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The Archive

May 2005

Italy lose Nesta for Norway
31.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alessandro Nesta has pulled out of Italy’s World Cup qualifier with Norway for unknown family reasons.

The Milan defender left the Azzurri’s Coverciano training base today, with the Italian Football Federation claiming his departure was due to "unforeseen and serious family reasons".

Boss Marcello Lippi has decided to not name any replacement for the stopper at this stage.

Nesta’s unavailability suggests that Lippi will field Inter centre-back Marco Materazzi alongside captain Fabio Cannavaro.

The former Lazio symbol becomes the second player in two days to leave the squad after Alberto Gilardino was ruled out with injury.

He was replaced by Udinese’s Vincenzo Iaquinta but he is unlikely to start the match in Oslo.

Whispers claims that Lippi will field Antonio Cassano of Roma and Inter ace Christian Vieri in attack.

Gattuso wants ‘defensive’ Milan
31.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Gennaro Gattuso is calling for his Milan side to change their footballing philosophy following their Champions’ League disaster.

The Rossoneri surrendered a three-goal lead in the Final to Liverpool, before eventually losing on penalties.

And now the tough tackling midfielder believes boss Carlo Ancelotti needs to make some adjustments.

"We have a winning mentality at Milan but it does cause us problems in Europe and may need changing," he told TG1.

"We need to attack by using our heads a little more than we have done. Milan need to find a way to go on the offensive but by not giving so much away defensively."

Gattuso comments are unlikely to please the Milan hierarchy who have often ‘told’ Ancelotti to field an attacking midfielder behind two strikers.

"We know that the political people at Milan like an attacking outfit but this side needs to learn how to suffer," he added.

"We were affected by fear after Liverpool made it 3-1, that shouldn’t have happened," continued the former Rangers man.

"(Former Italy boss) Giovanni Trapattoni was labelled as defensive but trying to defend a result is sometimes the right thing to do."

OFFICIAL: Jankulovski is Milan's
30.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Udinese have revealed that star midfielder Marek Jankulovksi has joined Italian giants Milan.

A deal was reportedly agreed in January and the Bianconeri have today insisted that the Czech ace will play for the Rossoneri next term.

"I can confirm that the player has gone to Milan," Udinese chief Giampaolo Pozzo said on Monday afternoon.

The San Siro giants have yet to comment on the story but it does seem that Jankulovski has finally moved on.

Jankulovski was close to leaving the Stadio Friuli last summer but moves to Juventus and Inter collapsed.

The former Napoli player, 28, is one of numerous Udinese stars who have caught the eye this term.

The club have qualified for the Champions’ League after a stunning season which has inevitably seen other players linked with an exit.

"If Parma’s Alberto Gilardino is worth £35m then our Vicenzo Iaquinta is valued at £15m," added Pozzo.

"David Pizarro? There have been a lot of rumours regarding him but we will only discuss his proposed sale when a club is really interested."

Striker Iaquinta has also been linked with Milan, while Pizarro is a target for Milan, Inter, Juventus and Roma.

Jankulovski is Milan’s second signing after the club swooped for Swiss international midfielder Johann Vogel from PSV last week.

Carletto Looking Forward To New Season At Milan
30.5 || Seamus

AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti believes there are no doubts he will remain in charge of the Rossoneri this season.

”In these days I never felt my position under discussion, also because the club acted extremely well with me in these difficult days,” he told reporters after the 1-1 draw at Udinese.

”It was hard to digest the loss to Liverpool but now we must look ahead,” he continued.

Ancelotti was also asked about his thoughts on Roma, the team many newspapers are indicating as his next destination.

“Conti has done a great job there. However its useless to ask questions on next year, as I already have a job, and it’s here,” he said.

http://www.goal.com/NewsDetail.aspx?idNews=64249&progr=2

Kaladze Leaving Milan
30.5 || Seamus

Milan defender Kakha Kaladze is to leave the club after failing to hold down a regular starting place this season.

La Gazzetta dello Sport claims the Georgian is moving to Chelsea who are in desperate need of a left-back.

However, Kaladze’s hopes of a move to the English champions must surely be tempered by the fact that they are close to signing Asier del Horno from Athletic Bilbao.

"I’m disappointed to leave, but I need to play much more," he said.

http://www.goal.com/NewsDetail.aspx?idNews=64312&progr=1

Official: Jankulovski Is Milan's!
30.5 || Seamus

Udinese chairman Pozzo confirmed on Monday that Marek Jankulovski has been sold to AC Milan.

“Yes, Jankulovski is a Milan player,” Pozzo told reporters.
The news had been around since the Spring, even though only today did it become official.

The 28 year old Czech star has signed with Milan until June 2009.

Jankulovski is the second player to join Milan in the space of a few days.
Just last week the Serie A giants announced the capture of PSV star Johan Vogel.

http://www.goal.com/NewsDetail.aspx?idNews=64366&progr=0

Simic snubs summer switch
30.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan defender Dario Simic has surprisingly decided to commit his future to the Italian giants.

The Croatian was expected to be sold in the summer, with Everton one of numerous clubs keen on his services.

But the international has revealed that he will still be wearing the Rossoneri shirt in the 2005-06 campaign.

"I’ve spoken with Adriano Galliani and we’ve agreed that I will stay for next season," said the stopper.

"My situation will be totally different from this term because of the serious injury that I have had to deal with recently.

"I’ll be able to train properly with my teammates and be allowed to compete for a starting shirt in the side.

"I’m happy and honoured that I will have another opportunity to play with Milan next year."

Simic has missed most of the season after he was forced to have ankle surgery in late November.

Agony and Irony
30.5 || shafinnasr

The Champions League final was the most bitter night I can remember as a Milan fan. The Euro 2000 final between Italy and France comes close and I’m sure Paolo Maldini agrees. This game was particularly agonizing because Milan played so well and were clearly the better side for 114 minutes; the remaining 6, unfortunately, cost them the title. Milan’s first half performance was almost too good to be true; Kaka’s sublime through ball to set up Crespo’s second goal was sheer poetry and Crespo’s finish equally delightful. However, from the very beginning there was something slightly bizarre about the game: Paolo Maldini scores? In the first minute nonetheless? AC Milan 3 up at half time? It began unbelievably well, but the in the second half it all started to feel like a bad dream.

The final was not without its little ironies either. The Milan captain scored Milan’s first goal; the Liverpool captain did the same, with an uncharacteristic header, for his team in the second half. And Dida, normally so reliable between the posts, failed to keep out Smicer’s speculative drive from distance – a shot he would’ve normally parried around the post. Alonso’s third for Liverpool was sheer agony for Dida: he did not deserve to see the ball sit up nicely for Alonso to smash home on the rebound, after producing a fine save. The biggest irony of the night of course, was Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty miss. Two years after winning the Champions League for Milan with the final kick of the game, he effectively lost it for them with the final kick of the game this year. The double save by Dudek from Shevchenko in extra time was also strange; Shevchenko, widely considered to be the deadliest finisher in the game, is the one person in the world that all Milan fans would have wished the rebound from the first shot to fall to. But we all know how that turned out.

Milan did not deserve to go out of the Champions League after the way they played in the final; if Milan was destined to be knocked out they should have been eliminated in the semis against PSV where they played poorly enough to deserve elimination. However, luck was with Liverpool on the night. Although there have been complaints about Shevchenko’s disallowed first half goal and about Dudek coming far off his line to make saves in the shoot out, it must be admitted that Liverpool showed extraordinary spirit and self belief. A lot of this fighting spirit must have come from Liverpool’s relative lack of success in recent years, having gone from being the dominant club in Europe in the 70’s and 80’s to non-contenders in their own domestic league. Perhaps Milan lacked the same hunger for success; maybe it is not a coincidence that Milan’s best performers in the game, Kaka and Crespo, have not won a single Champions League title yet, while a lot of their other teammates have. Milan’s strategy of using experienced and successful players may have had the unintended result of reducing hunger for success, which may be a reason why their Scudetto and Champions League challenges petered out in the end. This would suggest that a shakeup of the squad is needed and younger, hungrier players need to be brought in: players like Kaka, who played an awesome game and had me jumping up and down when he smashed home his penalty and who thoroughly deserved a winner’s medal around his neck at the end of the night. Perhaps we’ll see him get it next season.

Udinese 1:1 AC Milan - match report
29.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Di Michele 56 (U), Serginho 85 (M)

Udinese enter the Champions' League despite failing to beat a dispirited Milan outfit.

Udinese had a one-point advantage over Sampdoria in the race for fourth place and welcomed a Milan side that was devastated just four days after their Champions' League Final defeat to Liverpool. David Pizarro and Sulley Ali Muntari returned from suspension, though future Rossoneri star Marek Jankulovski was out for three months with a fractured ankle. The Rossoneri did without Andriy Shevchenko, Jon Dahl Tomasson and the suspended Manuel Rui Costa.

Udinese had a strong start and within the first two minutes David Di Michele's shot had brought a tough save out of Dida at the near post.

There was a double chance for the Friuli outfit as Di Michele's shot was charged down by Dario Simic, then David Pizarro's follow-up was inches past Vincenzo Iaquinta's outstretched foot.

Dida required a tricky save to keep out Iaquinta on 23 minutes, then Di Michele requested a penalty when he fell in the area under pressure.

Di Michele finally gave Udinese a deserved lead in the second half. He held off Giuseppe Pancaro's challenge and placed an angled drive past Dida at the near post.

Milan were sluggish and not very motivated, but they still equalised five minutes from time with a strange goal from Serginho. The midfielder saw Handanovic off his line and placed an accurate and ambitious lob under the bar.

Udinese: Handanovic; Bertotto, Felipe, Kroldrup; Zenoni, Pinzi (Muntari 65), Pizarro (Di Natale 87), Pazienza, Pieri; Iaquinta, Di Michele (Mauri 80)

Milan: Dida; Pancaro, Simic, Nesta, Kaladze; Brocchi, Pirlo (Seedorf 65), Dhorasoo (Gattuso 69), Serginho; Inzaghi, Crespo (Kaka 65)

Ref: Trefoloni

Galliani: Ancelotti risked axe
29.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Rossoneri Vice-President Adriano Galliani has sensationally confirmed that they considered firing Carlo Ancelotti after the Champions’ League Final.

“If the Coach had taken off one of the strikers during the game, then he would have risked the sack,” announced the de facto President.

Patron Silvio Berlusconi has repeatedly chided his Coach in public for an excessively prudent approach, always insisting on two forwards at all times as a ‘show of strength.’ This has often caused conflict with Ancelotti, who won the Champions’ League in 2003 with the Christmas Tree formation.

“After conceding Liverpool’s three goals, we started playing well again and created plenty of scoring opportunities. Fate was clearly not on our side,” continued Galliani.

“Berlusconi is not angry about the defeat in itself. He simply cannot abide bad football, that’s all. Milan lost the Champions’ League Final, but played very well and that is the centre of our philosophy. We must now find the strength from this defeat to build our future success.”

Nonetheless, this is a major warning that the club has lost much of its faith in Ancelotti, who is under increasing pressure to follow Berlusconi’s tactical credo rather than find his own way to victories.

The former Juve and Parma boss has already been heavily linked with approaches from his old club Roma and Arrigo Sacchi’s Real Madrid.

Ancelotti: I'm not finished
28.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has pledged to stay at the San Siro and cancel the blight of their Champions’ League defeat to Liverpool.

“The team was not inferior to anyone throughout the campaign and I am convinced Milan are the best side in Europe. We will use this disappointment to do even better next season,” insisted the Coach.

“We’ll all be spurred on by what happened, I can assure you. Clearly the bruise is still sore and we haven’t the opportunity to get back on track immediately, but it does give us time to reflect on what happened. It’s ironic, as apart from six minutes that game in Istanbul was one of our best performances of the season.”

The Rossoneri were dominating the Champions’ League Final and leading 3-0 at the break, but six minutes of madness allowed Liverpool to draw level and eventually win on penalties.

That wasn’t the first time they’ve blown a lead – throwing away a 4-1 first leg advantage over Deportivo La Coruna last season, then almost repeating a similar collapse against PSV Eindhoven in the semi-final. The repeat of this pattern has sparked strong reports that Ancelotti is set for the boot in favour of former teammates Frank Rijkaard, Mauro Tassotti or Marco Van Basten.

“This song and dance about my future is becoming frankly boring,” blasted the Coach. “It’s not even worth denying any more. Nobody has contacted me and I am happy at Milan, so I won’t be leaving.”

Ancelotti also hit out at Liverpool defender Djimi Traore, who claimed that he could hear the Rossoneri celebrating victory at half-time – something strongly denied by Paolo Maldini.

“I am sorry that our captain was not given more credit after all that he has done in his career and the attitude known throughout the world. That hurt perhaps more than the defeat. Our changing rooms were totally separate from Liverpool’s and we all stuck together and remembered that English clubs never give in.”

Ancelotti’s tactics during that Final caused controversy, as he didn’t make any changes until the 85th minute and left striker Pippo Inzaghi in the stands.

“When you concede three goals in six minutes, there isn’t time to intervene,” he explained. “Mistakes can happen, but we paid for every one with a goal. The team had started the second half well, then after the first goal there was a collective blackout. There is no logical explanation for what happened, as we played well for all but six minutes.”

Milan will end the season empty-handed and must finish their campaign at the Stadio Friuli against an Udinese side that needs a victory to be absolutely sure of fourth place.

Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson have not made the trip due to muscular problems.

Milan squad:

Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori

D: Esajas, Kaladze, Nesta, Pancaro, Digao, Simic

M: Brocchi, Dhorasoo, Gattuso, Kaka', Pirlo, Seedorf, Serginho

F: Crespo, Filippo Inzaghi, Bloudek

Chelsea heap pressure on AC Milan over Crespo
27.5 || webmaster

Source: ChinaDaily.com.cn

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has heaped pressure on dejected AC Milan by insisting they will not have star striker Hernan Crespo for a second loan agreement next season.

Mourinho is demanding £10 million for the Argentina international, or Milan will have to look elsewhere to boost their attack next season.

The Blues boss said of Crespo, who struck twice in this week's Champions League final, "If Milan wants a good forward without paying to acquire him, they will have to look elsewhere.

"We are not going to grant another loan for Crespo. If the Rossoneri want him, they must pay for his real value."

Milan complacency inspired Traore
27.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Djimi Traore says the Milan players’ complacency provided the inspiration behind Wednesday’s Champions’ League heroics.

Traore admits he had given up hope of winning the Final after the Rossoneri roared into a 3-0 lead by half-time in Istanbul. "I didn’t believe we could do it anymore," the defender said.

"But the fans pushed us back into the game. When we went into the dressing room, our heads had dropped.

"But we saw the way the Italians were behaving. They were congratulating themselves as though they had already won. That also boosted us," Traore revealed.

"Once we equalised we looked at each other and decided we should play for penalties."

That's exactly what happened as Liverpool went on to lift their fifth European crown, winning the shootout 3-2.

Lyon reveal Ancelotti interest
27.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas says he would consider making a move for under-fire Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Aulas is trying to find a replacement for out-going Coach Paul Le Guen and said on Friday that he had already made enquiries regarding Ancelotti’s availability.

"Ancelotti is obviously an interesting Coach," Aulas said. "But you have to take into account the financial side and also the language barrier.

"He doesn’t speak French, but he talks English. I have made enquiries."

Ancelotti has enjoyed great success at Milan but after seeing his side pipped to both the Serie A and Champions' League crowns, could be set to leave the San Siro.

"It is possible for a Coach who doesn’t speak the language to get results, look at Benitez," Aulas continued.

"What he has done is exceptional. We could also have a Coach who speaks Portuguese with all our Brazilian players, but he must also speak English."

Aulas is hoping to unveil the new boss on Sunday after Lyon’s final game of the season, but admitted he might need "a few more days".

Lyon are unlikely to land Ancelotti though. If the Italian does leave Milan then he is expected to join either Real Madrid or Roma.

The fallout from the recent games
26.5 || webmaster

Author: Shafin Nasr

Milan’s form in the last few weeks has been uncharacteristically shaky. First came the defeat against Siena, then a couple of close calls, then the crushing defeat to PSV in the second leg of the Champions League semi finals and finally, the loss to Juventus which has given a distinct advantage to the Bianconeri in the race for the Scudetto. Milan needs to learn something from all this. Fatigue and some bad luck definitely played a part in these results, but these games painfully exposed a deeper flaw in the setup: Milan lack pace down the left side. On the right side, Cafu provides surging runs down the flank, Gattuso wins the ball and Kaka provides the creativity. The main problem with the current Milan team is that we lack a player to provide pace and creativity on the left side of midfield. Rui Costa is not the same player he used to be and Serginho and Seedorf have been less than satisfactory. Clarence Seedorf, though a technically gifted player, lacks the pace needed to contribute to the fast breaks Milan rely upon and his form has been rather inconsistent. In the context of the Christmas tree formation, Milan needs a player to fill in on the left side, behind the lone striker. Ideally we would love to have Ronaldinho in that position, but more realistically, Milan could look at Robben or Duff, one of whom could be on the way out if Chelsea manage to sign Joaquin or Shaun Wright-Phillips. Other possibilities include Robert Pires, Valencia’s Vicente,Wesley Sneijder, Simao, or even Jose Antonio Reyes (who is more likely to go to Madrid however). We also need a long term replacement for the great Maldini. The captain is as magnificent as ever but surely even he cannot go on forever. Ashley Cole is an excellent option, but will probably cost too much. Monaco’s Patrice Evra is my most favored alternative. Therefore, the Milan team which I think would be ideal for next season is: Dida, Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini (Evra), Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Robben/Duff, Kaka, Shevchenko (in a Christmas tree formation); for the conventional 4-4-2 formation, the same team would be retained but Seedorf would be left out and another striker brought in, Crespo or Gilardino perhaps. Of course, this means that some players will have to be sold off: Serginho, Rui Costa and Filippo Inzaghi should be on their way out. Tomasson is an uncertainty; he probably won’t be too happy being last in the pecking order if Gilardino comes in.

Milan have reached a crossroads this season; for success to be sustained over the next few years, some team rebuilding is required. With Costacurta and Maldini possibly retiring soon, and Cafu soon to be on the wrong side of 35, Milan would have to beef up the defense. In addition to Evra we could also look at Chiellini and Bonera as possible long term prospects. Rino Gattuso has been linked to a move to Old Trafford, which would be unfortunate indeed; he complements the creativity and speed of Kaka and Cafu very well and it is very hard to find a player with his determination and spirit. The only real replacements I can think of are Essien or Makalele. Finally, I would like to address rumors of Shevchenko being sold to Arsenal (in a swap involving Pires and cash) or Chelsea. Like any other fan I feel strongly against it: the man is in his prime and he is an icon at Milan and I can’t really see who is going to fill his shoes. Gilardino, who is a possible signing for next season isn’t quite mature enough and Crespo has a different style of play. It would be much better to offload Inzaghi and allow Gilardino to develop fully with Shevchenko as his mentor. Crespo would be a valuable foil.

Milan failure a success, says Galliani
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have returned to Italy without the European Cup but chief Adriano Galliani insists it has still been a season to remember.

The Rossoneri have failed to win either Lo Scudetto or the Champions’ League, but Galliani says he would happily experience a similar campaign next term.

"If someone offered me the chance now to finish second in the League and reach the European Cup Final next season I’d take it," he stated.

