Shevchenko happy to be back in the groove
30.10 || Seamus
Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko is well on the road to full fitness after scoring his second goal in two games against Lens in the 2-1 defeat.
"It was an important goal for me but I am far happier with my fitness levels," he said. "I felt much better today than against Chievo.
"I had no doubts that the fans cared for me and when I was warming up against Bayern at the San Siro they all cheered me. They all made me feel wonderful and I want to thank the Tifosi."
Milan relaxed despite result
29.10 || scharatz
Milan performed well at Lens despite their 2-1 defeat and welcomed Andriy Shevchenko back to the fray.
“It was an important goal for me,” said the Ukrainian, “but I am far happier with my fitness levels. I felt much better today than against Chievo at the weekend.”
“In the goal Jon Dahl Tomasson did well to get his head to that and I just turned up at the right moment.”
Shevchenko had almost seemed surplus to requirements when Filippo Inzaghi was racking up scoring records last month, but the fans have not forgotten their hero.
“I had no doubts that the fans cared for me and when I was warming up at the San Siro against Bayern Munich they all cheered me on. Even if I didn’t step on the field they all made me feel wonderful and I want to thank the Tifosi.”
Despite the defeat the Rossoneri remain one of the favourites to reach the Final.
“This is certainly the strongest Milan line-up I have played in,” said Shevchenko, “but the important thing is to win.”
Coach Carlo Ancelotti agreed that this was not the match to make judgments on Milan’s potential.
“The first half was excellent and we took the lead, but we certainly could have done better after the break. Lens had an intense desire to win and that undoubtedly made the difference.”
Ancelotti has not only revitalised Andrea Pirlo’s career in a new position, but he has also used Jon Dahl Tomasson as an able support striker.
“Tomasson can play upfront or in a deeper role and at the moment I am opting for a single real striker. I’d say the Dane did very well tonight in that position.”
This is their second consecutive defeat between Serie A and the Champions’ League, but nobody at the San Siro is pressing the panic button.
“The team did what it had to tonight,” noted the tactician. “It’s obvious that when the result is no longer crucial to us but decisive for our opponents it will make a difference. These defeats have not changed our plans or our view of the team.”
This was practically a reserve line-up with Alessandro Costacurta and Samuele Dalla Bona alongside players still recovering from injuries such as Shevchenko and Thomas Helveg.
“Most of the players tonight had barely set foot on the field so far this season, but their fitness levels looked good enough.”
“There were a few errors,” he conceded, “but thankfully they were made in a match that didn’t particularly matter.”
“This Milan side tries to impose its style of play on every opponent, whether at home or away, and that is an important sign of quality.”
Reports continue to circulate on various transfers within the Milan camp, particularly Christian Abbiati’s links to Lazio.
“There will be no sales before the end of the season. If there are rumours then that is the problem of the newspapers, not the players, club or Coach.”
Lens 2:1 AC Milan - match report
29.10 || scharatz
Shevchenko 31 (M), Moreira 41 (L), Utaka 49 (L)
Stade Felix Bollaert
Milan were already qualified going into this game with a 100 per cent record, so they rested several top stars including Alessandro Nesta, Manuel Rui Costa and Filippo Inzaghi.
The fight for second place is now between Lens and Deportivo La Coruna. Bayern Munich are mathematically out of Europe altogether - even missing out on the UEFA Cup spot.
Christian Abbiati got his first start of the season in goal and immediately made a fine save on Sibierski's fierce drive from the edge of the box.
Andriy Shevchenko continued his road to recovery following knee surgery pre-season and made his first Champions' League appearance.
He didn't wait to make his mark as the Ukrainian opened the scoring on the half-hour mark. It was a curious goal as Jon Dahl Tomasson's header was going wide, but Shevchenko latched onto it at the far post.
Lens fought back and moments later John Utaka nodded inches wide of the upright.
Daniel Moreira scored their only goal at the San Siro and the striker netted again to draw Lens level with a looping header just before thre break.
Shevchenko was also rested for the second half in favour of Under-21 international hitman Marco Borriello.
In the first minute of the second half Warmuz was forced to fingertip Massimo Ambrosini's fierce drive over the bar.
However, it was Lens who hit the back of the net when Utaka took advantage of a disastrous defensive error from Thomas Helveg. The Dane was caught napping in his own penalty area and allowed the Nigerian striker to snatch the ball off his feet.
Both sides had good chances in the second half as Andrea Pirlo curled a free kick just wide, while Keita's powerful effort was blocked.
Lens almost scored an own goal with Coly's looping clearance, but teammate Song got back in time.
The Rossoneri started pushing hard in the final minutes in search of an equaliser, but Lens held on by the skin of their teeth to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Lens: Warmuz; Coulibaly, Bak, Song, Rool; Bouba Diop (Coly 57), Keita, Coridon, Sibierski (Faye 87); Utaka, Moreira (Thomert 90)
Milan: Abbiati; Helveg, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini (Kaladze 65); Dalla Bona, Ambrosini, Pirlo, Serginho (Seedorf 65); Tomasson, Shevchenko (Borriello 46)
One-match ban for Maldini
29.10 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini has been banned for one game following the use of TV evidence, but Francesco Totti was not punished for this weekend’s incident.
The Milan captain was spotted kicking out at Chievo’s Oliver Bierhoff after the striker had hacked him down from behind.
The referee did not witness the incident, so television evidence was admissible and the case went before the disciplinary commission.
Last week Gigi Di Biagio was handed a two-match ban for a similar incident, but the Inter midfielder had kicked out twice at Edgar Davids so the reaction foul was considered to be more serious.
However, Francesco Totti has escaped punishment for apparently punching Dejan Stankovic on the side of the head during the Rome derby.
The Giallorossi captain was caught grabbing the Lazio man round the neck with one arm and striking him on the side of the head with the other hand.
The referee in the 2-2 draw did see the incident and whistled for a foul, but took no further action against Totti.
As the official witnessed the foul itself, television evidence cannot be used in this case.
The foul was also committed during play and could not therefore be described as a reaction or off the ball incident.
Ancelotti backs his defence
29.10 || Seamus
Carlo Ancelotti is sure that his Milan defence will prove to be one of the best in the Italian championship.
The Rossoneri rearguard has been heavily criticised after the 3-2 defeat to Chievo in which all three goals could have been avoided. But the Coach is standing by his men.
"It is obvious that when you concede three goals like that with a defence as strong as ours, then you will make the headlines," said the tactician.
"But I am certain that once all the fun and games are over next May, we will have one of the best defensive records in the top flight."
Milan have conceded five goals in six League games. Inter and Juve share the best record presently with four goals against.
The San Siro giants are back in action against Lens this evening where Ancelotti wants a focused display – despite the fact that they have already qualified for Phase Two of the Champions’ League.
"This is still an important game for us because this is Europe’s premier competition," added the former Juve boss.
"The result may not have any significance for us but we want to put on a good show for the fans. Lens are a good side and they still have a chance of qualifying. Therefore it will be tough for us."
In Milan transfer news, midfielder Massimo Ambrosini is again being linked with a move to Juventus.
The international has struggled to feature in the first team this season and reports claim that Juve are eyeing a January swoop.
It is believed that the Bianconeri will offer Alessio Tacchinardi is a straight swap deal. The latter is well liked by Ancelotti after their time together in Turin.
In other transfer stories, Atalanta star Cristiano Doni is being targeted by Sampdoria for the new season.
Should the port club win promotion to the top flight then they will offer Francesco Flachi and cash for the Italian international.
Ancelotti: Reserves Will Still Be Competitive Against Lens
29.10 || Seamus
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that his weakened side will still be competitive against Lens tonight.
With the Rossoneri already through to the next round of the Champions League, Ancelotti has left the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Manuel Rui Costa, Rivaldo and Filippo Inzaghi at home.
"The team that plays will still be competitive because we want to respect this competition," insisted Ancelotti. "Even if we have kept some key players at home we are not underestimating the task ahead."
Lens vs. AC Milan - match preview
29.10 || Seamus
If you'd have said to Lens coach Joel Muller when the Champions League draw was made that his side would still have had a big chance of finishing second going into the penultimate game against Milan, he would surely have taken that.
Last week's superb win over Deportivo La Coruna has given the French side a real chance in a group in which they looked somewhat out of their depth when the groups were drawn.
However, a stubborn refusal to accept defeat is part of this team's psyche, and as a result of their fighting sprit they now look odds on for a third placed finish at least.
After all, one wonders just how motivated this Milan side will be having already qualified last week when beating Bayern Munich. Who would the Rossoneri rather see in the next round? Depor or Bayern who could trouble them in later rounds, or little Lens who just by reaching round two would have exceeded all expectation?
Milan, though, are unlikely to be in the most charitable mood after seeing their unbeaten Serie A record disappear on Saturday night at Chievo. At last it became evident that this team are not a collection of super humans, but mere mortals after all. They showed worrying defensive signs against the Flying Donkeys, with Massimo Marazzina left all alone in the box to put them 1-0 down, and Kakha Kaladze at fault for the second goal when failing to clear properly. This, after looking so assured just three days earlier against Bayern when Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini put in such commanding performances.
Lens Last Six Matches: DLWDWD
Muller's men are the draw specialists of Le Championnat, picking up single points in six of the opening 12 games, including recently against Lille, Ajacco and Nice. Their only victory of late in the league came at Montpellier. Last week against Depor, Adama Coulibaly, Daniel Moreira and Olivier Thomert netted in a stunning 3-1 win.
Milan Last Six Matches: DWWWWL
Following the draw at Lazio, the Rossoneri went on a four-match winning streak which saw them beat Bayern, Torino, Atalanta and Bayern again. The weekend's defeat at Chievo may just have done the Rossoneri a favour in bringing them back down to earth.
LATEST TEAM NEWS
Lens: coach Joel Muller has a fully fit squad to choose from.
PL (4-2-3-1): Warmuz; Coulibaly, Bak, Song, Rool; Bouba Diop, Keita; Coridon, Sibierski, Utaka; Moreira
Milan: Ancelotti can afford the luxury of resting a number of players. Nesta, Inzaghi, Rivaldo and Rui Costa are all left in Milan, while Seedorf, Gattuso and Kaladze will take their places on the bench. Shevchenko and Maldini may just play 45 minutes.
PL (4-4-2): Abbiati; Helveg, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini; Dalla Bona, Ambrosini, Pirlo, Serginho; Shevchenko, Tomasson
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Daniel Moriera (Lens)- the frontman may be finding goals hard to come by in Le Championnat, but he is having no such problem in Europe's premier club competition, netting in three of the clubs four games.
Andrea Pirlo (Milan)- the young midfielder was one of the Rossoneri's best players on Saturday against Chievo. He's done a fine job in his new role in front of the back-four this season. A vital cog that links defence to attack.
Maldini on TV defensive
28.10 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini believes he shouldn’t be punished by TV evidence for an incident involving Oliver Bierhoff.
Television images show the Milan man kicking out at the Chievo striker, after he was on the receiving end of a tough tackle from his former teammate.
Incidents in recent weeks have seen both Juventus’ Alessio Tacchinardi and Luigi Di Biagio of Inter receive two-match bans for similar actions.
However, Maldini maintains that suspending him would be a mistake. "TV evidence should only be used for more serious incidents," he told the ‘Controcampo’ publication.
"By going down this road we are running the risk of punishing players who commit serious fouls on the field with a yellow card and those of minor reactions being given two-match bans."
He added: "Television pictures should be examined when punches are thrown or when there are real violent reactions. Not for incidents such as mine and Di Biagio’s.
"I said in the past that Di Biagio didn’t deserve such an excessive punishment and if I’m banned then the authorities will be continuing in their error."
However, Inter stopper Marco Materazzi believes that the Maldini case should be examined by the disciplinary commission.
"Maldini is the fairest player in Italy but as it was used with Di Biagio, TV evidence should be applied to everyone," stated the stopper.
"I don’t think any of the two incidents should have been looked at but a precedent has now been set."
Meanwhile, Lazio’s Dejan Stankovic is asking for Francesco Totti to be punished after he was caught on camera apparently punching the midfielder during the 2-2 derby draw.
Maldini faces trial by television
27.10 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini could be the latest star suspended through television evidence after he was spotted kicking out at Oliver Bierhoff.
The Milan captain reacted angrily to a fierce challenge from behind by his former teammate in yesterday’s 3-2 defeat at Chievo.
Now Juventus and Inter are publicly demanding a ban for the veteran defender after they were also subjected to similar suspensions.
“If it is true that Maldini kicked out,” warned Alessio Tacchinardi, “then he must be punished with the use of television evidence.”
The Bianconeri midfielder was one of two Juve stars suspended earlier this season for off the ball incidents.
“If the kind of treatment reserved to Gigi Di Biagio is not the same with everyone,” added Hector Cuper, “then that means Di Biagio’s ban was unjust.”
The Nerazzurri midfielder was handed a two-match ban for kicking out at Edgar Davids after a tough challenge last week. Inter’s appeal was rejected.
The Disciplinary Commission also faces further scrutiny of this incident, as the League President is Milan director Adriano Galliani.
Should Maldini not be punished in line with similar incidents, Roma President Franco Sensi could use it as further evidence of a ‘pro-Milan bias’.
The two Roman clubs have already announced plans to demand Galliani’s resignation from the League during the Winter break in December.
As for Milan, they already face problems as Andrea Pirlo will be suspended for next week’s match with Reggina.
Ancelotti admits defensive disaster
26.10 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti concedes that Milan’s first defeat of the season was caused by errors at the back.
“Some distractions in defence proved fatal,” noted the Rossoneri boss after their 3-2 defeat at Chievo.
