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The Archive

September 2002

Pippo wants top player prize
28.9 || Seamus

Pippo Inzaghi is on top form at the moment and admits he is looking for the European Player of the Year award.

“I would love to be in the running for the Golden Ball,” revealed the Milan hitman who has netted ten goals between the Champions’ League and Serie A this season.

“It would be a great honour for me, but most of all I want to win something with this squad.”

“The team is doing well and at the age of 29 I’d say a player is at the peak of his abilities. I hope this period of form continues.”

The Italian international is now the top Italian goalscorer of all time in Europe, having scored his 40th strike at Deportivo La Coruna midweek.

“I look forward with optimism,” he added, “and after beating Alessandro Altobelli’s record for Italians I’d like to overtake Muller’s all-time record of 67 goals on the continent.”

However, Coach Carlo Ancelotti is less optimistic that Inzaghi can get the trophy this year.

“If we consider the last few months alone then he would definitely deserve it,” commented the tactician, “but he was out injured for four months last season.”

“It’s pointless discussing the possibility as I already know who will get the trophy. It’s obviously going to be Zinedine Zidane.”





Helveg edges closer to fitness
27.9 || Seamus

Thomas Helveg has revealed that he is close to a first-team return with Milan.

The Danish defender, who extended his loan deal from Internazionale to their city rivals Milan by another season, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury.

However, the joint has been responing well in recent weeks and Helveg is looking to challenge for a place on the bench for the Seria A clash with Torino on October 6.

"I am expecting to be able to practice with the squad by the end of the week and also expected to be included in the squad for the match next weekend, " he told BT.

"In any case, it looks positive."

Shevchenko on the mend
27.9 || Seamus

Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko has revealed that his comeback from injury may take longer than expected.

The Ukrainian striker has had minor surgery on his knee after picking up a meniscus problem in pre-season.

And while reports at the time claimed that he could be back by mid October, the player himself is being rather more cautious.

"I’m happy with how everything is going and we are keeping to the right schedule," the former Dynamo Kiev star said.

"My recovery is proceeding at a good pace and I was expecting it to be much more difficult. But I don’t know whether I will be ready by the middle of October.

"When knees are involved I personally think that it is always better to not try to rush these things."

Sheva set for late October return
27.9 || Seamus

As if AC Milan had problems scoring goals, their Ukrainian bomber Andriy Shevchenko has resumed training after undergoing surgery on the meniscus of his left knee. Sheva has been missing in action since August when he picked up the injury in training.

Reports earlier this week had hinted that Shevchenko might have been out for longer than expected, but AC Milan confirmed last evening that the striker had been visited by his surgeon, Professor Marc Maertens, and had been cleared to start running.

"The estimated date for Sheva's re-entry into the first team remains October 20," said an official club statement.

Ancelotti: Pirlo doing great in new role
26.9 || Seamus

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is delighted at the way Andrea Pirlo has settled into his new role in front of the back four.

"He convinced me of his position against Juve in the Berlusconi Trophy," said Ancelotti.

"He has got immediately accustomed to his new position fielded in front of the defensive line, where Nesta and Maldini form an incredible central duo, he's Milan's real innovation."

Pirlo was formally regarded as a playmaker who featured in the 'hole' behind the front two.

Rossi signs Perugia deal
25.9 || scharatz

Perugia have confirmed that they have signed Milan’s legendary goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi.

The 38-year-old arrives at the Umbrian club on a free transfer after he wasn’t offered a new deal by the Rossoneri this summer.

Rossi, who will be presented to the Press on Thursday, has been brought in after the performances of Zeljko Kalac.

The Australian No 1 was only signed two months ago but his errors in the 3-0 defeat by Milan on Saturday forced Perugia chief Luciano Gaucci to act on the transfer front.

"We can’t afford to lose games because of a goalkeeper," said Gaucci on Tuesday evening. "Kalac is a shy lad and we can’t risk relegation by waiting for him to settle in properly."

Rossi could be handed the gloves for the game against Empoli on Sunday, even if Coach Serse Cosmi did publicly state that he had complete faith in Kalac after his San Siro errors.

The former Cesena ‘keeper has played 367 games in the top flight and won four championships with Milan among many other honours.

He also holds the Serie A record for the longest amount of time without being beaten. He went 929 minutes - 15 games - without conceding in the 1993-94 season for Milan.

Deportivo Coach praises Milan
25.9 || scharatz

Deportivo boss Javier Irureta believes that there is something distinctly not Italian about Milan’s style of play.

The Rossoneri destroyed Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 in Spain last night as goals from Clarence Seedorf and a Filippo Inzaghi hat-trick secured the points.

"Milan are a great side," he said in the aftermath of the defeat. "I would say that they are the Italian side that least rely on normal Italian tactics, even if they did punish us on the counter attack."

The San Siro giants are in the midst of a mini revolution as Coach Carlo Ancelotti has somehow managed to find room in his team for his many attacking options.

The tactician has invented a role for Andrea Pirlo by being positioned as a playmaker just in front of the defence.

Manuel Rui Costa is also fielded in the same side, behind a striking partnership of Inzaghi and attacking ace Rivaldo.

When Irureta was asked how significant the absence of key player Valeron was for his side, the tactician wasn’t looking for excuses.

"We didn’t lose the game simply because he was not playing," he added. "Obviously we missed him a bit but we recently lost against Betis and he was in the side."

Milan are currently top of their group after two wins in two games. They also have a 100 per cent record in Serie A after the first two weeks.

Ancelotti: We can still improve
24.9 || scharatz

Milan have hammered Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 in Spain, but Coach Carlo Ancelotti assures this side has not yet hit top gear.

“I’d say the key was that we were able to suffer when necessary and push hard when we had to. It wasn’t an easy game, but we did well to take our chances at crucial points.”

It could have been an even wider scoreline in the final minutes but Rivaldo and Jon Dahl Tomasson wasted glorious chances.

“Towards the end our confidence grew and Deportivo got increasingly depressed,” admitted the Coach.

Some are now comparing this side to the record-breaking Arrigo Sacchi Milan of the 1980’s, particularly as Andriy Shevchenko is yet to return from a knee injury.

“We cannot make comparisons,” claimed the ex-midfielder of that line-up. “These are different players with differing characteristics, but we can still improve.”

“I am most satisfied with the overall positive attitude of the team. The difficult moments will come and we must maintain that perseverance and mental strength even when it goes wrong.”

One of the most important developments this season is the movement of Andrea Pirlo to a new position in front of the defence.

“Pirlo helped me by adapting to that new role. We tested it out and he is really coming into his own in that position.”

Clarence Seedorf had opened the scoring and revealed how he rediscovered his form after a disappointing period at Inter.

“The secret to our success is that we play the same way whether at home or away,” explained the Dutchman.

“We are increasingly confident and realise now what we are truly capable of. That is an important sign.”


Deportivo 0:4 AC Milan - match report
24.9 || scharatz

Seedorf 17 (M), Inzaghi 33, 55, 62 (M)


Milan were the only Italian team ever to have beaten Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor, but tonight inflicted a humiliating thrashing to the Spaniards and made themselves favourites to top this tough Group.
The Rossoneri had already won 1-0 here two seasons ago, but now set a new record for Deportivo's worst ever European home defeat.

Deportivo La Coruna also had three points in the table following a shock 3-2 win at Bayern Munich, but lost their top star Juan Valeron for two months with a fractured leg.

Rivaldo was back in familiar territory as the Brazilian wore the blue and white shirt before making his big-time move to Barcelona.

Deportivo piled on the pressure early on with Fran Gonzalez on particularly fine form, but the Rossoneri defence held out well against the waves of attacks down the wings.

However, it was Milan who seemed truly dangerous when coming forward and took the lead on 17 minutes with a splendid move. Rivaldo dummied Manuel Rui Costa's through ball and allowed Clarence Seedorf to drill a powerful drive into the bottom right-hand corner.

Carlo Ancelotti's superstar squad continued to impress and could have grabbed a second soon after. Rivaldo placed the ball in for Gennaro Gattuso on the edge of the box, but the unmarked midfielder ballooned a great scoring opportunity over the bar.

The second goal eventually arrived on the half-hour mark when Filippo Inzaghi met a Rui Costa centre and although his first attempt was parried, the second slipped into the empty net. Inzaghi has now scored in all of Milan's games this season.

Deportivo began to increase the pressure in the first half stoppage time and Dida required a desperate double save and scrambled clearance on several Roy Makaay efforts.

At the dawn of the second period there was a lack of concentration from Dida as the Milan shotstopper picked up the ball just inside the box after he had already let go to clear. Fortunately for the Brazilian the indirect free kick was parried by the defensive wall.

Soon after there was more tension when Dida flew to make a one-handed save on Naybet's close-range header, while Alessandro Nesta made an acrobatic follow-up.

Deportivo were pushing so hard that they left gaping holes for the counter-attack, and it was at this point that Milan pounced for their third and fourth. Rui Costa threaded the ball through for an umarked Inzaghi before again springing the offside trap to complete his hat-trick.

Superpippo takes his total European career tally to 40 goals and overtakes Alessandro Altobelli to become the top Italian scorer in continental competition history.

Inzaghi could have had a fourth on 75 minutes when his volley clattered off the crossbar, soon after firing wide from close range.