Milan went into the Istanbul showdown as hot favourites but lost on penalties after surrendering a three goal lead to Liverpool.

That defeat has seen questions raised over the future of boss Carlo Ancelotti, but the San Siro outfit maintain he will remain.

"Ancelotti and Milan have had a very good season," continued Galliani on Thursday evening.

"We started the campaign by winning the Italian Super Cup, ended up second in the League after taking Juventus to the wire and only losing the Champions’ League on penalties after playing well.

"Ancelotti’s future? We are not about to send our Coach away. I’m absolutely certain that he will stay."

Vogel signs for Milan
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

PSV Eindhoven midfielder Johann Vogel has become Milan’s first signing for the 2005-06 season.

The Swiss international will sign a three-year contract after agreeing terms with last night’s Champions’ League runners-up.

"They are a top club," said the 28-year-old. "This is like a dream for me. This is absolutely fantastic."

Vogel, who was also a target for Roma and Lazio, joins on a free transfer as his contract expires next month.

PSV have also lost Mark van Bommel this month after he agreed to join Spanish giants Barcelona.

OFFICIAL: Johann Vogel of PSV signs for Milan
26.5 || webmaster

PSV Eindhoven announced on their official site (the Dutch version) that their player, Johann Vogel (28 years old) - central midfielder, has signed a three-year contract with AC Milan.

Vogel's contract is due to expire this summer and Milan snapped him up for free.

"Milan is a fantastic club and this transfer is a dream come true for me", Vogel was quoted saying.

Milan is expected to confirm the transfer in the coming days.

I won’t axe Ancelotti, says Silvio
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi insists he won’t show boss Carlo Ancelotti the door after last night’s incredible Champions’ League defeat.

The Rossoneri had looked certain to lift their seventh European Cup after taking a 3-0 lead over Liverpool.

But the Premiership outfit hit back in a night of drama to level things up, before winning the game on penalties.

"I won’t sack anybody," stated the Italian Prime Minister, just hours after he warned that not lifting the trophy would be seen as failure.

"Football is like politics, you think that you’ve done enough to win but then…"

Ancelotti’s future has been cast in doubt recently and the club’s inability to win any silverware this season will increase the pressure on his shoulders.

However, Berlusconi did admit that his Italian giants did perform well in the Istanbul showdown.

"It is a shame as Milan did well and we continued to play football throughout, while they hardly had an attacking manoeuvre worthy of that description," he added.

"Andriy Shevchenko had a number of opportunities but he just kept going very close to scoring. It is a real shame to lose as we did on penalties."

Sheva struggles with defeat
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko has admitted that he is struggling to come to terms with Milan’s European Cup Final heartbreak.

“It's very hard to explain, I think maybe it was destiny that decided to change sides and give the European Cup to Liverpool,” said the European Player of the Year.

“With a 3-0 advantage it's difficult to think that any team can come back against Milan, but Liverpool found the courage to continue.

"Believe me, it's not easy when you are 3-0 down. They never lost hope, they believed right until the end that it was possible and I guess that is the winning mentality.”

Despite his humility in defeat, Sheva was adamant that he should have had a goal in the first half. After being put through on goal, the Ukrainian slotted past Jerzy Dudek only for the linesman to raise his flag.

“The referee made a mistake. I knew that my goal wasn't offside there and then because it's one of those classical plays that I always practise.

"I always look at the defensive line and I wait for the last pass from the midfield to make sure that I'm not in an offside position.”

The result marked one of the greatest comebacks in Champions’ League history and Sheva paid tribute to Liverpool’s efforts. “It's true that in those five or six minutes we were distracted but you never expect such an outcome.

"To Liverpool's credit they played very good football and scored three goals. It's very painful, but we must accept it.

"I don't think we underestimated Liverpool and I'm not surprised at how they played. This team knocked Juventus and Chelsea out of the competition and they did what they had to do to win.”

Seedorf stays positive
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf believes that Milan can take plenty of positives out of this season, despite ending it without a trophy.

It was less than a month ago that the Rossoneri were eyeing a remarkable Serie A and Champions’ League double.

However, after losing the Serie A title race to Juventus it was thought that Milan were concentrating their efforts on the Champions’ League.

Last night’s spot-kick defeat to Liverpool put paid to those hopes, but Seedorf was philosophical after the match.

“It is easy to regard a season in which we haven't won Serie A or the Champions' League as a negative season,” said the three-time European Cup winner.

“But I think that, overall, it has been a positive season. We have finished second in two big competitions and you can't always win – football is like that.”

Milan chief Adriano Galliani also tried to remain positive. In the immediate aftermath of the game he claimed that Lady Luck had deserted the San Siro boys, but now he has cast his attentions to the next campaign.

“We have three months to get over this enormous disappointment and start again next season,” Galliani stated.

“The Champions’ League means so much to this club and from September we will have to start again and try and go all the way once more.”

Milan loss shocks Maradona
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Diego Armando Maradona admits that he’s been left stunned by Milan’s loss to Liverpool in the Champions’ League Final.

The Rossoneri were in total control of the game before the Premiership outfit hit back in a way which the Napoli legend finds hard to believe.

"I’m very disappointed," he said after commentating on the game for Sky Italia. "Everyone who has played in Italy knows that the game is over at half-time when you’re 3-0 up.

"Not even the Brazil side of 1970 would have made such a comeback.

"We gave away a 2-0 lead in the 1986 World Cup Final against Germany but my Argentina side stayed united.

"Milan conceded three goals in an incredible manner, just as incredible as that Andriy Shevchenko chance in the closing minutes."

Liverpool may have lifted the trophy but the Argentine star has no doubts over who is the better team.

"Liverpool won it but they are not the best European side in my opinion," continued the South American.

"Milan just needed to play a little more football and they would have won the Cup. Unfortunately this is the game that football is."

Maldini holds head up high
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini maintains Milan should be proud of their performance, while Hernan Crespo thought the first half was too good to be true.

“The Champions’ League was our primary objective for this season, so to lose it like this is incredibly painful,” said the captain who opened the scoring after just 57 seconds.

“In any case, we had a great campaign and cannot complain about our performance. We leave this Final with our heads held high.”

Maldini was seen shaking his head in amazement during Liverpool’s celebrations, having somehow thrown away a 3-0 first half lead in the space of six minutes.

“Many little things went wrong and now we are here commenting on an undeserved defeat. Even after they came back to draw 3-3 we had plenty of scoring opportunities. If I remember that double save on Shevchenko then it gives me goosebumps.”

The veteran was able to make his seventh Champions’ League Final appearance, though he has only won four trophies.

“We reacted well and played better than Liverpool, while I thought the Premiership side was rather lacklustre on a fitness level,” continued Maldini. “We won’t give in, but this is a bitter pill to swallow. I am sure this match will come back into my mind a lot over the years. Even the memory of scoring the goal has been ruined as it was for nothing.”

Hernan Crespo had bagged a brace during a perfect first half performance from the Rossoneri and admits it was all going too well.

“It was too good to be true,” said the Argentine. “I still can’t quite believe that in football these things can happen, but we’ll try again next year. Liverpool managed a remarkable recovery and Dudek’s two saves on Sheva were just incredible. Hopefully we can put all this behind us with the summer holidays coming up.”

Diego Armando Maradona was in Istanbul to commentate on the match for Sky Italia and was disappointed with the outcome.

“As with everyone who has played in Italian football, I thought that on 3-0 there was no way on this earth they could get back into it. Milan always played and Shevchenko had the chance to win it at the death. I’ve seen some comebacks in this sport, but never when faced with such clear superiority as Milan showed in the first half.”

Sheva curses Dudek reflexes
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko was the favourite to score in this Final, but was kept out by two spectacular saves from Jerzy Dudek, including one in the closing stages of extra time.

“I was sure I would score at the second attempt, “said the Ukrainian after his first point-blank header was kept out. “I hit it hard, but perhaps that helped Dudek as it bounced out off his arm. I could have taken that shot 10,000 times and the majority would go in.”

Shevchenko had converted the winning spot-kick in the 2003 Old Trafford shoot-out, but saw his penalty saved this time.

“My mind was clear before the penalty, but I knew I had to score and the goalkeeper performed a good save. I saw him going to the right and tried to hit it centrally, but he left his leg trailing and lifted it.”

Paolo Maldini opened the scoring after just 57 seconds, but was the most gracious in defeat and prevented his teammates from going straight back into the changing rooms.

“Maldini told us to wait on the pitch and go to salute the travelling fans,” revealed Shevchenko. “These are strange nights, as we managed to throw away a 3-0 lead and still couldn’t seal it despite having the opportunities to do so. It hurts to miss the decisive penalty, too.”

Benitez relished underdog role
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Rafael Benitez and his Liverpool stars admit they were surprised at their ability to fight back from 3-0 down to win the Champions’ League.

“We started the game very badly and conceded a goal after 57 seconds, which makes it tough to recover, especially against a side like Milan,” said the Coach.

“I think their second was started by a handling offence and we also lost Harry Kewell to injury, but we worked so hard that at the end we managed to turn it all around.”

Benitez relished the underdog role throughout the competition, eliminating Fabio Capello’s Juve and the mighty Chelsea along the way.

“Everyone saw Milan as the favourites, but we had nothing to lose and had already eliminated Juventus and Chelsea. We started very badly, but at the final whistle we were the winners. We all came together at the end and everyone was crying.”

Steven Gerrard was perhaps Man of the Match, especially after the break when he led the charge against all odds.

“We were 3-0 down and Milan played really well in the first half. The manager changed a few things and we played a lot better. I’m going to talk to Benitez very soon about my future, but it looks good to stay.”

Jamie Carragher is a Liverpool boy born and bred, so admits this is a moment that will live on in the history of his city.

“It’s extra special for me and the lads who grew up in Liverpool hearing all the stories of European glory. Now more kids will have stories to tell thanks to tonight.”

Liverpool President Rick Parry confessed he was amazed by the Anfield side’s fight back from 3-0 down at half-time.

“I remember when we were 3-0 down and came back at Basle, but it was very difficult here with the way Milan were playing,” he said. “Our sympathy goes to Milan, as it is a tough way to lose, but we’ll take the victory. The atmosphere was a bit like 2001 with Alaves and the drama of the golden goal. I just wish Liverpool could win the easy way for once!”

Nonetheless, the Premiership outfit is currently unable to come back and try to win it again, as victory no longer automatically qualifies them for the next edition.

“I think we’ve been worthy Champions and the world would like to see us defend the title, but it’s up to UEFA now.”

Xabi Alonso scored the equaliser, despite having his penalty saved by Dida. “We knew we had to score as soon as possible in the second half and that allowed us to get our confidence and belief back. I felt Alessandro Nesta putting pressure on me after the penalty save, but didn’t have anything on my mind other than getting that ball in the net.”

Ancelotti rues 'blackout'
26.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Rossoneri Coach Carlo Ancelotti was left ruing “six minutes of insanity” that literally threw the Champions’ League title away.

“We played well throughout except for six minutes of insanity that threw everything all away,” said the tactician after losing out to Liverpool on penalties.

“It can’t be explained, as we did everything we had to and simply had a blackout. We are upset and disappointed, but this is football. Now we will play our last game of the Serie A season and look forward to next season.”

Milan were leading 3-0 at half-time with Paolo Maldini’s goal and a Hernan Crespo brace, but conceded three in six minutes.

“I honestly couldn’t say what happened. Apart from that brief period, we had the game under control and could’ve taken a bigger lead than 3-0. It was an impossible lead to throw away, yet it happened. We also dominated extra time and probably deserved to win this match, especially with that incredible Dudek double save on Shevchenko.”

This is certainly not the first time that the Rossoneri have shot themselves in the foot, as last season they lost a 4-1 first leg lead at Deportivo La Coruna, then almost managed a similar turnaround at PSV Eindhoven.

“This was a very different game to Deportivo and PSV, where we were never really in it. Except for six minutes tonight, we were in charge, but that is still enough to rob you of a Champions’ League trophy. It’s a tough defeat to swallow, but you have to maintain a balance in success and failure.”

Ancelotti’s decisions caused controversy, as Pippo Inzaghi was tipped for a starting spot throughout the week only to end up in the stands.

“It was a very difficult choice and Pippo was disappointed, but we needed a balanced bench with players who could come on and give us something new tactically.”

There were reports of a split within the club and pressure on Ancelotti to pick up more silverware with the shadow of former Milan teammate and current Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard hanging over him.

“We must have the strength to look back and remember everything the squad has achieved this season, fighting until the end for two prestigious competitions,” insisted Ancelotti. “We have to look forward to next year.”

Vice-President Adriano Galliani claimed Lady Luck turned her back on the Rossoneri in this encounter.

“It is painful because aside from that six-minute blackout we played better, but this is football,” said the transfer guru. “After two goalline clearances and a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside, it was clear our luck was out. What really amazed me was that last-gasp double save on Shevchenko, as that shows fate is not on your side.”

Nonetheless, Galliani held up his hands and accepted Liverpool’s triumph in Istanbul at the end of an extraordinary comeback.

“Everyone has to accept defeat and set a good example for the fans. Compliments to Liverpool, even if Milan played the better football throughout. After that six-minute chaos we started playing well again and dominated extra time, so I don’t believe the team took its foot off the pedal.”

Patron Silvio Berlusconi had said before the match that failure to win the trophy would make this “a disappointing campaign,” but Galliani was more conciliatory.

“I told the lads to relax and that we all have faith in them. It hurts to lose this way. It’s not true that the silver medal is worthless and we’ll try to make it our eighth Final next season with the Champions’ League as our main objective.”

AC Milan 3:3 Liverpool (5-6 after pen. kicks) - match report
25.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Maldini 1 (M), Crespo 39, 44 (M), Gerrard 54 (L), Smicer 56 (L), Xabi Alonso 60 (L)

Milan threw away a 3-0 lead and lost the penalty shoot-out as Liverpool completed an incredible comeback to become European Champions.

Despite their European pedigree - six trophies for Milan and four for Liverpool - this was the first time the two sides had ever met in this competition. The Rossoneri were the favourites, having won in 2003 and conceding just six goals in the entire tournament so far, but Rafa Benitez had already upset the odds by eliminating Juventus and Chelsea on their way to their first Final in 20 years. PSV Eindhoven gave the San Siro side a tough test in the semi's and Milan were without a win in all competitions this month as tiredness took its toll.

There were surprises from both managers. Pippo Inzaghi, who this week was tipped to start alongside Andriy Shevchenko, was not even given a spot on the bench, while Liverpool fielded Harry Kewell after a long injury lay-off.

Ancelotti said they would attack and aim to score within the first five minutes - Milan hit the back of the net in 57 seconds. Andrea Pirlo's free kick found Paolo Maldini for a spectacular right-foot volley into the ground from 12 yards that slotted into the far top corner of the net. Il Capitano was making his seventh Final appearance and became its oldest scorer.

Liverpool now had to attack and John Arne Riise's fierce strike ricocheted off a defensive body in the area, then the ball was crossed back in for a powerful Sami Hyypia header that Dida scrambled under control.

There was chaos in the Liverpool area soon after, as Hyypia's defensive header from a Pirlo corner kick came off his teammate and fortunately for the English club no Milan players were able to take advantage.

Gennaro Gattuso's perfect long pass into the area was chested down by Andriy Shevchenko, but he was penalised for a handling offence.

On 13 minutes Milan nearly doubled their lead, as Crespo came forward for a glancing header on Clarence Seedorf's corner kick, but Luis Garcia cleared off the line at the near post.

Kaka's counter-attack exchanged passes with Marcos Cafu, only for the young Brazilian to nod wide of the target.

Liverpool were forced into a substitution after just 23 minutes, as Harry Kewell suffered yet another injury and made way for Vladimir Smicer.

There was an extremely controversial incident on 29 minutes when Shevchenko hit the back of the net with an angled drive, but it was disallowed for offside. Replays confirmed that the Ukrainian was level when Kaka made the pass, so the goal should've stood.

Moments later, Shevchenko fell under a challenge from Djimi Traore as he tried to latch on to a long pass, but the referee correctly waved play on.

Luis Garcia's strike from the edge of the box was off target, then another volley from the Spaniard was wide from a promising position with his weaker right foot.

Alessandro Nesta's sliding challenge inside the area prevented Luis Garcia from getting his shot on goal and Kaka sprinted forward on the counter-attack to set up Milan's second goal. Shevchenko rolled across for Hernan Crespo to tap in at the back post. Liverpool claimed that Nesta had handled the ball, but replays suggest it struck his side as he tried to pull his arm away.

Milan made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time with another well-worked counter-attack. Kaka's long pass from the right beat Carragher and allowed Crespo to chip Jerzy Dudek with a delightful finish.

Benitez had to make changes and introduced Dietmar Hamann, who was expected to start the Final, for Stephen Finnan and switched to a three-man defence.

The Rossoneri weren't taking their foot off the gas and Dudek lost control of a taut Cafu cross towards the near post, then the Brazilian's second shot was charged down.

Xabi Alonso hit a piledriver from 20 metres that whistled just wide of the upright, though Dida had it covered.

Traore's howler of a touch in midfield allowed Kaka to run towards goal, but he fell under a light challenge from Hyypia. From the resulting free kick, Dudek flew to palm Shevchenko's powerful strike round the post.

Liverpool got back into the game on 54 minutes with Steven Gerrard's looping header from Riise's cross, as the midfielder was given far too much room in the centre.

There was an extremely controversial incident moments later, as Liverpool made it 3-2 in curious circumstances. The linesman had his flag up for over a minute, but referee Mejuto Gonzalez ignored him and as the move continued Vladimir Smicer's low drive slotted into the far corner.

Liverpool's tails were now up and Mejuto Gonzalez pointed to the spot on the hour mark for Gattuso's foul on Gerrard. He was not last man, as Cafu and Maldini were close by. Dida saved Xabi Alonso's penalty, but the Spaniard picked up the loose ball and incredibly drew the Reds level with their third goal in six minutes.

Seedorf's low drive was wide when a free kick was cleared out to the edge of the box, as Milan now had to pick themselves up after a remarkable collapse.

Dida's palms were stung by a Riise missile that was heading for the underside of the crossbar. At the other end, Hyypia stopped Shevchenko in his tracks as he controlled Pirlo's pass.

Milan were unlucky not to restore their lead on the 70th minute, as Dudek pushed a Kaka cross into the path of Shevchenko and it took a desperate Traore goalline clearance to keep out the Ukrainian.

Luis Garcia couldn't quite get a long pass under control with his chest when only the goalkeeper was blocking his path.

On Shevchenko's counter-attack, Crespo cut back for Kaka, who blasted his finish over the bar from six yards.

Ancelotti made his first substitutions of the game with just five minutes left, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Serginho came on for Hernan Crespo and Seedorf, also switching to a three-man defence, while Djibril Cisse' replaced Milan Baros for Liverpool.

A crucial Carragher intervention stopped Shevchenko from getting his shot away as he charged through the centre, though the striker could perhaps have rolled across for Tomasson.

From the resulting corner kick, Jaap Stam's header was redirected off target by Kaka at the back post.

There were two minutes of stoppages, but neither side was able to break the deadlock and the Final went to extra time.

In the second minute of extra time, Tomasson just failed to get his head on the end of Kaka's cross.