“We were punished by moments of the match rather than an overall performance. They broke the deadlock almost immediately and it was an uphill struggle all the way. Chievo did well to close down the space.”
Andriy Shevchenko made a strong comeback with a goal in his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery in August.
“He moved well,” said Ancelotti, “and that is the sign of a player who is on form already. Shevchenko is an important player for us to have at our disposal.”
Chievo add to their reputation as giant killers with this thrilling 3-2 win and Massimo Marazzina explains the key to their success.
“We knew that Milan had greater technical skill than us,” admitted the striker, “so we had to use our aggression as a weapon.”
There was a late siege as the Rossoneri tried to grab a point in stoppage time.
“They have great character and would not give in until the final whistle. We are pleased with the three points but this win also boosts morale.”
Captain Eugenio Corini was also overjoyed with this latest scalp, ending the League leaders’ unbeaten run.
“We have beaten the most on-form team of the moment,” added the midfielder, “and this means Chievo did very well indeed and are getting back to their old selves.”
“Nonetheless, we continue to look at avoiding relegation as our main objective despite what happened last season.”
Chievo Verona 3:2 AC Milan - match report
26.10 || scharatz
Big surprise tonight at the Bentegodi stadium, where league co-leaders Milan suffered their first loss of the season. A superbly focused and organized Chievo defeated the Rossoneri 3-2 thanks to goals by Marazzina, Bierhoff and Cossato, while Shevchenko and Tomasson scored for Ancelotti's men, who made plenty of defensive mistakes and played a very confused match.
In the first 10 minutes, Chievo surprised the Rossoneri with a hyper-aggressive attitude, which prevented Milan's creatives Pirlo, Seedorf and Rui Costa from supplying the offensive duo Inzaghi-Shevchenko. The hosts created first chance of the match in the 4th minute, when a right-footer by Cossato flew just high over the bar.
Ancelotti's men reacted promptly and took control of the midfield, wasting a couple of good opportunities in the 13th minute with Inzaghi, whose shot went just wide at the right of Lupatelli, and a few seconds later with a free kick by Rui Costa, well saved by the former Roma keeper.
Precisely in Milan's best moment, the hosts managed to take the lead thanks to a clear defensive mistake by the Rossoneri. In the 22nd minute, following a free kick by Corini, Marazzina was left all alone inside Milan's box and didn't have any problem in netting the 1-0.
The reaction of the guests was furious but also confused, and a very concentrated Chievo prevented the Rossoneri from creating any real scoring chance until the 43th minute, when a right-footer by Seedorf deflected by a defender was superbly saved by Lupatelli.
Carlo Ancelotti tried to change something at the beginning of the second half, replacing Simic with Helveg, but after only four minutes Milan's second defensive mistake of the match allowed Chievo to double their lead. Following a free kick by Corini, Kaladze failed to sweep the box and the rebound was expolited by Bierhoff, who netted the 2-0 with an accurate header.
Milan managed to get back into the game in the 14th minute with a superb flying header by Schevchenko, who took profit of a cross by Pirlo.
The Rossoneri dominated the rest of the second half, but their confused attacks didn't produce anything concrete on the offensive side, and with eight minutes to go the hosts exploited perfectly a quick counterattack by scoring the 3-1 with a Cossato header.
With two minutes to go in injury time, Rui Costa shot from the limit of the box, Lupatelli saved and Tomasson netted the tap-in, but it was too late and Chievo could celebrate their fantastic win.
Sheva gets first start
26.10 || scharatz
Andriy Shevchenko will make his Serie A debut this season in this evening's high-profile clash at Chievo.
“Sheva will start the match,” confirmed Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti, “as he took part in full training and can play 90 minutes.”
The Ukrainian hitman has been out of action since undergoing knee surgery pre-season, but the Rossoneri have not missed him thanks to goals from Pippo Inzaghi and Rivaldo.
“I only just discovered that I would be starting,” confessed Shevchenko. “I am very happy indeed and quite nervous at this comeback.”
His return to full fitness is particularly timely as his teammates are starting to struggle with their own injury worries.
“Rivaldo has not been included in the squad as he has a thigh problem,” continued the tactician, “while Inzaghi is not particularly well right now. He will play against Chievo, but will rest for next week’s trip to Lens.”
Milan are flying high right now as they are already qualified for the second phase of the Champions’ League with four wins out of four and top the Serie A table alongside archrivals Inter.
“Chievo attack all their opponents from the get-go and do not fear anyone,” noted Ancelotti. “Most of their forward moves come down the flanks, so we must be careful of that.”
“The important thing will be to lift the tempo right from the start. Chievo have changed many players from last season, but still have the potential to do just as well.”
The timing is not good as the Rossoneri may be tired from their tough 2-1 win over Bayern Munich midweek.
“It was a very intense game,” admits Ancelotti, “but physically we are back on form and ready for anything. There will certainly be no lack of enthusiasm.”
Chievo Verona vs. AC Milan - match preview
25.10 || scharatz
It's full steam ahead for this unstoppable locomotive that is Milan, as they visit Chievo Verona.
The Flying Donkey's hardly look a side equipped to put a spanner in the Rossoneri's works, but they've upset the odds before in Serie A since arriving in the top flight last season.
All the signs suggest, though, that they may have a long hard season ahead. They aren't taking their chances like last season, although were unfortunate not to pick up a point at Torino last week.
This clash sees Olivier Bierhoff come face-to-face with the club where with whom he had so much success and won a Scudetto. After his opening day strike against Lazio, he has failed to net, and his side have taken just three points from four games. He'll need to be on top of his game in this one.
The Rossoneri just keep on winning. On Wednesday in the Champions League they weren't always comfortable against Bayern Munich, but managed to eke out the victory that sent them through to the next stage. In fact against the Germans, they showed a very important quality that will serve them well from now until the end of the season. That being the ability to fight and grind out a result. After Filippo Inzaghi had scored to put them 2-1 ahead it was mainly backs-to-the-wall stuff as Bayern upped the tempo and created a number of scorable chances. However, the superb Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta stood strong, and with a little luck (Sami Kuffour and Roque Santa Cruz effectively had open goals, while Giovane Elber hit the bar), the Rossoneri secured the result that enables them to rest players in the remaining two games and as coach Carlo Ancelotti put it 'concentrate on Serie A for the next month'.
Not that they've lacked the ability to do this or course. On Sunday they went top with a crushing 4-1 beating of Atalanta. Rivaldo scored his first goal for the club in that match, as did Jon Dahl Tomasson, while Andrea Pirlo was on target twice, the second a delicious curling free-kick into the top left-hand corner.
Against Bayern the second biggest cheer of the night (after the final whistle) came at the sight of Andriy Shevchenko warming up on the touchline. The Ukrainian didn't get on but the likelihood is that he'll see some action this weekend. Quite how Ancelotti is going to juggle his forwards in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but it's certainly a nice problem to have.
Chievo Last Six Matches: DLLLWL
Wins are proving hard to come by for Del Neri's men and the only recent one came against new boys Modena. The Flying Donkey's have been knocked out of the Uefa Cup in round one, and have also picked up defeats at home to Brescia, away to Inter and against Torino last week.
Milan Last Six Matches: WDWWWW
The Rossoneri's only recent blemish was a 1-1 draw at Lazio, although that may well be considered a point gained at the end of the season. Otherwise Bayern have been twice disposed of in the Champions League, while Torino and Atalanta have been hit for six and four respectively in Serie A.
LATEST TEAM NEWS
Chievo: Luciano and De Franceschi are both out, otherwise Del Neri has a fully fit squad to choose from.
PL (4-4-2): Lupatelli, Moro, Legrottaglie, D'Anna, Lanna, Della Morte, Perrotta, Corini, Franceschini, Bierhoff, Marazzina
Milan: Tomasson is expected to come in for Serginho, while Gattuso will replace Ambrosini. Otherwise Milan will be unchanged from the team that beat Bayern. Rivaldo and Shevchenko will take their places on the bench, both having recovered from injury. Roque Junior, Chamot and Redondo are all still sidelined.
PL (4-3-1-2): Dida, Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Tomasson, Inzaghi
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oliver Bierhoff (Chievo)- the veteran German striker will take to the field with a point to prove against his old club. He and Marazzina could prove a handful for Nesta and Maldini.
Filippo Inzaghi (Milan)- the Italian international continued his fine form with another goal against Bayern on Wednesday. The hottest striker in world football without a shadow of a doubt.
Chievo unafraid of Milan
25.10 || scharatz
Chievo boss Luigi Del Neri has maintained that his side do not fear Milan – despite their frightening form.
The Rossoneri are Italy’s most in-form club after reaching the top of Serie A and qualifying for the Second Round of the Champions’ League following four straight wins.
"There is no fear on our part but only a lot of respect," Del Neri said ahead of Saturday’s clash between the two clubs.
"We need to be ourselves in the game and try to be even better and stronger than when we faced them last term. At the end of the day we need to play like Chievo."
The Veronese outfit drew 1-1 with Milan in the corresponding fixture last season.
The Stadio Bentegodi, venue for the encounter, is expected to be sold out for the game.
Inzaghi uninterested in Golden Boot
25.10 || Seamus
Red hot AC Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi, who scored against Bayern in the Champions League, told Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport he was not interested in individual honours.
"I don't think about Golden Boot at present, my main goal being to win in a Milan shirt, he insisted. We have the possibility to do it this season. Only then I'll focus on the Golden Boot".
Inzaghi also pointed out he was confident Milan could do well despite a congested fixture list. "Milan have all the qualities to win this season", he said.
"Playing every three days, you don't have much time to rest and you can suffer as Bayern experienced. But the fact is that we defeated twice a tough opposition".
Nesta puzzled by differing form
24.10 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta says he is mystified to why his performances at club and national level are so different.
The stopper has been in sensational form for Milan but has struggled badly for the Azzurri of late.
"I admit that I have made mistakes for Italy but I can’t really tell you why," said the £20m summer buy from Lazio.
"There are certainly no problems tactically and I can’t honestly say that I feel better protected by the Milan midfield rather than the national one."
Nesta put in another good display in the 2-1 Champions’ League win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday, which booked the club’s place in the next phase.
"With qualification ensured now, we can take time to catch our breath over the next few weeks," Nesta added.
"I think Bayern are the strongest side we’ve played so far this season. They had to win the game and we had no option but to wait for them to come at us and then hit them."
The classy defender was substituted in last night’s clash but maintains that he has no serious fitness problems.
"There is absolutely nothing to worry about," he continued. "I came off with cramp and nothing more. Tiredness is making itself felt right now, especially after the international games."
Meanwhile, Milan chief Silvio Berlusconi has praised the Rossoneri after they went to the top of the Serie A table on Sunday with a 4-1 win at Milan.
"The side are finally playing football that meets with the approval of the President," he enthusiastically commented.
Ancelotti sees room for improvement
24.10 || scharatz
Milan are through to the second phase of the Champions’ League after a fourth consecutive win, but Carlo Ancelotti continues to look for improvements.
“We are very proud and honoured to have achieved passage into the second phase so early on,” assured Ancelotti.
Yet, despite the 100 per cent record, he was not entirely satisfied with their performance so far in the tournament.
“Our objective is to always strive to do better than the match before. We can yet improve and do more with the extraordinary potential at our disposal.”
The Rossoneri have now beaten one of the pre-tournament favourites Bayern Munich twice with a 2-1 scoreline and almost mathematically eliminated the Germans.
“It was a difficult game tonight as Bayern needed a result and came out fighting,” explained the Coach. “We tried to play beautiful football, but when that’s not possible we get down and work hard.”
“Few people believed we could win our first four games in this extremely tough group. I admit, I didn’t expect this start either, but we are very pleased to have done it. For the next month we can concentrate on Serie A.”
Filippo Inzaghi has been the key man in this season so far with eight Champions’ League goals in four games.
“I step up a gear in this Milan side and don’t ever want to step off the field,” said the striker who has been struggling with a foot injury.
“I have a few niggling pains, but I thankfully was able to grit my teeth and help get this very important victory against a great side.”
Clarence Seedorf was once again one of the men of the match in a stellar midfield.
“Bayern Munich are a very strong team and had all the right motivation to play such a great game. But we took our chances and held out well in defence, so it was a deserved win and a tough match.”
The Dutchman also revealed more about the team spirit that permeates the Rossoneri this season.
“It is only right that everyone stays ready for the whole team at any time. You get tired after playing so many games and the rotation system is therefore useful for everyone.”
Baresi linked to Trap job
23.10 || scharatz
Franco Baresi is the latest candidate to be put forward as a replacement for Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
The former Milan legend has just returned to the club after a brief spell as Director of Sport at Fulham.
The ex-defender seemed intent on a future as a club director at the San Siro and has no real Coaching experience, but his undoubted charisma is considered a bonus for this post.
However, it is reported that Baresi’s arrival would not please the two Roman clubs due to his lifetime links with the Rossoneri.
The same reason – strong connections with Juventus – have pushed Gianluca Vialli off the top spot in the FA list of candidates.
In the current climate the opinion of the big Serie A sides is very important in choosing who is to lead the Azzurri.
At this stage the only real candidate to replace Trap would be Dino Zoff. The man who took Italy to the Euro 2000 Final has sat on the bench at both Juventus and Lazio, therefore making him a ‘neutral’ selector in the eyes of the clubs.
Failing that, it is increasingly possible that Trapattoni will be reconfirmed as Italy Coach despite his recent disastrous results.
The best men for the job according to the Federation – Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi – are tied up in club contracts with Roma and Juventus respectively.
It is possible that the situation will not have been sorted out before the November 20 friendly against Turkey, leaving Trap on the bench for another game.