Perhaps the only disappointing element of this team was Rivaldo, who in the final minute blasted a clear opportunity over the bar. Jon Dahl Tomasson also sent his free header over in stoppage time.



Deportivo La Coruna: Juanmi; Scaloni, Cesar, Naybet, Romero; Mauro Silva (Donato 78), Acuna (Duscher 63); Victor, Sergio, Fran (Tristan 63); Makaay

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo (Ambrosini 63), Seedorf; Rui Costa (Dalla Bona 83); Rivaldo, Inzaghi (Tomasson 78)

Ref: Nielsen (Den)

Deportivo vs. AC Milan - match preview
23.9 || scharatz

Deportivo La Coruńa and AC Milan are old foes. The two clubs met in the 2000-01 edition of the Champions League. Milan beat Deportivo 1-0 away, but a string of poor results culminated in a 1-1 draw with the then Spanish champions and eliminated Milan from the competition.

Deportivo have now reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons in a row and this year they will look to go one better. It is not an easy task to go up against them at the Riazor. The crowd is deafening and Deportivo themselves are often faultless. However, as Milan will remember, they have won in their last two trips to Spain, when they beat both Barcelona and La Coruńa in 2000.

AC Milan are themselves looking to extend their lead over their 'Group Of Death' rivals Bayern, Lens and Deportivo and an away win would do them an awful lot of good. Milan do have the quality to do it, but have done little of consequence in Europe over the past five-six seasons. The time couldn't be better and for that matter, neither could be the team. Ancelotti must prove that the Spanish are not infallible.

TEAM NEWS
Javier Irureta has been struck a huge, huge blow on the weekend when he lost the star of his team: Juan Carlos Valeron will miss the rest of the first Group stage due to a bad ankle injury sustained in the match versus Valladolid. Valeron has been pivotal in the club's two recent wins against Bayern and Valladolid, and will be sorely missed by the players and coach alike. First choice goalie, Molina, likewise is still in the infirmary and Juanmi will continue to deputize between the sticks. Irureta is like to go with the same lineup that upset Bayern with the exception of Spanish international striker Diego Tristan replacing Valeron. Irureta will hence play the unfamiliar 4-4-2 with his two classy finishers providing the firepower to make up for Valeron's absence.

Carlo Ancelotti has injury worries of his own, but he has shown that his team are well capable of coping with them. After the weekends rest, Rivaldo and Gattuso return to the starting lineup to replace Tomasson and Ambrosini. Clarence Seedorf too get the start in place of Serginho. Andriy Shevchenko, Thomas Helveg and Roque Jr. are all still injured. But, goalkeeper Christian Abbiati is reportedly fit and could return to the starting lineup. However, Ancelotti has admitted his dilemma considering Dida has been near flawless as Abbiati's replacement. The defence remains unchanged, but once again the world shall witness an attacking Milan featuring Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Pirlo, Inzaghi and Seedorf in the same lineup.

FORM GUIDE
Deportivo: WLWWWW
Deportivo started their season slow, but have now gone from a slow canter to a full gallop in less than a month and as if their stunning win away at the Olympiastadion was not enough proof, they comfortably glided to another 2-0 win at home to Valladolid this weekend. However, the former Spanish champions have displayed frailties, most notably in their 2-4 loss at the hands of Real Betis and in their recent unconvincing cup win Corralejo. They have sometimes failed to create enough chances for their strikers to put away, something that will hurt even more now that Valeron is missing.

Milan: WLWWW
Milan have kicked off their season in similar fashion to Deportivo, but in all honesty have not come up against any side that is even close in caliber to the Spaniards. Milan's recent conquests have been 3-0 drubbings of Modena and Perugia and a rather hard-fought, yet well deserved win over Lens on Matchday 1. Milan's form however has picked up in proportion to their match fitness. The Rossoneri have suffered due to the late kick-off of the Serie A and look to be getting into action just at the right time. Most of the key players like Rui Costa, Inzaghi, Pirlo and Nesta are already in near 100% condition and that could be crucial in a match like this.

PROBABLE LINUPS
Deportivo (4-4-2): Juanmi García; Berenguel, Donato Gama, Naybet, Romero; Víctor Sánchez, Sergio González, Mauro Silva, Fran González; Tristan, Makaay

Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Inzaghi, Rivaldo

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Roy Makaay (Deportivo): If Filippo Inzaghi has scored seven times in five games for Milan, Roy Makaay has done it in three matches! The Dutchman is in phenomenal mood, scoring all (seven) of the goals scored by his team in the last three games. However, it remains to be seen how he will perform in the absence of the superb Valeron, who was single-handedly responsible for providing Makaay with perfect supply.

Rivaldo (Milan): Milan has several players who are outstanding form, namely Pippo Inzaghi, Rui Costa and Andrea Pirlo, but the man to watch on Tuesday night will be Vitor Borba Ferreira Rivaldo. The former Deportivo La Coruńa star is going back to Spain for the first time since his surprise move from Barcelona to Milan. Rivaldo will have fond memories of his 21-goal season at the Riazor in 1997 and his many other memorable performances as a Barca player. Now, he will step onto the pitch as an AC Milan player. What will he have in store for us?

No Rivaldo rift say Milan
23.9 || webmaster

Milan have rubbished claims that summer signing Rivaldo refused to sit on the bench in the 3-0 win over Perugia.

Some reports in Italy have suggested that the Brazilian took his place in the stands after Coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to not include him in the starting line-up.

However, the Milan tactician denied those claims this morning as the Rossoneri flew out from Malpensa airport as they prepare for the Champions’ League game against Deportivo La Coruna.

"There is no problem with Rivaldo," he said. "These stories are pure stupidity."

The former Juventus boss also revealed that Rivaldo would start against his former team, along with Clarence Seedorf and Rino Gattuso. "Those that didn’t play against Perugia will feature tomorrow," he added.

Milan Vice-president Adriano Galliani also shot down the reports surrounding Rivaldo’s exclusion from the side.

"They’ll write anything," he moaned. "And I for one am tired of wasting my time denying speculation."

The newly crowned World Cup winner arrived in Italy just two months ago after he was freed of his contract at Barcelona.

Milan set to prove worth
23.9 || webmaster

Milan’s next two games will demonstrate exactly how good the side is according to Alessandro Nesta.

The Rossoneri have had a wonderful start to the season with consecutive wins against Modena, Lens and Perugia.

But the San Siro giants will firstly travel to Deportivo La Coruna this week, before Nesta will return to Rome to face former club Lazio.

"We are going very well at the minute and we are slowly but surely finding a good balance to the side," the Italian said.

"But now comes the moment of truth. The next couple of games will demonstrate exactly what this side is made of."

Nesta admitted that he regularly watches the Spanish League on television and knows that it will be tough for the Rossoneri in Spain.

"They are a very good side at home. And it will be difficult to play in those surroundings but it is important that Milan play as they know how."

When asked about his return to the club that he captained for so many years, the classy stopper admitted it would be emotional.

"It will be a strange feeling because I played in that shirt for 18 years," he continued. "But now I am at Milan and I’m a professional. I hope that the crowd applaud me but I am also expecting a few whistles."

Milan 3:0 Perugia - match report
21.9 || scharatz

Second 3-0 win in as many matches for Milan, who defeated Perugia in San Siro thanks to goals by Maldini, Inzaghi and Seedorf.

The quality of the match was affected by the bad pitch conditions, due to the heavy rains that fell on Milan. The Rossoneri struggled for most of the first half: Ancelotti's men tried to put a big pressure on Perugia, but the guests defended with accuracy and determination, thus preventing the Rossoneri from creating a real scoring chance in the first 35 minutes.

On the contrary, the Grifoni were very effective with their quick counterattacks. Miniature striker Miccoli gave Milan some trouble, especially in the middle of the first half, while the hosts kept on playing with inaccuracy, losing plenty of balls in the middle.

Milan increased their pressure in the final minutes of the first half. Rui Costa missed a good chance in the 38th, when he didn'tt take profit of a perfect supply by Pirlo, but two minutes later the Rossoneri finally managed to take the lead. Following a corner kick, skipper Paolo Maldini took profit of a bad mistake by Perugia's keeper Kalac and netted the 1-0 with an accurate header.

Boosted by the lead, Milan started the second half attacking massively and after only five minutes Filippo Inzaghi netted the 2-0. It was a very easy goal: following a cross by Kaladze, both Kalac and Rezaei missed the ball, Superpippo was all alone in front of the empty net and couldn't miss the chance.

As the minutes passed, the heavy rains turned into a violent storm, but this didn't prevent Milan from keeping their pressure on the Grifoni. In the 18th minute Seedorf replaced Rui Costa, and two minutes later the Dutch midfielder netted the third goal, taking profit of a supply by Inzaghi.

Nothing major happened in the final part of the match, also because of the weather conditions, and Milan could celebrate another big win which confirms them as one of the big favorites for the scudetto.

Milan vs. Perugia - match preview
20.9 || scharatz

Very little can spoil the day of a Milan fan these days. The red-and-black tifosi are in festive mood in the very first week of the season. The aura of the transfer season has carried into the actual season and this is reflected in the packed San Siro, each weekend and weeknight. The fans are being dared to dream, and they are…. dreaming of glory that will reinstate them as the Campione d'Europa. But, first there is the league, and in their way is Serse Cosmi's Perugia.

