. There was also a change in defence with Billy Costacurta replacing Giuseppe Pancaro in the left-back role.
Empoli are perhaps the worst side to face right now, as the relegation battlers are desperate for points and have already won here 1-0 last season.
Rui Costa was particularly eager to make his mark after several months as a substitute. He threaded through for Kaka' and the Brazilian took advantage of a defensive error, but incredibly fired straight at the goalkeeper from close range.
Kaka' seemed particularly out of sorts and aimed another weak effort after good approach play from Shevchenko.
Empoli were aggressive in midfield and always dangerous on the counter-attack, as Tommaso Rocchi's header whistled just wide of the far post.
The Rossoneri were increasing the pressure and after Kaka' jostled with defenders in the centre, the ball rolled out to Marcos Cafu for another deflected drive.
Shevchenko then managed to lose his marker, only to lose his balance with it and the eventual finish was too weak to trouble Daniele Balli.
The Ukrainian turned another golden opportunity over the target, while Andrea Pirlo's effort curled inches off the woodwork.
They started the second half with an even more aggressive style and Clarence Seedorf's splendid volley from the edge of the box bounced just past the near post.
The San Siro crowd did not stage any protests during the first half, but began to insult Coach Ancelotti when he replaced Rui Costa with Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Massimo Ambrosini also stepped on to the pitch and nearly scored moments later, but his looping header thumped the base of the post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Yet Empoli were not out of the running for a victory and a corner kick found Rocchi at the far post only for him to blast it over the bar.
Seven minutes from time there was controversy as Ficini pushed Shevchenko in the back, then as the move continued Tomasson sprung the offside trap and clattered into Balli. The referee sent off the goalkeeper and pointed to the spot, even if contact appeared to be minimal. Andrea Pirlo stepped up and successfully converted to give Milan a long-awaited and precious lead.
In the final minute Shevchenko's header hit the back of the net, but the goal was correctly disallowed for offside.
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Costacurta (Serginho 77); Gattuso (Ambrosini 62), Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Tomasson 62), Kakà; Shevchenko
Empoli: Balli; Belleri, Cribari, Lucchini, Cupi; Grella (Cassano 84), Ficini; Buscè, Vannucchi (Cappellini 67), Tavano (Foggia 78); Rocchi
Sent off: Balli 84 (E)
AC Milan - a pale imitation
8.4 || scharatz
Written by Stewart Coggin
Deportivo 4 Milan 0. A result that sent shock waves through not just European football, but world football.
This game of ours has a funny habit of making fools of us all. The three powerhouses of the last eight –Real Madrid, Milan and Arsenal- were all unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League this week, and left to ponder exactly what hit them.
But Milan's demise was far less predictable. It's as if Carlo Ancelotti sent 11 different players out on the pitch from those who have so dazzled in Serie A this season. Incredible.
Andrea Pirlo was a shadow of his normal self in midfield, the defence was at sixes and sevens, while in attack, the Rossoneri looked all out of ideas, against the superb Jorge Andrade and his street-wise friends.
So have Milan buckled under the pressure? League draws against mediocre Chievo and Modena would suggest so. Overconfidence? Perhaps. Could it be that the Rossomeri players were believing a little much of their own hype?
They were sweeping teams aside earlier in the season, with their stylish, yet tactically astute brand of football. Kaka was the best thing since sliced bread, Pirlo was being dubbed the world's best passer, while Clarence Seedorf was looking like the complete player, with no obvious weaknesses. The trio still ooze class, but in general looked lost against those Riazor warriors.
Perhaps the decisive moment of the game arrived in the 35th minute when Dida inexplicably failed to deal with a left wing cross and the majestic Juan Carlos Valeron mopped up the loose change for 2-0. The Brazilian is now regarded as one of the world's best keepers, but that lapse was all too reminiscent of his bad old days.
And what of his poor fellow countryman Cafu? How Depor pummelled him down their left. The Brazilian has played in some of the biggest matches imaginable, but has rarely had a more uncomfortable night.