The Azzurri’s next Euro 2004 qualifier is not until March 2003 against Finland.
AC Milan 2:1 Bayern Munich - match report
23.10 || scharatz
Serginho 10 (M), Tarnat 23 (B), Inzaghi 64 (M)
SuperPippo Inzaghi's eighth goal in four games has automatically qualified Milan for the next phase with a 100 per cent record, but Bayern Munich are almost certainly out of the Champions' League.
Milan had won this tie 2-1 in Germany and came out fighting at the San Siro, although Bayern needed a result not to be eliminated.
Within the first 90 seconds Oliver Kahn had to come out to clear off Manuel Rui Costa's feet.
Filippo Inzaghi started the match after a rest for a strain to the sole of his foot and Andriy Shevchenko was on the bench for the first time since knee surgery pre-season, but Rivaldo was out injured.
Bayern also went close on five minutes when Elber ran past Dario Simic and put Michael Tarnat through, but the finish was not up to the standard of the rest of this move.
Milan fielded Serginho as a support striker - who caused havoc in the German defence in the first leg as a substitute - and it was the Brazilian who opened the scoring after just ten minutes.
He gathered Clarence Seedorf's through ball and inbetween two defenders turned in with the outside of his left foot beyond the outstretched Kahn.
Bayern occasionally got the better of the Milan backline but Dida made a desperate two-time save on a fierce Salihamidzic piledriver from 20 metres.
Tarnat made up for his earlier error with a wonder strike on 22 minutes. The midfielder was left completely unmarked just inside the box and fired in by the near post from a very difficult angle.
Salihamidzic was also left alone out wide soon after, but Dida was up to the task.
There was controversy on the half-hour when two successive penalty appeals by Kakha Kaladze and Seedorf were waved away by the Slovakian referee.
There were more penalty appeals at the dawn of the second half when Serginho charged into the box and was brought down from behind by Sagnol, but the referee again waved play on.
There was another blow for Bayern when Kahn fell to the ground with a thigh problem and was forced off the field.
Milan took control in the second period and regained their lead through SuperPippo Inzaghi. The man who netted both goals in Germany gathered an intelligent Manuel Rui Costa through ball and slid a delicate angled drive past Wessels. Inzaghi takes his Champions' League tally to eight goals in four games, but television replays show he may have been just offside.
A defensive error left Pizarro clear on goal soon after, but Dida made another fine save to preserve the result, while Sami Kuffour blasted over the bar from close range.
Bayern went extremely close on 75 minutes when an Elber free header ricocheted off the crossbar and Santa Cruz couldn't tap in from six yards. Soon after Sagnol's angled drive slid inches past the far post as Bayern pushed forward with the force of desperation.
Santa Cruz was trying a little too hard when he was booked for diving in the box following a clash with Kaladze.
Substitute Sam Dalla Bona could have closed the game on 87 minutes, but ballooned over the bar.
Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini (Gattuso 46), Pirlo, Rui Costa (Laursen 85), Seedorf; Serginho (Dalla Bona 79), Inzaghi
Bayern Munich: Kahn (Wessels 52); Sagnol, R Kovac, Kuffour, Tarnat; Salihamidzic (Scholl 71), Jeremies, Ballack, Ze Roberto; Elber, Pizzarro (Santa Cruz 72)
Ref: Michel (Slk)
AC Milan vs. Bayern Munich - match preview
23.10 || scharatz
Group Of Death? What Group of Death? So comes the rallying call from the red and black half of Milan as their team have swept through one of the hardest looking Champions League groups with a 100% record at the halfway stage, sweeping aside Lens, Deportivo and Wednesday's opponents Bayern Munich will clinical precision.
Victory at the San Siro against the Germans will guarantee Milan a place in the second phase of the competition and possible eliminate Bayern at the same time and you certainly wouldn't bet against them doing just that on current form.
Aside from their domination in Europe, the Milanese side have done similar domestically, as they proudly perch on top of Serie A with four wins and a draw from their five games so far, most recently a 4-1 demolition of Atalanta.
The golden days of the early 90s are often harped back to when Milan are being discussed, the halcyon days of Rijkaard, Van Basten, Gullit and co and that astonishing 1991-2 season when they went through the entire campaign unbeaten. Are those days returning you wonder?
The Champions League won't seem the same without Bayern Munich in the latter stages, but that is a likely prospect after their poor start in the 'Group of Death'. With just one point to show from their opening three matches Ottmar Hitzfeld's side are close to needing a miracle.
The fortress that was the Olympic Stadium in Munich lost its formidability after Milan followed Deportivo in winning there three weeks ago to leave the German giants in the position they now find themselves.
Failure to beat the high-flying Italian's may not necessarily be the end of their hopes, although should Deportivo win away to Lens it would be time to concentrate on finishing third and earning a place in the UEFA Cup. A famous result at the San Siro could leave them back in the mix, although they would probably still need to win in the Riazor next week.
Milan (all comps – oldest results first): WWDWWW: Pretty impressive record isn't it, especially when you consider that their other two games were also victories. The only blemish, if you can call it that, was a 1-1 draw in Rome against Lazio which is hardly a poor result in itself. In their last two games, Milan have netted an astonishing ten goals as Atalanta and previously Torino, have been ripped apart.
Bayern's Last Six Matches (all competitions): WDLLWW: Hitzfeld's side may be struggling in Europe, but domestically they are firing on all cylinders. The Bavarian outfit have a two point lead at the top of the table and a game in hand over their rivals after they won six of their opening eight league matches. Since their defeat at Bayer Leverkusen they've recorded victories against Bochum (4-1) and away to Hansa Rostock (1-0) on Saturday
Milan – available shortly
Bayern Munich have three fitness worries to contend with ahead of their trip to Milan. English midfielder Owen Hargreaves and Hasan Salihamidzic have both reported thigh strains, although the Bosnian, who scored the winner at
the weekend, should start. While French defender Willy Sagnol should also play despite a reported calf strain. Thomas Linke is on standby though.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Milan: Pippo Inzaghi. If he overcomes injury and plays, the 29-year old striker will cause massive problems for the Germans as he is arguably the most in-form forward in Europe at present. Six goals in his four league games so far is a worthy testament to his amazing firepower.
Bayern: Michael Ballack: The star German midfielder has already become a fans
favourite at Bayern following his summer move from Bayer Leverkusen. He has
popped up with some crucial goals and another one on Wednesday is
desperately needed, while Brazilian striker Elber needs to continue his rich
vein of form.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI's
Milan: Available shortly
Bayern Munich (4-3-1-2): Kahn; Sagnol, Kovac, Kuffour, Tarnat; Salihamidzic,
Jeremies, Ze Roberto ; Ballack; Elber, Pizarro
Milan in the mood, says Seedorf
23.10 || Seamus
Clarence Seedorf is desperate for AC Milan to beat FC Bayern München in order to maintain their momentum and qualify for the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Nine from nine
Seedorf has been a revelation this season since his move from city rivals Internazionale FC in the summer. He has slotted perfectly into a relatively free role on the left of midfield as Milan have impressed both domestically and in Europe. They lead Group G with nine points from three games after wins against RC Lens, RC Deportivo La Coruña and Bayern, and Seedorf is confident they can beat the Bavarians for a second time in three weeks tonight.
'We will do it'
He told uefa.com: "It is extremely important for us to win on Wednesday and I think we will do it. Qualifying with two games to spare would allow us to train a bit harder and get ready for the next stage at the earliest possible moment. Also, Bayern are one of the best sides in Europe and it would obviously be good for us if they didn't reach the second round."
Seedorf realises that Bayern will be "extremely motivated" to win at the San Siro, especially as a draw or defeat allied with a Deportivo win in Lens would see them knocked out. However, he does not believe the German team's situation will make it more difficult for the home side.
'Keep our concentration'
He said: "True, they need to win and they are a good team but we are also playing well at the moment and just need to concentrate on ourselves. We need to keep up the momentum and keep our concentration at the highest possible moment, not only for Wednesday's game but for the whole season."
Seedorf, who after success with AFC Ajax and Real Madrid CF is one of five players who has won the Champions League with two different clubs, is just one example of how everything has come together for Milan this season. It took him no time at all to strike up an almost telepathic understanding with fellow midfield players Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Rui Costa and the quartet have been behind most of Milan's goals this season.
"Yes, it was a good move for me," he said. "I wasn't playing that much at Inter and I need to be playing regularly at this stage of my career. It is also true that the midfield has been working well and supplied the strikers with quality opportunities, but you also have to remember that our defence have been really strong and allowed us to get forward," he added.
More to come
And the bad news for the rest of Serie A - and Milan's opponents in Europe - is that they have not even reached top form yet, according to Seedorf. "We are not even at our best at the moment and we are fully aware of that. There are always things you can improve and even when we beat Atalanta [BC] 4-1 away on Sunday it was clear to us that we still need to improve some things," he said.
Ancelotti wants intimidating San Siro
23.10 || Seamus
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has asked his players to make San Siro a house of horrors for visitors, beginning with Wednesday’s Champions League showdown with a desperate Bayern Münich.
"Milan can be better than in the first leg at the Olympiastadion," he boasted on the club website. "I especially want them to profit by the fact that we play at the San Siro in front of our supporters.”
"This season we want San Siro to become our strong point.”
Added Ancelotti, “We know we are not qualified for the second group stage yet, that's why we'll be concentrated."
Ancelotti wants it all
22.10 || scharatz
Milan are top of Serie A and their Champions’ League group, but Carlo Ancelotti has no intention of slowing down.
“My men will step onto the field against Bayern Munich with the intention of playing even better than they did in the 4-1 win at Atalanta,” assured the tactician.
The Rossoneri currently have a 100% record in the European competition and another defeat would almost certainly knock the Germans out of the running for qualification.
“We want to beat Bayern again,” assured the Coach, “because aiming for a draw would be wrong as the Germans are on form and will try to impose their style of play on us.”
“But most importantly, if we win then they will be eliminated from the Champions’ League. We have the chance to close off their challenge and we will try to do it.”
“The secret of our success is that the players – especially the world famous stars – are ready to make sacrifices and adapt for the good of the team. Only the players can make the difference to a performance and help the side grow.”
Ancelotti claims that the San Siro crowd really is the twelfth member of the team when it comes to big games like Wednesday’s clash.
“This season we are putting a great deal of importance on the imposing atmosphere of the San Siro. We expect a sell-out crowd for the Bayern game and they can really turn it in our favour.”
Pippo Inzaghi is back in action following a much-needed rest for the strain to the sole of his foot. The star striker – who netted both goals in their 2-1 victory in Munich – has special shoes to ease the pain but they have reportedly caused back problems as a side-effect.
Rivaldo finally performed to his usual standards on Sunday, but the Brazilian has flown back home for a couple of days after a muscular problem ruled him out of this game.
“Andriy Shevchenko will be on the bench,” confirmed Ancelotti, “and it is not out of the question that he could play in the second half.”
The Ukrainian hitman has been out of action since undergoing knee surgery pre-season and his return can only strengthen an already impressive outfit.
Milan: 12 Dida; 14 Simic, 13 Nesta, 3 Maldini, 4 Kaladze; 21 Pirlo; 8 Gattuso, 10 Rui Costa, 20 Seedorf; 15 Tomasson, 9 Inzaghi
Bayern Munich: 1 Kahn; 2 Sagnol, 4 Kuffour, 5 R.Kovac, 18 Tarnat; 20 Salihamidzic, 16 Jeremies, 13 Ballack, 11 Zè Roberto; 14 Pizarro, 9 Elber
Ref: Lubos Michel (Slo)
Rivaldo returns to Brazil
22.10 || Seamus
Rivaldo will play no part in Milan's clash with Bayern Munich due to injury, and now it has emerged that the Brazilian has returned to his homeland due to family reasons.
This has been agreed with the Rossoneri and he will return on Thursday.
The former Barcelona man scored his first goal for the club on Sunday against Atalanta, only to depart the field injured with 15 minutes remaining.
Rivaldo sits out Bayern visit
21.10 || Seamus
Rivaldo will be missing through injury when AC Milan attempt to qualify for the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League at the expense of FC Bayern München on Wednesday.
The Brazilian playmaker scored his first goal for the Rossoneri in yesterday's 4-1 Serie A victory against Atalanta BC before a muscle injury in the 77th minute saw him replaced by Serginho. Tests today revealed that Rivaldo had strained muscles in his right thigh which although not serious will require a few days' rest, forcing him out of a Group G fixture which could extinguish Bayern's hopes of advancing to the next phase.
The loss of Rivaldo could be tempered by the return of Ukrainian international Andriy Shevchenko after two months out with a knee injury. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said: "He [Shevchenko] is ready to play although I am not sure he will against Bayern. He has completely recovered and now just needs to find his peak physical condition."
Milan top Group G having won all three matches so far, the most recent being a thrilling 2-1 success at Bayern's Olympiastadion. The German side, Champions League winners in 2001, have taken just one point from a possible nine.
Atalanta 1-4 AC Milan - match report
20.10 || webmaster
Scorers: Rivaldo 15 (M), Sala 29 (A), Tomasson 40 (M), Pirlo pen 65, 80 (M)
Milan started their first Serie A match of the season without Filippo Inzaghi due to the painful strain in the sole of his foot, but Rivaldo finally began to deliver on his reputation with an inspiring performance.
Jon Dahl Tomasson had the first real chance of the game clear on goal on nine minutes, but ex-Milan goalkeeper Massimo Taibi was able to intercept the weak shot with his foot.
Rivaldo has been disappointing so far this season, but the break in the campaign has done him good in improving fitness levels. The Brazilian scored his first ever Serie A goal with a trademark low drive from 20 metres, although it may have taken a deflection off Massimo Carrera.