At the 100th minute a long Serginho cross caught Traore by surprise, but Tomasson somehow slipped at the crucial moment and could only scuff it wide.

Cramp began to take its toll on Smicer and Pirlo as extra time wore on and this epic encounter went into its 105th minute. Dudek plucked a weak Shevchenko volley out of the air as the whistle went for the end of the first period of extra time.

Carragher and two of his teammates slid in to stop Tomasson from tapping in Serginho's cross. The defender suffered cramp during that move and was hobbling for the rest of the match.

Manuel Rui Costa was the final substitution, replacing Gennaro Gattuso for an attack-minded midfield. The Portuguese international's first touch saw his corner kick whistle just wide of the far corner of the net.

Pirlo skipped away from two defenders before he was felled by Hamann's body-check on the edge of the box as the Rossoneri took control during these final stages.

On 117 minutes Dudek performed an extraordinary double reaction save on Shevchenko - parrying his header and then somehow turning the follow-up over the bar from point-blank range.

The tie went to penalties - the second time in three years that Milan have had to decide a Champions' League Final on a shoot-out. Serginho started the lottery and missed the target completely. Hamann converted to give Liverpool the lead. Andrea Pirlo saw his spot-kick saved by Dudek, who was some way off his line when the kick was taken, and Cisse' scored to make it 2-0 to Liverpool. Tomasson was up next and converted to keep the Rossoneri in it.

Riise was up next and Dida saved to cut the advantage down to one. Kaka fired his penalty into the roof of the net, but Smicer also converted successfully. Andriy Shevchenko took the last Milan kick, just as he had done in Manchester, but it was saved and Liverpool became Champions of Europe for the fifth time.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini; Gattuso (Rui Costa 112), Pirlo, Seedorf (Serginho 85); Kaka; Crespo (Tomasson 85), Shevchenko

Liverpool: Dudek; Finnan (Hamann 46), Carragher, Hyypia, Traore; Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Riise, Kewell (Smicer 23); Baros (Cisse' 85)

Ref: Mejuto Gonzalez (Spa)

Missed penalty: Xabi Alonso 60 (L)

Penalty shoot-out: Serginho miss, Hamann scored, Pirlo saved, Cisse' scored, Tomasson scored, Riise saved, Kaka scored, Smicer scored, Shevchenko saved.

Berlusconi warns Ancelotti
25.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi has fuelled reports of a split within the club by warning that anything less than Champions’ League glory will make this season a failure.

“If the Rossoneri should lose the Final then it would be a deeply disappointing campaign,” said the businessman and Prime Minister of Italy.

Tonight’s clash with Liverpool in Istanbul is their second European Final in three years, but also their only shot at some silverware after losing out in the Scudetto race to Juventus.

“The squad is tired and some of the players haven’t had a proper holiday in over a year. We live in hope. I ordered my men to go out there to dominate play.”

Berlusconi is not new to public statements about his club, regularly ordering Coach Carlo Ancelotti to field two strikers upfront as a “show of strength.”

The tactician has won the Champions’ League, Scudetto, Coppa Italia and European Supercup over the last three years, but that might not be enough to keep him at the San Siro.

“As Milan’s Number One fan I can say I hope for a victory, but above all I pray for entertaining play for the hundreds of thousands of spectators around the world. I hope to see a real spectacle.”

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was speaking after a meeting with his Turkish political counterpart Erdogan.

“In truth I had already planned this meeting a long time ago, but as everyone knows I don’t like to waste time, I ordered Milan’s players to reach the Champions’ League Final so that I could combine the two events,” he joked.

Ground zero
25.5 || webmaster

Source: EuroSport.com

The Ataturk Olympic Stadium might have a five-star rating from UEFA, but it is far from the ideal location for the Champions League final. A white elephant of a creation 30km from Istanbul, its remote location could cause chaos on Wednesday evening.

The 78,000-capacity Ataturk, as its full name suggests, was purpose-built for Turkey's unsuccessful bids for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

A sensational structure designed by Michel Macary, also creator of the Stade de France in Paris, it is let down not by its facilities but by a location that even seasoned estate agents would struggle to talk up.

Rising out of nothing in a barren, faceless suburb, the stadium was intended as the centre of a giant Olympic centre that never existed.

As a result, it stands out on a limb, 15km from the closest airport and 30km from downtown Istanbul, serviced by a single road.

Match organisers advised fans to allow three hours to get to the ground. Quite how many of the estimated 42,000 Liverpool and 20,000 Milan fans will heed the warning remains to be seen.

Lateness and frayed tempers seem assured. Given the chequered history of English fans in Turkey, such confrontations would be dangerous and unnecessary.

DESERTED STANDS

The stadium itself is close to pristine as it rarely hosts major events. Galatasaray moved there for the 2003/04 season, much to the fans' chagrin, before returning to their renovated Ali Sami Yen home.

Just two games took place there this term - the derby between Instanbulspor and Galatasaray, then the Turkish Cup final. On neither occasion was it even remotely full.

"It's really big and very modern," says Galatasaray's French midfielder Frank Ribery. "The only problem is that even the two biggest clubs in Turkey can't fill it."

"When we played there, there were maybe 20 or 30,000 supporters but, frankly, we couldn't hear them. It's a shame because the stadium is truly great."

Whatever faults the ground may have, a packed house with some of Europe's most vocal fans should ensure a fantastic atmosphere and a great arena for Turkey's first Champions League final.

Wenger tips Liverpool to win
25.5 || webmaster

Source: Daily Express (Malaysia)

LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is tipping unfancied Liverpool to beat a jaded AC Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Liverpool finished only fifth in the Premier League and have already lost one final this year after Chelsea came from behind to win the League Cup in Cardiff.

Wenger believes, however, that Milan's surrender of the Serie A title to Juventus has dealt them a psychological blow which Liverpool can exploit in their bid for a fifth European Cup.

Wenger, whose team needed a penalty shootout to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday, said:

"Personally, I fancy Liverpool because I feel Milan look jaded physically and certainly mentally by losing the championship.

"I think they have never had a better chance of beating Milan than now."

Wenger compared Milan's recent form to their polished 1-0 victory over United at Old Trafford in February in the first knockout round. Carlo Ancelotti's side followed up with another 1-0 win at San Siro in the second leg.

"When Milan played at Old Trafford, they looked at the peak of their game," the Frenchman said.

"But now, I've watched them twice recently, they don't look very comfortable."

The killer blow to Milan's hopes of retaining the title was delivered two weeks ago in a 1-0 home defeat by Juventus, who Liverpool beat in the Champions League quarterfinals.

A week later, Milan were held to a 2-2 draw at Lecce.

On Friday, they handed the title to a Juve side coached by former Milan boss Fabio Capello after what was virtually a reserve side were held to a 3-3 home draw by Palermo.

Crespo in eleventh-hour injury crisis
25.5 || webmaster

Source: EuroSport.com

Milan striker Hernan Crespo is a major injury doubt for Wednesday's Champions League final after limping out of training on Tuesday. The Argentine aggravated a hamstring injury just hours after coach Carlo Ancelotti promised he would start against Liverpool.

There was no word from the Milan camp on Tuesday night as physios looked over the injury, which left Crespo clutching his leg in pain.

Crespo has emerged as a key player for the Italians this season, on loan from Chelsea, and scored both goals in the last sixteen tie against Manchester United.

On Tuesday morning Ancelotti declared: "Crespo will play from the first minute," a pledge that now looks in danger.

Should the 29-year-old fail to shrug off the tweak, Ancelotti may revert to the 4-3-2-1 formation that he used without top striker Andriy Shevchenko against United.

That would mean a place for Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa, who would line up with Kakà behind Shevchenko in an attacking trident.

Alternatively, Ancelotti could stick with a 4-4-2 structure and press Jon Dahl Tomasson or Filippo Inzaghi into action up front.

Liverpool completed their Tuesday training session without incident, and all eighteen players remain fit and available for selection.

Maradona bets on Milan
24.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Diego Armando Maradona will be in Istanbul for the Champions’ League Final and has tipped the Italians to celebrate victory.

“Milan are the favourites, but Liverpool have the advantage of a greater desire to win,” said the legendary figure who is in Turkey to commentate for Sky Italia television.

“Rafa Benitez knows how to get his squad to clam up and work hard. The Rossoneri will have to fight hard, but I think they can do it.”

The Argentine challenged for the Scudetto in the late 1980s against Paolo Maldini and admires the veteran defender for continuing his career at such a high level.

“Watching him train today gave me goosebumps,” he confessed. “He still has such remarkable passion for the sport and works as hard as a newcomer. Italy should be very proud of Paolo Maldini.”

Former Napoli hero Maradona is recovering well from heart problems and his strict diet has allowed him to slim down to a healthier weight.

With this in mind, he has hinted at a possible appearance at the Stadio San Paolo for ex-teammate Ciro Ferrara’s testimonial game.

“I hope to be a part of the festivities for Ferrara,” he confirmed. “He is a great man and really deserves all the praise in the world. My future is up in the air. I’m having talks with Boca Juniors President Macri’ and he wants me to be a director, but we are a long way off an agreement.”

Ancelotti expects ‘great’ Milan
24.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is expecting his side to not only win the European Cup but to do so in style.

The Rossoneri face Liverpool in the Champions’ League Final on Wednesday and the tactician believes his side will end the night as winners.

"A victory would be fundamental but the way you win is also very important," he stated. "You need to play well to win.

"We’re ready as we’ve spent the last 10 days preparing for this match and it was our objective at the beginning of the season to reach this Final.

"I haven’t seen any of my players tired in training or the practice games. We are physically well and good mentally. We will play a great game of football."

The Italian giants lifted the trophy in 2003 but Ancelotti has even more faith in his side than he did on the eve of the Old Trafford clash against Juventus.

"There were more questions than answers two years ago," he added. "This time though we are convinced of our ability.

"Everything has been decided apart from the result of the game, but there are all the signs to suggest that we will do well."

Many are expecting Milan to attack against a rather defensive Liverpool and the former midfielder agrees.

"Liverpool are a team that denies you space to play in," explained the tactician. "But that is not to say that we have to spend the entire game on the attack.

"We could end up scoring a goal after just three minutes. That will force Liverpool to betray their principles and leave themselves exposed.

"Liverpool base their game a great deal upon what their opponents are like. And they changed their style when they faced Juventus, playing with a three-man defence."

Ancelotti has just one doubt ahead of the game as he claims he still has to decide whether Hernan Crespo, or Pippo Inzaghi, will partner Andriy Shevchenko.

"I don’t know yet whether Crespo will play from the start or not," he concluded.

Milan are also believed to have been practising their penalties ahead of the game. Andriy Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Nesta are certainties to take spot-kicks if needed.

Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini; Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko, Crespo

Benitez in confident mood
24.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Rafael Benitez has conceded that Milan are favourites to win the Champions’ League but believes his Liverpool side can still triumph on Wednesday.

"I have a lot of confidence in the team," said Benitez as his club look to win their first European Cup for 21 years.

"Milan have a lot of good players and maybe they are favourites, but we have confidence and we can win.

"Experience is always important and they have a lot of players with more experience than us," added the Spaniard.

"But we are really hungry and we want to win. We can balance their experience with the hunger we have."

A number of Milan players already lifted the trophy two years ago, with Paolo Maldini and Clarence Seedorf set to appear in their seventh and fourth Final respectively.

Some have labelled Liverpool as ‘lucky’ to have reached the Final even if they have defeated Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea in the competition this term.

"I have said this before but it is important that we don’t waste this moment," continued the former Valencia boss.

"We know how important the game is for us as individuals and for the club, but we don't have any anxiety.

"I know what my job is and we are all focused. We have nothing to lose and everything to win and will try and do our best."

Benitez, who revealed that his side hadn’t bothered practising penalties, added that his men must be fully focused throughout.

"Milan have a lot of good players and you must consider them all," he added. "If you only see Shevchenko it's a big mistake.

"We must look at all the players and be aware of them all. We cannot afford to just keep our eyes on Shevchenko.

"We will try to do the things that are good for us and bad for Milan. We will try to see the weak points of Milan and try to beat them."

Benitez refused to give any clues about his starting line-up, even if it is claimed that he will begin with Harry Kewell and Djibril Cisse in attack.

Rossoneri ready to make history
24.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso can make their mark on football history, but warn against seeing themselves as favourites.

“My ‘marriage’ to Milan has worked out so well because I am an ambitious player and have crossed paths with a club that has the same approach,” commented the captain in today’s Press Conference. “This is what ties us together.”

The defender has worn the Rossoneri jersey since childhood, making his Serie A debut as a 16-year-old on January 20 1985. Two decades later, he has won every trophy imaginable with the club that was also captained by his father, Cesare Maldini, and now prepares for his seventh Champions’ League Final.

“There is a difference between playing against an Italian club, as we did with Juventus at Old Trafford two years ago, and facing a foreign adversary. This is a very European competition and it gives this occasion something more exciting.”

Milan are seen by many as the favourites for victory in Istanbul, although recent form suggests the odds are considerably more balanced.

“Liverpool are not an inexperienced side and their pedigree will count, though clearly Milan have a bit more of that in the current climate,” continued Maldini. “It is only normal to feel tired at this stage of the season and the important thing is to win – we don’t care how. Victory at the end of a hard-fought encounter remains crucial, though we’ll obviously try to play good football.”

There was a special moment for Maldini as he looked ahead to this Final. “I met with Francisco Gento, who won six editions of the European Cup with Real Madrid. He said he’d be happy if I were the one to beat his record and that meant a great deal to me.”

Milan’s other stars are also gearing up for this Final and Clarence Seedorf has gone through this experience more than most, being the only player to win with three different clubs – Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan.

“To reach a Final like this is too wonderful to describe, but winning it would be even better,” smiled the Dutchman. “Our squad is more mature compared to the side that won in Manchester. It’s more aware of its potential and accustomed to the big games. There were doubts at Old Trafford where now there are certainties.”

Gennaro Gattuso will continue his superstitious habit of being the first one out for the warm-up and call on his customary grit.

“This is the ultimate achievement that can put Milan in the history books as the most successful club in the world. It gives me goosebumps to think that this side has played seven Finals in 18 years, so something clearly must be working well. I feel I should be paying the club to be part of its success, not the other way round.”

Cisse looks to outpace Milan
24.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse believes he and Milan Baros can use their pace to exploit Milan captain Paolo Maldini and Co in the Champions’ League Final.

Asked what he thought about the Milan defence, Cisse – who is vying with Baros for a place in the Reds’ starting XI – said the Rossoneri were too old to cope with his electrifying pace.

"They are great defenders, but defenders with weaknesses as well," he stated ahead of Wednesday’s Final.

"They’re getting a bit old now. With the pace we have in attack - Milan Baros is very quick and I’m very quick - it might just prove to be the difference out there."

However, Cisse did admit that with players such as Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko, Milan were no pushovers.

"For me, along with Barcelona they are the best side in Europe, in the world," said the 23-year-old.

"Maldini is a legend. I don’t know how many big European games he’s played, but with everything he’s won, he really is a great man.

"I just have to forget that for an hour-and-a-half on Wednesday.

"Shevchenko is also the best attacker in the world. What he does is unbelievable. I admire his success rate.

"Whenever he gets a chance he almost always puts it away. I still have a lot to learn."

European Cup History: Maldini linked in Milan pride
24.5 || Seamus

Maldini linked in Milan pride

Milan will be making their tenth appearance in the 50th Final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition. Football Italia turns back the pages of their illustrious past and reveals a famous link.

Paolo Maldini completed a unique family double when he emulated his father Cesare and captained Milan to their penalty shoot-out victory over Juventus in the Champions’ League Final at Old Trafford in May 2003. Never before had a son followed his father in skippering the same club to victory in Europe's premier competition - or any other major Final.

This was Paolo's fourth European Cup success with Milan, having played in the winning teams in 1989, 1990,1994 and the all-Italian affair of 2003. He was also in the teams beaten by Olympique Marseille in 1993 and Ajax Amsterdam in 1995. Only Real Madrid legends Francisco Gento (eight) and Alfredo Di Stefano (seven) have played in more Finals.

"To lift the Cup as captain two years ago was a huge joy for me," he said. "To be here again so many years after the first one in 1989, and to again follow in my father's footsteps, is something really special." Cesare led Milan to their first European Cup success when they beat Benfica 2-1 at Wembley 40 years before. Either Cesare or Paolo have been involved in all six of Milan's European Cup successes. Cesare skippered the side in 1963 and was assistant to Nereo Rocco when they won the trophy for the second time in 1969. Now 73, the former Azzurri boss is still the club's chief scout.

The Rossoneri’s six wins means they are second only to Real Madrid in the all-time winners’ list, four victories ahead of both Inter and Juventus. The Spanish giants won the first five competitions and have lifted the giant trophy another four times. But five appearances in the Final over the past decade makes Milan the most successful club side in Europe over that time.

Carlo Ancelotti is another man whose name is indelibly linked with Milan in the Champions’ Cup. A winner as a player in 1989 and 1990, he steered the Rossoneri to victory over Juventus in the penalty shoot-out two years ago – becoming one of the rare breed who’ve played and managed European Cup winners. Having been previously sacked by Juve, that win at Old Trafford had special significance.

Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko scored the winning penalty for Milan in that match. He’s one of 13 players that night who could re-appear for Milan in Istanbul, proving to clubs like Inter that constant player turnover isn’t the way to success. And Ancelotti might even find a space on his bench for Alessandro Costacurta who at 39 could make his fifth Final and earn a record of his own as being the competition’s oldest-ever player. If that happens no doubt Maldini – a mere 37 in June – will see it as another target to aim for in his never-ending quest for honours.
Purple path ends in gold
While Milan, Juventus and Inter have headed Italy’s glorious parade in the Champions’ Cup over the past 50 years, they weren’t the first to taste success in the competition. Fiorentina fans point to their great side of 1957 being the forerunners to Serie A glory.

With Milan beaten by Real Madrid’s eventual winners in the semi-final of the inaugural competition back in 1956, the Viola went one step better the following season. Watched by a crowd of 124,000 in the famous Bernabeu Stadium, Fulvio Bernadini’s reigning Serie A champions put on a brave show before going down 2-0 to a Madrid side playing on their own turf. It was the second of five-in-a-row triumphs for the Spanish kings.

Their third came a year later in Brussels. It was another Italian scalp, Milan the victims this time. The goals of Juan Schiaffino and Ernesto Grillo got Giuseppe Viani’s team there – including a famous semi-final victory over Manchester Utd’s ravaged and patched-up post-Munich line-up. The Rossoneri pair both scored in the Final, but Gento’s extra-time winner saw them off.

With Real winning the next two competitions and Benfica lifting the trophy the following two seasons, it wasn’t until 1963 that an Italian side finally got their name on the trophy. Cesare Maldini, a survivor from the 1958 side, was carried off shoulder high from the Wembley pitch with the famous trophy held aloft. Anything Milan could do, city rivals Inter could match – and indeed better. Although Helenio Herrera’s squad gained a fearsome reputation as dull counter-attackers, they were brilliant at it.

Their style, based on the infamous catenaccio defence, took them to successive European Cups in 1964 and 1965 against Real Madrid and Benfica. Alessandro Mazzola got two in their first Final. Brazilian winger Jair got the only but decisive goal against the Portuguese. A memorable hat-trick was well and truly ‘scotched’ by Glasgow Celtic, Jock Stein’s team coming from behind in 1967 to earn the title the Lisbon Lions.

