Ruud van Nistelrooy could make his Manchester United comeback against Milan, as fellow Dutchman Jaap Stam prepares to return to Old Trafford.
Van Nistelrooy has been sidelined for the past three months with an Achilles injury but is set to figure in tonight’s game.
Having returned to training last week, van Nistelrooy was kept out of the weekend’s comfortable FA Cup victory over Everton.
Given van Nistelrooy’s impressive scoring record in the Champions League (36 goals in 37 matches), Ferguson will be sorely tempted to throw the hit-man straight back into the starting line-up, despite his lack of match fitness.
Ferguson also has Louis Saha and Alan Smith available again – the first time in almost four months that the United boss has had four strikers to choose from.
Ryan Giggs is due to return first team action after nursing a tight hamstring on the substitutes’ bench, although Darren Fletcher is definitely ruled out.
Mikael Silvestre is likely to resume his partnership in defence with Rio Ferdinand after serving a domestic suspension.
The Red Devils have won both previous home clashes against the Italian giants and the completion of the hat trick would put them in a strong position to advance to the quarter finals.
While United welcome back their chief striker, Milan travel to Manchester minus the firepower of one of the world’s best.
Andrei Shevchenko is missing for the first leg after fracturing his cheekbone against Cagliari at the weekend and the European Footballer of the Year faces a battle to be fit for the second leg in a fortnight’s time.
The Ukrainian’s absence is likely to see Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti pair Hernan Crespo – on loan from Chelsea – and former Newcastle United flop Jon Dahl Tomasson in attack.
Andrea Pirlo is available after recovering from injury, while Alessandro Nesta has shaken off a bout of flu to declare himself fit.
Nesta will form the heart of Milan’s defence with Stam, who makes his first return to Old Trafford since he was shipped out of the club in August 2001.
Stam was surprisingly sold to Lazio but is relishing his return to his former club
“Manchester United know they made a mistake in selling me,” Stam claimed.
Given that Stam prospered in Italy while United endured a trophy-less 2001-02 campaign, that view will be shared by many of the club’s fans.
But Alex Ferguson is not about to admit that he got it wrong. Asked if he had any regrets about selling a player at the peak of his powers, the Scot snapped: “I wouldn’t go into that,” having just seconds before claimed not to have been surprised by Stam’s success in Italy.
“He was still a young man (when he left) and he’s had a great career in Italy. I’m not surprised.”
Stam, now 32, insists he bears no grudge against Ferguson or the United directors.
“There have been opportunities to confront them but I have turned them down,” he said.
“What would be the point? I know I made a mistake and they do too.”
“I was very settled at Manchester United. I had even just ordered a new kitchen but if a club wants to sell you, there is nothing you can do. You can be sold like cattle.
“In what other industry can a good employee be ushered out of the door against their wishes?”