Clarence Seedorf had two good opportunities to double Milan's lead, but his long-range strikes were inches wide of the target.
However, Atalanta drew level with a spectacular goal from former Rossoneri man Luigi Sala. The defender drilled a fierce effort into the top corner from just inside the box, leaving Dida with no chance.
Alessandro Nesta required stitches after a clash of heads with Bianchi for a cut just under his eye.
Just before the break Milan took the lead once more and Rivaldo was again heavily involved. The former Barcelona man's header was only flapped away by Taibi and Tomasson turned in the loose ball from close range.
Rivaldo then set up a perfect pass for Tomasson, but the World Cup striker failed to make the most of it.
There was controversy in first half stoppage time when referee Gianluca Paparesta awarded Milan a dubious free kick on the edge of the box, then whistled for half-time before they could take it.
Manuel Rui Costa really should have scored on 52 minutes when he was completely unmarked, but incredibly fired wide from six yards. Taibi later made a crucial fingertip save on a rather more accurate effort from the Portuguese international.
Atalanta went close soon after when Bianchi sprung the offside trap and fired over. Coach Giovanni Vavassori threw on Carmine Gautieri to push for the equaliser.
Rui Costa eventually made his mark when his powerful run was ended by Damiano Zenoni in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Andrea Pirlo successfully converted the penalty.
Rivaldo limped off for the final 15 minutes with what appears to be a thigh strain.
Pirlo completed the rout when his free kick clattered off the underside of the crossbar and bounced back out after it had crossed the line.
Atalanta: Taibi; Natali, Carrera (Gautieri 59), Sala; Zenoni, Zauri, Berretta, Dabo (Foglio 77), Bellini; Pià (Comandini 68), Bianchi
Milan: Dida; Simic (Helveg 68), Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Ambrosini 74); Tomasson, Rivaldo (Serginho 77)
Ancelotti protects Pippo
20.10 || scharatz
Milan travel to Atalanta in search of victory, but despite an injury crisis upfront they will probably not field Filippo Inzaghi.
The Rossoneri are still without Andriy Shevchenko, while Inzaghi has been prescribed rest for a painful strain in the sole of his foot.
“If he is not 100 per cent then I will not risk him,” explained Coach Carlo Ancelotti. “We will make last minute checks and decide with the doctors what Inzaghi is capable of right now.”
It is more likely the Italian international – who has netted six Serie A goals so far – will be rested so he can start Wednesday’s Champions’ League clash with Bayern Munich at the San Siro.
Another player who might be ready for that encounter is Andriy Shevchenko. A knee operation has kept the Ukrainian out since pre-season, but he is nearing a full recovery at last.
Rivaldo has also improved his fitness levels as the World Cup star has been disappointing so far this season. The Brazilian was thought to be out for this game, but recovered in time to partner Jon Dahl Tomasson.
“The break for international duty did the whole team good,” assures Ancelotti. “Rivaldo has been working very hard on improving his overall condition and several other players have had the chance to catch up on their fitness regime.”
He will be able to test that theory today when Milan take on Atalanta at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia.
“We will be playing in a very tough Stadium. Atalanta are going through a rough patch, but that will enable them to get all that frustration out on the pitch.”
“The important thing,” added the Coach, “is to not worry about our opponents, but to rediscover the Milan side that was doing so well before the break.”
GK: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori
D: Costacurta, Helveg, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic
M: Ambrosini, Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Pirlo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho
F: Borriello, Inzaghi, Tomasson
Ancelotti Shields Nesta from Azzuri flak
20.10 || Seamus
AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti has leapt to the defense of defender Alessandro Nesta after the vaunted Italy back was taken to task for his recent showings with the slumping national side.
Nesta was blamed for Predrag Mijatovic’s goal in the Yugoslavia draw and was outraced by Craig Bellamy, who promptly fired the winner for Wales.
"It's not up to me to judge his performances for the national team,” said Ancelotti on the official Rossoneri website. “I just know that since he's been at Milan he's been solid and efficient."
"Nesta has given more confidence to Maldini and Maldini has done the same for Nesta.”
Concluded the gaffer, "Nesta is a quality player and has made an immediate impact here."
Atalanta vs. AC Milan - match preview
18.10 || scharatz
With Inter and Juventus meeting on Saturday for a crucial top-of-the-table clash, Milan can make it a very successful week should they beat bereaved Atalanta. The Rossoneri have been one of the most intimidating and on-song teams in Europe so far and they will be hoping that the international break does not affect this form.
Atalanta have not lost to Milan in Bergamo for close to four years now, but that may count for nothing for a team that has a measly 1 point from their first four games. However, as often is the case with small teams under pressure, Atalanta will look to pick themselves up and try and score a possible upset in the hope of turning their season around before all is lost.
Giovanni Vavassori has lost Cristiano Doni for two weeks and the news comes as a big blow for the manager as he was counting on the Italy international to lead this team's recovery. In Doni's absence, former Piacenza man Gautieri will play behind young Brazilian Inacio Piŕ. Fausto Rossini, Alex Pinardi, Fabio Rustico and Gleison are all missing as well through injury.
Vavassori will most likely opt for the defensive 4-4-1-1, but imagination is what he needs at this point and this may see him try something out of the ordinary like a 4-3-1-2 or 3-5-2 in which case former Milanista Gianni Comandini and teenager Rolando Bianchi may see some action.
Carlo Ancelotti is missing both Inzaghi and Shevchenko up front and with Rivaldo not on top of his game yet, the coach has a dilemma up front. However, the other absentees like Chamot, Roque Jr., Helveg etc. are not starters, so Ancelotti should go with his first choice midfield and back four.
In the absence of Inzaghi, Jon Dahl Tomasson looks set to get the start up front and he will either play alongside Rivaldo or Azzurrini striker, Marco Borriello, who has yet to see a start this season. The outstanding Manuel Rui Costa is sure to retain his playmaking role. It is also rumoured that one of Inzaghi and Shevchenko will make it to the bench.
The 2-2 draw with Bologna is the only respectable result earned by the lesser Nerazzurri in the current season. They have lost every other game and are currently only ahead of bottom club Torino in the standings. There are rumours that if things don't change, Vavassori will be fired, and the signs look ominous for Atalanta ahead of one of the toughest clashes of the season.
AC Milan: WWWDWW
Who is not aware of what Milan have been up to lately? They have begun the season in style and the only blemish on their near perfect footballing record is the hard-fought away draw to Lazio. They have scored 21 times in the seven games so far this season, including a 6-0 drubbing of Torino on Week 4. They are in prime form and only God knows when they are going to stop.
Atalanta (4-4-1-1): Taibi; Foglio, Sala, Carrera, Bellini; Zenoni, Dabo, Berretta, Zauri; Gautieri; Piŕ
AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Tomasson, Rivaldo
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Massimo Taibi (Atalanta): There is not much hope for this Atalanta team. They are talented, but playing very poor football and decimated by key injuries. However, if there is one man who has kept them in the game before (especially against Milan last year in Bergamo), and can do it again, it is Massimo Taibi.
Jon Dahl Tomasson (AC Milan): He has worked hard and patiently waited his turn. He scored against Liverpool and Inter Milan in pre-season friendlies, but is yet to register his first official goal in a Rossonero shirt. This could be the best chance for Tomasson to leave his mark. Let's see if he is supported well by his teammates.
Abbiati: Milan are the best and I intend to stay here
18.10 || Seamus
A year or so ago, when Cesare Maldini had dropped Abbiati in favour of veteran Seba Rossi, the youngster had thrown a fit. Clearly, he has matured over time and he seems to be taking his place on the bench with a pinch of salt.
"I'm taking this period well : I practice and I try to do my best. I feel good, but it doesn't mean I'm happy with being the reserve goalie. However I go on in my way. I've already been in this situation with Cesare Maldini and it was more or less the same. Also on that time, after an injury, I had to sit on the bench. But I've changed a lot since that period: I've grown up and I won't say any words in the heat of the moment."
The Azzurri number three went on to highlight his close feelings for the club and thanked President Berlusconi for his support (the President deemed the player non-transferable under any conditions).
"I was born in Milan, live in Milan and play with Milan. I don't know any better side. If I have the chance, I'll show my value. I understand the reasons of the coach, we spoke before the game against Modena and it was enough for me. I didn't need to be pepped up, but the words of the president, two weeks ago, were a further incentive'"
Wales 2:1 Italy - match report
16.10 || scharatz
Davies 12 (W), Del Piero 31 (I), Bellamy 71 (W)
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (72,000)
It was D-Day for Giovanni Trapattoni as his job hung in the balance at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and this performance will only breed further criticism and demands for his resignation.
The Coach had to get a good result after their disappointing 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia, but was forced into several changes by injury problems. Filippo Inzaghi and Cristiano Doni dropped out, so Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella - neither of whom were 100% fit - became the starting partnership in a 4-4-2 formation.
Gigi Di Biagio returned from his fitness problems while Massimo Ambrosini replaced his Milan teammate Gennaro Gattuso. Andrea Pirlo was the lone creative midfielder and tended to start quite deep.
Wales exhibited their usual conviction and attacked from the outset. The heavy rain in Cardiff prompted the organisers to keep the roof shut so the pitch was in perfect condition. It was only the second time the Azzurri had played under a closed roof - the first was the Sapporo Dome 2-0 win over Ecuador in the 2002 World Cup.
The first chance fell to Wales on seven minutes when Danny Gabiddon gathered a poor clearance, but incredibly fired over the bar from eight yards.
It was almost inevitable that they would break the deadlock and after both Luciano Zauri and Fabio Cannavaro allowed Craig Bellamy to thread through for Simon Davies, the unmarked Spurs midfielder drilled an angled drive past the helpess Gianluigi Buffon.
The Azzurri fought back with a series of wasted free kicks and their best opportunity on 24 minutes saw Christian Panucci's free header go wide from close range following goalkeeper Paul Jones' error.
The Italian defence was showing huge gaps on their left side with Zauri and Alessandro Nesta proved decisive with a late challenge on Craig Bellamy.
The free kicks kept building up and once again it took a deflection to put Italy on the scoresheet. Just as against Yugoslavia, the defensive wall deflected a long-range Alessandro Del Piero free kick past Jones to draw the Azzurri level.
So far in this qualifying campaign only one man has scored for Trap's men - Del Piero netting three free kicks, plus an own goal by Azerbaijan in the opener.
That goal boosted confidence and they started to push forward with more conviction. Damiano Tommasi cut across an Andrea Pirlo pass and Vincenzo Montella's spectacular volley glanced inches wide of the near post.
Ryan Giggs was in the shadows for much of the game, but when he curled a free kick from 25 metres it rattled the crossbar.
Del Piero was on fine form and skipped past Robbie Savage, but his curling effort was deflected before it could test the goalkeeper.
Montella had the first scoring opportunity of the second half with another volley while Hartson's lob was too long.
Another free kick, this time Andrea Pirlo's, took a deflection off the wall and Jones proved decisive when he rose to tip the ball over the bar.
Wales were always dangerous down that flank and Zauri dived in front of a Davies angled drive to deflect out for a corner. They increased the pressure in the second half and Trap finally threw on Massimo Maccarone for the ineffectual Montella.
Del Piero found space and his strong solo effort forced Jones into a reaction save with his feet.
However, another defensive error allowed Wales to regain the lead on the counter-attack. Craig Bellamy outran Zauri on a fine Hartson through ball and he rounded Buffon to slot into an empty net.
The Azzurri tried to get back into the game once more and the Welsh defence scrambled a few chances clear from Maccarone and Del Piero. Chievo striker Massimo Marazzina was a last desperate attempt to get a goal, replacing substitute Gattuso after just 20 minutes.
This left Wales a lot of room for counter-attacks and they were in constant danger of extending their lead. There was controversy in the final minute when Bellamy scored after the referee had stopped play for an earlier Zauri foul.
Wales: Jones; Delaney, Melville, Gabbidon, Speed; Davies, Savage, Pembridge, Giggs; Hartson, Bellamy (Blake 92)
Italy: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Zauri; Tommasi, Di Biagio (Gattuso 64) (Marazzina 84), Ambrosini, Pirlo; Del Piero, Montella (Maccarone 70)
Ref: Veissiere (Fra)
Milan deny transfer speculations
16.10 || scharatz
Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has denied reports that his club are set to sign Luciano Zauri and Massimo Oddo.
The Atalanta and Lazio men were said to be on the verge of signing for the Rossoneri in January, but Ancelotti has closed the door on any such move.
"Milan’s transfer campaign is over and in January nobody will be bought or sold by us," he told TV show ‘Qui studio a voi stadio’.
The tactician then tried to put an end to stories that Under-21 international Marco Borriello would be leaving on loan this season.
"At this moment in time he is the player that we are most being asked about," Ancelotti admitted.
"But he will get his chance with us in attack this term. A proposed loan move would only be considered from next summer."
Ancelotti’s words came just hours after the club thought it was necessary to release an official statement denying reports that Andriy Shevchenko, Roque Junior, Martin Laursen and Christian Abbiati were all to be sold in January.
"Milan are in no negotiations to swap or sell any of their players," it read. "Abbiati, Roque Junior and Laursen are not available for transfer. They are and will remain in the Rossoneri shirt."
It continued: "There have also never been any talks of any kind regarding Andriy Shevchenko. He is not only unavailable to be sold but is a player that is a real star for the Milan squad."
Serie A sides second in UEFA rankings
15.10 || scharatz
Italy have maintained second spot behind Spain in the latest UEFA rankings and will enter four teams for the 2003-04 edition of the Champions’ League.
It was feared that recent years of poor results in Europe would cost Serie A its prestige and the fourth qualifying place for the main competition.