Four of Inter’s veterans were to get a fourth shot in 1972, but again they were to fail at the last hurdle – Johan Cruyff’s double strike ending their hopes in Rotterdam. Ajax won that and repeated the feat the following season as Juventus made their first appearance in a major European Final. This was doubly sweet revenge for the Dutchmen who’d gone down 4-1 to Milan in the 1969 shoot-out in Madrid. Pierino Prati’s hat-trick sealed it for the Rossoneri who’d beaten the holders, Matt Busby’s Man Utd, in the semis.

With Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest dominating the 70s and early 80s, Italy had to wait until 1985 for their next winning performance. Juventus went down disappointingly to Hamburg in 1983 and Roma choked on penalties in front of their own fans – and Bruce Grobbelaar’s eccentric but effective goalkeeping – the following season.

The brilliant Frenchman Michel Platini was Giovanni Trapattoni’s ace as Juve reached the 1985 Final. His seventh goal of the tournament from the penalty spot clinched the Bianconeri’s first European Cup. But it was a hollow victory marred by the deaths of 39 Juve fans, crushed by a falling wall during the most violent scenes ever witnessed at a match.

Italian football took nearly four years to recover from the Heysel Stadium disaster. Then the limitless millions of Silvio Berlusconi brought a new golden age for Milan. Inspired by Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten they carried all before them in Serie A and Europe. The three Dutch musketeers scored all the goals in successive victories over Steaua Bucharest and Benfica. The 4-0 win over the Romanians in 1989 was possibly the most comprehensive ever seen in a Champions’ Cup Final.

Arrigo Sacchi’s second victory a year later in Vienna against a Portuguese side coached by Sven Goran Eriksson ensured him and his team a place forever in the hearts of the Milan tifosi. The nucleus of that same side surprisingly failed to make it a hat-trick of wins though when they lost to Basil Boli’s Marseille goal in 1993. But with Mauro Tassotti and Maldini still in harness, they inscribed their names on the trophy again in 1994. Barcelona, who’d beaten Vujadin Boskov’s Sampdoria - containing Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and Attilio Lombardo - thanks to Ronald Koeman’s extra-time free-kick at Wembley in 1992, had nowhere to turn this time.

Johann Cruyff couldn’t pull off his traditional magic from the bench. But his old side, Ajax, did in 1995 to continue Capello’s roller-coaster reputation in the competition. An emerging Patrick Kluivert got the only goal in Vienna to disappoint the amazing Maldini on his fifth appearance in the Final.

If the Milan run was over for a time, then Juve’s was just starting. Because of the events at Heysel eleven years earlier, many fans regard 1996 as their first true Champions’ Cup victory. But even then there was a touch of controversy, the match going into extra time before Marcello Lippi’s side won 4-2 on penalties. Angelo Peruzzi was the goalkeeping hero. But he couldn’t keep out Borussia Dortmund in the next year’s Final nor Real Madrid the following season. And there was similar heartbreak for another Juve goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, in 2003.

Can those who represent Italy in this year’s showpiece earn more glory but – more importantly – become only the eleventh Serie A side to lift that splendid piece of silverware?

http://www.channel4.com/sport/football_italia/clhistory.html

------------------------------------------------------------

Winners

9 Real Madrid (Spa)
6 Milan (Ita)
4 Ajax (Holl), Bayern Mun (Ger), Liverpool (Eng)
2 Benfica (Por), Inter (Ita), Manchester Utd (Eng), Nottingham Forest (Eng), Juventus (Ita), Porto (Por)
1 Celtic (Sco), Feyenoord (Hol), Aston Villa (Eng), Hamburg (Ger), Steaua Bucarest (Rom), PSV Eindhoven (Hol), Red Star (Yug), Barcelona (Spa), O.Marseille (Fra), B.Dortmund (Ger)

http://www.channel4.com/sport/football_italia/eurocup.html

Inzaghi: We’re ready for victory
23.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi is showing Liverpool plenty of respect but still believes his Milan side will win the Champions’ League.

"We should fear the English outfit because of the football that Rafa Benitez’s teams play," stated the Italian.

"They also eliminated such clubs as Juventus and Chelsea on the way, sides who were tipped to lift the trophy.

"But I am convinced that we can beat them. We are well prepared for anything in Istanbul."

The Rossoneri arrived in the Turkish capital this evening ahead of Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated European Cup Final.

"We are ready and at 100 per cent," added the striker. "We are not cooked and are concentrated on the game.

"I have to say that we have done some good work in the last few weeks in order to be at our best to face Liverpool.

"This is a very special and important game for us. I can guarantee that we will all give our all."

Inzaghi isn’t set to start the game though, seeing as Argentine international Hernan Crespo is likely to partner Andriy Shevchenko in attack.

Meanwhile, Milan fans who haven’t travelled for the game will be able to see the match on a large screen in the city’s Piazza Duomo.

The San Siro giants, who lost the League title to Juventus on Friday, are looking for their seventh European Cup victory.

Shevchenko was Rush fan
23.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan ace Andriy Shevchenko has revealed that he was a massive fan of Liverpool legend Ian Rush.

The European Footballer of the Year made the statement just days before the two clubs meet in the Champions’ League Final.

"Rush was a terrific striker, one of the best of his time, and I'll never forget receiving a pair of boots from him at a youth tournament in Wales," he told the Liverpool website.

"I must have been about 14 at the time and used to love those boots. I was a big admirer of Rush."

The former Wales international is one of the club’s greatest ever strikers, even if he flopped miserably during a one-year stint in Italy with Juventus.

Milan will start as favourites to win the European Cup on Wednesday but Shev expects a real battle in Istanbul.

"The fact that Liverpool have reached the Final means they have deserved it," continued the Ukrainian.

"We will not be underestimating them and must be very careful. It is obvious to me they are a very good team.

"I used to watch Liverpool's matches as a boy on television and I continue to do so now," added the 28-year-old.

"I watch a lot of Premiership football with my Milan teammates. We are all very interested in the English game."

Kaka ready for ‘game of life’
23.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s Kaka says Wednesday’s Champions’ League Final against Liverpool will be the most important game of his life.

The attacking midfielder won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 but insists this week’s European Cup tie will be the most prestigious clash of his career so far.

"This is different to the World Cup because I wasn’t a protagonist for Brazil, while I will be playing this time," said the South American.

"Winning the Champions’ League is one of the motives why I have come to Milan. The Liverpool match is the most important of my life.

"It is the first Final that I will play in and I obviously want to do well. It would be marvellous to win."

Much of the squad has tasted success in the past though after winning the 2003 tournament when they beat Juventus on penalties.

"A lot of them talk about that game and what it means to lift the trophy," continued the South American.

"Some of us were not there and all of these stories are making us even hungrier to win the game."

Many pundits would argue that Kaka hasn’t been as influential as he was last season but the player insists he has nothing to prove.

"This isn’t the game in which I must strike back," he argued. "In fact, if we win the Cup then this will be a better season than the last one for me."

Milan will need to win on Wednesday or risk ending the campaign with no silverware after Juve lifted the Scudetto on Friday.

"We fought until the very end and have reached the Champions’ League Final," continued the former Sao Paolo starlet.

"We’ve had a good season even if it would be ideal to end it with the trophy."

Cafu dreams of Champions' glory
22.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

The only one missing from Marcos Cafu's CV is the Champions' League, while Hernan Crespo battles Pippo Inzaghi for a starting spot in Istanbul.

“This is a trophy that I have always dreamed of winning and the only one that I have yet to lift,” said the Brazilian defender.

“Ever since I won the Intercontinental Cup with Sao Paolo against Milan 13 years ago I have wondered what it would be like to challenge for the European title. We won that game 3-2 in Tokyo and it remained in my mind. Now I’ll finally have the chance to find out.”

Cafu was still at Roma when Milan were last in the Final, having beaten Juventus on penalties in 2003, so this will be his first Champions’ League showdown.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti claimed earlier this week that he has already decided the starting eleven that will face Liverpool, but newspapers in Italy maintain there is some element of doubt.

The main question surrounds who will partner Andriy Shevchenko, as Pippo Inzaghi and Hernan Crespo are battling for one place.

The fact that Crespo played for almost all of the 3-3 draw with Palermo on Friday suggests that he will not be in the starting line-up, but his impressive performance in that tie could push Ancelotti into a rethink.

Serginho bagged a brace against Palermo and has also been on fine form recently, so the Brazilian could come in as a substitute to unleash his pace on Liverpool.

The Milan squad will leave Malpensa airport at 4pm on Monday to arrive in Istanbul at 7.30pm local time.

AC Milan reveal Gerrard interest
22.5 || webmaster

Source: BBC Sport

AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti would be interested in signing Steven Gerrard - if the 24-year-old Liverpool captain decides to leave Anfield this summer.

The two teams meet in the Champions League final on Wednesday and Ancelotti told the Sunday Express newspaper: "Steven Gerrard is a great player.

"Right now he is a Liverpool player and I am not going to upset Liverpool by talking any more about him.

"But it will be different if he decides in the summer that he wants to leave."

Ancelotti added: "He is undoubtedly one of the best midfield players in the world.

"Of course, any top club would want him in their side. I like him very much - he is a wonderful player."

The midfielder recently hinted that he might stay at Anfield and is set to discuss his future with chief executive Rick Parry in the summer.

But Gerrard has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Liverpool - and there has been continued speculation that he will sign for Chelsea.

Ancelotti focused on Liverpool
20.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti and his men are already looking ahead to the Champions’ League Final and analysing how to approach Liverpool.

The 3-3 draw at the San Siro this evening handed Juventus the Scudetto, though the Coach was livid after a debatable penalty let the Sicilians back into the game.

“We deserved to win tonight. That penalty didn’t exist and it changed the whole face of the game. The team played well, especially in the first half, but that spot-kick was frankly laughable. Seeing the replay, I have to stifle a giggle.”

Lamberto Zauli let himself fall under the slightest contact from Christian Abbiati and Luca Toni converted the resulting penalty. Nonetheless, Milan were fielding an experimental squad.

“I thought this the most logical solution with the Champions’ League Final just days away,” said Ancelotti. “Everyone wants to play and win, though only 11 will start and others can give their contribution in different ways.”

Their attention was already focused on Liverpool and the Milan boss analysed what he believes Rafa Benitez will unveil in Istanbul.

“I think Liverpool will play with one upfront, though I’m not sure if it’ll be Milan Baros or Djibril Cisse, and repeat the tactics they imposed on Juventus and Chelsea. That is what they do best. They’ll leave the initiative to us and we must have patience in breaking them down, doing what in part we managed in the first half tonight.”

Hernan Crespo had a message for the Bianconeri, though he was not happy with the refereeing in the 3-3 draw with Palermo.

“Juventus deserve praise for winning the Scudetto and we really lost out with that direct confrontation,” said the Argentine. “As for tonight’s game, I’d really like to see that penalty incident again and the one that wasn’t awarded in my favour earlier on.”

The fact that Crespo played for most of this encounter does suggest that it will be Pippo Inzaghi who partners Andriy Shevchenko in Istanbul on Wednesday.

“That is not a question for me,” shrugged the Argentine. “All I know is that I feel good and I want to reap what we’ve all sowed so far this season. Everyone wants to play a Champions’ League Final and we’ll see what the Coach decides.”

For the first time, the Serie A trophy will be presented to Juventus on the field in the Premiership style and will be handed over by Lega Calcio President – and Milan Vice-President – Adriano Galliani.

Vikash Dhorasoo was given a rare start and impressed in midfield, but thought the experimental nature of the side damaged them in the end.

“We played very well in the first half, but those of us who aren’t used to this spotlight tried to do a bit too much and paid the price for that with tiredness towards the end,” said the ex-Lyon star.

Palermo qualify for the UEFA Cup with this surprise result and Coach Francesco Guidolin concedes it was a fortunate late comeback.

“I think that Palermo have been struggling to find their quality for some time. This is partly due to tiredness and seeing the finish line in sight is taking something away from our focus. After the first half I was afraid of being really hammered. We were unable to control Rui Costa and Dhorasoo in the first half, but reshuffled our tactics and balanced out the situation.”

AC Milan 3:3 Palermo - match report
20.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Serginho 7, 16 (M), Costacurta og 8 (P), Tomasson 32 (M), Toni pen 76 (P), Barone 79 (P)

Milan threw away a two-goal lead in the space of three minutes to hand Juventus their 28th Scudetto title.

The Rossoneri had already given up on the title, knowing that Juventus needed two points from their final two games to seal the title, and fielded an experimental squad ahead of the Champions' League Final against Liverpool. Failure to beat Palermo would automatically crown Juve the Champions of Italy.

The defence included 18-year-old youth team player Lino Marzoratti partnering Billy Costacurta - two decades his senior - while Hernan Crespo was alongside Jon Dahl Tomasson upfront. This represented a major clue as to the side Carlo Ancelotti will play in Istanbul - which at this rate should include Pippo Inzaghi from the start.

Milan had their first shot on goal after six minutes. Tomasson's wayward strike fell into the path of Crespo, whose angled drive was well smothered by an attentive Matteo Guardalben.

The deadlock was broken moments later at the end of a chaotic move. Tomasson and Crespo had their efforts charged down, but Palermo could do nothing on Serginho's final touch from two yards.

It didn't last long, as sixty seconds after that Palermo equalised with a dreadful defensive error. Alessandro Costacurta accidentally nodded Luca Toni's headed pass over his own goalkeeper and into an empty net, as Christian Abbiati was caught wrong-footed.

Tomasson was stopped by the offside flag after some good work by Vikash Dhorasoo, then Crespo's penalty appeals were waved away when he tripped over Cristian Zaccardo's challenge.

Sergino restored Milan's lead after 16 minutes of an entertaining game. Crespo deserved much of the credit for the goal, as his backheel exchanged passes with the Brazilian for a final chip over the 'keeper. It was Serginho's first ever Serie A brace.

Dhorasoo, Crespo and Christian Brocchi combined at pace and tore the Palermo defence apart before a sliding challenge cut the move short. Manuel Rui Costa's drive from distance then swerved over the bar.

The Rosanero were dangerous on 26 minutes when Zaccardo's header on a corner kick took a deflection off Dario Simic, but Abbiati was able to capture the loose ball.

Guardalben got Brocchi's snapshot under control, but he was left stranded by Tomasson's volley that he hit into the ground so that it bounced over the goalkeeper.

Mario Alberto Santana's volleyed cross failed to reach his teammate Luca Toni, but at the other end of the pitch Guardalben fumbled a Serginho cross and his defenders managed to scramble clear.

Abbiati did well to palm an accurate Toni header out of the bottom corner of the net, then soon after Simone Barone's half-volley was over the bar as the Sicilians fought back towards the break.

Tomasson failed to get his cross in to a totally unmarked Dhorasoo in the centre on a classic counter-attack, but on the stroke of half-time Brocchi's low drive thumped the base of the upright with Guardalben beaten.

Another deflected Barone effort glanced just wide of the post, then Gonzalez clipped the bar with a looping lob from distance. If the ball had gone in, it might not have counted, as referee Daniele Tombolini was already whistling for half-time.

After the break, Toni's header glanced wide of the upright, then Fabio Grosso's touched-on free kick skimmed the frame of the goal.

Pippo Inzaghi replaced Crespo for the final 25 minutes in a bid to improve his match fitness, as the Italian is now almost certain to start the Champions' League Final against Liverpool.

A flicked Toni header with his back to goal was not far off the target, though the tempo had dipped considerably in this second half.

Tomasson charged forward on the counter-attack and dribbled past one opponent before drilling his finish over the bar.

Abbiati did well to pluck Barone's long-range strike out of the air, then Dario Simic cut off Lamberto Zauli as he was preparing to pull the trigger just inside the box.

Milan gave another Serie A debut to Romano Perticone, replacing his youth team colleague Marzoratti.

Serginho's chance at a hat-trick went begging with an angled drive comfortably saved after 'Concorde' had sprinted down the left flank.

The referee pointed to the spot on 75 minutes when Zauli took advantage of a lucky deflection off Dhorasoo and fell under Abbiati's challenge, though contact appeared to be minimal at best and it was an extremely debatable decision. Toni stepped up to convert, though it had to be taken again for encroachment. The Palermo striker changed the angle and buried his second attempt as well to make it 3-2.

Three minutes later, the Sicilians had completed their comeback to equalise at the San Siro. Simone Barone battled past Giuseppe Pancaro and Billy Costacurta to slam a left-foot strike between Abbiati and the near post.

This 3-3 result automatically hands the Scudetto to Juventus, who can celebrate the title from the comfort of their sofas, regardless of their performance away to Livorno on Sunday.

Milan: Abbiati; Marzoratti (Perticone 72), Simic, Costacurta, Pancaro; Brocchi, Rui Costa, Dhorasoo; Serginho; Crespo (Inzaghi 64), Tomasson

Palermo: Guardalben; Zaccardo, Terlizzi (Ferri 70), Barzagli; Santana, Corini (Mutarelli 58), Barone, Grosso; Gonzalez, Zauli (Morrone 87); Toni

Ref: Tombolini

I’ve chosen Final XI, reveals Ancelotti
20.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has already decided on his starting line-up for the Champions’ League Final against Liverpool.

The Rossoneri face the Premiership giants in Turkey on Wednesday and the tactician has no selection doubts ahead of the tie.

"I’ve already decided who will play in Istanbul," he said. "I just need to evaluate the condition of certain players who haven’t featured too regularly recently.

"But I have no doubts. The side has already been drawn up and I’ll speak again about it on Tuesday."

However, the reigning Italian champions will firstly have to face Palermo on Friday night in an attempt to keep their slim title hopes alive.

"We want to beat Palermo as we want to end this Championship well," added Ancelotti, whose side would hand the Scudetto to Juve if they fail to win tomorrow night.

"We know it won’t be easy as Palermo are fighting for a UEFA Cup spot and (Week 38 opponents) Udinese are going for the Champions’ League."

Ancelotti is expected to field a second-string side at the San Siro against the Rosaneri, but he has brushed aside claims that his players are tired.

"I don’t see a tired Milan side," he underlined. "We have suffered psychologically but not with tiredness.

"The game against Juventus was well balanced. The gap in the table is made up from the two games between us. We picked up one point, while they collected four."

Ancelotti also confirmed that Pippo Inzaghi, who has had an injury plagued campaign, will feature against Palermo.

"He did well in the half an hour against Juve and then against Lecce," he stated. "He’ll play at least 45 minutes on Friday."

Milan probable for Champions’ League Final: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Shevchenko, Crespo

Gerrard issues warning to AC Milan
20.5 || webmaster

Source: Stuff.co.nz

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has warned AC Milan not to expect a walkover in next week's Champions League soccer final.

Gerrard admits the Italians are favourites, but says Liverpool's poor premier league form is no guide to their ability in Europe.

"We have always been the underdogs and we will be the underdogs on the 25th in Istanbul," Gerrard said.

"Everyone thinks Milan will just have to turn up to beat us.

"But they will be in for a real big fight. We are up for it and we are confident that we will be able to surprise everyone again."

"AC Milan won the trophy a couple of years ago and know what to expect, but we have done well in Europe beating Juventus and Chelsea and we are confident that we can get the right result in Istanbul."

Gerrard said they respected Milan but had no fear. "We have watched the tapes of them and we know they are beatable," he said.

