Semi-final: first leg (kick-off 19-45 (BST)
Two former teammates come face to face when Milan entertain Barcelona in tonight’s eagerly anticipated Champions League semi-final first leg tie.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti and his Barcelona counterpart Frank Rijkaard were members of Milan’s European Cup winning sides of 1989 and 1990. The pair share a mutual respect based on past experiences but also on current achievements.
“I respect Ancelotti very much but we are both working for our own roles and objectives and tomorrow we won’t think about anything else,” said Rijkaard.
“I respect him a lot as a friend but we are both working for our goals and objectives.”
Ancelotti, meanwhile, stressed the great traditions of the two clubs.
“This is a match between two great clubs,” said the Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“Barcelona and ourselves are currently playing the most attractive football in Europe and I’m expecting a spectacular match with lots of action at both ends.”
Both clubs advanced to this stage by virtue of aggregate victories by two goals in the quarter-finals, and each won 1-0 on Friday.
“Milan and Barcelona are very similar sides with an identical mentality,” Ancelotti added. “When clubs like that meet, the key to victory lies with being able to impose your game on the other team.”
Regarded as one of the continent’s powerhouses, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Barcelona only have a solitary success to their name. Their opponents however, have lifted Europe’s premier trophy on six occasions, with their most recent win coming as recently as 2003.
“This is our third Champions League semi-final in four years so we are used to matches of this intensity,” said Ancelotti.
In contrast only Deco has won the Champions League in the Barcelona ranks, and the former Porto playmaker is suspended for this first leg.
“We know Milan are very experienced and very organised and should be favourites playing at home,” said visiting coach Frank Rijkaard.
“Yet being the favourite means nothing – you have to go out there and prove you’re the best. They’ve shown that they’re hard to beat but we’re here to play football and to try to get a positive result.”
Rijkaard lost Henrik Larsson to a thigh injury against Villarreal, and Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi is still missing with a thigh problem, although Ronaldinho, rested for the Villarrreal game, is refreshed and raring to go.
Rijkaard, who has rejigged his midfield on a number of occasions this season, is expected to turn to Andrés Iniesta, Edmílson and Mark van Bommel tonight.
Milan were dealt a late blow when Filippo Inzaghi, scorer against Bayern Munich and Lyon, was ruled out due to a virus.
Ancelotti will therefore field a strikeforce of Shevchenko – the nine-goal leading scorer in the Champions League – and Alberto Gilardino who has yet to score in the competition this season.
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