However, a recent resurgence in their fortunes – particularly Milan’s 100% record in a tough Group – have seen them maintain second spot ahead of England and Germany.
Once again two teams will qualify directly while another two will go through the preliminary round to enter the Champions’ League group stage.
Four teams (two preliminary):
Spain, Italy, England
Three teams (one preliminary):
Germany, France, Greece
Two teams (one preliminary):
Holland, Turkey, Portugal
Nesta on the defensive
15.10 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta has defended the performances of his fellow stoppers after recent criticism of the Italy rearguard.
The defence has come under fire in the past few months for not living up to the potential that people expect.
However, Nesta believes that criticism is totally unjustified. "Against Azerbaijan last month they didn’t even have a shot at goal," he commented.
"On Saturday against Yugoslavia, a side of much more quality, we gave them two shots on goal.
"I honestly don’t think that the defence is doing that badly. I obviously take the blame for the goal we conceded in the 1-1 draw because of my visible error but two shots in two games is good enough."
Italy play Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday where he believes a victory could ease the pressure on boss Giovanni Trapattoni and the rest of the squad.
"We just need a victory in order to try to get a run going," he added. "But the important thing is that we qualify for the Portuguese Finals in one way or another."
The Azzurri have only won two out of their last nine games but Nesta is banking on Euro 2004 to make up for his international heartbreak in recent tournaments.
"My Italy career has more than one regret. At France ’98 I suffered a serious knee injury. In Euro 2000, which was great, we got to the Final only to lose to a golden goal. And then of course there was the 2002 World Cup."
The Azzurri exited that tournament in controversial circumstances after a golden goal defeat to South Korea in the Second Round.
Patient Laursen staying at Milan
15.10 || scharatz
Out of favour Milan stopper Martin Laursen is confident he will get his chance to shine for the club.
The Dane has been made to watch from the bench after the outstanding form of centre backs Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini.
"I am currently finding very little room in the side," he admitted to the club’s official website. "But I know that I can be patient and will be waiting for my chance.
"I understand that I have some amazing players in front of me but I will get an opportunity to play sooner or later."
Laursen, who starred for his country at the 2002 World Cup, was also recently dropped from the Danish squad. But he maintains that was more to do with tactics than player form.
"I wasn’t called up because the Coach needed more offensive players for the tie against Luxembourg," he maintained.
Redondo gets green light
14.10 || Seamus
Fernando Redondo has been given the all clear by Milan medics after his two-year injury nightmare.
"I believe that he is ready to be part of the first team squad again even if we have decided to wait a bit longer," Jean Pierre Meersseman, Milan’s chief medical co-ordinator, told ‘Il Giornale.’
"Being prudent in this situation is never a bad thing. But his knee is now stable and his debut in an official game is not too far away."
The Argentine hasn’t played a single minute for the Rossoneri since his £10m move from Real Madrid in the summer of 2000 after numerous knee operations.
However, after his brief appearance in Zvonimir Boban’s farewell game last week, the playmaker should soon be available for selection. A fact Redondo is confident about.
"I feel ready, I can once more kick without pain and I am getting over the mental difficulties of not having played for so long," he told the same newspaper.
"I need about another two or three weeks of specialist training in Belgium before I will return to the Milanello training base to join my teammates."
Injured Inzaghi set to miss Milan's Sunday road-trip
14.10 || Seamus
After being forced to forfeit his presence against Wales through a foot injury, red-hot AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi will probably miss Sunday's match that pitches the Rossoneri against tricky Atalanta, for the same reason.
'I have a hard time putting my foot on the ground. Although I've taken some shots to reduce the pain, I don't run in the correct manner, and this causes other ailments to pop-up. I think this problem dates back to the knee injury I suffered almost a year ago," Inzaghi told reporters today.
The Italy international's injury comes as a huge blow to AC Milan, whose fantastic start to the season can be mainly attributed to Inzaghi's impressive scoring streak.
Nesta apologises for Azzurri error
13.10 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta has apologised for the mistake that handed Yugoslavia their opening goal.
The Azzurri man blocked the ball as it was going out for a corner, but Predrag Mijatovic was quick to snatch it off him.
“I wanted to avoid the corner,” explained the defender, “but Mijatovic was right behind me and by the time I turned round he had already taken the ball.”
Italy recovered from that early goal to draw 1-1 at the Stadio San Paolo.
“The terrible thing of it all is that he scored from my mistake,” sighed the Milan defender, “but I will not get depressed about it.”
“These things can happen. Maybe I was a little over-confident about the situation at the time.”
“In any case,” he added, “I think that a draw with Yugoslavia is a creditable result, even if it is on home turf.”
Italy 1:1 Yugoslavia - match report
12.10 || scharatz
Mijatovic 27 (Y), Del Piero 39 (I)
Giovanni Trapattoni was forced into many changes due to injuries and adopted Milan's all-attack set-up with Andrea Pirlo as a deep playmaker and Cristiano Doni behind former Juventus partnership Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero.
However, it did not have quite the same effect as the Azzurri were too slow and did not move off the ball as well as Carlo Ancelotti's men do at club level.
There were many important stars missing for this qualifier as Francesco Totti, Christian Vieri, Marco Di Vaio, Francesco Coco, Marco Materazzi and Gigi Di Biagio were ruled out with fitness problems.
Yugoslavia, now Coached by former Milan legend Dejan Savicevic, are considered to be the most dangerous opponents in this Group and make their debut tonight.
There were many familiar faces including Lazio stars Sinisa Mihajlovic and Dejan Stankovic, plus ex-Serie A regulars Darko Kovacevic and Predrag Mijatovic. Surprisingly, Mateja Kezman was left on the bench.
Over 50,000 enthusiastic fans packed out the Stadio San Paolo and sang the national anthem so loudly they drowned out the band. Fabio Cannavaro had a lap of honour before the game and to begin with the crowd cheered whenever the local hero touched the ball.
It was Cannavaro who had the first chance with a diving header that was well-saved. Yugoslavia were forced to make a substitution after just seven minutes due to an injury.
Mihajlovic was a constant danger from set-pieces and Dragutinovic's volley on his corner was deflected out.
Andrea Pirlo slowly started to gain confidence and his splendid pass was put back into the centre by Christian Panucci, but both Cannavaro and Inzaghi failed to turn in from close range.
Wingbacks Panucci and Luciano Zauri had difficulty pushing forward and this proved a problem for the strikers.
Moments later Yugoslavia took the lead after Mijatovic took advantage of a disastrous Alessandro Nesta mistake. The Milan defender was taken by surprise and the ex-Fiorentina hitman drilled an angled drive into the far post.
The defence looked a little shaky after this surprise blow but Italy drew level through a bit of luck just before half-time. Alessandro Del Piero's free kick from 28 metres took a decisive deflection off the defensive wall and sent the goalkeeper completely the wrong way.
The Azzurri pushed forward with renewed enthusiasm and Inzaghi just failed to nod in a Del Piero cross.
Vincenzo Montella had suffered a minor ankle injury yesterday, but he recovered in time to come on for the second half in place of the disappointing Cristiano Doni for a trident attack.
Italy held much of the possession, but the final ball in was often too long.
Once again Yugoslavia were dangerous with a Mihajlovic corner turned just over by his Lazio teammate Stankovic. Gianluigi Buffon was forced to work hard with a splendid reaction save on Kovacevic after he had turned past Cannavaro. The Juventus goalkeeper also saved the Duljaj follow-up.
Coach Savicevic opted to introduce PSV Eindhoven starlet Mateja Kezman and former Parma man Savo Milosevic to make the most of rapid counter-attacks.
When the Azzurri poured forward on 69 minutes it took a Goran Trobok professional foul to stop Montella's strong progress as he charged forward.
Soon after a good Del Piero volley flew over the bar as the Juventus captain's new position wide on the left caused the defence real problems. Inzaghi was man-marked very well by Vidic and was barely able to get hold of the ball.
There was controversy on 77 minutes when Tommasi won the ball back despite having his shirt pulled and a desperate intervention prevented Inzaghi taking advantage of the move.
Pirlo was also substituted as his role in the Italian international squad remains up in the air. He was far from his inspirational self during his first full senior cap.
Late substitute Massimo Oddo began to swing some interesting crosses into the box at last and although Montella hit the back of the net he was clearly offside.
In the final minute Mihajlovic was booked for wrestling Inzaghi to the ground as he stretched to reach a splendid Montella through ball. The Milan striker had another effort deflected over in the last kick of the game.
Italy: Buffon; Zauri (Oddo 81), Nesta, Cannavaro, Panucci; Pirlo (Ambrosini 79), Tommasi, Gattuso; Doni (Montella 46); Del Piero, Inzaghi
Yugoslavia: Jevric; Mirkovic (Duljaj 7), Krstajic, Mihajlovic, Vidic; Lazetic, Trobok, Stankovic, Dragutinovic; Mijatovic (Kezman 66), Kovacevic (Milosevic 75)
Ref: Mejuto Gonzalez (Spa)
Savicevic faces Serie A memories
12.10 || scharatz
Yugoslavia Coach Dejan Savicevic will come face to face with many former colleagues when his team takes on Italy in tonight’s Euro 2004 qualifier.
“It is clear that we will step onto the field in order to win,” admits the former Milan legend, “but merely not losing to the Azzurri would be an important result for us.”
Savicevic has made the move to international tactician very quickly and shares the job with Vladimir Popovic. This will be his official debut in the country that hosted the best moments of his playing career.
“Serie A is without doubt the most difficult League in the world. With the pressure on them to succeed in European competition as well, it is obvious that the Azzurri tend to relax a little in friendly games and qualifiers.”
‘Il Genio’ also looked back at the dismal 2002 World Cup experience had by Giovanni Trapattoni’s men.
“They had no problems in qualifying and although it wasn’t spectacular they did play well. Italy were punished by far too many refereeing errors. Their exit was an injustice.”
The ex-Rossoneri fan favourite admitted he has not quite become accustomed to this new role as tactician.
“The tension is no less painful even if I am on the bench nowadays, but I certainly would prefer to be on the pitch.”
He will also have fond memories of fighting Napoli for the Scudetto in the Stadio San Paolo, the arena that will host tonight’s game.
“The Italian Federation did very well to choose this Stadium. The fans are so enthusiastic that they really do represent a twelfth player for the Azzurri team.”
“Italy are the favourites in a very difficult Group,” continued the 1994 Champions’ League winner. “Obviously they would have been even stronger with Francesco Totti and Christian Vieri, but we must not forget the calibre of Pippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero.”
The team on the field is also familiar to Serie A followers as Sinisa Mihajlovic and Dejan Stankovic are currently plying their trade at Lazio.
“With so many injuries and important stars missing,” pointed out Stankovic, “we have the perfect opportunity to make our mark. If we don’t beat Italy tonight then we never will.”
Rossoneri inspire the Azzurri
11.10 || scharatz
Giovanni Trapattoni has bowed to pressure and will copy Milan’s all-attack tactics for Saturday’s Euro 2004 qualifier with Yugoslavia.
In the final training session at the Stadio San Paolo on Friday evening, the Coach fielded Andrea Pirlo in his preferred deep playmaker role in front of the four-man defence.
Cristiano Doni should fulfil the Manuel Rui Costa position behind front two Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero.
It was originally believed that Pirlo would take that position left vacant by the injured Francesco Totti, but Trap has agreed to continue the good work shown with the Rossoneri during this campaign.
“I have decided nine out of the starting eleven,” revealed Trapattoni late Friday evening. “We will see Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Christian Panucci.”
“Out in front it is certain that the partnership will be Del Piero and Inzaghi, while in midfield we will see Gennaro Gattuso, Damiano Tommasi and Pirlo. However,” he added, “whether Pirlo is in an advanced or deep position we are yet to discover.”
The last doubts were clarified in this session as Damiano Tommasi replaced previous favourite Massimo Ambrosini on the right side of midfield.
The tactician tried to throw the press off the scent by mixing up the starting line-up in the game between ranks, but it appears his mind has been made up.
“There are two alternatives I have not yet decided on,” continued the Coach. “That is between Zauri and Oddo or between Doni and Ambrosini.”
Inzaghi is also promised a starting place despite another brief injury scare at the Stadio San Paolo.
The Milan hitman required treatment after a clash with Fabio Cannavaro, but he got back up and continued the game to the applause of the fans present.
Probable Italy line-up: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Zauri; Pirlo, Tommasi, Gattuso; Doni; Inzaghi, Del Piero
Sheva: I'm staying at Milan
11.10 || Seamus
Andriy Shevchenko has rubbished reports that he is coming to the end of his Milan career.
The striker has been linked with numerous clubs after the Rossoneri have coped magically without him so far this season.
"I'm not bothered about what the papers are writing about my future and I am calm about the situation," he told the club's website.
"Obviously the journalists can't find any other things to say about me so they are attacking me in this way.
"But I can tell you one thing for certain and that is that I want to stay here and win major honours with Milan."
Shevchenko has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Galatasaray recently as he continues to recover from a knee injury he suffered in pre-season.
"I’ve been working hard at the Milanello training complex in an attempt to regain my fitness," he added.
"I’m working very closely with the medical staff to find my best form. I am very hungry to play football again and I hope to be back as soon as possible."
Initial reports suggest that Shevchenko could be back in first team contention in the next couple of weeks.
Milan's main source of goals in the Ukrainian’s absence has come from Pippo Inzaghi, who has netted 15 times in nine competitive matches.
Milan told to buy Torres
11.10 || Seamus
Demetrio Albertini has advised Milan to sign his Atletico Madrid teammate Fernando Torres.