But the whole defence was at fault. And a full-strength one at that. The thought of a back line consisting of the experienced Guiseppe Pancaro, the imperious Paolo Maldini and the renowned Alessandro Nesta conceding four goals seemed laughable. But now they will have to listen to the no doubt over-the-top press criticism that will inevitably follow.
But Deportivo were out of this world. Mauro Silva, who many believed was on the way out, rolled back the years with a warrior like display in midfield. Andrade has been sensational all season and caught the eye again last night, while Valeron delivered a virtuoso performance as playmaker. The former Mallorca man has been accused of lacking fight in the past, but the Depor fans won't care as long as he keeps turning in performances like this. Pace is such a factor in the modern game, but Valeron continues to show that it is not the be all and end all.
What a strange semi-final line-up. Chelsea, Deportivo, Porto and Monaco all have their fair share of European experience, but a last four without the likes of Milan, Real Madrd, Juventus and Manchester United is testament to the strength-in-depth of the European game, or a reflection of their respective deficiencies.
Seedorf: We’ll win Serie A
8.4 || scharatz
Clarence Seedorf is convinced Milan will win Lo Scudetto despite their spectacular Champions’ League exit.
The Rossoneri lost 4-0 at Deportivo last night, 5-4 on aggregate, which many believe could affect their title chances.
Yet the Dutch international is confident that the Italian giants will be able to hold onto their lead at the top of the table.
"We still believe in ourselves," said the former Real Madrid player. "The Scudetto is waiting for us.
"We’ve just lost one game and we have no intention of throwing away all of our hard work now.
"It’s hard to explain what happened last night. We made some errors and were punished for them. We looked to get a goal but they were just better than us on the night."
It is fair to say that the result in Spain shocked the football world, including Milan captain Paolo Maldini.
"I don’t know what to say," sighed the legend. "Nobody expected that to happen. They played great while we under-performed.
"Could it affect our Championship hopes? A side can always lose but I don’t think one defeat can change the greatness of a team."
Vice-president Adriano Galliani looked to quickly archive the loss which came after surprise draws against Chievo and Modena.
"We must accept the defeat but if we win Lo Scudetto then this will still be considered as a good campaign," he declared.
"I think the side will react to this well when we take on Empoli this Saturday. I just want to tell the fans to stay calm."
Ancelotti dumbstruck by Deportivo
8.4 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti has attempted to analyse Milan’s extraordinary collapse in La Coruna, but dubbed it “inexplicable”.
“We certainly didn’t expect this and something happened that is beyond explanation,” he said after their 4-0 defeat in Spain. “There were all the signs that the team was concentrated and we had that early warning from Real Madrid’s exit.”
The quarter-finals of the Champions’ League have seen all the favourites crash out in spectacular fashion after holding first leg leads.
“We came up against a team that was having an incredible night where everything went in its favour. There were also some errors, but the rest is inexplicable.”
Walter Pandiani grabbed an early goal in the first leg and repeated the trick by scoring after just five minutes.
“We reacted well after the first goal, but the second from a set-piece knocked us for six. That strike boosted Depor’s morale and damaged ours.”
Ancelotti’s tactics have now come under the microscope with an unprotected midfield and Serginho replacing Andrea Pirlo.
“Pirlo had already been booked and with an unbalanced team there was the risk he’d be sent off. We tried to rebalance the side, but it didn’t work,” sighed the Coach.
Milan have been showing a lack of match fitness in the last few weeks, drawing their last two Serie A games with Chievo and Modena, but he maintains it is not a physical issue.
“Deportivo were certainly determined and kept that up from the opening whistle to the closing one, while a goal after just five minutes gave them that extra conviction. It has to be said that their performance must be praised.”
The Italian press is already suggesting that Ancelotti felt pressured to field two strikers upfront when his favoured 4-3-2-1 would have been more apt in this situation.
“Pirlo has been marked many times, but we have always found a way around it. The real problem here is that we were met with an incredibly aggressive team that did not leave us a centimetre of space for the entire 90 minutes.”
“We don’t have a very muscular set of players and Massimo Ambrosini would have been very useful here, but he was out injured. I didn’t think the team needed many changes from previous games.”