The Grifoni have had a great time against Milan in recent times. Believe it or not, in the last four league meetings between the two sides, Perugia have actually beaten Milan three-times and secured one draw! However, times have changed. Milan are now a new-look squad packed with world-class talent. Serse Cosmi, though, is willing to have nothing of it. "It won't be impossible for us to win, even if Milan proved that they are in excellent condition in the Modena match," he said.

TEAM NEWS
Carlo Ancelotti is still missing star striker Andriy Shevchenko and will also be without Thomas Helveg, José Chamot and Roque Junior. Christian Abbiati remains benched, probably in light of the away match versus La Coruńa next week. Massimo Ambrosini and Jon Dahl Tomasson return to the starting lineup to replace two very tired players: Gattuso and Rivaldo. Paolo Maldini, too, is only expected to play a short role in the game.

Cosmi is missing Nicola Amoruso up front, but his Juve-cohort, Fabio Miccoli is doing such a fantastic job up front, that it probably does not concern the manager. Miccoli will pair up with Greek Vryzas (who has 4 nets to his name against Milan) up front while an exciting midfield featuring Blasi, Tedesco, Ze Maria, Grosso and Boronio will hope to break the fluidity of Ancelotti's side. Sean Sogliano is also injured and Mauro Milanese will take his place though Cosmi may opt for the very talented Rezaei as well.

FORM GUIDE
Milan: WLWW
Milan started the season slow, losing a game away at Liberec and only qualifying for the CL group stages via the away goals rule. However, they have since picked up in form as the big names settle in and they have demonstrated great temperament and skill in their two wins against Modena and Lens. Milan may be tired after that extra midweek fixture, but if they can get their brand of football going, they could absolutely trash Perugia.

Perugia: LWW
After finishing off the previous season by qualifying for the Intertoto Cup, Cosmi's men threw it all away with poor performances against Vfb Stuttgart in the very first round. They lost 3-1 away and hence could salvage little from a 2-1 home win that proved to be no consolation. The Grifoni picked up an important, yet shaky win against Reggina on the opening day and will look to build on it by getting at least a point from their San Siro fixture.

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Seedorf, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Tomasson

Perugia (3-5-2): Kalac; Di Loreto, Viali, Milanese; Ze Maria, Tedesco, Boronio, Blasi, Grosso; Vryzas, Miccoli

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Filippo Inzaghi (Milan): How can you possibly pick another player to watch? It is true that some others like Pirlo, Rui Costa and Nesta have been in fantastic form as well, but when a striker almost single-handedly gets his club's season off to a flyer, he deserves to be picked. Superpippo is possibly in the best form of his life. He is two short of becoming the most prolific Italian striker in UEFA competition history and he is in Jöel Muller's words, "unstoppable".

Fabio Miccoli (Perugia): The "Bomber Tascabile" has made a great impression in his first Serie A appearance where he netted the Grifoni's second goal. However, the little man's talent has been overshadowed often by his admitted liking for Che Guevara. Miccoli, who is on loan from Juventus, is regarded highly by the Turin society, but Saturday will prove whether he can really make it on the big stage.

Ancelotti shows Perugia respect
20.9 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has warned his men that the three points won’t be a formality against Perugia this weekend.

The Rossoneri are in a rich vein of form after two consecutive victories against Modena and Lens but the former midfielder maintains it won’t be easy against the Umbrians.

"We will be playing against a very aggressive side. We must be patient and not be too offensively keen in order to break the deadlock," he said.

"We know that they are a very organised outfit and a side who in the quality stakes have improved from last season, especially with the arrivals of Miccoli and Baronio."

Perugia themselves got their campaign off to a winning start last weekend and striker Fabrizio Miccoli, on loan from Juventus, did score and impress in the 2-0 win over Reggina.

Ancelotti will also be aware of the fact that the Milan giants have never had the better of Perugia in Serie A while Serse Cosmi has been in charge of the Grifoni.

AC Milan Season Ticket Sales: 50,000 Sold!
19.9 || scharatz

AC Milan's season ticket sales have crossed the 50,000 mark already with close to two weeks to go till subscriptions close. Last year's record of 46,304 subscriptions has long since been left in the dust. The club even awarded their 50,000th subscriber, Fabrizio Cantamessa , with a season pass to the "tribuna d'onore", essentially the best seats in the house.

In addition to these Serie A season tickets, the club has also sold 52,327 subscriptions for the Champions League matches against Lens, Bayern and Deportivo. In fact, it was as a result of these sales that Milan had close to 75,000 fans in the San Siro for their Champions League opener last night!

Inzaghi nearing Italian Euro goals record
19.9 || Seamus

Filippo Inzaghi's two goals for Milan against Lens in the Champions League yesterday has put the striker just two short of Alessandro Altobelli's Italian record of 39 goals in European competition.

"I've reached 37 strikes, but my real dream is not the European top scorer list, but a Milan final win in the Champions League," he told the club's official site.

Baresi handed Milan youth role
19.9 || scharatz

Milan have confirmed that legend Franco Baresi will be the new boss of the Primavera side from the start of next season.

The Azzurri great has recently returned to Italy after his departure from his unsuccessful stint as director of football at Premiership side Fulham.

"I’m very happy that I will be starting a new adventure with the youth side," Baresi told the Milan website.

"It is a new role where I will be starting from scratch. I have sampled life away from Milan but I have to say that the umbilical cord is too short.

"Even when you try to get away from this club it is always there keeping you attached to these colours and this side."

Baresi will be aided by Giovanni Lorini who will be his assistant Coach.

Milan 2:1 Lens - post match comments
19.9 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti was satisfied with the 2-1 win over Lens that put Milan on top of the toughest Group in the Champions’ League.

“It was important to start well,” explained the tactician, “in a competition that we care a great deal about.”

“Lens came here with a very defensive mentality and that caused us some problems in the first half.”

Manuel Rui Costa was again impressive and his work-rate in midfield was unusual for a creative centre.

“The secret of his success now is that physically he is fine,” explained Ancelotti. The Portuguese international had struggled with a succession of injuries last season that made it perhaps his worst year.

The French side caused tension in the final minutes when they pulled one back and began to put pressure on the defence.

“I took Pippo Inzaghi off and replaced him with Martin Laursen towards the end because when Bakari came on Lens became extremely dangerous in the air.”

Pippo Inzaghi is on top form already and bagged his second brace in four days after the 3-0 win at Modena.

“I am very happy,” admitted the striker, “but I must thank the whole squad. I have the good fortune of playing alongside great champions who help me give my very best.”

The Rossoneri were also boosted by Deportivo La Coruna's shock 3-2 win at Group favourites Bayern Munich.

The Spaniards now share the top spot with Milan on three points apiece.

AC Milan 2-1 Lens - match report
18.9 || webmaster

Two second half goals by Filippo Inzaghi within the space of five minutes were enough for AC Milan to defeat a very defensive Lens and take home the first three points of their Champions League campaign.

For his return to the European main club event after a year's absence, Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti decided to field Brazilian superstar Rivaldo from the start, with Rui Costa along the same line of the former Barcelona idol, and Filippo Inzaghi playing as lone striker.

On his part Lens coach Joel Muller made it clear he wanted to come away with a draw as he instructed his men to perform the French version of the very Italian Catenaccio, with the sole Moreira in front, a very tough midfield, and a five, sometimes six-man, defensive line.

The hermetic stance of their opponents created enormous headaches for the Rossoneri, who also had to deal with the poor feeling between Rui Costa and Rivaldo, two players that appear to substitute rather than complement themselves.

Therefore it was no surprise to see Milan get only one clear chance off on the French during the first half although they held the run of play throughout the entire first half.

Seedorf flew into the air to scissor kick a Rui Costa free-kick cross on the edge of the box, and only a question of centimetres denied the former Inter star one of the most beautiful goals ever scored in the San Siro.

On their part Lens relied on the classic counter-attack, a tactic that was about to pay dividends on 13 minutes, but Dida did well to save Moreira's low drive struck from just inside the box.

In the second half, the theme of the match hardly changed, only that Milan were practically playing a man down as an out of shape Rivaldo totally disappeared from the pitch.

But luckily for AC Milan Manuel Rui Costa was in top form, and precisely from two plays that were initiated by his golden feet was Inzaghi able to perform his lethal one-two.

Rui's first piece of magic was a simple pass that freed Kaka Kaladze down the left wing, and this time there was nothing to do for the French defense as the Georgia international perfectly crossed for Inzaghi, who headed home the much needed lead from the middle of the box.

The effects of the San Siro explosion had just ended when Inzaghi found the back of the net for a second time after latching onto a magnificent Rui Costa through pass.

The worst seemed over for the Rossoneri, but in the only instance that their mighty defense let down its guard Lens got back into the match through a fantastic Moreira short range volley.

With fifteen minutes left to play and a precious result to safe-guard, Carletto reverted to his old-school defensive methods that were so invogue during his Juve days, by replacing Rivaldo (an ovation for him despite his lacklustre second half) with Amborsini, and Laursen for Inzaghi.

One hates to defend such a stance, but in pure honesty, there was nothing to do for the French runners-up, who didn't get a shot off on goal for the remainder of the match.