The Italian, on loan from the Rossoneri, has spoken highly of the Spaniard who has continually been linked with a move to the San Siro giants.
"He is a great talent and he is a lot more mature than his 18 years suggest," said the ex-Azzurri midfielder.
"If Milan asked me for an opinion about Fernando I would happily give a positive judgement. He has scored four goals in the League so far and his determination has surprised me.
"He has the eyes of many top clubs on him. I've spoken to him about Milan and he seems very interested in the idea of wearing the Rossoneri shirt."
No Azzurri return for Maldini
10.10 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini has admitted that he will not reconsider his decision to retire from international football.
The Milan man quit the Azzurri scene after the defeat to South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and says he won’t make a dramatic U-turn despite the desire of boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
"It is nice to hear that they want me back but I honestly do not believe that they need me," said the winner of 126 caps.
"It was a tough decision for me to leave the Azzurri shirt but it should be respected. I wanted to dedicate myself completely to Milan from now on because the years are passing by.
"To remain at such high levels I needed to give a few things up and it was only right that I should concentrate solely on my club side."
Maldini, who captained the side on over 70 occasions, made his Azzurri debut in 1988 and went on to play in a World Cup and European Championship Final despite losing on both occasions.
Meanwhile, the 34-year-old has also commented on Milan’s sensational start to the season which has led them to become realistic title contenders.
"We are one of the favourites along with Juventus and Roma," he added. "But Inter too merit respect because even if they aren’t playing great they are picking up points."
Trap: Pirlo is the new Rivera
10.10 || scharatz
Giovanni Trapattoni has compared Andrea Pirlo to another great Milan and Italy legend, Gianni Rivera.
“Pirlo is a wonderful surprise,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “He plays with his head held high, much like Rivera used to. His way of interpreting the game is also reminiscent of this great star.”
Pirlo shot to fame in the Under-21 squad as a Trequartista, but has found a new lease of life as a playmaker in front of the defence in Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan.
“I have been following him closely this season and I had confirmation of some extraordinary characteristics. He has great vision, can pass the ball accurately first time, real character and consistency.”
Yet Pirlo has only just made the leap into the senior Italy squad despite several years of top level performances with the Azzurrini.
“Milan’s golden period at the moment has given him more confidence and taken away some of that natural shyness,” explained Trapattoni. “This has allowed him to take a step up on the quality ladder.”
In the absence of Francesco Totti Trap admits he was tempted to return Pirlo to his previous position as Trequartista.
“I asked Andrea to play behind the front two,” revealed the Azzurri boss, “but to back up a bit as well, otherwise we might ruin all the good work he has done at club level this season.”
Pirlo himself took the compliments in his stride and admits this is not the first time he has heard such praise.
“I have been compared to Rivera since I was a teenager,” noted the former Inter benchwarmer. “I would be happy just to emulate a tiny slice of the career he had.”
“It is easy to explain why I am a bit less timid nowadays. I get to play regular football week in, week out with Milan and therefore have the chance to show what I can do.”
“Above all else,” concludes the 23-year-old, “I can do what I enjoy the most – creating football.”
Sheva withdraws from Ukraine squad
10.10 || scharatz
Andriy Shevchenko has decided to pull out of the Ukraine squad that are preparing for the upcoming EURO 2004 qualifiers on advise from his doctors at AC Milan.
"Milan have recommended Shevchenko stays out of the games for Ukraine," Ukraine coach Leonid Buryak explained. "Andriy is not ready to play yet, and he is in a special recovery process, which foresees him training with the ball only from Thursday. Even if he had come it would have been difficult for him after two months on the sidelines."
Inzaghi keen to star
10.10 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi has admitted that he is desperate to play against Yugoslavia despite his fitness problems.
The Milan striker, in a hot streak of form, hasn’t trained properly for the last three weeks because of a foot problem but is ready to sacrifice himself for the Azzurri shirt.
"This is the best moment of my whole career and I want to play in Naples on Saturday," he maintained.
"I am presently training very little and I think by Thursday evening we should know whether I can play against Yugoslavia or not.
"I’m really desperate to be part of the team even if I don’t consider myself to be a saviour of any kind. But I am just so close to this shirt."
If fit, Inzaghi is likely to be fielded alongside his former Juve teammate Alex Del Piero who himself is in fine shape.
"We must all be focused on Yugoslavia and try to forget about the Scudetto race," said the Juventus No 10.
"We are looking lively in training and I’m sure that we won’t be of disappointment to anyone. I’m convinced that we can pick up the maximum points in these next two games."
Italy face Yugoslavia, Coached by former Milan great Dejan Savicevic, on Saturday, before facing Wales in Cardiff four days later.
Leonardo: I'm back home
9.10 || scharatz
Brazilian veteran Leonardo has spoken of his love for the Rossoneri colours after his surprise return to Milan.
“President Silvio Berlusconi called me up and asked ‘Give this present to me and to the fans. So I took one day to consider the offer – and here I am.”
The creative midfielder was one of the most respected and loved players in recent years at Milan and his return was greeted with joyful surprise.
“Only time will tell if I will be useful or not to this team,” admitted the 1994 World Cup winner. “I certainly feel like a prodigal son who has returned home. Above all else, I really want to play football again.”
The 34-year-old had retired from the game five months ago following disappointing spells in his homeland with Flamengo and San Paolo, but agreed to sign a contract for the remainder of this season with his former club.
“It all happened so quickly,” continued the man who speaks five languages, “that I barely know how I got here."
"But when I spoke with all my old and new teammates I realised they were really happy to see me. That was very important.”
When asked if his tactical role will be as back-up for the not 100% fit Rivaldo he answered, "Maybe."
Many have questioned what Carlo Ancelotti will do with yet another creative midfielder, but Vice-President Adriano Galliani explained Leonardo is the icing on the cake.
“I am convinced that Leo will give us even more quality this season and above all make the fans happy. We want a Milan squad that plays good football and entertains its supporters.”
There are plenty of them as this week the season ticket sales were halted at 50,726, an increase of 9.55% on last year.
Big spending Rossoneri reap dividends
9.10 || Seamus
Boosted by pricey offseason reinforcements, AC Milan are enjoying a lightning quick jump out of the 2002-03 starting gate. Rossoneri executive Adriano Galliani intimated that all is going according to plan.
"I can't see any fault in this team and their spectacular football is the logical consequence," he gushed. "It's the achievement of our project."
"As for our sponsors, we have the same revenues of Real Madrid.”
Portuguese attacker Rui Costa agreed with is boss that Milan, at least early, fulfilling high expectations placed on the star-studded club.
”Milan are still not perfect, but are going through a fantastic period,” he said. “Milan aim at having fun and exciting the supporters… they are especially concrete.”
”They are aware of what they want”
”Milan have changed their personality,” he added. “Now we are able to play away against Bayern and at the San Siro against Torino in the same way.”
OFFICIAL: Leonardo returns to Milan
9.10 || scharatz
Former Brazilian international Leonardo has made a shock return to Italian giants Milan.
The 33-year-old signed for the club on Wednesday and will immediately be at the disposal of boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The attacking midfielder, who won the 1994 World Cup by playing as a left-back, quit the San Siro club in the summer of 2001 to return to his homeland.
However, the player had unsuccessful spells at both San Paolo and Flamengo which led him to take the premature decision to retire.
But the former Paris SG ace is now back in the game after reaching agreement with the high flying Milan outfit.
Leonardo had spent the last few days in the Italian city as he met up with old friends, prior to flying to Zagreb to take part in Zvonimir Boban’s farewell game.
The player spent four seasons with the club after his move in September 1997. A Press conference is expected to take place later this afternoon.
Nesta in awe at Milan quality
9.10 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta has admitted that even he has been surprised by the power of his Milan side.
The Rossoneri have made a sensational start to the new season with fine form at home and abroad, including scintillating away wins against Deportivo La Coruna and Bayern Munich.
"Milan really are a great side. A team that are stronger than I could have ever imagined," he said.
"Coach Carlo Ancelotti has created a great cocktail by finding the right players and system for the team."
Nesta moved to the San Siro this summer after his £20m switch from Lazio, a side that he spent the last 18 years with.
"There are so many differences between Lazio and Milan. I was happy to stay in Rome but I have to admit that I am a very satisfied player today," he added.
"I will continue to follow the Biancocelesti and I’m sure that they will soon enter the title race."
The international stopper, currently in training with the Azzurri, also commented on whom he sees as the candidates for the Golden Ball.
"There are many players that are in the running for it such as Del Piero, Vieri, Totti, Inzaghi, Raul, Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane," he claimed.
"The latter remains the best in the world but Inzaghi deserves some recognition. I think he has done some amazing things so far this season in games that have been anything but easy."
The Milan striker has netted 15 goals in 9 competitive matches so far this term.
REDONDO - Light at the end of the tunnel?
8.10 || ART
Passage taken from article on www.acmilan.it:
"ROME (October 8, 2002 10:01 a.m. EDT) - Former Argentina international Fernando Redondo is just weeks away from making his AC Milan debut, two years after arriving at the San Siro from Spanish giant Real Madrid, the player confirmed Tuesday.
Redondo, who cost Milan $11 million when he moved from Spain in Aug. 2000, damaged ligaments in his right knee in preseason training soon after joining the 'Rossoneri'.
But after several operations he is close to making a full recovery and suffered no reaction in Monday's friendly between Milan and Dinamo Zagreb in which he played 40 minutes.
The game was a farewell match for former 'Rossoneri' star Zvonimir Boban which featured players past and present from both clubs.
"The only thing I can say is that I feel ready, I am getting past the psychological block which is inevitable after such a serious injury," Redondo said on the club's official Web site, www.acmilan.it.
"I have to have treatment for another month in Belgium and then I can return to Milanello (AC Milan's training ground)."
Redondo, 33, was named as Champions League player of the year in 2000 by UEFA for his part in Real Madrid's win in the competition that season.
A couple of years ago, this guy was one of my favourite players in the game. He had a hand in making me a fan of Real Madrid, and along with Batistuta, the Argentinean national side. His capture from Real, was in actual fact, an inspiring one, which promised much. After all, he was a two-time Champions League winner. Just the sort of player Milan needed.
But almost straight away, he succumbed to long-term injury, and after two years at the club, has yet to make his first team debut. It remains to be seen how much success he will have in breaking into the Rossoneri first team and holding down a regular place, especially in light of the recent run of form that the team is experiencing.
However, i will be hoping that 'Nando can reproduce his success of yesteryear, and prove the doubters wrong. If anything he deserves it.
Zvonimir Boban calls it a day with star-studded testimonial
7.10 || scharatz
Weah, Papin, Van Basten, Tassotti, Baresi, Leonardo.....the guest list was endless as Zvonimir "Zorro" Boban took to the pitch for two 45-minute friendlies that would mark his last appearance on the football pitch.
In Zagreb, first the Dream Milan took on Dinamo Zagreb and won 3-1 as man-of-the-moment, Boban himself, scored twice following Gianluigi Lentini's opener. The first came from a penalty while the second was a rasping volley that was smacked into the roof of the net.
In the next match, Croatia 1998 took on the Rest Of The World XI and this time the World stars would win. Jean-Pierre Papin latched on to a Rui Costa cross for the opener and while tennis-star Goran Ivanisevic (Boban's close friend) amazingly tied the game, Leonardo would net the game winner to make it 2-1.
The highlight of the evening for Milan fans however was that Fernando Redondo played forty minutes very successfully and impressively in the second of the two games.
After the games and a lap of honour, a notably touched Boban admitted that to play alonside greats like Gullit and Papin had brought back wonderful memories and that he would find it very hard to single out one person to remember at this time. However, when pressed, the playmaker said, "If I HAD to pick one, it would surely be Leonardo."
Ancelotti: Inzaghi can win the golden ball
7.10 || Seamus
After the countless stunning performance of his star striker Filippo Inzaghi who helped himself to a hat-trick in the 6-0 rout of Torino, Milan trainer Carlo Ancelotti believes he can win the Golden Ball.
"If he goes on like this, he can even win the Ballon D'Or. I do believe that now he must rest a little, but that decision is up to the National side's trainers."
Inzaghi will join up with the Azzurri in light of their fixtures against Wales and Yugoslavia.
Trapattoni Names Italy Squad
7.10 || scharatz
Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni has named his squad for the upcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers against Yugoslavia and Wales.
Francesco Totti and Filippo Inzaghi are named in the group but will undergo tests on their injuries.
Cristian Abbiati, Matteo Ferrari, and Massimo Marazzina are in the squad and replace the injured Francesco Toldo, Marco Materazzi and Christian Vieri.
Goalkeepers: Abbiati (Milan), Buffon (Juventus).
Difenders: Adani, Cannavaro and Coco (Inter), Ferrari (Parma), Iuliano (Juventus), Nesta (Milan), Oddo (Lazio) and Panucci (Roma).
Midfielders: Zauri and Doni (Atalanta), Ambrosini (Milan), Di Biagio (Inter), Gattuso and Pirlo (Milan) and Tommasi (Roma).
Forwards: Del Piero (Juventus), Inzaghi (Milan), Marazzina (Chievo), Montella and Totti (Roma).
New Milan entertain Silvio
7.10 || scharatz
Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has praised boss Carlo Ancelotti for the way the side play football.
The Rossoneri chief was at the San Siro on Sunday to witness their 6-0 thrashing of a poor Torino side.
"Watching Milan is entertainment, a unique form of enjoyment," he said. "I hope it continues in this way.
"I admit that in the recent past I haven’t been happy with the style of football that has been employed by various Coaches but this is not the case now."
Berlusconi was responsible for creating the great Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s, after he signed the likes of Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit.