The Rossoneri are no longer able to defend their European title and this thrashing gives Roma renewed hope of capturing the Scudetto.
“We are clearly bitter and upset,” noted Ancelotti, “but this sort of disappointment can often spark a passionate reaction in the players. That’s what we need now.”
Deportivo La Coruna 4:0 AC Milan - report
7.4 || scharatz
Pandiani 5 (D), Valeron 34 (D), Luque 44 (D), Fran 76 (D)
Riazor Stadium (29,000)
Champions' League holders Milan frittered away a 4-1 first leg lead by losing 4-0 at Deportivo La Coruna and crash out in the quarters.
Milan had a 4-1 first leg lead to protect, but Deportivo won all five of their home games in the Champions' League this season. Pippo Inzaghi was on the bench with an ankle problem, so Jon Dahl Tomasson partnered Andriy Shevchenko.
The Ukrainian returned after chipping a tooth and requiring stitches to his lip for an accidental clash during international duty.
The Rossoneri had won both their previous two trips to La Coruna, including a remarkable 4-0 victory here last year, but the Spaniards had a very aggressive start as they needed to get on the scoresheet quickly.
However, Milan had the first chance after three minutes when Marcos Cafu skipped between two defenders and put in a low cross for Shevchenko, but the defence scrambled it out for a corner.
Soon after goalkeeper Molina was called to make a great reaction save on Tomasson's header.
But after five minutes Deportivo took the lead with Walter Pandiani, the same man who scored early on at the San Siro. The Uruguayan was given too much time to turn and placed a precise low drive into the near corner.
The Riazor turned into a pressure cooker and Victor's effort took a decisive deflection off Giuseppe Pancaro to clip the edge of the upright.
Dida performed a tricky save on Jorge Andrade's header, then on the counter-attack Kaka' went round the goalkeeper, but Molina got a touch to it and allowed his defence to clear.
It was end to end stuff and Valeron found space to place a fierce drive from ten yards, but Dida got down very well to fingertip it round the post.
Pancaro and Sergio had long-range efforts off target, while Alberto Luque charged down the left flank and struck the side-netting.
On 33 minutes Victor ran on to a deflected cross and Dida flew across the face of goal to turn it out. During that reaction move, the Brazilian goalkeeper injured his hand, but was able to carry on.
It could have proved crucial, as on the resulting he missed a long Luque cross and allowed Valeron to nod in from close range. It was 2-0 for Depor and a 3-0 result would qualify the Spaniards on the away goals rule.
Soon after the Milan medical staff was again called to action, aiding Tomasson after a very late tackle from Naybet. The Dane's teammates were furious that this challenge was not sanctioned by a yellow card.
The resulting Seedorf free kick was deflected just wide of the near post, and on the corner kick Molina fumbled another effort from the Dutchman, but was able to recover.
Just before the break the comeback was complete, as Alessandro Nesta's error allowed Luque to charge into the box and slam the ball into the roof of the net past a helpless Dida.
Milan were now forced to score if they were to avoid a shock quarter-final exit after Real Madrid and Arsenal were shaken by similar comebacks on Tuesday evening.
The team began the second half in a rugby scrum, discussing tactics with captain Paolo Maldini charging up the troops, but Depor continued to put constant pressure on the Rossoneri midfield.
Tomasson had a great chance after five minutes when a pass freed him up on the edge of the box, but the Dane ballooned it well wide of the target.
Cafu was Milan's best player and proved decisive when he intercepted Luque's path as he sprinted towards Dida.
Andrea Pirlo was booked for taking a free kick before the whistle and he will miss Milan's next Champions' League match.
Pirlo gave the ball away in a dangerous position soon after, but Victor blasted it over the bar.
Cafu ran on to an intelligent Seedorf chipped pass at the other end of the field, only to be closed down by three Deportivo players and Molina.
Carlo Ancelotti made his first substitution on the hour mark, introducing Serginho for the quiet Pirlo. Gennaro Gattuso and Seedorf therefore switched to the centre with the Brazilian on the left flank.
The Spaniards tended to soak up the pressure, racing forward on the counter-attack to take advantage of Milan's attacking fullbacks.