"PSV played very well in the two semifinal legs, but I don't think we saw the real Milan in that game.

"We have seen their two games with Manchester United, so we know they are a fantastic side and have world-class players all through their team.

"But we have world-class players and have played really well in Europe and I am sure all our boys are hungry and desperate to win it."

Gerrard believes winning the trophy should mean Liverpool earn a place in next season's competition despite failing to secure a qualifying spot through the English league.

"We are obviously not happy with our league form and finished outside the top four," he said.

"So we need to win in Turkey and put pressure on people in UEFA to allow us back into the tournament next season."

Gerrard said Liverpool's players had feared they would not survive past their final group game against Olympiakos at Anfield in December when the England midfielder scored a crucial third goal.

"We have been huge underdogs in this run and the Chelsea games were both amazing atmospheres," he said.

"But you would have to go a long way to beat the Olympiakos night when we had to score three times in the second half to get through."

Final is ‘only’ a game, says Shev
19.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko says Milan must treat the Champions’ League Final against Liverpool like just any other game.

The two teams clash in Istanbul on May 25 and the European Footballer of the Year believes he has the recipe for success.

"The most important thing is to remain calm and serene in the days leading up to the match," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The European Cup Final obviously creates pressure as it is the most important game in the European football calendar.

"But it is important to also remember that it is ‘only’ a game and you have more of a chance of winning if you don’t forget that."

The Rossoneri will go into the encounter as favourites, a fact that the Ukrainian striker undoubtedly agrees with after their 2003 success.

"This experience is different to the Manchester one when we beat Juventus," continued Shevchenko, who netted the winning penalty in that Old Trafford shoot-out.

"That was the first Final for many of us and there was a different approach going into that particular tie.

"We are more accustomed to these situations now, especially as we have won a lot between Manchester and Istanbul."

However, Milan have looked shaky in recent weeks after seemingly losing the Scudetto to Juventus.

"Our recent dip is only normal," he noted. "We are now regenerating ourselves and we will be at 100 percent against Liverpool."

Milan suffer Ambrosini loss
19.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini has been ruled out of the Champions’ League Final against Liverpool.

The Rossoneri confirmed the news today after the Italian picked up an injury in the 2-2 draw with Lecce at the weekend.

Ambrosini has pulled a thigh muscle in his left leg, an injury that has basically ended his season.

"The extent of the injury means that his full recovery in time for the Istanbul Final is very difficult," the club wrote on their website.

Although the Azzurri player hasn’t been a first team regular this season, he is a major reason why Milan have reached the European Cup Final.

Ambrosini netted the crucial away goal in the semi-final 3-1 loss at PSV, which allowed the side to progress on the away goal rule.

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is now likely to field Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo in midfield against the Premiership side on May 25.

Milan will swoop for Oddo
18.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Lazio defender Massimo Oddo will be added to the Milan squad at the end of the current campaign.

The Rossoneri have been looking for a new right-back and the Italian international will reportedly make the move north.

The San Siro outfit are looking for a quality alternative to Marcos Cafu and they’ve opted for Oddo - despite also tracking Reggina’s Giandomenico Mesto, Marco Cassetti of Lecce and Parma’s Daniele Bonera.

The Biancocelesti are ready to sell the former Verona player, who was also being monitored by Inter and Juventus, for as little as £3.5m.

Oddo was actually spotted in Milan on May 9, when he was in the ‘Moscova’ area of the city, which is close to the club’s headquarters.

Oddo, who is a penalty expert, is in favour of the switch given that he is a massive fan of the club.

The full-back is also familiar with his proposed new surroundings as he started his career as a youngster at Milan, spending two years there before his 1995 switch to Fiorenzuola.

Milan have also seemingly already looked to strengthen their left-back options for the new campaign.

They are understood to have agreed to sign Udinese’s Marek Jankulovksi in the summer, even if no official announcement has been made.

Ancelotti: We'll be ready for Reds
18.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have been looking tired of late and struggled to reach Istanbul, but Carlo Ancelotti believes they’ll be on top form to face Liverpool.

“We have had problems recently, but have another week to prepare for the Champions’ League Final and we’ll be 100 per cent ready in Istanbul,” said the Coach. “We have all the time we need to rest a few of our more tired players and work on our fitness levels.”

Massimo Ambrosini looks certain to miss the Final on May 25 after suffering a thigh strain, while it’s likely Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Andriy Shevchenko and Gennaro Gattuso will be rested against Palermo this Friday evening. If Milan fail to win that game, Juventus will mathematically celebrate the Scudetto.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm within the squad and we are looking forward to playing against Liverpool,” continued Ancelotti. “That’s an important aspect of preparing for such a delicate encounter. After all, we’re competing in our second Champions’ League Final in three years – most clubs only dream of achieving that.”

The Rossoneri lifted the trophy – their sixth – during the last Final at Old Trafford when Juventus were eventually dispatched on penalties, but the atmosphere now is very different.

“In 2003 this team was going into its first real Final and was ready to begin a new era. We’ve got a lot of experience under our belts now and Istanbul represents a step on our ladder.”

That match was bemoaned by many for its lack of spectacle, but Ancelotti warns that Liverpool’s defensive approach could mean another tight game.

“The Final with Juventus was an ugly one dominated by tactics and I fear this could be on the same lines,” said the Coach. “If it went to a penalty shoot-out I really wouldn’t be surprised.”

Rafa Benitez has performed a minor miracle to get Liverpool into the Final and his tactical nous enabled them to push past the favourites Juventus and Chelsea, so they clearly relish the underdog role.

“I think Benitez has done brilliantly to get Liverpool to the Champions’ League Final in his first year at the club. Seeing how his tactics have worked so far this season, I really admire his work. He is a defensive Coach, but that’s not a defect, as defence is part of the game. However, I doubt Liverpool will be all out to defend, as they attacked Juve at Anfield and are very organised.”

When asked to pinpoint a danger man in the Reds line-up, Ancelotti had several options open to him.

“Steven Gerrard is one of the best midfielders in the world and Liverpool’s performances usually depend on him. Milan Baros is quick and smart, while Djibril Cisse is stronger. It won’t make much difference which one of these two strikers plays.”

There has been much debate over Liverpool’s future in the competition, as even if they win the trophy they may not be allowed to defend their title.

“I think a team that wins should have the right to defend it, but we may just do the English FA a favour and solve their problem,” smiled Ancelotti.

Konan pays for Kaka challenge
18.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Lecce star Axel Konan has been given a three-match ban for a horrific challenge on Kaka, while in Serie B Perugia’s Jamal Alioui is suspended for eight games.

Konan was shown a straight red card for his very high tackle on Kaka during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Milan and the Disciplinary Commission imposed a heavy penalty.

“The Lecce player struck his opponent’s knee with violence and with his studs raised,” explained the report. “The challenge came after Kaka had already passed the ball, so it was not consistent with the move.” Kaka will not play in Serie A again this season and will miss the first match of the next campaign.

In Serie B, the Disciplinary Commission has come down hard on those involved in the unsightly brawl that concluded Friday’s match at the Stadio Bentegodi. Perugia ran out 2-1 winners, but the game was marred by repeated racist insults from the Hellas Verona supporters.

A fight broke out and Perugia defender Jamal Alioui punched several players, earning him an eight-match ban, while Verona goalkeeper Jess Vanstrattan has been suspended for three games for his part in the scuffle.

Verona will also pay the price for their fans’ behaviour, as they will have to play their next home game behind closed doors. It isn’t the first time Hellas supporters have been caught chanting racist insults and the Disciplinary Commission report noted that “there was no attempt to disassociate themselves from their behaviour.”

Thirteen Serie A players have been suspended for the Week 37 games. They are Dainelli (Fiorentina), Caracciolo (Brescia), Del Nero (Brescia), Agostini (Cagliari), Conti (Cagliari), Dacourt (Roma), Panucci (Roma), Alberto (Siena), Meghni (Bologna), Mihajlovic (Inter), Motta (Atalanta), Muntari (Udinese) and Pizarro (Udinese).

Cisse not expecting Milan start
17.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Djibril Cisse says he is not expecting to start the Champions’ League Final against Milan next week, despite scoring twice for Liverpool on Sunday.

The fit-again France international replaced an out-of-touch Milan Baros in the starting XI against Aston Villa and seized his chance by netting both goals in the 2-1 win.

But he insisted he is not yet fully fit after returning from a double leg fracture last month.

"I’m not thinking about starting against Milan," said the former Auxerre striker. "That’s a decision for the Coach to make.

"I feel good but I am only playing at 70 or 80 percent of my top form," he added.

Cissé, whose first goal came from the penalty spot, admitted that scoring again at Anfield was an emotional experience.

"I didn’t score the goals for me but for the supporters and for the medical team," he explained.

"It was important for me to score before the end of the season because of all the work that the medical team and the players have done.

"I’m strong in my head and I always knew I’d play and score again, but it is really special to do it at Anfield in front of the Liverpool fans, my family and my girlfriend."

Liverpool face Milan in Istanbul on May 25 and Coach Rafael Benitez said he would consider playing the 23-year-old from the start.

"Djibril’s performance against Villa has given me more options. I could start with him, or Baros, or play with two strikers," said the Spaniard.

Liverpool: "We can beat AC Milan"
17.5 || webmaster

Source: The Electric New Paper (Singapore)

If there were any suggestions that Liverpool will start next week's Champions League final against AC Milan in Istanbul as the underdogs, Rafael Benitez (right) is certainly buying none of that.

The Liverpool manager is confident that his beloved Reds will make amends for yet another disappointing Premiership season by capturing Europe's most coveted prize on May 25.

In an interview arranged by club sponsor Carlsberg after the 2-1 win over Aston Villa last night, Benitez told The New Paper: 'People say that AC Milan are the favourites because they are an experienced team with a lot of good players.

'But I'm confident of beating them over 90 minutes. Just like against Juventus and Chelsea, we were the underdogs. We have nothing to lose. We can win the final.'

If the unassuming Spaniard is looking for potential match-winners, he has a ready-made one in fit-again Djibril Cisse.

The French international showed that he has fully recovered from a broken leg by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Villa.

He put his side ahead with a penalty in the 20th minute before adding a second seven minutes later after good work from Spanish defender Josemi on the right. It was Cisse's first goals since September.

With Milan Baros also eyeing a starting place for the Champions League final, Benitez will have a selection headache.

He said: 'I have seen how hard Djibril works in training, so I'm happy for him that he's scoring again. Now I have two options. I can either play with two strikers or one.

'Both Cisse and Baros can run at defenders, both can dribble and both can shoot.'

Admittedly, it wasn't a vintage performance from the Reds against Villa.

With the Champions League final in mind, Benitez rang the changes from the side which lost 3-1 to Arsenal last week.

Only three players who had started at Arsenal retained their places yesterday. Jerzy Dudek, Steven Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann, Djimi Traore, Steve Finnan and Baros were not in the starting line-up.

CAPTAIN

In Gerrard's absence, the captain's armband went to Jamie Carragher, undoubtedly Liverpool's player of the season.

After the match, Benitez led the players on the traditional lap-of-honour around Anfield, to the rapturous cheers of the die-hard Liverpudlians.

Even the visiting Aston Villa fans applauded the Reds, egging them on to bring back the Champions League trophy to England after Manchester United's success in 1999.

Benitez believes that if his team start the match against Milan with the kind of tempo they did against Juventus and Chelsea, they have a good chance of being crowned kings of Europe for the fifth time.

Looking back on a dismal season where they finished below Merseyside rivals Everton and missed out on Champions League qualification, Benitez said: 'To finish fifth is not good enough for us. I know for sure we have to improve.

'But I'll be the happiest man if we win the Champions League final.'

The absence of Gerrard in the last match of the season raised doubts again over his future. He did, however, appear in a smart suit at the end of the match to lead his team-mates on the lap-of-honour.

The supporters responded with a standing ovation for their Captain Marvel.

In return, Gerrard gave a thumbs-up to the fans, as if to signal that he will not leave the club he supported as a boy.

Benitez is confident that Gerrard will not ditch the Reds for the roubles of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

He said: 'Gerrard will be fit for the final. He will work really hard to win for us and after that, he will be staying on with us.'

On his own future, Benitez rubbished rumours linking him to Real Madrid.

He said: 'I have said many times that I'm very happy at Anfield. When I look at our supporters, I can only be happy.

'My job is to prepare the team for next season and it's a challenge for me to win trophies with this club.

'And we will try to win the Premiership title next year.

'If you look at the games we played against Chelsea, they were very close affairs. We just have to be more consistent.'

'But first, we have the Champions League final to worry about.'

With Benitez at the helm, Liverpool fans have little to worry about.

Max set for Cup heartbreak
16.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Massimo Ambrosini is a doubt for the Champions’ League Final after the Milan man picked up an injury.

The midfielder sustained a thigh muscle problem in his left leg during the 2-2 draw with Lecce on Sunday.

"Massimo is still feeling some pain," said Milan medic Jean Pierre Meersseman after the Via Del Mare clash.

"We will evaluate his situation on Monday and carry out a scan and various other necessary tests.

"But I have to admit that this is not a simple situation with the Final just 10 days away."

Ambrosini hasn’t been a first team regular for the majority of the season as boss Carlo Ancelotti has opted to play with Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf.

However, the Italian was considered as a possible starter against Liverpool given his recent form.

The former Vicenza player has played well of late and he scored the crucial away goal in the 3-1 loss at PSV, which ensured Milan’s safe passage to Istanbul.

Lecce 2:2 AC Milan - match report
15.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Kaladze 12 (M), Konan 46 (L), Shevchenko 53 (M), Vucinic 82 (L)

Milan fall five points behind the Serie A leaders and their Scudetto hopes are surely shattered after this draw against ten-man Lecce.

The Rossoneri could be forgiven for giving up on the title race after last week's defeat to Juventus, opening up a three-point lead at the top of the table. Andrea Pirlo, Hernan Crespo and Clarence Seedorf did not make the trip due to injury, while Alessandro Nesta was suspended, but Pippo Inzaghi was fit for his first Serie A start since October.

Lecce had the first chance after 90 seconds when Axel Konan nodded Erminio Rullo's cross wide of the target. Moments later the young Ivorian got away from Paolo Maldini and forced Dida to push his shot round the near post.

Milan fought back and Kaka curled a fantastic strike inches round the upright with Vincenzo Sicignano beaten.

There was controversy when Lecce saw a goal disallowed for a Mirko Vucinic push on Jaap Stam, but there didn't appear to be too much contact.

At the other end, Gennaro Gattuso hit a missile that stung Sicignano's palms in an entertaining game.

Milan eventually broke the deadlock after 12 minutes in a strange move. Kakha Kaladze's looping header from a Rui Costa corner kick perhaps took a deflection off Pippo Inzaghi and Cristian Ledesma on the line, but the goal was awarded to the Georgian defender.

Moments later, Kaka's splendid pass found Andriy Shevchenko, but his angled drive was too weak to really trouble the goalkeeper.

The Rossoneri were now pouring forward and Inzaghi's counter-attack - sparked by Cafu and Manuel Rui Costa - brought another tough save out of Sicignano.

Vucinic was again furious with the referee when he was booked for a handling offence that he claimed was done by Stam.

Marco Cassetti's spectacular volley was over the bar, but on the stroke of half-time Lecce complained about another Stam handling offence in the area. The replays show it was clearly involuntary, as the ball bounced off the inside of his leg and struck his trailing arm, then Milan poured forward on the counter-attack and Sicignano rushed out to close down Kaka.

Lecce drew level within the first minute of the restart, as a corner kick came out to Alex Pinardi and his cross found Axel Cedric Konan for a free header from seven yards. The Milan defence was surprisingly static and did not seem to be wide awake for this second half.

The Rossoneri fought back and Shevchenko's diving header on Cafu's cross was scrambled under control by Sicignano.

Milan restored their lead with a very controversial goal soon after. Substitute Vikash Dhorasoo's cross was chested down by Inzaghi, who was perhaps in an offside position, then Shevchenko got the final touch to push the ball past Sicignano from six yards.

Lecce had a great chance to draw level again on 66 minutes, as Mirko Vucinic's shot from the byline clipped the outside of the upright. Moments later, another Vucinic cross-shot just missed Konan at the back post.

The frustration got to Lecce and Konan was shown a straight red card for a simply horrific challenge on Kaka. The Ivorian took a run-up and lifted his studs to go straight for the Brazilian's knee.

Kaka wasted a fine opportunity on the counter-attack in the final stages, as he blasted Jon Dahl Tomasson's pass over the bar. It was to prove a costly error.

One minute later, Jaime Valdes was left alone to sprint down the right flank and roll into the centre for Mirko Vucinic to slide in the equaliser.

Lecce: Sicignano; Angelo, Diamoutene, Stovini, Rullo; Cassetti, Ledesma, Dalla Bona (Valdes 67); Pinardi (Abruzzese 85), Vucinic (Marianini 84), Konan

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Stam, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Rui Costa, Ambrosini (Dhorasoo 46); Kaka; Shevchenko (Tomasson 64), Inzaghi (Serginho 75)

Ref: Trefoloni

Sent off: Konan 73 (L)

Lecce vs. AC Milan - match preview
15.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

This is a tough assignment for Carlo Ancelotti’s side who will be looking to bounce back after last week’s disappointment against Juventus. Lecce are still one win away from Zdenek Zeman being confident of staying up and at home have proved to be a match for most teams in Serie A this season.

Samuele Dalla Bona, a mainstay in the Lecce midfield this year, will have a point to prove against his old team who many think was not given a chance to show his ability. Marco Cassetti and Cristian Ledesma will also be hoping to impress after being linked with the Milan giants for most of the season.

After signs of tiredness in recent weeks, Ancelotti will look to reshuffle his pack for this game. Massimo Ambrosini and Manuel Rui Costa could come in for Rino Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf in midfield, while Filippo Inzaghi could make his first start after recovering from his long-term injury alongside Andriy Shevchenko.

Alessandro Nesta is suspended and will be missing for the Rossoneri. Zeman has no real selection problems and will continue to deploy his attack minded 4-3-3 against the team which he claimed earlier this week has been the best over the course of the season.

Lecce: Sicignano; Cassetti, Diamoutene, Stovini, Rullo; Giacomazzi, Ledesma, Dalla Bona; Valdes, Vucinic, Pinardi

Milan: Dida; Pancaro, Stam, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Rui Costa; Kaka; Shevchenko, F.Inzaghi

Ancelotti keeps the faith
15.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are aware that the fate of the Scudetto is out of their hands, but Carlo Ancelotti has urged his men to keep on winning and hope that Juve will stumble.

“We know that there is only a very slim chance we can win the title, but all we can do is concentrate on getting as many points as we can, starting from Lecce. It would be silly to think of the Champions’ League Final now, as there are another two Serie A tests first,” said the Coach.

The Rossoneri are three points behind Juventus and have a tougher run-in than their rivals, including away games at Lecce and Udinese with a home tie against high-flying Palermo in-between.

“Lecce is a tough place to visit and we have to focus on defence a lot more than we did against Juve,” explained Ancelotti. “After all, their movement upfront is what made them one of Serie A’s top scoring sides this season.”

However, the Bianconeri also have an intriguing test this afternoon, as Ancelotti’s former club Parma come to the Stadio Delle Alpi.

