First knockout round – Kick-off: 20:465 (CET)
Milan coach Leonardo says Milan “must be flawless” if they are to maintain their perfect two-legged record against Manchester United as the clubs begin their first knockout round tie.
The Brazilian believes his side’s season will be determined by their Champions League first knockout round tie against Manchester United in Tuesday’s home leg, when many eyes will be on former Manchester United player David Beckham.
“These two games against United are the most important matches for us so far, and they come at the most delicate moment of the season,” said Leonardo. “They will also be crucial in determining our future. We must be almost perfect, flawless. I want to see the same performance I saw at Real Madrid during the group stage; I think that was our best game this season and when we played the best football. We must repeat that. This game is really important for me and also for some of my players who don’t have much experience in European competition.
“Luckily we also have experienced players who can help the team. We are not going to change our style of play, Milan usually play better against great teams like Manchester United because they play open football.
“It will be important not to concede goals at home, but we will also try to score. As I have said in the past, it is in our DNA to try to score goals. I will choose the starting XI in the afternoon, after the last training session. We must give everything we have and do our best.”
Leonardo will be without the injured duo Marco Borriello and Gianluca Zambrotta, but Massimo Oddo and first-choice left-back Luca Antonini are available after recovering from thigh and rib injuries respectively.
Visiting manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who, inevitably, was quizzed on the presence of David Beckham in the Milan squad, insisted that his team are in better shape than during their 3-0 semi-final defeat by the Rossoneri in Milan in 2006-07.
“Beckham left seven years ago,” he said. “We move on in life: it’s a different team, we have different players. I think we’ve developed a kind of maturity away from home in the last two years since we last met Milan. We’ve changed, especially from a physical point of view. This time we are more in shape.
“Milan are an experienced team and we know they have wonderful players – many of them have won this trophy. Think about Seedorf; he has such experience and that’s something you cannot buy.
“I watched the Milan derby and I saw a very good team that night. Milan have experience and in big games they give their best, so you have to be cautious. It’s true that English football has dominated the last few years, but it’s like a cycle: there was the Spanish era, the Italian era and so on.”
Ferguson will be without John O’Shea, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Anderson, while there remains a doubt over the fitness of Rio Ferdinand.
Milan have triumphed on the four previous occasion the clubs have met over two legs in Europe, winning semi-final ties in the European Cup in 1957-58, 1968-69 and 2006-07 as well as in the Champions League first knockout round in 2004-05.