Pippo Inzaghi has been struggling with fitness problems throughout the last few months and was on the bench with a swollen ankle, but he scored a hat-trick here last season and stepped on to the field in place of Tomasson.
But it was Deportivo who hit the back of the net with their fourth goal, as substitute Fran's effort took a massive deflection off Cafu to leave Dida stranded.
Ancelotti went for break and replaced defender Pancaro with creative midfielder Manuel Rui Costa for the final 14 minutes of play. A 4-1 result would take this quarter-final tie to extra time.
Milan refused to give in and Molina flew to palm a splendid Rui Costa drive out of the top corner of the net.
Soon after the Portuguese star's looping cross just failed to connect with Shevchenko and Inzaghi in the centre, but the Italian international had also pushed his marker.
On 89 minutes Gattuso recaptured the ball and threaded in through to Inzaghi, but his first touch let him down and Molina was able to smother it.
Deportivo La Coruna: Molina; Manuel Pablo, Jorge Andrade, Naybet, Romero; Sergio (Duscher 85), Mauro Silva; Victor, Valeron (Djalminha 90), Luque (Fran 65); Pandiani
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro (Rui Costa 77); Gattuso, Pirlo (Serginho 59), Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko, Tomasson (Inzaghi 67)
Ref: Meier (Swi)
Deportivo La Coruna vs. AC Milan - preview
7.4 || scharatz
Milan make the trip out to Spain in relaxed mood knowing that they have a 4-1 lead from the first-leg.
The Rossoneri were in irresistible mood two weeks ago, with young Kaka showing the European audience just what he can do with two fine goals and a stellar display.
'Super Depor' were held to a 2-2 draw in La Liga at the weekend – a result that extinguished any lingering hopes they had of the title. Unless they can pull off a shock 3-0 win here, their season –in terms of winning honours- will be finished.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti knows his side must stop Depor down the flanks – an area of the pitch where they are particularly dangerous. But Juan Valeron, with his delicate playmaking skills, will also need to be watched.
Milan suffered a slight wobble in their Scudetto challenge when drawing 1-1 at Modena on Sunday. But there is still a nine-point gap between themselves and Roma. No one at the San Siro will be unduly worried.
LATEST TEAM NEWS
Deportivo: Lionel Scaloni is almost certain to miss this clash with a groin injury, while Victor is doubtful after picking up an ankle knock at the weekend.
Milan: Ancelotti will be able to field his full-strength side, with the only doubt being whether Tomasson or Inzaghi will partner the fit-again Shevchenko.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Juan Valeron (Deportivo): we saw glimpses of this man's talent in the first game, and if Depor are to have a chance of reaching the semis, they need a big performance from the former Mallorca player.
Kaka (Milan): the Brazilian did for Depor in the first-leg, and now he will be aiming to finish the job off in the Riazor.
Deportivo: Molina; Manuel Pablo, Andrade, Naybet, Capdevila; Sergio, Duscher, Mauro Silva, Luque; Valeron, Pandiani
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro, Pirlo, Seedorf, Gattuso, Kakà, Shevchenko, Inzaghi or Tomasson
Tomasson not scared of Roma
5.4 || scharatz
Jon Dahl Tomasson claims Milan are not worried that they could throw away the title in the closing stages as Andriy Shevchenko returns.
“I am not worried at picking up just two points from our last two games,” commented the Dane.
“We didn’t beat Chievo or Modena, that is true, but we didn’t lose either and we practically have an integral lead from last week.”
The Rossoneri may be dropping points, but Roma and Juventus both lost one of their last two matches.
However, the leaders’ stuttering form and the delayed Rome derby suggest the Giallorossi could yet close to gap enough to make the final weeks of the season very uncertain indeed.
“There is no fear within this team,” added Tomasson. “We don’t feel remotely worried that we could crumble on a physical or psychological level.”
The situation is all too familiar to Coach Carlo Ancelotti, who lost a Scudetto with Juventus on the last day of the 1999-00 season.
He was on the bench during that rainy day in Perugia that allowed Lazio to snatch the title during the final 90 minutes. Ancelotti’s men had a nine-point lead with eight games to go.