With the win, Milan, who were the only Italian side to bag the full three points in this magnificent Match Day 1 of the Champions League, went top of the 'Group of Death' together with Bayern-killers Deportivo La Coruna.


Ancelotti: Let us entertain you
17.9 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has promised to entertain the fans when Milan take on Lens in Wednesday’s Champions’ League clash.

“I don’t know if we’ll win,” confessed the Coach, “but we will play with the same attacking attitude as against Modena."

The line-up in their Serie A opener saw Andrea Pirlo, Manuel Rui Costa, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi and Jon Dahl Tomasson in the same starting line-up. The team impressed and came out 3-0 winners, but will see Rivaldo introduced from the start.

“The only two doubts I have are with regards to Massimo Ambrosini and Christian Abbiati. Both are struggling with injuries but are possible new entries.”

“The one thing I can say for certain,” added Ancelotti, “is that Rui Costa and Rivaldo will be playing together. We have a team that is on top form and the win at Modena boosted confidence further.”

The Rossoneri return to this competition two years after they were eliminated by Deportivo La Coruna. Curiously, the Spaniards are in the same group this season along with Bayern Munich and Lens.

“We will all be very excited at the prospect of playing in the Champions’ League. We chased after this objective for all of last season and suffered for it until the final whistle.”

“Considering the quality of this side and the history of the club,” added the European Cup winner, “it is only right that Milan play in this contest. I want to stand there listening to the official anthem more than just six times this year.”

First they must grab three points against Lens, a French side that has lost many of its top stars over the summer and had a poor start to their League campaign.

“Lens are not doing too well in their own championship,” confirmed Ancelotti, “but in recent weeks they have really picked up the pace again. This is very much a strong side.”

“They field four defenders on some occasions, five on another, and can change their whole set-up during a game. That is a talent not to be underestimated. Lens are also physically strong and can run at you for 90 minutes straight.”

Nonetheless, Milan are among the favourites to qualify from this Group and perhaps go beyond the knock-out stages.

“Milan are part of the history of the Champions’ League,” noted the former teammate of Franco Baresi and Marco Van Basten.

“The Final is still a long way off, but if I have to make a choice between winning the Scudetto and the Champions’ League, I’d choose Europe.”

Milan vs. Lens - match preview
17.9 || scharatz

Racing Club de Lens came within a whisker of winning only their second Le Championnat title since 1944 last May. But, they were undone on the last day as they went down 3-1 to Lyon, who became the new French champs. Indeed, all Lens needed on that fateful day was a tie, but they couldn't muster up a worthy performance when it mattered most. However, it did guarantee them a place in the first group stage of the Champions League, and as luck would have it, they have been placed in the Group of Death. Pitted against European powerhouses like Bayern Munich, Deportivo La Coruńa and AC Milan, Lens kick off this stern group at none other venue than the San Siro.

Their opponents, AC Milan are coming off a rather dismal few seasons themselves. Milan have failed to compete for the Scudetto over the past few seasons and have done little of eminence in the Champions League since their glory night in Athens in 1994 (Milan beat Barcelona 4-0 in the Final that night). Dumped out in the first group stage in 2000, the second group stage the following year, and all together absent from last year's version of the tournament, Milan have a lot to prove. In fact, they barely scraped into this year's tournament too as they only qualified thanks to the away goals rule after drawing 2-2 over two legs against Czech side Slovan Liberec.

TEAM NEWS
Milan have mammoth injury concerns ahead of this crucial CL opener at their home ground. Andriy Shevchenko, Roque Jr., Thomas Helveg and José Chamot are definitely ruled out while Massimo Ambrosini and Christian Abbiati are highly likely to remain sidelined as well. Another big star, Rivaldo is also recovering from an ankle knock. However, the five-time European champs still have enough quality in the likes of Rui Costa, Pirlo, Nesta and Maldini to overrun any opposition.

Lens have only Cyril Rool suspended for the game. Other than that, Muller has a full squad to choose from and named his twenty men as early as Sunday afternoon. Coulibaly should deputize in Rool's absence and it is possible that Muller may change his lineup to a more defensive minded 4-5-1 in the hope of containing Milan's immense offensive potence and also overrunning the opposition's midfield with his five-man motor. In this case Dagui Bakari could get a rare solo-run up front.

FORM GUIDE
Milan WLW
Milan's season has barely kicked off and they started by scraping through the preliminary stages of the Champions League. However, that was primarily due to the late start of the Serie A and the resultant lack of match fitness of the players. The team have since picked up their game and looked to be in fine form when they dismantled newly promoted Modena 3-0 over the weekend. However, they will have to be careful, as facing a fully match fit Lens side will be a whole new ball game altogether.

Lens DWDWLW
Joël Muller's men have had a bumpy start to the season and have failed to consistently perform at the levels of 2001-02. The team sorely misses Senegalese starlet, El-Hadji Diouf (now plying his trade in Liverpool), and this is evident in their poor finishing in front of the opposition's net. This has been apparent in all three of their recent victories, which were by a score of 1-0, even though it easily should have been more.

PROBABLE LINUPS
Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Inzaghi

Lens (4-4-2): Warmuz; Coly, Coulibaly, Bak, Song; Keita, Diop, Blanchard, Coridon; Bakari, Moreira

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Filippo Inzaghi (Milan): The former Piancenza man has already sent out warning signals to his rivals by scoring four times in the club's first three official games. Inzaghi is in devastating form and he proved that by netting the 200th goal of his professional career on the weekend. Muller's men will have to mark the forward very tightly, come Wednesday.

Pape Bouba Diop (Lens): The Senegalese midfielder set the Far East alight with his form and guile over the summer and Milan will be wary of the talent the former Grasshoppers midfielder possesses. Diop stayed at Lens this year, opting not to follow in the footsteps of countrymen Pape Sarr and El-Hadji Diouf, a decision that could prove worth its while if he can become the new leader of this team.

WE ARE BACK!!!
17.9 || webmaster

Hello people,
sorry for the long time that we've been offline due to some problems, but we are now back and things will get back to normal... what a relief!

Our appologies to the folks subscribed to our mailing list as well.

Regards,
The Management Team

Rivaldo doubtful for Modena clash
12.9 || Seamus

Milan's new Brazilian recruit Rivaldo was injured in training yesterday and has been ordered to rest for the next two days.

The playmaker damaged an ankle and is now a huge doubt for Milan's Serie A opener against Modena on Saturday night.

Modena-Milan - match preview
12.9 || scharatz

Modena are tipped by many to do what Chievo did last year. Coming off consecutive promotions and a fantastic Serie B campaign, De Biasi's men are ready to take on the big guns of Italy. However, on the very first weekend of Serie A, they face the daunting task of hosting AC Milan. Fresh off Champions League qualification and the mammoth signings of Rivaldo and Alessandro Nesta, the rossoneri are probably the toughest test Modena could have asked for this early in the game.

Modena could have been crowned Serie B champions last year. But, a mix of too many goalless draws and a sagging tail end of the season (they took only four points off their last four games) ended that dream. However, after more than 35 years away from the top flight, the fans are delighted to be back and already grand plans of an improved stadium with three more tiers are being made. There is no doubt: Modena are here to stay.

AC Milan have come off a rather miserable season. They were beset by injuries, absent from the Champions League and out of the running for the championship very early in the year. However, the summer has brought with it much happiness and good weather at Milanello. Glamorous transfers, high spirits and Champions League qualification have put the pressure squarely back on Carlo Ancelotti's shoulders. This year, he must deliver or else…

TEAM NEWS
Modena have changed quite a bit over the summer. While the core of the squad remains the same, the departure of Andrea "The Rabbit" Rabito will mean that the pressure will be on Rubens Pasino to provide the creativity needed up front. Pasino had a great season last year and will look to be the leader of the team this year as he pairs up with two great strikers in Carlo Taldo and Andrea Fabbrini in the hope of replicating what Marazzina-Corradi-Corini did with Chievo last year. Another key addition the squad comes from the arrival of stopper Zamboni from Udinese.

There is no doubt that Milan have one of the strongest squads in the world. Time, effort and money have been spent building a team that is strong in all departments. Last year it was Inzaghi, Rui Costa, Pirlo and Laursen. This year it has been Rivaldo, Nesta, Tomasson, Seedorf and Simic. However, the focus should clearly be on the side's defence that has been in the spotlight for nearly five seasons now. With the daunting Nesta-Maldini partnership in the center, it appears that they will finally be able to exorcise the press-ghosts for good. Up front, 20-year old Marco Borriello deserves a mention as he could very well feature as a sub on Saturday, and could give a glimpse of that supreme talent he possesses.

TACTICS & PROBABLE LINEUPS
De Biasi has only Mayer and Kamara unavailable for the clash and will look to play his fittest and not necessarily best XI. His side won 7-0 against Fiorano midweek and Giuseppe Sculli scored an excellent hat trick to stake his claim for a starting spot on Saturday. However, Taldo had a good game too (he netted a brace) and looks set to partner Pasino and Fabbrini up front. Pavan could get the nod ahead of Zamboni in defence, but little could be deciphered from the friendly win as De Biasi has refused to reveal his plans ahead of time.