“We want to keep the Scudetto race open until the final day of the season and a ‘gift’ from Parma would certainly help, but we must focus on our own performance. Anything can happen in football and the Tardini side also needs points.”

The tactician came under fire from sections of the Italian Press after Milan’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus, prompting some to even suggest that failure to lift the Champions’ League trophy against Liverpool will see him sacked.

“We played well enough against Juve and did what we could,” he insisted. “The squad knows it is performing at the highest level in both competitions this season and can make it a year to remember. The team did not seem tired to me, though perhaps it was lacking in sharpness. Playing the Champions’ League semi-final with PSV was bound to sap some energy out of us.”

Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Hernan Crespo have remained at home to nurse injuries, so Pippo Inzaghi will start the match against Lecce. Manuel Rui Costa and Massimo Ambrosini are also expected to step in.

Inzaghi books Istanbul spot
13.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi has barely featured for Milan this season, but believes he has recovered at the right time to make his mark in the Champions’ League Final.

“I have been training regularly with the rest of the squad for some time now and am fully fit, but the decision rests with the Coach,” said the striker who has been beset by injuries over the last two years.

A niggling ankle problem required two operations, followed by thigh strains and a fractured hand on the rocky road to recovery. He impressed during the closing stages of the Rossoneri’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus and is rumoured to be starting this Sunday’s match at Lecce.

“The most important thing is to play the last three games of the season as best we can, because our form will take us into the Champions’ League Final. Apart from that, we still believe in our chances of winning the Scudetto, as anything can still happen in football.”

Milan are three points adrift of the leaders, but there are still nine up for grabs over the remaining games of the season.

“Our Serie A results aren’t just an end in themselves, as they can also give us a real push for the Champions’ League. We can’t expect to wake up the day before we face Liverpool and think we can beat them like that.”

Inzaghi’s input could give them more verve, as Hernan Crespo and Jon Dahl Tomasson’s form has dipped over the last month. Above all, if he can prove himself over the next fortnight, then a starting spot in Istanbul is not beyond his reach.

“We will see if I start the Final, but clearly everyone wants to be there,” added the former Juve hitman. “I am training well and am back to being a player again. The fact that everyone, including Carlo Ancelotti, have said they’ve been impressed with my performance means a great deal to me.”

Milan puzzled by Ancelotti claims
13.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani is mystified to reports of a possible split with boss Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the season.

The tactician has been linked with an exit even though his side could still achieve the Double this term.

"Milan, starting with President Silvio Berlusconi, are very attached to Ancelotti," stated Galliani. "We respect him, admire him, love him.

"No matter what happens in these last four games of the season, Mr Carlo Ancelotti is running no threat.

"I just don’t understand how a Coach who has won so much and has had such a marvellous season could be put in doubt."

Ancelotti himself is also confident that he will still be with the Rossoneri next term. "I’m very calm about the future," he said. "I have never feared of being sacked."

Milan are on course to win the Champions’ League as they face Liverpool in the Final later this month.

But Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Juventus has left the Bianconeri in pole position for the Italian Championship.

"We still hope to win the League but if that doesn’t happen then that’s fine," continued Galliani. "It won’t change the fact that we have had a great campaign."

Six clubs in Gilardino hunt
13.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Parma have revealed that six clubs across Europe are in the race to sign star striker Alberto Gilardino in the summer.

The Italian international is expected to be sold at the end of the season and there is no lack of interest – despite his £35m asking price.

"He is of interest to at least three Italian clubs and three foreign sides," Parma boss Pietro Carmignani told Radio Italia Network.

Juventus, Inter and Milan are believed to be the Serie A trio who are keen, with many believing the latter are in pole position.

But Carmignani insists that nothing has yet been decided over which shirt Gilardino will be wearing next season.

"Gilardino is a very good player and a real professional who always gives his best," he added.

"Whoever offers the most money will be at an advantage. Could Gilardino stay? Only if a new owner comes in to buy the club."

Foreign interest for Gilardino is probably from Chelsea and Real Madrid, with Arsenal also being associated with the former Piacenza player in the past.

The 23-year-old has stated that he would prefer to stay in Italy with the 2006 World Cup Final on the horizon.

Gilardino Tag Too Steep, Say Milan
12.5 || webmaster

Source: Soccer365.com

Upon hearing that Parma are slapping a €50 million transfer fee on strike phenom Alberto Gilardino, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has asserted that the club will stay out of the sweepstakes.

Upon hearing that Parma are slapping a €50 million transfer fee on strike phenom Alberto Gilardino, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has asserted that the club will stay out of the sweepstakes.

Chelsea, Juventus and Real Madrid will probably remain on the player’s trail, but the Rossoneri simply find the jumping off point for bids as too high.

"All transfer negotiations are on hold until the end of the season," said Galliani. "However, the figures I’ve been reading about are out of the question."

Crespo hails ‘saviour’ Ancelotti
12.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan striker Hernan Crespo has thanked boss Carlo Ancelotti for restoring his talents on the football pitch.

The Argentine had endured two difficult years at Inter and then Chelsea, but a loan move to the Rossoneri has given him a new lease of life.

"I’ve not felt this good for some time," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport. "Ancelotti has got me back on track. I hadn’t played so many games in one season for quite a while."

Crespo arrived at the club at the specific request of Ancelotti after the two men worked together at Parma.

Despite a slow start to the campaign, Crespo has rediscovered his goal touch and has been key in both their Scudetto and Champions’ League push.

"I’m still a bit bitter about the loss to Juventus though as we didn’t deserve to lose," he continued, after the Turin giants moved three points clear with three games to go.

"However, it isn’t all over yet. We do need to win all three games but they don’t have any easy fixtures either."

The Scudetto may be difficult to win now but the outfit could become European Champions again later this month.

"I’m dreaming of scoring the winner in Istanbul," he added. "Yet it will be a tough game and I expect a battle against Liverpool when you take into account their characteristics."

Crespo concluded by discussing his future, as talks over making his loan move a permanent one continue.

"I’m not even thinking about it right now," he said. "My agent and the clubs are looking after it for now and only after May 25 will I enter talks.

"Nevertheless, my desire is clear – I want to stay here."

Iaquinta expects summer move
12.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Udinese striker Vincenzo Iaquinta believes he is ready to join a major force in European football.

The Italian, who was given his first Azzurri cap recently, has enjoyed an impressive season and is being linked with clubs such as Milan.

"I know that I am set to make numerous headlines during this summer’s transfer window," said the 25-year-old. "I think I am ready to take the next step up in level."

Iaquinta was extremely close to joining Barcelona in January but he admits he would prefer to remain in Serie A.

"Negotiations with Barca were at an advanced stage but we were third in the table and the club had the feeling that this could be a great season for us," he added.

"I’m happy to have stayed but I want to join a big club, preferably in Italy because the 2006 World Cup is close and that is a major target of mine.

"If I was forced to go abroad then I would only join a side who are of great visibility throughout Europe."

Iaquinta is Udinese’s top scorer in the League this term after netting 12 goals so far.

Milan: All white on the night
10.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have opted to wear their white kit for the Champions’ League Final against Liverpool despite being drawn as the ‘home’ side.

The Italian outfit were set to wear their famous Rossoneri colours but have decided not to after a request by Liverpool.

The Premiership side will adorn their favoured red shirts on May 25, having used them during their 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1984 European Cup wins – all against teams in white.

But Milan believe they will be wearing their lucky shirts after they won the trophy in 1989, 1990, 1994 and 2003 – against Juventus – using their white colours.

Milan check out Vucinic
10.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan will use their game against Lecce on Sunday to take a closer look at striker Mirko Vucinic.

The 21-year-old has caught the eye of Rossoneri officials this term after he replaced Valeri Bojinov in the Lecce line-up.

The latter left the Via Del Mare for Fiorentina in January and the Serbian has made sure that the Bulgarian hasn’t been missed in attack.

Vucinic has incredibly scored 15 goals in just 25 games so far this term, underlining his prodigal talent.

Milan are considering their attacking options for next season given the uncertain future of Hernan Crespo who may return to Chelsea.

The club have also been linked with a swoop for Alberto Gilardino but Parma’s £35m asking price may put them off.

A deal for Vucinec could be relatively easy as Samuele Dalla Bona, who is on loan at Lecce from Milan, could be included in talks.

The reigning champions may also offer rising star Nicola Pozzi. The attacker is currently at Pescara.

Milan-Palermo brought forward
10.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s Week 37 clash against Palermo has been brought forward as a result of the Champions’ League Final.

The Serie A match will now be played on Friday 20 May, at 20.30 local time, to give the home side more time to prepare for the European clash against Liverpool.

The Italian Football League agreed to the switch after Palermo said they had no objections to the proposal.

Ancelotti dismisses AC Milan fears
9.5 || webmaster

Source: CNN

MILAN, Italy (Reuters) -- Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has dismissed talk his team have run out of steam at the critical stage of the season after Sunday's 1-0 home defeat to Juventus.

The loss leaves Champions League finalists Milan three points behind leaders Juve with three games in Serie A remaining.

Ancelotti insists Milan "still have something left to give" and feels his team's big rivals can slip-up in the Italian title climax.

Sunday's disappointment came four days after Milan were beaten 3-1 by PSV Eindhoven in their Champions League semifinal, second-leg.

Milan still made it through to the final against Liverpool thanks to a 2-0 win in the first-leg, but the manner of their loss to the Dutch side caused concern.

In both games Milan were unusually uncertain in defense and lacked sharpness in attack.

But Ancelotti said while there was clearly a psychological stress involved at this stage of the campaign, physically his team was still in shape.

"We have played 10 games inside a month -- all of them vital matches and all of them with huge pressure on us," said the Milan coach.

"Mentally it is possible to play 10 vital matches in 30 days but it obviously puts a strain on you.

"But in terms of our fitness I think we still have something left to give. Even on Sunday we played with conviction in the second half, going after our opponents.

"We are still fighting for the Italian title, even if it is harder now, and we are in the Champions League final. So we know we couldn't have done more.

"There are three games to go and Juve could still slip-up as they did recently against Inter," he said.

Milan are away to Lecce and then at home to Palermo before going to Istanbul for the final on May 25 and their season will end with a tough away game to Udinese.

"Now we have two weeks to bounce back. The upcoming games will be important in terms of keeping in good condition but mentally there will be less stress.

"I am confident -- we have a full squad to choose from and I believe we will head to Istanbul in the best shape possible," he added.

The Milan coach said he expected Liverpool to stick to their defensive approach in the final.

"We will need to be on form to deal with the tactics. I believe my team has the quality to do that and to win."

Parma set Gilardino fee
9.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Parma have told admirers of Alberto Gilardino that he will cost a massive £35m on the transfer market.

The Italian international is expected to leave the Gialloblu in the summer but his suitors will have to dig deep into their pockets.

"We sold Adriano to Inter for 50m Euros and Gilardino, who has more impressive numbers than the Brazilian, can’t be worth any less," said director Luca Baraldi.

"No other Italian player has scored with the same consistency as Gilardino has over the past two seasons."

The former Piacenza youngster netted 23 League goals last term and has 22 to his name so far this season.

Milan, Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea have been associated with the new star of Italian football.

Gilardino plots Juve shock
9.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alberto Gilardino has warned Juventus that Parma intend to upset the League leaders on Sunday.

The Bianconeri are just three games away from lifting the title after moving three points clear of Milan on Sunday.

But Gilardino insists his Tardini outfit aren’t going to the Delle Alpi resigned to losing the Week 36 game.

"We will give our all with the aim of causing them some problems," the striker told TG5. "After all, we still need points to ensure survival. We are not going there for a walk in the park."

The Italian international is hoping to keep his side in Serie A before he leaves Parma in the summer.

"I want to join a side that is capable of winning major honours and play in front of 70,000 people," he replied when asked about his future.

"If I did join a big club then I would fight with great determination in an effort to grab a starting shirt.

"That already happened here at Parma when I had two phenomenal players such as Adriano and Adrian Mutu ahead of me."

Gilardino has been linked with the likes of Milan and Inter but a foreign switch could also be on the cards.

"If I had to move abroad then I would prefer to speak Spanish rather than English," he added.

The forward is also believed to be of interest to Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Milan: It's not over yet
9.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti and his Milan stars are not about to give up on the Scudetto, even after their home defeat to Juventus.

“We played well and were penalised by one incident,” explained the Coach after the 1-0 loss. “I have nothing to reprimand my players for. There are three games left and anything can still happen, but I can assure you we won’t lay down our arms yet.”

The Bianconeri opened up a three-point gap at the top of the table thanks to David Trezeguet’s goal, sealing their first win at the San Siro since 1996-97.

“We did everything we could to get back into the game and went close with a great second half performance. We didn’t start terribly well,” conceded Ancelotti, “but after the break pinned Juve back into their own half. A draw would’ve been a deserved result.”

Ancelotti surprised many with his tactics, not least sticking with Clarence Seedorf instead of Massimo Ambrosini in midfield.

“I wanted to use our quality and take control of the game,” he explained. “Andrea Pirlo and several others are a little tired at this stage of the season, but that is understandable.”

Pippo Inzaghi made his comeback and immediately showed he was in promising form, having Milan’s best chances throughout the second half.

“Before anything else, I must say that it is great to finally be fit again,” said the former Juve striker who has barely played at a consistent level over the last two years.

“Clearly, to score a goal would’ve been the ultimate high, but Gigi Buffon and Gianluca Zambrotta did some fantastic saves. Anything can still happen, plus we have the Champions’ League Final against Liverpool to look forward to.”

There was controversy in this tie, as Marcos Cafu appeared to be held back by Zambrotta and many of the Milan stars suggest it was a penalty.

“He held my shirt and I believe it was a spot-kick,” said the Brazilian. “Pierluigi Collina did not award it, so that’s the end of the matter. I also think that Fabio Cannavaro’s handling offence could’ve been punished with a penalty. In any case, I don’t believe we deserved to lose this match, especially after our second half performance.”

Andriy Shevchenko was surprisingly quiet today and looked ahead to the rest of the campaign, as there are still nine points up for grabs.

“Juventus did well to hang on to their lead and deserve to be complimented for such a tough performance,” said the Ukrainian. “It was an entertaining game and we are satisfied despite being left empty-handed. We have faith that Juve can still drop points, but then again so can we, so all we can do is give it our best.”

Juventus have announced they'll continue their Press Silence until the end of the season.

Ancelotti eyes Roma future
9.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Boss Carlo Ancelotti has opened the door for a Roma move just hours after Milan’s loss to Juventus.

The tactician has been linked with the Giallorossi post given his past as a player in the Italian capital.

And although a switch looks unlikely in the near future, he’s failed to rule out a return to the Stadio Olimpico.

"My relationship with Milan is very strong right now," he told Radio Anch'io Sport on Monday morning.

"I was happy at Roma and I would one day like to sit on the Giallorossi bench in the future."

However, Ancelotti is also pondering the events at the San Siro on Sunday, when Juventus beat his side 1-0 to take a three-point lead in the title race with just three games left.

"Did Juve deserve to win? I don’t think so," he insisted. "Juventus went into the game with a clear mind while we didn’t.

"But I couldn’t have asked anything more from my players who gave their all against a very determined Juventus.

"We saw the two best Italian clubs face each other but there was only one winner. A draw would have been fairer when you take into account our second half."

Milan were also unlucky to have not been awarded a penalty for Gianluca Zambrotta’s shirt pull on Marcos Cafu.

"I have great faith in referee Pierlugi Collina," added Ancelotti. "He didn’t give it because he either didn’t see it or felt it wasn’t a penalty."

The tactician also insisted that he believed The Double was still on despite Juventus now being clear favourites in the peninsula.

"We won’t give up," he noted. "The two games before the Champions’ League Final will be needed to keep up our focus and in the hope that Juve slip up.

"We’ll just look to win all three games without making calculations. We have played 10 times in 30 days but we are not tired – you saw that in our second half display yesterday."

AC Milan 0:1 Juventus - match report
8.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorer: Trezeguet 28 (J)

David Trezeguet's header from a spectacular Alessandro Del Piero cross has given Juve all three points in the Scudetto showdown at the San Siro.

This was the Day of Reckoning - Milan and Juventus had been locked together at the top of the standings for two months and came head to head at the San Siro. The odds were slightly in favour of the Rossoneri, whose Coach Carlo Ancelotti was unbeaten in home games against Fabio Capello and who had no injury worries going into the tie, while Juve were without Jonathan Zebina, Alessio Tacchinardi and suspended top-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Milan were hammered 3-1 at PSV Eindhoven midweek, though that result still enabled them to reach the Champions' League Final on away goals. Massimo Ambrosini scored the late header, but was still relegated to the bench in favour of Clarence Seedorf. David Trezeguet had his first start since suffering an ankle injury over a month ago and partnered Alessandro Del Piero.

The Rossoneri had a strong start and Andriy Shevchenko was unable to make the most of Stephen Appiah's error.

There was danger for Juve on 19 minuts, as Sheva managed to get round the goalkeeper, but Gigi Buffon did enough to narrow the angle so that he couldn't get in a cross or a shot.

However, it was the Bianconeri who took the lead after 28 minutes with a well-worked goal. Alessandro Del Piero ran forward on the counter-attack and saw his first cross charged down, so he bicycle-kicked it for David Trezeguet's precise header.

Dida saved a promising Del Piero strike as Milan struggled to get back into the game after this heavy blow.

Carlo Ancelotti made some brave half-time changes, introducing Serginho for Andrea Pirlo and switching to a three-man defence. It made an immediate difference, as Milan were far more sprightly and Marcos Cafu's angled drive was just wide of the far post.

There was another change after 11 minutes, as former Juve star Pippo Inzaghi made his comeback from long-term injury worries by replacing Tomasson.

Within seconds he almost grabbed an equaliser. Shevchenko sprinted forward on the counter-attack and cut it across for Inzaghi. Buffon blocked his first effort with the underside of his thigh, then Gianluca Zambrotta stayed glued to him in order to push the second attempt round the post.

Shevchenko then volleyed Serginho's cross over the bar, then Emerson was only able to turn Trezeguet's cross on to the side-netting.

Juventus had the chance to put the game beyond doubt soon after, as a free kick was turned on to the crossbar by Del Piero's header and Trezeguet was unable to turn in the loose ball.

Ancelotti went for broke with Manuel Rui Costa taking over from Seedorf in a very creative midfield.

Moments later, Lilian Thuram missed Rui Costa's cross and Shevchenko's header was just over the bar.

Dida was attentive on Fabio Cannavaro's header from a Del Piero free kick, but there was controversy on 75 minutes. Cafu snatched the ball off Zambrotta inside the area and was held back by his jersey, but the referee waved away penalty appeals.

Soon after, Pavel Nedved's strike skimmed the target with Dida following its path.

There were further penalty appeals when Cannavaro flung himself at Cafu's shot and blocked it with his arm, but he was too close for it to be considered a voluntary foul.

Moments later, Inzaghi was closed down in the six-yard box by a combination of Thuram and Buffon, as Juve were hanging on for dear life in these closing stages.

The final minutes were a siege and Inzaghi's header from a corner kick was deflected into the grateful arms of Buffon.

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo (Serginho 46), Seedorf (Rui Costa 66); Kakà; Shevchenko, Tomasson (Inzaghi 56)

Juventus: Buffon; Pessotto, Thuram, Cannavaro, Zambrotta; Camoranesi (Birindelli 60), Emerson, Appiah (Blasi 80), Nedved; Del Piero, Trezeguet (Zalayeta 75)

Ref: Collina

Maldini renames Derby d'Italia
8.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta examine the title-deciding encounter with Juve and claim it should be renamed the Derby d’Italia.