Tomasson scored the opener in Milan’s 1-1 draw at Modena on Sunday and with the poor form of Pippo Inzaghi is becoming increasingly important to this side.
“I felt secure even before this recent run of goals,” explained the former Feyenoord man. “Now that I play a little more often I feel as if I am a first team player here.”
Nonetheless, the Rossoneri supporters will be pleased to know that Andriy Shevchenko is back in the squad travelling to La Coruna.
The Ukrainian missed the Modena game after suffering facial injuries on international duty, but he is expected to start Wednesday’s Champions’ League quarter-final with the aid of a protective mask.
Milan squad to face Deportivo La Coruna: Abbiati, Fiori, Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Pancaro, Simic; Brocchi, Gattuso, Kaka', Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho; Borriello, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson.
Modena 1:1 AC Milan - report
4.4 || scharatz
Tomasson 42 (Mi), Amoruso 48 (Mo)
The Rossoneri are held to a shock draw by minnows Modena and see their lead cut down considerably, earning just two points from their last two games.
Milan made the trip to Modena without the injured Andriy Shevchenko, while Brazilians Marcos Cafu and Kaka' were rested following international duty in South America.
Alessandro Nesta made his comeback from a thigh strain, while Manuel Rui Costa and Jon Dahl Tomasson also started.
This was new Canarini Coach Gianfranco Bellotto's first home game and his team did perform well despite the 3-1 defeat at Juventus last week.
The Rossoneri pushed forward from the start against a Modena side that seemed intent on soaking up pressure, but Pippo Inzaghi was furious when his run towards the 'keeper was halted by a very dubious offside decision.
Massimo Ambrosini marked his 200th official match in a Milan jersey, but it was an unlucky day for him as the midfielder limped off after just 25 minutes.
Despite dominating possession, Milan were unable to break through and Modena went close when Paolo Ponzo just failed to slide on to Maurizio Domizzi's angled drive.
The first real shot on goal came after 36 minutes, when Rui Costa cut across for Gattuso and the substitute fired inches wide of the far post.
Carlo Ancelotti's men eventually broke through just before the break. Clarence Seedorf's low drive was only parried into the path of Tomasson for another of his crucial goals.
Modena had to take more of the initiative after going behind and introduced Nicola Amoruso. It proved an inspired substitution, as within five minutes the ex-Juventus striker had finalised a counter-attack created by Diomansy Kamara.
Inzaghi really should have restored Milan's lead soon after, but despite springing the offside trap on Andrea Pirlo's floated pass, he still turned his free header wide of the target.
The tension in the Stadio Braglia rose considerably as the visitors poured forward and left spaces for Modena to counter-attack.
Inzaghi continued to waste golden opportunities and allowed Zancope to close down his close range effort.
These tactics fell right into the hands of the pacey Senegalese international Diomansy Kamara, who twice ran riot in the Milan defence only to fire wide.
Seedorf also went close when his fierce effort was well parried by Zancope', while substitute Kaka's long-range drive was fingertipped wide.
The final minutes saw Modena take on a siege mentality and rarely leave their own half, but when they did it took a sliding Alessandro Nesta tackle to stop Marasco's counter-attack.
Inzaghi wasted another great chance with a very low header as he tussled with John Mensah, while Kaka' drilled wide of the woodwork.
The match ended in a mini-riot that saw police intervene to pull the players apart, most notably Gennaro Gattuso and Jacopo Balestri.
Modena: Zancope; Pavan (Mensah 75), Mayer, Grandoni; Ponzo (Scoponi 51), Marasco, Vignaroli, Domizzi, Balestri; Kamara, Makinwa (Amoruso 46)
Milan: Dida; Simic (Serginho 60), Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Ambrosini (Gattuso 25), Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa (Kaka' 71); Inzaghi, Tomasson
Ref: De Santis
Rui Costa crowns Kaka
2.4 || scharatz
Manuel Rui Costa may have lost his Milan shirt to Kaka this term but he has paid tribute to the talented youngster.