Ancelotti is without several first-team players for his season opener. Andriy Shevchenko, Roque Jr., Christian Abbiati, José Chamot and Thomas Helveg are all ruled out of the clash after picking up injuries in pre-season fixtures or training. Massimo Ambrosini also has a muscular distortion and may only make it to the bench. And, a huge doubt surrounds the fitness of Rivaldo who's training knock may keep him out till the Champions League fixture against Lens. However, Milan seem to have enough depth and quality in their squad to not be depleted by these injuries and the form of Manuel Rui Costa should prove vital in this game.

Modena (3-4-3): Ballotta; Zamboni, Cevoli, Ungari; Ponzo, Milanetto, Albino, Balestri; Fabbrini, Taldo, Pasino

Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Tomasson

Nesta: supporters are incredibly excited
11.9 || Vito

Alessandro Nesta is ready for his debut in red and black. After his arrival in Milan, an incredible number of season tickets have been sold. So Nesta has commented: "With my team mates, a day has been enough to understand each other. On the other hand, supporters have been so enthousiastic that I really hope to repay them on the pitch."

Milan dealt Helveg blow
11.9 || Seamus

Milan have been dealt a blow with the news that Thomas Helveg will be out of action for two to three weeks.

The Danish international injured his left shoulder in training this morning and is likely to miss Milan's first two Champion League matches.

PREDICTION LEAGUE STARTS --> PRIZES FOR THE WINNERS!
10.9 || webmaster

Hello and Forza MILAN! to all Milan fans,

I'd like to announce you that AC Milan Online, http://www.acmilan-online.com, has started a prediction game that can be played in our forums, named SAPL [Serie A Prediction League]. Though the name might be misleading, it features mainly Serie A matches and Milan's CL and Coppa Italia runs for you to predict.

The interesting part is that that the SAPL is packed with prizes! [free prizes that is... duh!] Those lucky and knowledgeable folks that will end up in the top 3 at the end of the competition will have to choose a prize for themselves from the following:

> an AC Milan home jersey [please check our Shopping page at http://www.acmilan-online.com/shop.php for a photo of it]

> an AC Milan v-neck t-shirt [from SubSide: http://www.subside.co.uk/shirt.asp?req=6&id=itacmvte01&tm=78]

> an AC Milan scarf [please, once again, check our Shopping page at http://www.acmilan-online.com/shop.php for a photo of it]

Plus... each of these three winners will recieve a CD packed with every AC Milan wallpaper, every AC Milan CM Menubar, every AC Milan FIFA patch, every AC Milan Winamp Skin, every AC Milan Puzzle made by/for AC Milan Online and Van Basten Zone.

Now here's the URL to our forums...
http://forum.acmilan-online.com

Just make sure you register with a valid e-mail address [very important, as you have to confirm your registration via e-mail], then enter the "Serie A Prediction League" forum at
http://forum.acmilan-online.com/viewforum.php?f=9, read the rules [so you can get a basic understanding of how the game will be played - it's a simple game since we wanted for it to be accessible to everyone], and start playing! Just that simple.

I'd also like to acknowledge you that you can also join the Unofficial Totocalcio Prediction Games ran by our forum member Rossoneri. That's an entirely different game, but the main thing is, it is packed with prizes as well! Just to keep the suspense, I'll let you discover the prizes... just go to
http://forum.acmilan-online.com/viewforum.php?f=10. Read the rules, discover the prizes, and start playing.

We won't mind if you will tell your freinds to join our prediction games. So don't forget about that. ;) They can join our prediction games at anytime, although the sooner they join the bigger the chances of winning.

Regards,
The Management Team.

Related Links:
> http://forum.acmilan-online.com - The Red & Black Forums
> http://forum.acmilan-online.com/viewforum.php?f=9 - Serie A Prediction League [SAPL] Forum [OFFICIAL]
> http://forum.acmilan-online.com/viewforum.php?f=10 - Totocalcio Prediction Games [UNOFFICIAL]

Serie A To Kick-Off This Weekend!
10.9 || Seamus

It's official: Serie A will kick-off this weekend. The dispute that the eleven clubs had regarding the Pay TV deal has now been solved.

Serie A's big six (Milan, Juve, Inter, Roma, Lazio and Parma) have agreed to contribute the difference between the Pay TV offer and the clubs' demands.

"We have found an understanding thanks to the big clubs," said CONI (Italian Olimpic Committee) president Mario Pescante.

The schedule for the first weekend is as follows.

Saturday 14 –
15.00 local time: Inter-Torino and Bologna-Roma
18.00: Como-Empoli
20.30: Modena-Milan

Sunday 15 –
15.00: Juventus-Atalanta; Lazio-Chievo; Udinese-Parma
18.00: Perugia-Reggina
20.30: Brescia-Piacenza.

Debut boy Pirlo thanks Carlo
10.9 || scharatz

Andrea Pirlo believes that Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti was a major factor in the youngster winning his first Azzurri cap on Saturday.

The former Under-21 captain came on as a second half substitute in the 2-0 win over Azerbaijan where he instantly proved that he has the capability to play at that level.

"I must thank Coach Carlo Ancelotti for my appearance with the Azzurri," the former Brescia starlet told Milan Channel.

"I’ve been waiting to make my full international debut for some time and it is obvious that it was of great satisfaction to me."

Pirlo was fielded in his new role by Giovanni Trapattoni by playing just in front of the defence.

A position invented to him by Ancelotti in pre-season as the tactician attempted to juggle his magnitude of attacking talent.

"The fact that I started the season in a new position in front of the defence and did well obviously had something to do with my call-up," Pirlo continued.

"To play regularly for your club side is of great importance because it is a stage where people can see you perform. Now I just can’t wait for the new season to start."

Contra saddened by Milan exit
10.9 || scharatz

Cosmin Contra has expressed his regret at having left Milan but maintains it was the best decision for himself and the club.

The Romanian became the fifth Milan player to leave for Atletico Madrid this summer despite spending almost the entire pre-season with the Rossoneri.

"The decision came after the recent friendly game against Inter and I believe it was the right choice, even if it was a painful and difficult one," the full-back told the Milan website.

"At the end of the day it was the best solution for me and the team. There are many great players here and I simply wanted the opportunity to play as much football as possible.

"I’m saddened that I am not here anymore but that is the way it has gone."

Contra joined the San Siro giants last summer from Alaves but his debut campaign was a mixed one as a lack of form and poor discipline marred his first term in Italy.

He concluded: "I’m disappointed that I am no longer at Milan but a part of my heart will stay Rossonero forever. I will continue to support Milan and if they win this season then I will still feel part of it."

The other Milan players that have made the switch to the Spanish capital this summer are Demetrio Albertini, Javi Moreno, Jose Mari and Fabriccio Coloccini.

Milan season tickets boom
9.9 || scharatz

Milan are close to breaking the 50,000 barrier for season tickets sold as the new campaign edges nearer.

Sales have soared thanks to the Rossoneri’s dynamic transfer campaign, which has seen them bring in players such as Rivaldo and Alessandro Nesta.

Up to now the club have sold 47,347 but the San Siro giants are confident that they will sell close to 3,000 more by the start of the Serie A season this weekend.

Some sections of the Milan faithful have stayed away in recent seasons after the club’s ‘mediocre’ signings in the past few years.

But this summer has seen the tifosi express their satisfaction as their banners of praise, such as ‘Thank you Milan’, in the recent friendly against Inter suggested.

Seedorf: Milan are Real deal
9.9 || scharatz

Clarence Seedorf believes that Milan are on the right track to become as good and entertaining as Real Madrid.

The quality player was just one of many top class acquisitions by the club this summer – others were Rivaldo, Tomasson and Nesta - as they look to get back to the top of the Italian and European game.

"We certainly have the players at our disposal to play like Real even if at this stage we are not as structured as the Spanish side," said the ex-Inter man.

"We don’t have their same mentality at this moment in time but that is our aim and we are on the right track to complete this particular objective."

The Dutch midfielder has had a decent pre-season and admits that making the move from Milan’s deadly city rivals hasn’t been too difficult.

"Everyone at this club has helped me to feel welcome and I have to thank the directors, the players and the fans," added the former Real Madrid player.

"I am happy with everything at this club and satisfied that I have all the right capabilities in order to become an important player here."

Azerbaijan 0-2 Italy
8.9 || Seamus

A concrete Italy wins 2-0 in Baku against Azerbaijan and obtains three very important points for the 2004 European Championship qualification. The star of the match is Alessandro Del Piero, lined up by Trapattoni in a new role as midfield-forward, behind Inzaghi and Vieri. Del Piero gave a convincing performance and scored Italy's second goal (free kick on 64') that practically closed the match.

Trapattoni wisely sent a four-man defense made up of Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro and Coco on the field to face the team set up by Sadygov. The midfield was represented by Gattuso, Toimmasi and Di Biagio. Del Piero was lined up as the midfield-forward and the offense was made up of Vieri and Inzaghi. Italy has a hard time finding space to play and during the first 10 minutes never really gives the Azeri defense any problems. After fifteen minutes Inzaghi is headed towards the net, but the referee Vassaras calls a foul against the Italian forward. Azerbaijan is a tough team that is not afraid of anyone and continues to gain round as the minutes go by. On 19' a lob kicked by Karimov from 20 metres off gives Buffon the shivers passing right over the crossbar. Italy doesn't give up and almost goes ahead on 25' with Inzaghi, who shoots a good free kick from Panucci right off the upright. In spite of their lucky escape Azerbaijan keeps going, above all with the excellent Aliyev, and gives the Italian defense something to worry about. Italy suffers along the right touch, where Panucci has problems with Guliyev. In fact, the Azeri's best chance comes from the feet of the left back: on 29' Guliyev sends a cross in the middle for Aliyev who heels the ball to Gurban Gurbanov who then unleashes a shot that ends up just right of Buffon.