And when asked whether this current bunch could become the strongest Rossoneri side ever, the Italian Prime Minister said: "It is a side that can definitely leave its mark for more than one season."
One of the main architects in Milan’s amazing start to the campaign at both home and abroad is striker Pippo Inzaghi.
He scored a hat-trick on Sunday to increase speculation that he is possible Golden Ball material.
"If he continues to score as he is doing then no one could possibly take it away from him," concluded Berlusconi.
AC Milan 6-0 Torino - match report
6.10 || webmaster
Scorers: Pirlo pen 20 (M), Inzaghi 31, 78, 87 (M), Serginho 40 (M), Fattori og 83 (M)
There seems to be no stopping Milan at the moment and they swept sorry Torino away at the San Siro.
Both teams went into this game with injury worries and there were several top stars missing. Milan were forced to field Serginho as a forward to partner the not 100% fit Filippo Inzaghi as Rivaldo and Jon Dahl Tomasson were out of action.
The Granata had to do without Marco Ferrante and Scarchilli. It was hardly the perfect opportunity for Torino to earn their first point of the season.
On 20 minutes Gianluca Comotto brought down Inzaghi in the box for a clear penalty. Milan have missed several spot-kicks in recent months, but specialist Andrea Pirlo did not fail to convert this time.
Milan really should have doubled their lead soon after when Inzaghi set up Serginho in front of goal, but the Brazilian incredibly ballooned over the bar from six yards.
Serginho made up for his error by placing a perfect assist for Pippo Inzaghi to net his fourth Serie A goal of the season.
The winger made his match complete with a splendid solo effort, dribbling past two players before sliding in with the outside of his left foot.
There was only one team in it and on the hour mark Clarence Seedorf turned on the turbo as he charged past three players, but Luca Bucci did well to block his progress.
Under-21 international Marco Borriello came on but it was that man Inzaghi who completed his brace. A short Manuel Rui Costa corner kick was carried on by Seedorf and SuperPippo was on hand to tap in.
The humiliation was complete with an own goal. Rui Costa's cross took a deflection off Fattori and looped over the head of goalkeeper Bucci.
Inzaghi wanted a hat-trick and got it when he nodded in a Kakha Kaladze cross. The tension got to Lucarelli and he was sent off for dissent.
Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso (Dalla Bona 76), Pirlo (Brocchi 68), Seedorf; Rui Costa; Inzaghi, Serginho (Borriello 53)
Torino: Bucci; Delli Carri, Galante, Fattori; Comotto (Castellini 55), De Ascentis, Vergassola, Frezza (Scarchilli 55), Balzaretti; Lucarelli, Magallanes (Vanin 67)
Sent off: Lucarelli 87 (T)
Seedorf wary of Toro threat
6.10 || scharatz
Clarence Seedorf has warned Milan not to underestimate strugglers Torino when they meet at the San Siro this afternoon.
“We must be particularly wary precisely because Torino are going through a rough patch,” noted the Dutchman.
The Granata are the only team still without a single point in Serie A this season following three consecutive defeats and only one goal scored.
“They are desperate for points and will therefore come here to win and be aggressive. Torino have nothing to lose.”
“As for us,” added the midfielder, “we must try to maintain consistency and always play to the best of our ability.”
Some people are now tipping the Rossoneri to rule the domestic and European scene, but Seedorf once again puts the brakes on excessive enthusiasm.
“We haven’t won anything yet. The season has just started, yet it already feels as if this team has been together for six months.”
“Regular victories help boost morale and build a good team spirit,” he told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’, “but we know there is a great deal of work left to be done.”
Berlusconi boosts Milan morale
5.10 || scharatz
Italian Prime Minister, and Milan President, Silvio Berlusconi visited the team this morning and admitted he’s aiming to conquer Europe.
“I am here because I am convinced that this Milan can mark a new era of the beautiful game,” said Berlusconi. “We can aim to win the Scudetto and the Champions’ League this season.”
The media magnate has not set foot in the Milanello training ground since March 14 2001, the day he fired Alberto Zaccheroni, and generally leaves the day to day running of the club to Adriano Galliani.
However, the fine form of his team in both Serie A and the Champions’ League pushed him to fly in by helicopter and congratulate them.
“With the talent in this squad we can do the double,” continued the politician. “I am sure that the team has the will-power, strength, mentality and desire to entertain that fits in with Milan’s illustrious history.”
There have been many comparisons with Arrigo Sacchi’s all-conquering side of the 1980’s and current Coach Carlo Ancelotti was an integral part of that line-up alongside Marco Van Basten and Franco Baresi.
“This is an emotional time for me,” concluded the President who is due to step down from the Rossoneri board next year, “as we are back in Paradise and can stay here for many years to come.”
“You players must all look in the mirror every morning and say to yourselves: We can do it.”
Berlusconi also handed Massimo Ambrosini a gold medal for his 100th Serie A appearance with the Rossoneri shirt.
The season so far..can it get any better?
4.10 || ART
My friends, now is a good time to be a fan of the Rossoneri.
The team is flying in both domestic, and European competition, with maximum points from all their games so far. Milan seem to be unstoppable, and the ONLY Italian team capable of bringing any European gold back to Italy (with the possible exception of Juventus). Our defence has been solid, something that Milan supporters have come to accept from their side over the years. The new recruits have all generally settled in well, with the back four almost picking itself these days. Nesta and Maldini complement each other perfectly, while Kaladze improves with every game. Simic still needs to convince me, but its early days yet (the only change I’d like to see is the permanent return of Abbiati to the side).
On top of that, the inconsistent attack of last season just cannot stop scoring. Inzaghi is the man of the moment and is on course to shatter the Champions’ League records. Rui Costa has been like a different player this season. Seedorf can’t put a foot wrong, as he covers every blade of grass, passes perfectly, sets up vital goals and seems capable of playing in every position on the field. And Rivaldo, is Rivaldo.
All this with the club’s leading scorer for the last three seasons still to come back from injury. Shevchenko finally has competition so this should up his game a little. But can this team get any better? Well, despite playing the best football, I’ve seen from a Milan side for years, I still think they can improve.
Milan, though extremely impressive in their general play and creativity, seem to rely too much on playing through the middle of the park. The majority of forward passes from midfield are being played forward towards the opposition penalty area, and there is not enough width to their play.
Traditionally, Milan have always made use of the whole field, employing wingers to spread the play, and create holes in the opposition’s defence. Great names like Donadoni, Lentini, and Leonardo. Not so great names like Ba, Blomqvist, and Guly. But the point is that those sides had a flexibility to their play, and were able to adapt to sides that defended in numbers, by simply playing a ball wide, and whipping in a cross from the by-line. BANG! 1-0.
The current side does not appear to have any place for an out-and-out wide man. The closest man we have to that is Serginho, and he’s hardly got a game this year. When he came on against Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League this week, he almost raised hell on the Bavarians. His pace, and the way he dragged defenders out wide, was too much for the German giants, and it was one of his crosses that gifted SuperPippo the winner in the closing minutes.
Admittedly, Milan are spoiled for choice in midfield, and probably possess the most dazzling array of talent in Serie A, if not the world (damn Real Madrid :)), but I am of the view that if wingers were employed, and made more use of, it would free up space in the middle of the park for Seedorf, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Pirlo, etc, to have their way, and make Milan even more devastating than it already is.
Personally, I wouldn’t change things around too much for the time being. The team is on an impressive run of form, and look to be getting in the winning habit. Even, a slight switch can upset the balance. But it is worth considering the use of wingers, when we go up against sides that defend in numbers, and pack the midfield.
Gattuso, and Ambrosini, are doing a good job in midfield and giving Milan the stability and security needed for their other, more creative, teammates to shine. If they were left out, we could struggle in defence, and therefore not have the ball possession that is so crucial to Milan. But, maybe bringing someone like Serginho into games late on to run at tired defenders can reap rewards. Or maybe even try to persuade Rivaldo to move out wide. Good luck, Mr. Ancelotti. :)
Sheva close to a return
4.10 || Seamus
Andrei Shevchenko is close to a return to the Milan side, but admits he may have to be patient in winning his place back.
Milan have started the season brilliantly despite the absence of Shevchenko due to a knee injury that required surgery.
However, with the Ukrainian chomping at the the bit for a return, manager Carlo Ancelotti looks set to have a selection nightmare for his attacking choices.
"The recovery is going very well," said Shevchenko. "I am following the doctor's orders and everything appears to be going well."
"This season we have been strong and look to have found a good balance, especially in defence."
"Do I fear having difficulty winning my place back?"
"It's a normal thing to have continuity, but I am well aware that there are a lot of games to be played in the Italian league and in Europe so there is a need for a lot of players."
"This season we are aiming to win trophies and we are playing great football to do this."
"This is very much the best Milan side I have played in."
OFFICIAL: Fernando Redondo Back In Two Weeks
4.10 || scharatz
It's official! AC Milan's $16 million signing of two years ago, Fernando Redondo, will play again this weekend. According to Milan's medico Jean-Pierre Meersseman, the player is in top form and despite the fact that he lacks match-fitness, his knee is very strong.
"I have very good news about the Argentine and his recovery", he said. "Yesterday fitness coach Tognaccini and I were in Belgium, near Brugge, where Fernando has been continuing with his schedule. He has been practicing on the sand and in the water and he's on top form. Redondo has undergone some real hard work, he will surely return in a few days".
Redondo is set to make a brief appearance in Zvonimir Boban's testimonial in Zagreb in three days time and will be back training at Milanello in two weeks. While Redondo has not been included in Milan's initial Champions League roster, he will be available for Serie A action and could be added to the club's Euro-roster in January.
Spotlight on Filippo Inzaghi
4.10 || scharatz
AUTHOR: Lo Scrivano
When Milan gave Juventus $25 million plus promising youngster Cristiano Zenoni for a supposedly "over-the-hill" 28-year old striker named Filippo Inzaghi last summer, few thought that they had made a smart deal. But for a man who is despised by fans not only outside his nation, but also within, Inzaghi has an astonishingly unparalleled goal-scoring record.
Born in Piacenza in 1973, this scrawny kid had limited skill, but made up with a nose for goal analogous only to a bloodthirsty hound. Pippo began his career with his city's club, Piacenza Calcio as an 18-year old in Serie B. However, after appearing in only two games in his debut season on the big stage, Inzaghi was loaned out to Serie C1 side Leffe. That first season with Leffe, Pippo scored 13 times in 21 games, thus setting the ball rolling for what would be a goal-scoring spree that would seemingly never see an end.
The years following that would see Pippo move to Hellas Verona, back to Piacenza, to Parma and finally to Atalanta, where he would at long last establish himself as a recognized marksman. Inzaghi's league-leading 24 strikes in 33 games for Atalanta alongside the great Gianluigi Lentini ensured that Pippo would be snapped up by Italy's most successful club and then Italian Champion, Juventus. Amazingly, but in retrospect not surprisingly, Inzaghi had kept up an extremely healthy strike rate during his six years of professional football. He had scored 67 times in 144 games for his teams from 1991 to 1997.
Inzaghi was now the pride of the Delle Alpi. Along with Alessandro Del Piero, Inzaghi would form the devastating duo that would ravage Serie A defences, leading Juventus to their 24th Scudetto, in a timely Centenary year. However, that's where Inzaghi's luck ran out. He would win no more silverware with the "Old Lady" and although he kept finding the back of the net while his more eminent colleague, Del Piero, faded away, Inzaghi would never be completely appreciated.
Filippo Inzaghi became a picture of hate across Europe. The millions of Juve-haters also became Inzaghi-haters. They hated him because he made it look so simple. He would never appear to try hard or strike from distance. He was flagged offside a dozen times. Yet, he would always be there…at the right place…. at the right time…. to bury that decisive goal. His lean frame would be manhandled by much bigger defenders and Pippo gained a reputation as a diver. He surely didn't make goal scoring look pretty, but what Inzaghi did do was make it look easy. That is what perhaps angered his critics the most and this was epitomized by a certain Jaap Stam who couldn't come to terms with Inzaghi's goals against Manchester United in the Champions League. Stam went on to slam the Italian rather deplorably in his autobiography.
However, by now Pippo had become "Superpippo". His astonishing European record was adding to his glittering domestic career. But his days in Turin were numbered. A youthful David Trezeguet arrived at the Bianconeri camp and benched Inzaghi. Inzaghi was to have a long, long wait away from the pitch. Before Milan snapped him up in the summer of 2001, Inzaghi would help himself to another 11 goals in scattered appearances at Juve. But, it was to be a rather feeble end to a productive career at the club.
Milan signed Inzaghi in the hope of forming a lethal partnership with Andriy Shevchenko. But, this time Inzaghi would suffer a serious knee injury that would keep him out for almost half the season. However, once he returned, there would be no looking back. Superpippo returned to the field in January and has never stopped scoring. He powered Milan past Bologna, Lazio and Chievo with his goals (10 in 20 games) and helped them finish fourth in his debut season.
Now, part of a reinforced Milan side, a fully fit Pippo is in the best form of his life. Barely a couple of months into the season, Inzaghi has scored 12 times in 8 games! He leads the Champions League scorers chart with an absolutely stunning seven goals in three games including two braces and a hat trick. What's more…. this amazing flurry of goals has seen him become the leading Italian goal scorer in European competition history, overcoming Inter Milan forward Alessandro Altobelli's record of 39 strikes.
139 League goals, 42 European goals, 45 International goals and probably hundreds of friendly competition goals later, Pippo Inzaghi finally seems to be getting the credit he deserves. The passionate AC Milan forward is now in the tail end of his career and it appears that he has finally appeased the Lords and silenced his critics. Praise is all you hear after his heroics that downed Deportivo in Spain and Bayern in Germany.