“For some years now, the biggest games of the season have been between Milan and the Bianconeri, so this tie should take on the name Derby d’Italia,” said captain Maldini in the Corriere della Sera.

The title was given to Inter-Juventus because these two sides were the most successful and universally supported in the Peninsula, but their San Siro rivals seem to have overtaken them over the last decade.

Maldini was forced off during Wednesday’s 3-1 Champions’ League defeat to PSV Eindhoven after being kicked in the back of the head, but he will be fit for this match.

“My head is still a little bit sore, but it’s not really going to be a problem. I wouldn’t miss this game for the world,” he smiled. “I’m also glad that Pierluigi Collina has been assigned to officiate, as it would’ve been absurd for any other referee to be chosen.”

Alessandro Nesta also looked ahead to the Scudetto showdown at the San Siro with an interview in Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport.

“After this head to head clash, Juve do have an easier run-in,” explained the defender. “Add to that our Champions’ League Final and that will take away some more energy, so Juve would be fairly happy with a draw. That will give us even more motivation to win this on our home turf.”

Juventus will play Parma (at home), Livorno at the Stadio Picchi and close the season against Cagliari in Turin. Milan travel to Lecce, welcome Palermo and end their campaign at Udinese’s Stadio Friuli.

Crespo spies on Juve trio
8.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Hernan Crespo knows the Juventus defence better than most, having shared the field with them at Parma, and reveals their weaknesses to be exploited.

“I know the three great heroes of Juve very well: Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon,” explained the ex-Tardini man in the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport.’

“We won a lot together at Parma and really had fun along the way. I can also reveal that by playing alongside them for all that time, I did find a few little defects in their style. If I’m the one to start this match, then I’ll try to take them by surprise, but failing that I’ll explain it to Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson.”

The Bianconeri really struggled at the back last season, but the signing of Cannavaro to complete this trio has made a massive difference, so that they now have one of the most solid back lines in Serie A.

“They are not Martians,” continued Crespo on his ‘spying’ mission. “They have weaknesses and we have to exploit them. Cannavaro bases a lot of his game on anticipating his opponents, so we must protect the ball. As for Thuram, he has an incredible ability to recover the ball and he is phenomenally acrobatic.”

One of the ex-Parma trio, goalkeeper Gigi Buffon, has not been having his best season so far and for the first time has fallen behind Milan’s Dida in the Serie A rankings.

“Buffon is unpredictable – even when we were training at Parma, he never wanted me to score a goal against him and would perform incredible saves to keep it out. I would enjoy beating him tomorrow, I must confess.”

Berlusconi burns Christmas tree
7.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi has jokingly threatened to sack Carlo Ancelotti if he continues to employ the Christmas tree formation.

“Dearest Carlo has the professional urge to defend,” he said of the ex-midfielder. “This team really doesn’t play well with just one striker upfront and we were very lucky to reach the Champions’ League Final.”

The former President – who is also Prime Minister of Italy – has repeatedly used public forums to discuss the tactics used by his club side and was particularly infuriated with the performance in Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat at PSV Eindhoven.

“I have already told him that if he doesn’t change, then he’s fired!” joked Berlusconi. Ancelotti has won the Champions’ League, Scudetto, Coppa Italia and European Supercup over the last three seasons.

The Coach also responded in his Press conference and noted, “I am happy that we are lucky, but we have done very well in the Champions’ League this season, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the Final.”

Nonetheless, the Christmas tree has well and truly been shelved for Sunday’s Scudetto showdown with Juventus.

Ancelotti's appointment with history
7.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti has spoken of Sunday’s Scudetto showdown with Juve as “an historic occasion” for the club that has the chance to do The Double.

“Tiredness is the last of my worries,” said the Rossoneri boss after Wednesday’s 3-1 semi-final defeat at PSV Eindhoven. “We have the chance to win the Scudetto and Champions’ League, so the opportunity to make history can only spur us on.”

Milan were last able to do The Double in 1993-94, when Fabio Capello (now in charge of their Serie A rivals Juventus) made them a dominating force in Italy and Europe.

“No other side is in a position to achieve this right now and it is a difficult situation, because Juve and Liverpool are great teams. At the same time, it is a very stimulating challenge. Physical fitness isn’t even an issue, as right now our primary concern is making history with a chance that might not come our way again.”

Ancelotti was known as ‘a loser’ when he was fired by Juventus in 2000 after two consecutive runner-up spots in Serie A, but since joining Milan has lifted the Champions’ League trophy, Scudetto, Coppa Italia and European Supercup.

“I have no desire for revenge. After all, I already evened out the score when we beat Juventus to the Champions’ League at Old Trafford,” he smiled.

The title race has seen these two sides locked together at the top of the table for more than two months now, so they go head to head at the San Siro with just three games left after this Sunday.

“We know that this match is decisive,” said Ancelotti. “A draw would leave everything in the balance, but we are the home side and playing under ideal psychological conditions. We have to make the most of this and it’ll take a great Milan to beat Juventus.”

The Christmas tree formation was a disappointment against PSV, so they look set to bring back the classic 4-3-1-2, but the name of Andriy Shevchenko’s partner remains a mystery.

“I saw the real Filippo Inzaghi during training this week and he could be back much earlier than expected,” revealed the tactician who also Coached him during their time at Juve. “It could be a last-minute surprise. Inzaghi, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Hernan Crespo are all on the same level here.”

Ancelotti’s favourite striker has long been Crespo, but he could well lose him at the end of this season following Jose Mourinho’s revelation he wishes to bring him back to Chelsea after this loan spell. The Portuguese boss even suggested he’d only release the Argentine in exchange for Shevchenko.

“It seems as if the Champions’ League semi-final defeat did more damage to Mourinho than we thought...”

Milan squad:

Gk: Abbiati, Dida.

D: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Stam;

M: Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho;

F: Crespo, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson.

Milan-Palermo moved for Europe?
7.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s qualification for the Champions’ League Final could force another change to the Serie A calendar in order to give them better time to prepare.

The European decider against Liverpool is set for Wednesday May 25 – just three days after the penultimate round of the Italian domestic season.

Usually, Milan’s game against Palermo would be brought forward so that they would have an extra rest day, but as it is so late into the campaign and the Scudetto race is still wide open, that could be tricky.

The Serie A rules state that the final four rounds of the season must be played simultaneously to avoid potential match-fixing scenarios.

It is possible that the entire Week 37 set of fixtures could be brought forward to Saturday May 21, but that in turn would cause problems with the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

Coppa tie Udinese-Roma is set for Thursday May 19 and would leave both sides – fighting for Champions’ League and safety spots respectively – at a disadvantage to their opponents for these objectives.

If the Scudetto race is still wide open by that stage, then just Milan-Palermo and Livorno-Juventus could be moved to the Saturday.

AC Milan vs. Juventus - match preview
6.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan and Juventus meet at the San Siro in a Scudetto showdown. Both sides have been level on points, give or take the occasional week, for around two months now and there is finally a chance for one club to break away. But if the Stadio Delle Alpi meeting from December is anything to go by – a drab 0-0 draw – then a spareggio may be on the cards at the end of the campaign.

Coming up against his former club, Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti has some tough choices to make. While Pippo Inzaghi is likely to only make the bench against his old friends, Paolo Maldini’s return from suspension means that Alessandro Costacurta drops to the bench. Andrea Pirlo is back to full fitness so he is a likely starter, as are Clarence Seedorf and Hernan Crespo.

Fabio Capello’s team selection is likely to be more straightforward as injury and suspension leave him with few options. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still serving a suspension following an incident with Inter’s Ivan Cordoba last month, but David Trezeguet’s 20 minute cameo against Bologna means that he is likely to start in place of Marcelo Zalayeta. The only other expected change is Emerson returning in place of Manuele Blasi. Even if the latter could still start ahead of Stephen Appiah.

Last season’s championship race was settled when Ancelotti’s side beat a Capello Coached Roma at the Giuseppe Meazza – can he repeat the trick?

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kakà; Shevchenko, Crespo

Juventus: Buffon; Pessotto, Thuram, Cannavaro, Zambrotta; Camoranesi, Emerson, Appiah, Nedved; Del Piero, Trezeguet

Chelsea want Crespo back
6.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Jose Mourinho has pulled the rug out from under Milan by claiming they’ll have to pay millions to keep Hernan Crespo.

“Crespo has a big chance to come back,” the Chelsea boss told The Evening Standard. “If they want to keep him they will have to pay a lot of money. He is scoring goals, playing well and is in the European Cup Final. We would like to have him back or change him with Andriy Shevchenko.”

The Rossoneri have made no secret of their desire to make the loan move permanent, as Crespo has long been a favourite of Coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The Argentine was slowly coaxed into form during his first Serie A campaigns at Parma and has had a special rapport with the tactician ever since.

Chelsea were also seemingly happy with the arrangement, but Crespo’s scoring record for Milan of late has prompted them to push the price-tag up as much as they can.

After all, the Stamford Bridge side did pay £16.8m to take him away from Inter just two years ago, but so far Milan’s directors have offered just £5m to complete the switch.

Lippi offers Milan-Juve verdict
6.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Italy boss Marcello Lippi believes the Milan-Juventus Scudetto showdown will be won in midfield.

The joint Serie A leaders meet at the San Siro on Sunday and the tactician is expecting a tight affair.

"The key to the game will be how the two teams perform in midfield," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"There is Milan’s Andrea Pirlo on one side and Emerson of Juventus on the other. They will decide the destiny of the match."

The reigning champions seem to be struggling going into the game, after a narrow win at Fiorentina and the 3-1 loss to PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday.

"If I was Fabio Capello I wouldn’t count too much on facing a tired Milan side," added the former Juventus Coach.

"The fact that they have reached the Champions’ League Final will gift them extra energy for the game."

Yet Lippi also gave some advice to Carlo Ancelotti, the man he replaced on the Turin bench three years ago.

"I would advise Ancelotti to not underestimate the honour with which Juventus turn up with in these occasions," he noted. "That is a real positive of this club."

Lippi also surprisingly added that he would be unconcerned if there was the need for a Scudetto play-off at the end of the season.

"It wouldn’t be a tragedy for the national side," he said. "In fact, I would expect the players to be even more motivated ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Norway."

I won’t join Chelsea, says Kaka
6.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kaka has dismissed suggestions that he and Milan teammate Andriy Shevchenko could join big spending Chelsea.

The pair are both reported to be transfer targets for the Premiership champions but the Brazilian, who is liked by Blues boss Jose Mourinho, has committed his future to the Rossoneri.

"I wouldn't consider the move, even though Jose Mourinho has spoken fondly of me," said the South American.

"I am very happy here. As for Andriy, all I will say is that I believe it's hard to convince any player to leave Milan."

Chelsea tried to sign Kaka in the summer of 2003 but the then Sao Paulo starlet opted for the San Siro instead.

It proved to be a wise move as the attacking midfielder immediately settled in the peninsula, leading the club to Lo Scudetto.

Seedorf plots Juve strike
6.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s Clarence Seedorf is looking to improve on his impressing scoring record against Juventus on Sunday.

The Bianconeri are the midfielder’s favourite victims as he’s scored six of his 21 League goals past them during spells at Sampdoria, Inter and Milan.

"I’ve already scored some important goals against Juve and I don’t want to stop now," he stated.

The joint leaders face each other at the San Siro in a game that could go a long way to decide the destiny of the title.

"I wouldn’t say that either Milan or Juve deserve the title more," he continued. "Whoever wins at the weekend won’t have guaranteed the championship but will have taken a big step towards it."

When asked whether Seedorf feared one opponent in particular, he insisted he wanted to face a full-strength Old Lady.

"I wouldn’t take anyone out of their side because it would lessen our satisfaction in beating them," he continued.

"However, I have to say that Mauro Camoranesi is their most dangerous player right now."

Milan go into the game after the 3-1 loss at PSV but the Dutchman has rubbished claims that his side are tired.

"That’s not true," he insisted. "We just struggled to play with calm. Now though we have less stress in us as we are through to the Champions’ League Final.

"Now we can just concentrate on the Scudetto race. We didn’t play well in midweek but we know what we have to do."

Seedorf concluded by commenting on the news that referee Pierluigi Collina will take charge of the game.

"He is a great but we must just think about playing football and letting him get on with his job," he stated.

Maldini: I’ll be fit for Juve
5.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan captain Paolo Maldini is confident he will be fit enough to face Juventus on Sunday afternoon.

Doubts over his physical condition emerged last night after he was accidentally kicked in the head during the 3-1 loss at PSV Eindhoven.

He was substituted in the game at half-time but he’s today eased fears that he may miss the Scudetto showdown at he weekend.

"I’m feeling good," he said on Thursday. "I’m only feeling a little discomfort and therefore I think I’ll play against Juve."

A number of journalists joked with the legend, asking whether the knock to his head had affected his memory.

"How many Champions’ League Finals will I now play in? Seven," he replied after Wednesday’s away goals victory at Eindhoven.

Meanwhile, Vice-president Adriano Galliani insists his club are the best team on the continent despite only just getting through to face Liverpool.

"We’re the best in Europe," he said, quickly archiving the PSV fright. "We are champions of Italy and fighting to regain that title.

"Milan are also in their second Champions’ League Final in three years, the tenth in our history, the seventh of the Berlusconi era."

Galliani is also looking forward to the Juventus game with optimism. "I’m not worried about the fitness of our players," he concluded.

Nesta saw La Coruna ghosts
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo and Jaap Stam reveal they saw the ghosts of their exit to Deportivo La Coruna looming large during their PSV clash.

“Considering how the game was going, it was becoming very tough and we saw shadows of La Coruna,” said Nesta, who missed the first leg through suspension.

“We couldn’t take control of the match and that was a bad sign, though in the final 20 minutes we started to pass the ball around and that gave us confidence. Thankfully, it all went well in the end.”

Massimo Ambrosini’s last-gasp header ensured Milan qualified for the Champions’ League Final on the away goals rule despite their 3-1 defeat in Eindhoven.

“We had difficulty clearing our ranks and that kept them on us continually as well as preventing us from getting forward. There are times when you find a team that out-runs you and we are not machines.”

Andrea Pirlo was particularly pressured in midfield tonight and confessed he was getting rather concerned.

“There was a bit of a fright, but we carried on playing and knew one goal would really seal it,” said the midfielder. “It’s a shame we also conceded a late one, as it made the tie tense until the final whistle. PSV did very well over both legs and it’s a shame we had to get into the Final like this, but at least we are there.”

Jaap Stam came face to face with his former club and was less surprised than most at just how much of a struggle this match was.

“We were under pressure all over the pitch for the entire game. When PSV are given the space to play then they can hurt you, as they have a lot of quality. We are going to Istanbul and are happy about that, but it does annoy me to concede three goals.”

Guus Hiddink’s teams always have a great work-rate and dominated the possession in Eindhoven, but Milan’s clinical finishing again proved decisive.

“Physically we were always on the back foot and couldn’t put them under pressure. Now we have a very important game on Sunday and must try to recover our energy.”

Stam is also familiar with the Rossoneri’s next Champions’ League opponents, as Liverpool enter their first Final in 20 years.

“Liverpool are a very strong side and it will be another tough encounter in Istanbul,” concluded the ex-Manchester United man.

Rossoneri stars praise PSV
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan's players fully admit they were fortunate to reach the Champions' League Final after being outplayed by PSV Eindhoven.

Massimo Ambrosini was the hero of the evening in Eindhoven and gave Milan victory on away goals with his first Euro strike.

“I am not particularly accustomed to scoring in the Champions’ League as it’s my first one,” said the midfielder. “It was a great game and PSV certainly deserved to win, but a tie lasts 180 minutes and we scored the away goal.”

The Rossoneri were outplayed for long periods in Holland and fully admit they were fortunate to go through with a stoppage-time goal. Milan have scored 16 times in the final minutes of their matches between Serie A and the Champions’ League this season, so there is more to it than mere luck.

“We certainly had trouble limiting their space and it’s pointless trying to deny that. We did well to understand the situation and have patience.”

Ambrosini is a good example of a squad player who has made his mark despite spending much of this season on the sidelines.

“The Milan squad is extremely competitive, as shown by the fact we are in the Final for the second time in three years. Those on the bench have given their contribution when called, so any victory belongs to all of the players.”

Milan are now considered the favourites for the trophy after Chelsea’s elimination, but Ambrosini is pouring cold water on those odds.

“Last year we were pleased when we drew Deportivo and all know how that went,” he noted of the quarter-final exit. “No team gets to this stage by chance, as we saw with PSV and Liverpool, so there is no easy game at this level.”

Andriy Shevchenko scored in the first leg, but was allowed precious few opportunities to shine at the Philips Stadium.

“Every game is a struggle for us now and we knew that would happen, but the important thing is that we didn’t repeat our exit to Deportivo last season,” said the Ukrainian. “We were lucky tonight with Ambrosini’s goal, yet still managed to risk an upset moments later.”

PSV star Philip Cocu scored just seconds after Ambrosini’s header to set up a tense finale, as Milan eventually squeezed through on away goals.

“Nonetheless, I think Milan deserve to be in the Final for all their hard work throughout the campaign, battling for both trophies simultaneously.”

These players have no time to recover, as the Scudetto race comes to a head this Sunday afternoon when Milan welcome Juventus to the San Siro.

“Sunday will be a real battle and it’s confusing to think ahead about tactics when you play every three days,” confessed Sheva. “Getting to the Champions’ League Final is great, but every game is a Final now and we have to concentrate on facing Juve.”

Jaap Stam came face to face with his former club and was less surprised than most at just how much of a struggle this match was.

“We were under pressure all over the pitch for the entire game. When PSV are given the space to play then they can hurt you, as they have a lot of quality. We are going to Istanbul and are happy about that, but it does annoy me to concede three goals.”

Guus Hiddink’s teams always have a great work-rate and dominated the possession in Eindhoven, but Milan’s clinical finishing again proved decisive.

“Physically we were always on the back foot and couldn’t put them under pressure. Now we have a very important game on Sunday and must try to recover our energy.”

Stam is also familiar with the Rossoneri’s next Champions’ League opponents, as Liverpool enter their first Final in 20 years.

“Liverpool are a very strong side and it will be another tough encounter in Istanbul,” concluded the ex-Manchester United man.

Ancelotti eyes The Double
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti believes Milan can win it all this season and looks ahead to the Final against Liverpool.

“We had trouble implementing the approach we had planned, as PSV were able to easily keep hold of the ball in their own half,” he noted after the 3-1 defeat in Eindhoven.

“That early goal put us under pressure and raised their confidence, but we conceded the second during our best spell of the game. That made everything more complicated and it was an uphill struggle from there.”

Milan eventually squeezed through on away goals, 3-3 on aggregate, with a stoppage-time Massimo Ambrosini header.

“Our objective for this game was to score a goal,” pointed out Ancelotti. “We took a long time and effort to get there, but we still achieved it in the end.”

This performance was the latest in a growing line of stuttering shows from the Rossoneri – could they be running out of steam?

“We are not entirely happy with our form, but there are another five games left in the entire season and there are no real injuries, so we can now rest a few players when necessary.”