Trapattoni takes remedial measures and inverts the midfield positions, moving Tommasi to help Panucci on the right. And, in fact, Italy's go-ahead goal comes right from the Roma midfielder: on 34', the Roma player sends a cross on the right and the Azeri player Ahmadov anticipates the goalkeeper and sends the ball into the net, scoring the own-goal. An important goal that gives tranquillity to the team that, up until that moment, was having a hard time trying to make some positive plays.

No changes are seen at the beginning of the second half for either of the teams. The first fifteen minutes go by without any particular problems for the Italians who, even if they do not get close to the opponent's area, do not risk as much in defense as they did in the first half. On 12' Vieri finally takes action and sends a cross to Inzaghi from the right. Inzaghi turns and unleashes a shot that goes right above the crossbar. Trapattoni makes his first substitution and calls the Inter centre-forward back on the bench together with Di Biagio and sends in Montella and Anmbrosini. Italy realises that it won't take that much, just a little more concentration than in the first half, to eliminate their opponent that has obviously been slowing down with respect to the first half. On 64', the very mobile Inzaghi goes down on a foul by the Azeri 20 metres away from the net. Vassaras grants the Italians a free kick and Del Piero skilfully sends the shot into the upper right hand corner of the net, right past Kramarenko. Italy is now ahead 2-0 and the result basically closes a match in which the Italians ran their biggest risks during the first half. As a result, Italy starts off on the right foot in its 2004 European Championship qualifying group. After having forgotten about the nightmare in Korea, Trapattoni can give a sigh of relief and continue his work serenely. For Italy, on the other hand, the win is a good way of turning the page and looking to the future.

Scoreboard

Azerbaijan-Italy 0-2

Scorers: 34' pt Ahmadov (own-goal), 19' sh Del Piero

Azerbaijan (4-5-1): Dmitry Kramarenko; Kamal Guliyev, Aslan Karimov, Tarlan
Akhmedov, Emin Agayev; Emin Imamaliyev, Makhmud Gurbanov (23' sh Musayev), Rashad Sadygov, Emin Guliyev; Samir Aliyev (42' sh Nabiyev), Gurban Gurbanov (45 sh Ismailov). Coach: Sadygov

Italy (4-3-1-2): Buffon, Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Coco, Gattuso, Tommasi, Di Biagio(13' sh Ambrosini), Del Piero, Inzaghi (32' sh Pirlo), Vieri (13' sh Montella). Coach: Trapattoni
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Gre)

Notes: yellow-cards: Aliyev (A), Cannavaro (I), Musayev (A), K.Guliev (A).
Recovery: 1' first half, 3' second half.

Milan will not sell stars
8.9 || Seamus

Milan have fervently denied claims they will sell off Massimo Ambrosini, Serginho and Jose Chamot this summer.

“None of the players on our Champions’ League list will be sold,” assured Vice-President Adriano Galliani in a message on their official website.

“This decision is final and cannot be changed, so we are putting an end to the continual transfer rumours surrounding this team.”

Ambrosini had been linked with a bid from Juventus and Inter, while the Nerazzurri were said to be showing interest in Brazilian winger Serginho.

One player who is not eligible for their European campaign – Christian Brocchi – is also reassured on his future.

“The club also wishes to continue its relationship with Brocchi. He is not part of the Champions’ League team,” noted the statement, “but he wants to stay with Milan and we are pleased with that situation.”

Ancelotti tips Milan for glory
7.9 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti is well aware that with a star-studded side at his disposal, the pressure is on him to win trophies this season.

“I really could not ask for more than this extraordinary team the club has created,” commented the Coach. “We now need to find that necessary balance for a side to succeed.”

Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta have suggested that this team could out-do Arrigo Sacchi’s ‘Grande Milan’ of the 1980’s, while Rivaldo compared them to the current Real Madrid outfit.

“The difference between us and Real is that my players still aren’t accustomed to playing together,” noted the former Juventus and Parma tactician.

“But the two teams also have different characteristics. Our objective is to play effective forward-thinking football, but without as many risks as Real take.”

There were some major doubts hanging over this side before the arrival of £20m defender Alessandro Nesta.

“I don’t think he’ll have a problem fitting in,” claimed Ancelotti. “As for tactics we will have to test out a few new movements and solutions for the back-line.”

Transfer rumours surround several players as Massimo Ambrosini has been linked to Juventus while Inter are showing interest in Serginho.

“This year Milan have a squad that is rich in quality with players who can come in at any moment and turn the game around."

"I am counting on their intelligence and capacity for dialogue to resolve any problems they may have, but I do not intend on letting these two stars go.”


U21: Azerbaijan 0-3 Italy
6.9 || Seamus

Azerbaijan 0-3 Italy U21


Claudio Gentile’s men began their European Championship qualifying campaign with this 3-0 win in Azerbaijan.

The new two-year era of the squad saw many new faces, including Milan midfielder Sam Dalla Bona and the return of Antonio Cassano.

The Roma prodigy attempted a few turns to entertain the crowd in Baku, but it was Perugia hitman Andrea Caracciolo who went closest on 25 minutes with an angled drive that drifted just wide.

The Azzurrini began to pile on the pressure and Cassano brought a fine save out of the local goalkeeper.

Azerbaijan had one shot on goal just before the break, but Brescia goalkeeper Federico Agliardi did well to stand his ground and block a dangerous Huseynov counter-attack.

There was controversy at the dawn of the second half when Milan striker Marco Borriello skipped past a defender but saw the ball blocked by his hand. The referee waved play on.

Soon after a curling Gaetano D’Agostino corner kick was tipped over with some difficulty before the deadlock was finally broken on 62 minutes. Bologna defender Cristian Zaccardo rose to nod in another corner and take the Azerbaijan goalkeeper by surprise.

Substitute Borriello made the result safe soon after with a splendid solo effort, his first goal for the Under-21 side. Despite being dragged down as the cross came in, the Rossoneri striker used his strength to get back up and rifle the powerful shot into the roof of the net.

The former Treviso man sealed his brace in stoppage time with a similar strike, holding off his marker to drill a fierce effort past the goalkeeper.

It is a good start to a qualifying campaign that will also see the Azzurrini face Wales, Yugoslavia and Finland.

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

Azerbaijan U21: Yusifov; Namazov, Hajiyev, Guliyev (Abdurahmanov 69), Z Gashymov, Omarov (Huseynov 12) (Aghakishiev 71), R Sadygov, Kitelman, Abbasov, S Sadygov

Italy U21: Agliardi; Lanzaro, Zaccardo, Moretti; Maggio (Donati 78), Brighi, Gatti, Balzaretti, Dalla Bona (D’Agostino 46); Cassano, Caracciolo (Borriello 46)

Scorers: Zaccardo 62, Borriello 72, 91
Location: Baku
Ref: Shmolik (Bel)

Ambrosini: I want to stay at Milan forever
5.9 || Seamus

Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini says he is willing to see out his career with the club.

The player had been subject to transfer speculation linking him with a move away, but he has no intention of going anywhere.

"The papers are always looking for sensational news," he told the Milan channel. "But I never wanted to quit Milan. Should it be up to me, I would stay here forever. Everybody knows how fond I am of this club.

"I hadn't imagined becoming the star of the transfer market. Yesterday I just said that with so many first-rate players, someone will have to accept sitting on the bench or in the stands. Nobody likes being left out, neither do I, but I think everybody will have his first-team chance."

Baresi: Nesta is better than Ferdinand
5.9 || Seamus

Rio Ferdinand might be the most expensive defender in the world but he is not the best, according to Italy legend Franco Baresi.

The former Azzurri star - arguably his country's greatest-ever defender - insists that accolade belongs to Alessandro Nesta, who signed for Baresi's former club AC Milan last week.

Nesta's #19million transfer fee did not match the £30million paid by Manchester United for Ferdinand but Baresi does not believe the difference corresponds to the relative value of the players.

``Rio Ferdinand does not have the speed of Alessandro, but it is difficult to compare them,'' Baresi told Corriere Della Serra.

``One thing is certain, English players moving to Italy would find it harder to to acclimatise while Nesta would be able to show his best even across the Channel.''

The same cannot be said about Baresi, who had a brief spell in England as Fulham's director of football, then advisor, until tensions with coach Jean Tigana forced him out.

After leaving his post as vice-president of AC Milan, he joined Fulham on June 1, but lasted just short of three months.

``Let's just say that it has been useful, you can take positive things out of unfortunate experiences,`` said the 42-year-old, who is still considering his future.

``For the time being I have nothing, I am on holiday, I am waiting to see what happens.''

Baresi is in the process of acquiring his coaching licence in Italy and is currently finishing his thesis which he is likely to be able to test as soon as a position becomes available.

``I have to study, I have to finish my thesis for the course. The title of my thesis is: `The ball possession and non-possession of the four-defence system','' he said.