In Milan, Superpippo Inzaghi has found a home, one where he wishes to remain till retirement. But, until then, he seems to insist on stabbing his opponents by putting away that football into the back of the net with the dreamlike efficiency that he is now known for.
AC Milan - Torino - match preview
4.10 || webmaster
Only three weeks into Serie, and very few Granata fans would have imagined that out of the eighteen teams competing, there's would be the one left pointless at the bottom of the table. Surely the road to relegation (or salvation) is long and arduous, but is this an early sign of a bad year for Torino? Those who concur have never heard the legacy of one of Italy's greatest clubs.
For a team that is defined by blood, sweat and passion that rises from the bottom of the players' hearts, this weekend's fixture against Milan is no rollover for Torino. The Granata need to get going and there will be no greater morale booster for them then to stop this in-form Milan side before their own fans.
Milan on the other hand slipped up to go two points behind deadly rivals Inter last weekend. They played probably their worst match of the season (which, by the way, was still a decent performance) against Lazio and were lucky to come back with a point. For them, nothing but a win will suffice as they look to maintain their tempo and keep the pressure on the leaders, whilst facing an opposition that has yet to pick up their first point.
Carlo Ancelotti's injury list is growing by the day. In-form striker Filippo Inzaghi becomes the latest victim. Even though the Italy international's injury is not that serious, he will be rested for a few weeks and will not feature in Sunday's game. He joins Shevchenko, Roque Jr., Helveg, Chamot and the suspended Massimo Ambrosini no the sidelines. Two other players whose fatigue is an issue are Rivaldo and Alessandro Nesta. Both champions also appear to be carrying slight knocks and they may be pulled out of the starting XI at the last moment. Jon Dahl Tomasson is expected to start in place of Inzaghi while Martin Laursen will get the call should Nesta be rested.
Giancarlo Camolese too has problems, as Alessandro Conticchio, Vicenzo Sommese and José Maria Franco are all unavailable through injury. This is a big blow for Toro's manager as Sommese and Conticchio are both regular starters when fully fit, and he will have to glance down his bench to see who will fill the places of these two midfielders. Former Milanista, Diego De Ascentis and Alessio Scarchilli get the nod in the centre while Luca Mezzano is expected to relieve Stefano Fattori at the back. Up front, good friends Marco Ferrante and Cristiano Lucarelli renew their strike partnership.
There are very few sides in Europe at present that are showing the same glowing form that Milan are. Even without some key players, the Rossoneri are completely annihilating any opposition that comes up against them. Whether it be Serie A minnows Modena and Perugia (may it also be noted that Milan have in previous years struggled against smaller teams) or Euro giants Bayern and Deportivo, Milan have had little mercy. Their resounding 4-0 hammering of Deportivo at the Riazor put together with the mighty 2-1 win at the Olympiastadion in Munich should be enough to justify their class.
The Granata were cruelly eliminated from the Intertoto cup on penalties against Spanish side Villarreal. Despite winning 2-0 at home, Torino lost by the same score line away, thereby forcing the match into penalties. In the league, things are no better as they sit at the foot of the table with zero points from three games. However, it may be noted that two of those defeats were by Inter and Lazio, and both by the score of 1-0. Torino are not necessarily struggling on the pitch, but just failing to get the results.
Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Tomasson
Torino (3-5-2): Bucci; Delli Carri; Galante, Mezzano; Comotto, De Ascentis, Scarchilli, Balzaretti, Castellini; Ferrante, Lucarelli
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clarence Seedorf (Milan): Along with Inzaghi, the former Ajax, Real Madrid and Inter player has had a fine start to the 2002-03 season. He has been absolutely everywhere his team needed him; dribbling on the wings, creating in the centre, defending in the box, tackling in midfield and most importantly scoring and setting up goals. What a player! Will he continue to show Cuper what a mistake he made by letting him go?
Diego De Ascentis (Torino): Diego spent one rather unsuccessful season at Milan where many thought that he was not given enough playing time. Part of a Milan midfield whose workers were rather average players back then (Giunti, Tonetto, Brncic, Orlandini), De Ascentis has always played well for Toro against Milan…probably still in an attempt to seek his revenge. Expect a similar "Granata" performance full of heart from this man.
If I Was Milan Coach I Would Buy....
2.10 || ART
SERGEI REBROV – Not an obvious choice, you may think. But one that holds unlimited potential. Let me explain.
Sergei is a player of undoubted quality, who has performed on the highest stage in club football. He has had his fair share of ups and (most recently) downs, over the years, but his signing would benefit the club in so many ways.
Admittedly, Rebrov has had a miserable time since joining the English Premiership club, Tottenham Hotspur, two years ago. He has played in only a handful of games, and has become the forgotten man at the club. It is pretty clear that he is not part of manager Glenn Hoddle’s plans.
But let us not forget that this man was Sheva’s strike partner in the Dynamo Kiev side that toppled so many of the Champions League’s giants, a couple of years ago. Between them they scored 12 Champions League goals (10 games) in the 1998-99 season (their last season together before they went their separate ways). Imagine how many they would score with Rivaldo, Rui Costa, etc, supplying the bullets.
He has also played with Sheva in the Ukraine national team on numerous occasions, coming close to qualifying for both Euro 2002, and the recent World Cup.
The bottom line is no one knows Sheva, like Reva (as the tifosi would no doubt nick name him if he ever ended up at the San Siro). No one. Not even Pippo. He is the Yin to Sheva’s Yang. The darkness, to his light. The peaches, to his cream. :) His signing would no doubt succeed in strengthening the squad, and maybe even help convince Shevchenko to resist Real Madrid, and extend his contract at the club.
He wouldn’t even cost too much (by Serie A standards). It is public knowledge that Spurs are desperate to sell him. A bid of £5-7 million would probably persuade them to part company with the man they call ‘Tramp’ (because he spends so much time on the bench). They could even exchange a player, or two, as Spurs are reportedly interested in Roque Junior, and Martin Laursen, amongst others.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Milan are a little short of experienced cover up front, and Rebrov would definitely give them more options, and hopefully ease some of the pressure on Shevchenko, and Inzaghi.
I'd be interested in hearing reader's opinions on this, and whether it makes good reading, as I've got a whole list of players I'd buy if I was Milan coach. Ah, if only. :)
Rivaldo content with Milan start
2.10 || Seamus
Milan superstar Rivaldo has said that he is happy with the way he is settling into his new surroundings.
The Brazilian arrived at the San Siro on a free transfer this summer from Barcelona and starred in his side’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich last night.
"I am slowly but surely settling into the side. This is a great team with some fantastic players and we are going through a great period of form," he told Milan Channel.
The World Cup winner was crucial in Pippo Inzaghi’s first goal in the German capital on Tuesday, but Rivaldo is more proud of another moment in his brief Milan stint to date.
"I’m happy to have been involved in the build up to the first goal last night, even if I really liked the assist I gave to captain Paolo Maldini last Saturday for his goal against Lazio," he added.
The attacking ace has mainly been used for Milan’s away games so far this term but he is raring to show the Rossoneri faithful his unique skills up north.
"I have played a lot of games away from home," he continued. "I hope to now start to play a lot better and start performing to the best of my abilities in front of the San Siro crowd."
Inzaghi injury scare
2.10 || Seamus
Filippo Inzaghi’s stunning form has hit a snag after Milan confirmed he needed rest for a foot injury.
SuperPippo, who has netted nine goals in five Champions’ League games, confessed he was having fitness problems after last night’s 2-1 win at Bayern Munich.
“I know it’s difficult to sit out when you’re on this kind of form,” said the striker, “but I need rest too and my foot is really beginning to hurt.”
This evening the official club website confirmed that their star would be out of action for a little while.
“The strain on the sole of his left foot suffered in early September has recurred,” revealed club doctors.
“Inzaghi was able to step onto the field at Bayern, but the situation will be re-examined ahead of Sunday’s match with Torino.”
It is likely he will be rested for that Serie A encounter and may perhaps forfeit the Azzurri call-up for the Euro 2004 qualifier with Yugoslavia on October 12.
“The injury has recurred and that is a clear enough sign that he needs to look after this problem,” continued the Milan statement. “Rest is very important for this kind of condition.”
Luckily, there is a break in the Serie A and European calendar coming up next week. The Rossoneri also revealed that the problem started after the World Cup.
“Inzaghi first felt pain in his left foot after a friendly game, in which he scored four goals, in the lead-up to Azerbaijan-Italy. He underwent tests and was given the all-clear to play in that qualifier.”
“It recurred periodically, but was always considered not so serious that he could not continue playing. The pain has been growing since then and it seems he does now need a bit of rest.”
Inzaghi on a high after Bayern double
2.10 || Seamus
Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi was ecstatic after his two goals saw the Rossoneri beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at the Olympiastadion.
"I'm very happy playing in this team," he was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "It's a magic moment, I hope it will last forever. This success and the one in La Coruna are evidence that we are a great group. Let's enjoy this successful night."
Inzaghi now has seven goals in the three group games.
Ancelotti: "We can't stop attacking"
2.10 || webmaster
Carlo Ancelotti finds himself commenting on yet another Milan victory in Europe and admits his side will never play defensive football.
“It was a delicate and difficult match,” he said of the 2-1 win at Bayern Munich. “We took our chances well and needed plenty of conviction and determination.”
The Rossoneri now have a 100% record in the Champions’ League with three wins in as many games.
“I was really satisfied with this performance. Bayern absolutely needed to win, but Serginho thrown in for the final minutes we gave them some serious problems.”
Ancelotti has revolutionised his image as a defensive Coach, putting out a line-up that perhaps can only be rivalled by Real Madrid in terms of flair.
“We cannot possibly play defensive football with this squad. We had to come here and attack them, and it worked wonders. We won’t make calculations and just want to get past the first phase.”
The star of this squad is undoubtedly Filippo Inzaghi, taking his Champions’ League tally – including the preliminary round – to nine goals in five games.
“I am so happy to be playing in this team,” said Superpippo. “I am having the most satisfying period of my career. I hope it continues like this, because we want to win.”
When told he had scored some splendid goals in the last month, Inzaghi joked on his reputation for glaring misses.
“I like the ones on the line, because it’s impossible to miss! In any case, these goals have all been very important.”
Inzaghi is the only star player who has not been rested so far in this campaign.
“I need rest too as my foot hurts a bit,” he confessed.
Clarence Seedorf is another crucial player for the Milan squad and has returned to the kind of form he showed at Real Madrid.
“I have the faith of the Coach,” said the Dutchman, “and that helps your performance. I get on very well with Manuel Rui Costa and our constant combination and movement makes it very difficult for defences to mark us.”
“It’s pointless comparing us to Real Madrid,” he added. “Real are above everyone else at the moment, but Milan have not stopped improving.”
Bayern Munich 1-2 AC Milan - match report
2.10 || webmaster
Scorers: Inzaghi 52, 84 (M), Pizarro 54 (B)
SuperPippo Inzaghi struck again to perhaps put an end to Bayern Munich's Champions' League hopes and practically qualify Milan for the second phase with a 100% record after three games.
Milan had the opportunity to kill off this Group and Bayern's Champions' League dreams at the Olympiastadion.
Before this match the Rossoneri - hardly the favourites in the Group of Death - had a five-point lead over the German giants and were hoping to build on last week's 4-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna.
Bayern held possession early on, but when Milan started combining short swift passes there were problems for the German defence. On seven minutes Rivaldo placed the ball in the centre but Filippo Inzaghi just failed to make contact.
Bayern could only aim long-range efforts at Dida and the Brazilian got down extremely well to fingertip a Michael Ballack volley round the post.
Ballack was also booked for a blatant dive after a slight shove from Kakha Kaladze. The Georgian brushed arms with the World Cup star, but he fell to the ground clutching his face. Scottish referee Hugh Dallas did extremely well to see that there was no contact.
Manuel Rui Costa was blocked by man-marking from Owen Hargreaves, but he finally broke free just before the break and caused panic in the Bayern defence, but Tarnat was able to intervene before Rivaldo could turn in.
Hargreaves made himself useful upfront as well with a fierce piledriver from 40 metres that stung Dida's palms.
Milan were always waiting to pounce on any mistake and that moment came on 51 minutes. Clarence Seedorf combined with Rivaldo and put in a pass that Filippo Inzaghi merely had to brush to score a goal.
The lead gave the match an extra push and the pace picked up considerably. Within minutes Claudio Pizarro had risen to nod in a Salihamidzic cross and drawn Bayern Munich level.
The Germans were on a charge and piled on the pressure with Elber particularly inspired, though not always accurate. Dida again made a crucial save on Ballack's 64th-minute daisycutter and Milan introduced Massimo Ambrosini to boost the midfield and replace an extremely disappointing Rivaldo.
For the final fifteen minutes Carlo Ancelotti also threw on winger Serginho in place of Andrea Pirlo to give the side more width and pace. The Brazilian immediately earned a corner kick and fellow substitute Ambrosini nodded just over the bar.
Bayern were unbalanced and Inzaghi took full advantage with a glancing header on another Serginho cross. This took SuperPippo's Champions' League tally for the season - not including the preliminary round - to seven goals in three games.
Bayern did not give in and Dida made another splendid save on Ballack's powerful low free kick to deny them even a draw.
With Deportivo La Coruna beating Lens 3-1 in Spain, this leaves the Germans practically out of the running.
Bayern Munich: Kahn; Hargreaves, Kuffour, Linke, Tarnat (Zickler 86); Salihamidzic, Jeremies, Ballack, Ze Roberto; Elber, Pizarro
Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Pirlo (Serginho 76), Gattuso, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Laursen 86); Inzaghi, Rivaldo (Ambrosini 65)
Ref: Dallas (Sco)