"The Brazilian is simply extraordinary," said Rui Costa on Friday. "I am well aware of the fact that I have a player ahead of me who will win the Golden Ball one day."
Kaka has been a revelation since his summer arrival and his form has seen the Portuguese star relegated to the bench.
"It is obviously not pleasing to be left out of the side but I’m just looking to be ready when called upon," he continued. "I just hope that the fans are aware of my positive attitude."
Rui Costa did play a major role in the first half of the season but he seems to have been sacrificed after chief Silvio Berlusconi demanded that the side played with two strikers.
"We’ve demonstrated that we can play equally well with either one or two forwards," he continued.
"I think we are a side that has the ability to change systems during games without causing any problems at all."
Milan have had an outstanding season so far but they did struggle in the last round when they rescued a point in a 2-2 draw against Chievo.
"We’re in better physical shape now though," added the former Fiorentina captain. "We have a great opportunity to win Lo Scudetto this term.
"We have a very healthy lead which is a bonus as we don’t really have to worry about what other teams behind us are doing."
Soccer summit Milan concludes with 'optimism' on financial troubles
1.4 || Seamus
MILAN, Italy (AP)— A soccer summit on how to rescue Italy's financially struggling soccer clubs declared there was reason for optimism but yielded few results.
Franco Carraro, president of the Italian Soccer Federation, said that the parties involved agreed that government intervention was not the answer.
Last week, the government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, himself a team owner, dropped an emergency tax plan that would have allowed clubs to roll their income tax arrears over a five-year period, staving off projected bankruptcy for several clubs.
Italian clubs owe an estimated ?500million (US$620 million) in delayed payments to the state, including income and other taxes.
The tax break plan, which had been backed by Berlusconi, met widespread opposition from lawmakers, who suggested that the teams slash players' huge salaries.
Berlusconi is also president of current Serie A leader AC Milan.
"We agreed that, politically, support does not exist" for such a plan, Carraro said after Monday's meeting, which gathered federation officials, league officials and players and coaches associations' representatives at a Milan hotel.
The federation should try to "establish clear and transparent rules that could be put in place at its next meetings," Carraro said. "The situation allows us to be optimistic. The federation never asked for state financing."
Carraro said that one possible way out would be relegating clubs that are unable to meet newly imposed financial requirements or fail fiscally to a lower division under a new name.
This proposal "needs to be examined," Carraro said.
In 2002, former top club Fiorentina failed financially and was dismantled and forced to restart under a new name and management in Serie C2, Italy's fourth division. The club eventually regained the rights to its old name and is now near to being promoted back into Serie A.
Mar. 29, 2004 10:44 a.m.
Maldini Unlikely To Make Azzurri Return
1.4 || Seamus
Yesterday Italy played a friendly match against Portugal. But these retreat days have been used by the azzurri to send words of respect to Paolo Maldini, maybe even to convince him to make a comeback.
But will Maldini be convinced? We tried asking this to Beppe Bonetto, his agent: "These signs of respect will have surely pleased Paolo," said Bonetto, "But it was difficult to think otherwise. Paolo is a player of great loyalty, has an excellent relationship with all of his colleagues and the respect towards him is more than natural."
But will something change? "I don't know, this is his decision. Paolo was always coherent with himself and even though some tried to find a change of mind in him, I believe that he will stick with his decision."
Bonetto continued: "The last time that we met was on the day of Juve-Milan. And back then he seemed convinced of his decision. I also spoke about this with his father, Cesare. He confirmed that this was a decision he took all by himself, for personal and professional reasons. He wanted to dedicate himself just to Milan and in fact the results can be seen. However, each decision depends exclusively up to him.."
No nose break for Shev
1.4 || Seamus
Milan fans have been boosted with the news that Andriy Shevchenko has not broken his nose as first feared.
The striker suffered what looked like a serious face injury last night in the Ukraine’s 1-0 loss to Macedonia.
However, the Serie A top scorer has undergone a number of tests in Milan today and no fracture has been diagnosed.
The international, who is also thought to have lost a tooth in the clash, will be available for selection with immediate effect.
There was some concern that Milan, flying high in Italy and Europe, could be without Shev for a number of weeks.