Ancelotti’s men have reached the Champions’ League Final twice in three years and won the Serie A title and Coppa Italia in-between.

“I think this is a stronger Milan side than two years ago, as in 2003 we got to the Final on a knife-edge. We know how tough it is to reach this target and are capable of winning the trophy.”

The Final in Istanbul will now see the Italians take on Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool, the side that conquered the mighty Chelsea.

“Liverpool are a solid side and very different to PSV, as they put most of the emphasis on defence and counter-attack,” noted the Coach. “Istanbul will be a very different game to this one.”

Ancelotti must also balance out the tension between the European and Serie A competitions as they reach a head.

“We have time to recover ahead of Sunday’s game with Juventus and it is not necessarily a physical issue. Above all, it is difficult to keep concentrated when you face a crucial encounter every three days, but getting to the Final has given us a massive boost to carry on.”

Milan de facto President Adriano Galliani was in the stands and revealed a curious incident in the closing moments.

“Thankfully, I didn’t see PSV’s third goal as I left after Ambrosini’s goal. Getting up and leaving probably saved my life!”

Galliani can often be seen struggling to maintain control in the stands and confessed he was on the edge of his seat.

“It was a match in which we really, really, really suffered. In both legs we needed stoppage-time goals to seal it, but we made it and are in the Final for the second time in three years. That is an extraordinary result.”

The transfer guru also pinpointed the moment in which Milan truly began to believe they could make it to the Final.

“We started our ascent to Istanbul by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, as that was an remarkable achievement and one that doesn’t happen often. Since we hired Carlo Ancelotti, he has given us some great results and I hope to see him go crazy with joy again like he did in 2003.”

PSV Eindhoven 3-1 AC Milan - match report
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia (channel4 UK)

Scorers: Park 9 (P), Cocu 65, 92 (P), Ambrosini 90 (M)

Massimo Ambrosini's last-gasp header has booked Milan's spot in the Champions' League Final despite a 3-1 defeat in Eindhoven.

The Rossoneri had a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, but were wary that PSV's second half performance at the San Siro caused them plenty of problems. With this in mind, Carlo Ancelotti introduced the Christmas tree formation with Kaka and Clarence Seedorf supporting Andriy Shevchenko. Alessandro Nesta returned from a ban to bolster the defence that had kept seven consecutive clean sheets, while Massimo Ambrosini completed the more solid midfield set-up.

The Dutch masters, who sealed the domestic title last week, was without the injured DaMarcus Beasley and suspended Andre Ooijer. However, they brought in top scorer Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to recreate the trident attack.

A courageous Paolo Maldini dived in to prevent Vennegoor's bicycle-kick from making clean contact and was kicked in the back of the head. Farfan had held up Philip Cocu's cross for the PSV striker and the move was halted for dangerous play. The Milan captain was able to continue after several minutes of treatment.

However, PSV were piling on the early pressure and took the lead after just nine minutes. South Korean Li-Sung Park exchanged passes with Vennegoor and slammed a powerful strike into the top corner to end Dida's unbeaten record of 623 minutes. The Dutch were the first to score past Milan in the knockout stage.

Milan fought back and moments later Gomes was at full stretch to fingertip a Kaka cross-shot out from under the crossbar.

Gennaro Gattuso gave the ball away in midfield, but made up for the error with a crucial tackle on Park in what was turning into a very dangerous counter-attack.

This early goal seemed to scare the Rossoneri into sitting back and they weren't putting pressure on PSV when they were in possession, while static movement made it difficult to string more than three passes together when the Italians did win back the ball.

PSV nearly levelled the tie on aggregate on 27 minutes when Vennegoor rose to flick Mark van Bommel's free kick on to the crossbar with Dida beaten.

Massimo Ambrosini was caught just offside on a splendid Andrea Pirlo pass, then two defenders came together to squeeze Kaka off Marcos Cafu's assist inside the area.

Kaka's shot was charged down and the ball came out to Clarence Seedorf, whose effort was also deflected wide for a corner. Shevchenko's cross was then deflected into the path of Cafu, who blazed over the bar with a slight nudge from behind to knock him off balance.

Another free kick almost proved disastrous for Milan, as Alex's header into the ground bounced back over the bar at the back post.

A fine Rossoneri move on the stroke of half-time saw Cafu cut back for Kaka and fellow Brazilian Alex flung himself at the volley to save his side.

There was a scare with Maldini's weak backpass that forced Dida to rush out in order to clear from Farfan, then the Brazilian goalkeeper got down to smother a Lucius effort from outside the box.

Maldini was still suffering from that early blow to the head and made way for Kakha Kaladze in the second half. The first shot of this period was a deflected attempt from van Bommel.

Park found space following a van Bommel dummy on Farfan's low cross, but the South Korean only scuffed his strike from a very promising position.

Shevchenko sprinted on to a through ball and was halted for a debatable offside position when he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

On 52 minutes Ambrosini managed to charge down a fierce and accurate strike from Bouma as PSV were again playing with the high tempo with which they started this game.

Lee ran rings around Gennaro Gattuso down the left flank and rolled across for Alex, who blazed over the bar from the edge of the box.

Milan went close to grabbing a crucial away goal moments later when Kaka's pass found Shevchenko just ahead of the penalty spot, but Lucius made a decisive interception.

Cafu's cross then found Shevchenko for a looping header that was not powerful enough to trouble Gomes.

However, just as Milan were beginning to take more control of the game, PSV doubled their lead and drew level on aggregate, as Lee's cross found Philip Cocu at the back post for a free header. Kaladze allowed the former Barcelona man to jump relatively undisturbed.

Ancelotti had to change his tactics with this new situation and introduced striker Jon Dahl Tomasson for the bitterly disappointing Seedorf. Guus Hiddink also made an attacking substitution with forward Robert taking over from defender Bouma.

Dida rescued Milan from going 3-2 down on 76 minutes, as Farfan skipped round Cafu and his low angled drive was fingertipped round the post. From the resulting corner kick, the Peruvian's volley was inches wide.

Gomes was also forced into a desperate reaction save on Ambrosini's free header from an Andrea Pirlo corner kick, as the goalkeeper just managed to push it clear.

The game was dragging towards extra time when Milan suddenly snatched an away goal. Kaka put in a cross at the near post, where Ambrosini's glancing header beat Gomes into the far corner to send the Rossoneri bench wild.

PSV were not about to give up now and within seconds of that goal Cocu completed his brace and put them back in the running with a spectacular volley.

The Dutch side now needed just one more to ensure qualification for the Final and poured forward in droves during stoppages. Ambrosini proved decisive with two challenges in the area as Milan held out for their second Final in three years.

PSV Eindhoven: Gomes; Lucius, Alex, Bouma (Robert 69), Lee; van Bommel, Vogel, Cocu; Farfan, Vennegoor, Park

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini (Kaladze 46); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf (Tomasson 68), Kakà; Shevchenko

Ref: Hauge (Nor)

Dabo eyes Milan switch
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Lazio midfielder Ousmane Dabo has opened the door for a summer move to one of the Milan clubs.

The Frenchman says he wants to remain in the capital but has failed to rule out a summer transfer to the San Siro.

"I want to stay at Lazio," said the 27-year-old. "I still have a year left on my contract here and I will discuss the possibility of an extension with President Claudio Lotito.

"Could I join Milan? The Rossoneri are one of the best clubs in the world and every player would like to join them."

However, Dabo has also been associated with a return to Inter after they initially brought him to Italy from Rennes in 1998.

"I was very young when I started my Nerazzurri adventure," he explained. "I’m now more mature and would be fighting for a regular shirt."

But the Laval-born player insists he’s fully focused on the present rather than the future right now.

"We just need two more points to make sure that we survive," he added. "We are almost safe but you can never say never."

The Biancocelesti have had a mixed campaign but will be looking for victory against Udinese on Sunday.

Ancelotti chooses Europe
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are the only club in the Champions’ League to still be battling for their domestic title, but Carlo Ancelotti insists Europe is his top priority.

“Reaching the Final is our primary objective and we’ll have to be very careful because we know this is an achievable aim,” said the Coach ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final with PSV Eindhoven.

The Rossoneri are at a distinct disadvantage, as PSV and Chelsea have already mathematically ensured their League titles while Liverpool can only concentrate on this competition.

The San Siro outfit is locked in a head-to-head battle with Juventus that will see the two teams face off in Sunday’s Scudetto showdown.

“We are very relaxed and confident going into this crucial week. I don’t believe that the Serie A race will require a play-off, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Milan will win on Sunday.”

It’s rumoured that Ancelotti could rest several players, such as Marcos Cafu and Hernan Crespo, ahead of the weekend’s big game. This would also allow him to field the Christmas tree formation with Manuel Rui Costa and Kaka supporting Andriy Shevchenko.

“I won’t reveal my tactics, not even if you torture me!” he joked. “Just as when we played against Inter with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, it will be important to score as early as possible.”

Guus Hiddink has much the same idea and his men will have been boosted by their second half performance at the San Siro, in which they repeatedly broke through the defence.

“PSV don’t play at a particularly high tempo, but they will play differently from how they approached the first leg,” mused Ancelotti. “They’ll try to put the pressure on from the start and that could be an advantage for us, as we can find space to attack them with pace.”

Milan are still smarting from last year’s quarter-final exit, when they squandered a 4-1 first leg lead over Deportivo La Coruna and lost 4-0 in Spain.

So far this season the Italian giants have suffered just one defeat on their travels in Europe – 2-1 at Barcelona – notching up three wins and a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park.

Gilardino to remain in Italy
4.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Alberto Gilardino’s agent believes that the Parma ace won’t be joining a foreign club in the summer.

The striker will leave the Stadio Tardini at the end of the season but he’s likely to remain in Serie A.

"The ideal solution for his family and his international prospects would be to stay in Italy," Beppe Bonetto told Spq Radio.

"However, it is now obvious that he deserves to play for a big club. He’s managed to live up to the standards of last season which is a clear signal of his maturity."

Gilardino has been associated with a number of foreign clubs, including Real Madrid and last night’s beaten Champions’ League semi-finalists Chelsea.

"There have been a lot on inexact things written," added Bonetto. "Alberto has preferred not to comment on them as his side are in a fight to avoid relegation.

"However, I would like to underline yet again that I don’t think he’ll move abroad."

Gilardino has also been associated with both Milan clubs but Bonetto isn’t giving too much away.

"It is almost certain that he will play or go to play at the San Siro next season," he concluded.

Gilardino opens Milan door
3.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Parma striker Alberto Gilardino has hinted that he’ll be joining Milan at the end of the season.

The Italian international will be sold in the summer and he’s fuelled speculation that he’ll be wearing the Rossoneri shirt next term.

"A club like Milan is obviously of great interest to me," Gilardino, who netted four against Livorno on Sunday, told Radio Radio.

"But only after May 29 will my future be evaluated. For now all that I am interested in is keeping Parma in Serie A even if the club know what teams I would prefer to join."

Gilardino is one of the hottest young players in European football with Real Madrid also apparently monitoring his situation.

"It certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to join a formidable club like Real," continued the 23-year-old.

"Arrigo Sacchi (Real’s technical director) knows me well seeing as he worked for Parma. I think he rates me as a player but we will have to wait and see what happens."

Gilardino was already close to a move last summer when Roma wanted him to partner Antonio Cassano and Francesco Totti. Can the trio still play together in the future?

"I hope that this trident can be used with the national side," he said, seemingly ruling out a capital switch. "I link up well with them."

Gilardino will face the Olimpico outfit on Sunday in a game that will be crucial for their survival hopes.

"The Giallorossi have some great individual players but they are only on 40 points," he added. "However, we won’t let our guard down."

Shevchenko in cautious mood
3.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko is refusing to believe that Milan have done enough to reach the Champions’ League Final – despite their healthy semi-final advantage.

The Rossoneri face PSV Eindhoven in Holland on Wednesday with the task of defending their 2-0 first leg lead.

"It isn’t right to say that we are already in Istanbul," the striker told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

"It won’t be easy at all against PSV because they have proved that they are an excellent side."

Nevertheless, the Italian champions are in pole position to meet either Liverpool or Chelsea in the Turkish capital.

"There are no favourites in the all English tie," commented the Ukrainian.

"The Premiership table also favours the eventual finalist as they will have nothing but the final to concentrate on. Just like us two years ago when we won it."

However, Milan also face a massive game on Sunday when they take on joint leaders Juventus at the San Siro.

"I’ve been waiting for this match for some time," noted the former European Footballer of the Year. "We can finally see who is the better team.

"All of the squad is giving their very best but I am keen to win both at home and in Europe. It would be an incredible achievement and I think we can do it."

Inzaghi gets PSV nod
3.5 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Despite not being 100 per cent fit, Pippo Inzaghi has been named in the Milan squad for the Champions’ League tie against PSV Eindhoven.

Inzaghi has endured an injury-plagued campaign but is one of four strikers picked in a 24-man party by boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The Rossoneri travel to Holland on Wednesday as they attempt to book their place in the European Cup Final after last week’s 2-0 semi-final first leg win.

Squad: Abbiati, Fiori, Dida: Cafu, Costacurta, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Pancaro, Simic, Stam; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Dhorasoo, Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho; Crespo, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson.

Cafu wants the double
2.5 || Seamus

The Brazilian defender is after his first ever double as he targets the Champions League and Scudetto win.

Milan are awaited by what is probably the most important week of the season as they first travel to Holland to face PSV in the Champions League semi final second leg and then host Juventus on Sunday for the Scudetto showdown.

Cafu is aware of this fact and for this reason hopes to reach both targets and win his first ever double.

“Since coming to Europe, it’s the first time that I have the possibility of achieving a double. We are fine; it’s nice that for the second year running we are fighting for the Scudetto against Capello, which means that he is very good, but even we are.”

http://www.goal.com/NewsDetail.aspx?idNews=59848&progr=1

Galliani pays tribute To Ancelotti
2.5 || Seamus

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani praised coach Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics after the Rossoneri came from behind to beat Fiorentina 2-1 on Saturday night.
"Our coach did well to change the system in the second period, playing a 3-4-1-2. He didn’t change men but tactics and this was the right move. The credit for the win is Carlo Ancelotti’s," he was quoted as saying on the club’s official site.

He then went on to praise two star performers: "Serginho is extraordinary, and gives his best on the flank. Sheva? He is our Golden Ball winner, and has an impressive goal average. We are lucky to have him.

"This is the 12th success away from the San Siro, a record. We are responsible for our destiny, now we can focus on the big clash with Juventus but before this, we have to travel to Eindhoven.’

http://www.goal.com/NewsDetail.aspx?idNews=59682&progr=2

Fiorentina 1:2 Milan - match report
2.5 || Seamus

Andriy Shevchenko struck twice to overturn Enzo Maresca's opener as Milan continue their Scudetto charge by conquering Florence.

This was a decisive encounter for both the Scudetto race and relegation battle, but all eyes were on Manuel Rui Costa. The former Fiorentina captain returned to the Stadio Franchi for the first time since his £27m move in 2001 and it was a very emotional moment for him after seven years in this city. The Rossoneri were without the suspended Paolo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze and Massimo Ambrosini, while Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Hernan Crespo were rested.

Fiorentina had Dario Dainelli out with a two-match ban, so William Viali and Christian Maggio stepped into the defence. Fabrizio Miccoli again partnered Giampaolo Pazzini upfront with Valeri Bojinov on the bench. The last time these teams met, the Viola were on the end of a 6-0 drubbing at the San Siro.

The home side had the first chance after 90 seconds when Luca Ariatti fired over following some good build-up play from Martin Jorgensen and Giampaolo Pazzini. Dida was then secure behind a Fabrizio Miccoli free kick.

Miccoli was again dangerous before Dida smothered a Jorgensen strike at the near post, but Milan really rode their luck on 18 minutes. A looping cross left Dida stranded and Jorgensen nodded it back into the centre only for Pazzini's header to thump the crossbar of an open goal.

Fiorentina had the brighter start and took the lead after 25 minutes with Juve-owned Enzo Maresca. A corner kick took a deflection off Alessandro Nesta and Maresca pounced to turn in the loose ball from six yards.

Both sides had chances with a Jorgensen header, Ariatti counter-attack and promising Kaka solo effort that included two nutmegs, but it was Fiorentina who again threatened to score. A sweeping Miccoli cross reached the head of Pazzini and his finish shaved the woodwork by inches.

The second half could not have started better for Milan, as within 30 seconds they had equalised. A long Serginho cross went past everyone and reached Andriy Shevchenko to toe-poke in at the far post. It was a defensive error that did not cut out the cross, but the Ukrainian kept a cool head to finish for his 15th goal of the season.

Milan were playing with the same line-up, but a three-man defence with Cafu and Serginho pushed further forward in this second period.

The Viola's confidence was not dampened and Dida took two touches to smother a Maresca effort, but Milan turned the game around completely in a similar move 10 minutes later. Serginho crossed from the left flank and Shevchenko got away from his marker for a cushioned header into the far corner of the net.

Jaap Stam brought down Miccoli after the forward had dispossessed him, but was only booked as he was not last man. From the resulting free kick, Miccoli stole the ball off Maresca's foot and somehow managed to blaze it wide from five yards.

There was controversy on 58 minutes when a promising move was stopped for Miccoli's handling offence, and Fiorentina had reason to complain as replays suggest it was Stam's arm the ball struck.

Rui Costa was substituted by Clarence Seedorf for the final half-hour and saluted the Stadio Artemio Franchi crowd.

Jorgensen was causing plenty of problems for the Milan defence and rolled across for Giorgio Chiellini, whose low drive shaved the upright. A curling Miccoli effort from distance also worried Dida as Fiorentina forced their way forward.

The Brazilian goalkeeper had his palms stung by a powerful Pazzini piledriver from distance, so Milan had to bolster the midfield and introduced Andrea Pirlo for Jon Dahl Tomasson, pushing Kaka and Seedorf further forward.

Tomas Ujfalusi dived in to prevent another Serginho cross reaching Shevchenko, then it took a great Cejas save to keep out Cafu's half-volley at the near post following a perfect pass from Pirlo.

Fiorentina wasted another golden opportunity to equalise, but this time 39-year-old Billy Costacurta was at full stretch to deflect Pazzini's shot wide from close range.

Dino Zoff also made a tactical change, introducing Valeri Bojinov for Giorgio Chiellini and switching to a 4-3-3 system, and Dida was only able to push the Bulgarian's low drive round the post as it squirmed away from him. From the corner kick, the ball seemed to strike William Viali without his knowledge and the totally unmarked defender turned it wide from six yards.

Four minutes of stoppages were awarded and there were protests for Giuseppe Pancaro's push on Pazzini in the area, but on the counter-attack Cejas beat away a Pirlo effort with his fists. Miccoli got away from his marker with a delightful piece of skill, but Bojinov failed to get on the end of his cross.


---------------------------------------------------------------------

Fiorentina: Cejas; Maggio, Ujfalusi, Viali, Chiellini (Bojinov 78); Ariatti, Maresca, Donadel, Jorgensen; Miccoli, Pazzini

Milan: Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Costacurta; Kakà, Gattuso, Rui Costa (Seedorf 60), Serginho (Pancaro 84); Shevchenko, Tomasson (Pirlo 69)

Ref: De Santis

http://www.channel4.com/sport/football_italia/sa0405/fio-mil.html





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