Dida vows better on his Milan return
5.9 || Seamus

Back with AC Milan, Brazil keeper Dida has promised to perform at a higher level than he did during his previous stay. The netminder has spent the better part of four seasons on loan to Corinthians and Lugano.

Perhaps best remembered by supporters for his fumble during a rainy European match, Dida insists he can alter perceptions.

”When I quit Milan, I didn't leave a good memory behind me,” he said. “The Rossoneri supporters still remember the mistake I made against Leeds in the Champions League.”

”Now I want to work hard both in training and matches to pay off this debt… I want to show I've changed.”

Dida admits Milan should be considered a Scudetto frontrunner, but he is taking nothing for granted.

”We want to do well but we must show the right attitude in each game,” he professed. “Also Juventus, Roma and Inter have good chances to the league title.”

As for compatriot Rivaldo, a new mate at San Siro, Dida claims the goal poacher is looking forward to excelling in the red and black kit.

”He feels at home here at Milan,” reported the backstop. “He can't wait to play and show everybody what he's able to do.”

Zidane: Milan pose Champions League threat
5.9 || scharatz

Real Madrid playmaker Zinedine Zidane believes that Milan may pose a big threat to his side's dominance in Europe.

"The Italians are equipped in order to return to a maximum concern for us in Europe," he said. "Take Milan in particular. With Nesta and Rivaldo they have made two stratospheric deals. But Juve also promise to do very well too."

Inzaghi on song in Azzurri test
4.9 || scharatz

Italy continue their preparations for Saturday’s Euro 2004 qualifier with an 11-1 victory over the Under-18 international side.

Giovanni Trapattoni fielded what should be his starting line-up for the September 7 clash in Azerbaijan, a 4-3-1-2 formation with Alessandro Del Piero filling in for the injured Francesco Totti.

The new system seemed to work well upfront as Filippo Inzaghi netted four goals. Vincenzo Montella also continued his fine form with a hat-trick in the second half, in which the Azzurri lined up with the old 3-4-1-2 tactic.

Christian Vieri, Cristiano Doni, Massimo Oddo and new Juventus striker Marco Di Vaio were also on the scoresheet.

The only real doubt at this stage regards Gianluigi Buffon. The Bianconeri goalkeeper suffered a minor thigh problem during last week’s friendly at Lazio, but assures he will be ready for Saturday’s crucial encounter.

“I will be there for the game against Azerbaijan,” noted the former Parma man. He also commented on claims that Giovanni Trapattoni is walking a tightrope.

“We realise that Trap is no longer untouchable in his role as Italy Coach,” admitted Buffon, “and that is also partly our fault. We’re very sorry about that, but we now have the chance to make it up to him and repay his faith in us.”


Italy 11 – Italy U18 1

Scorers: Vieri 4, Alberti 7 (U-18), Inzaghi 12, 22, 36, 41, Montella 52, 83, 90, Doni 59, Di Vaio 64, Oddo 80

ITALY first half: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Coco; Gattuso, Di Biagio, Tommasi; Del Piero; Inzaghi, Vieri

ITALY second half: Toldo; Adani, Materazzi, Iuliano; Oddo, Ambrosini, Pirlo, Zauri; Doni; Di Vaio, Montella


Baresi: Nesta is my heir
4.9 || Seamus

Franco Baresi has named Milan’s new buy Alessandro Nesta as his heir for both club and country.

The former Lazio man had dismissed comparisons with the “untouchable” Baresi, but the retired defender assures he is closer than he thinks.

“This Milan side really is becoming better than the one I played in,” commented the ex-European Champion. “The squad can win everything and hold on to that grip for many years.”

Baresi was a lynchpin of the side that boasted Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Dejan Savicevic.

“Nesta is an incredible buy because in Italy at this moment in time there is no-one better. He is an international star who is young but at the same time experienced."

"The Rossoneri can sleep easy at night because for many years they won’t have problems in central defence.”

Baresi has just returned from a disappointing experience at Fulham, where he was accused of trying to take over manager Jean Tigana’s role.

However, the former director of sport has no qualms with the way Carlo Ancelotti – his former teammate – is running this team.

“He is in charge of a Milan side filled with world class champions. Now we must see all the players put themselves at the disposal of the collective, casting aside their egos.”

“The interest of Milan must prevail, not the individual. Carlo must make some choices that will hurt him, but it is inevitable with such a star-packed squad.”


Conte bets on San Siro sides
4.9 || scharatz

Antonio Conte is betting on a Scudetto party in Milan this year following an eventful few months on the transfer market.

“Inter and Milan have made the biggest mark on the summer transactions,” confirmed the Juventus captain, “and on paper the title will be a two-horse race.”

“But thankfully the results don’t just come through having great new players. You need character and will-power. I’m sure that will count for a great deal this year, too.”

The Milanese sides may have reinforced their squad, but with the arrival of Marco Di Vaio the Bianconeri can also count themselves in.

“Juventus are also stronger than they were last season,” notes Conte. “It’s true that Matteo Brighi has left for Parma, but it is the right place for him to grow as a player. He remains a strong element of our future.”

The Serie A campaign should have kicked off this weekend, but delays due to television rights have left the players in the lurch.

“We really want to get out there and play,” explained the veteran midfielder. “We’re going through many changes in Italian football, both club and international.”

“The 1-0 friendly defeat to Slovenia last month was prompted by the disappointment of the World Cup.”

Despite the results, Conte refuses to blame Giovanni Trapattoni and instead offers himself as a replacement for the now retired Paolo Maldini.

“Trap was like a father to me and you can’t put the blame on him. There are many great players in the Azzurri squad but maybe they really need an old hand to help look after them. If Trap needs me, then I wouldn’t turn down a return to the Italy set-up.”


Nesta: My heart belongs to Lazio
4.9 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta leaves Lazio with bitter words for President Sergio Cragnotti, but prefers to look forward to his future at Milan.

The former Biancocelesti captain was a Lazio youth product and spent all 18 years of his career at the Stadio Olimpico.

But this week patron Cragnotti told the press that he had to be sold for £20m “as he was already worth less now than he was three years ago.”

“I prefer not to respond publicly,” snapped Nesta from the Coverciano training ground. “I admire Cragnotti and if I have something to say I shall say it to his face or over the phone.”

“Over the years I may have grown, or perhaps even shrunk, but I know how much I am worth and how much I still have to give.”

Months of transfer speculation passed before the final swoop from the San Siro side on the last day of trading.

“I knew it couldn’t end like that and was convinced I would not stay at Lazio. Of course these were difficult months for me, but I am finally relaxed.”

Nesta had been linked with Inter, Juventus and Real Madrid before choosing his new club.

“Why Milan? Because it was the club that wanted me the most and has a tremendous history and prestige.”

“I know they are expecting a lot from me after spending all that money,” admitted the Italian international, “but I will try not to disappoint. I start this experience with great enthusiasm and will give 100%.”

The departure left a deep wound in Lazio hearts and there was even rioting around the Stadio Olimpico in protest at this decision.

“It was tough for me too to leave Rome. You can’t wipe 18 years of your life away and a part of me will always be close to those people. I shall always have Lazio written on my heart.”

Some Roma fans claim that despite Lazio’s financial difficulties he should have followed the example set by Francesco Totti. The captain claimed he would stick with the Giallorossi even in Serie C2.

“I only know I did what I had to do,” explained Nesta. “I am sorry for those who were upset by this, but I think the fans will remember me with fondness."

"We’re even: in these years I have received a great deal from Lazio, but I have given them a great deal too.”

The confrontation with his past is already looming large as Milan travel to the Stadio Olimpico on September 29.

“I don’t know what I’ll do then, I’ll just play it by ear. But I don’t want to think about that now. I want to concentrate on the start of this challenging new adventure.”


TV row threatens new delay
3.9 || webmaster

Satellite channels have made a new offer to the eight rebel clubs, but Roma President Franco Sensi has backed a new delay to the Serie A season.


Satellite platforms Stream and Telepiu raised their original £3m per club bids to £4.3m, splitting the eight sides evenly between the two channels.


But this latest attempt to diffuse the situation – a higher figure than these clubs received last season - was turned down by the Plus Media Trading agency representing the rebels.


“The bid is still well short of the mark,” snapped Como President Enrico Preziosi.


The eight top flight sides had asked for no less than £6.7m each to transmit their home games live. “At these figures we simply will not step onto the field on September 14.”


The League meeting of all Serie A and B clubs was held in Rome this afternoon and temperatures soared, including an extraordinary verbal battle between League President Adriano Galliani and Roma patron Franco Sensi.


“The season will kick off on September 14,” assured Galliani, “and those who do not turn up already know they will be penalised with an automatic 3-0 defeat.”


Yet the rebel clubs – Atalanta, Brescia, Chievo, Como, Empoli, Modena, Perugia and Piacenza – continue to maintain they will not play if the television contracts are not completed on their terms.


Plans to set up a third satellite platform have hit problems as it relies on spreading the Serie A fixtures over the weekend with a game at 6pm and 8.30pm Saturday and Sunday, leaving just five kick-offs at the traditional 3pm Sunday slot.


Juventus have opposed this ‘slicing and dicing’ of the calendar and confirmed they would vote to split the League if it is not returned to a more logical set-up.


It is this staggered fixture list that has also proved a major stumbling block in negotiations to show highlights free to air.


RAI refuse to pay the same sum as last season if the games – including Serie B matches moved to Saturday evening – are spread out in this manner.


“We have agreed the new contract will be a three-year one,” explained RAISport Director Paolo Francia, “but we demand that there are at least six or seven games on the Sunday.”


The rebel clubs do have the backing of one ‘giant’ of the Italian football scene, Roma President Franco Sensi.


Sensi has long had public rows with Galliani and stepped up a gear in today’s meeting by demanding the League President resign.


“Galliani doesn’t count for ****,” said the businessman, taking shocked journalists by surprise. “The situation is still complicated and we still hope the games can be spread out over the weekend.”


Sensi had run for the League Presidential elections before Galliani was appointed earlier this year.


It was also confirmed that the Serie A and B transfer market will remain open until September 13, although only moves within Italy can be completed.

Sensi: "Galliani is a nobody"
3.9 || webmaster

After Moggi, Batistuta, and Capello, Milan gm Adriano Galliani became the lastest victim of AS Roma chairman Franco Sensi's wrath.

"He is a nobody," said Sensi in response to Galliani's words on the TV rights debate that is blocking the Serie A start.

Galliani told reporters yesterday that the Serie A 'must start on September 14th, and the teams that refuse will be penalized.'

Sensi has also said he will ask Galliani to resign from his post of League President following Milan's Nesta signing, a move that 'clearly proves there is a conflict of interests going on.'

Seedorf reveals Cuper clashes
2.9 || webmaster

Ronaldo was not the only player to clash with Hector Cuper as Clarence Seedorf also reveals personality problems within the Inter camp.


“I am sorry that Ronaldo left Inter because Italian football has lost a great champion,” explained the Dutchman. “I understand the fans are upset, but they should not become angry. They will understand in time.”


Seedorf also walked out on the Nerazzurri this summer and confirmed the cause was their Argentine Coach.


“I left the club because, as everyone knows, I did not get on with Cuper,” confessed the Milan midfielder.


There were even suggestions in the Italian press that Ronaldo had insisted on leaving Inter because his wife Milene was having an affair with teammate Seedorf.


“I want to consider those things that were written to be a joke in rather poor taste,” he added. “It’s best not to react, but it is time to stop such absurd reports.”

OFFICIAL: Contra to Atletico Madrid
2.9 || webmaster

Following their capture of Alessandro Nesta, Milan have agreed to sell full-back Cosmin Contra to Atletico Madrid.

The Romanian struggled last season after arriving from Alaves mainly because he was unable to play in his favoured wing-back role. Contra now joins former Milan men Fabio Coloccini, Javi Moreno, Jose Mari and Demetrio Albertini in the Spanish capital. The Rossoneri agreed to sell the 26-year old for £5m who will have a medical with Atletico on Tuesday. Contra scored three times in 29 League games last year.

After Alessandro Nesta’s shock move on Saturday and Alessandro Costacurta’s return, Milan feel their squad is complete to challenge on three fronts for the coming season.

Freindly: AC Milan 1-0 Inter
2.9 || webmaster

Jon Dahl Tomasson netted the winner in a special charity edition of the Milan derby, played at the San Siro last night.


New buys for both clubs, Alessandro Nesta and Hernan Crespo, walked round the field before kick-off to salute the fans.


The match was a charity event and 50% of the £328,000 ticket sales would go to the families of those who died in last year’s Linate air disaster.


There was a minute’s silence and a bugle call in memory of the 118 who lost their lives when the Swedish plane crashed into a baggage-handling hall.


The game itself was an entertaining affair with many top stars on show. Rivaldo had the first chance on seven minutes when his header brought a fine save out of Francesco Toldo.

The Brazilian went even closer with a free kick that clipped the woodwork.


Former Chelsea man Sam Dalla Bona nodded the ball onto the crossbar soon after, while Under-21 striker Marco Borriello and Clarence Seedorf also tested Toldo’s reflexes.


Inter seemed a little out of sorts and after wasting several good opportunities, Jon Dahl Tomasson finally broke the deadlock with a powerful header on Seedorf’s cross.


Inter had one effort from Alvaro Recoba whistle wide of the post, but it was not enough to prevent the Rossoneri registering this morale-boosting victory.


Tomasson 69


Milan: Dida (Fiori 46); Helveg (Helveg 67), Laursen (Kaladze 46), Maldini (Costacurta 67), Contra; Brocchi (Tomasson 46), Ambrosini, Dalla Bona (Ba 46), Serginho (Seedorf 46); Borriello, Rivaldo (Rui Costa 66)


Inter: Toldo (Moreau 69); Vivas (Beati 46), Adani (Cordoba 46), Sorondo, Pasquale (Materazzi 46); Conceicao (J Zanetti 46), Almeyda, Dalmat (Di Biagio 46), Guly (Coco 50); Vieri (Morfeo 46), Recoba


Ref: Bolognino


Attendance: 43,500

Roque ruled out for three months
1.9 || scharatz

Milan snapped up Alessandro Nesta just in time as defender Roque Junior will be out of action for at least three months.

The Brazilian World Cup winner fell heavily onto his left shoulder during the first half of their August 14 Champions’ League qualifier against Slovan Liberec.

“Our medical staff attempted a non-surgical treatment but did not find positive results,” noted the official club website.

“In accordance with the player, Roque Junior will undergo surgery in Brazil. If there are no complications he should return in around three months.”

Roque Junior was set to take a larger role in the team following his successful World Cup campaign, but the arrival of Alessandro Nesta could squeeze him out again.


£20m Nesta "a bargain"
1.9 || scharatz

Milan pledged not to spend big on star players this summer, but insist that £20m for Alessandro Nesta was an opportunity that could not be missed.

“It’s a great bargain, our only expensive buy of the season,” assured de facto President Adriano Galliani.

“Our final budget will not be affected. We will move towards making cuts or bringing in greater income through our sporting achievements.”

The deal had collapsed mid-August when Lazio turned down an offer of £17m, but qualification into the Champions’ League ensured a massive financial boost to the Rossoneri coffers.

“Nesta is the best buy we could possibly have made,” continued Galliani, “as with him we will spark off another era of Il Grande Milan. Maybe it’s a little early to say, but it’s certain that great players are the key to great results.”

Milan had needed reinforcement in defence, currently their only weak spot after bringing in a host of creative midfielders and Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo.

Partnering Paolo Maldini in central defence, the club hopes Nesta can fill the void left by Franco Baresi when the captain retired.

However, Galliani also maintains that it was not the intervention of media magnate – and Italian Prime Minister – Silvio Berlusconi that broke the transfer deadlock.

“I am the only man responsible for Milan’s activities,” explained the administrator who will soon take over from Berlusconi as club President.

“Berlusconi’s denials that the we would make a new bid were sincere, but I later convinced him that Nesta would not break the bank and that is how we concluded the deal.”

“Alessandro has always been our only objective, the world class star we needed for our defence, but of course if we had not qualified for the Champions’ League this move would never have gone through.”

The team will certainly need the former Lazio captain on form immediately if they are to escape from a group stage with Bayern Munich, Deportivo La Coruna and Lens.

“We have all that is necessary to win,” concluded Galliani, “along with other great teams like Inter, Juventus and Roma.”

“Before Nesta’s arrival I had suggested our target was to pass the first two rounds of the Champions’ League. Now we must aim higher. Much higher.”

Nesta’s presentation press conference will be this evening ahead of the charity match between Inter and Milan at the San Siro. Both Nesta and former Lazio teammate Hernan Crespo – now a Nerazzurri Number 9 - will be in the stands.


Nesta happy with Milan move
1.9 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta has spoken with enthusiasm of his move to the San Siro, the first time he has worn a club shirt that isn’t Biancoceleste.

“It was traumatic for both of us, myself and Lazio, but I am happy now,” revealed the former captain of his hometown club. “18 years is no joke and I will not forget them. But we must move on.”

“I had never left Rome to play football and these are my first hours away from home. But I am in a great club and that makes it all so much easier.”

The Italian international was a Lazio youth product, but after months of speculation was sold off for £20m to redress their financial balance.

The press, player, Coach and club had all assured he would not be leaving this summer, but on the final day of trading Nesta signed a five-year contract with the Rossoneri.

“I understood something was up on Friday,” he admits, “when the transfer deadline was approaching and the terms changed. Milan wanted me and they got me. That’s all.”

A large group of fans waited to salute the new arrival and some say he will be the new Franco Baresi.

“I am happy to be at a club with such a prestigious history and I hope to help create an equally strong future.”

“As for the Baresi comparisons, let’s not joke around here. It’s impossible to emulate him. I am Nesta and come here with the only desire to make my mark on the hearts of the fans and this club.”

The 26-year-old does admit that the move from sunny Rome to the grey skies of Milan will prove quite a change.

“Try to understand my position. I have never played outside Rome before in my entire career. I must adapt, but it won’t be too difficult. I know quite a few people here and that should help.”

Nonetheless, Nesta will not make promises of glory in his presentation press conference.

“Only the field of play will tell you if I was a good buy or not. I have been on the front pages for four months and didn’t like it. I’m stepping out of the spotlight.”

“Let facts speak for themselves. I can’t wait to pull on my boots and do what I do best.”






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