The second stage of this season’s Champions League kicks-off tonight with a mouthwatering tie between two of the greats of European football, when Real Madrid travel to the San Siro to face Milan.

Milan, five times winners of the competition, encounter nine times victors Real, in what many people believe could be a dress rehearsal for this year’s final.

Milan, whose form stuttered after beginning the season in scintillating form, gained a massive boost at the weekend when they defeated arch-rivals Inter, to return to the top of Serie A.

Real meanwhile, although content to earn a point at Barcelona on Saturday, have only shown flashes of their potential and currently lie off the pace in La Liga. A mini-injury crisis has not helped their cause. Claude Makelele, Fernando Hierro, Raul Bravo (injured) and Ronaldo (flu) will all miss tonight’s match.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti however, will not be taking anything for granted.

‘They will miss important players including Ronaldo and Makelele…They won’t be at their best considering their injury list, but Flavio Conceicao and Guti are not to be underrated as replacements,’ he stated.

‘We are not going to go out there to try to limit the qualities of Real – we know they are the European champions – but we want to show what we can do and to impose our game,’ Ancelotti said.

‘Real are a great team with their own identity that play in an organised manner. Even though they have so many top quality players that is not their only winning weapon – they are a team.’

For Milan, Nesta is doubtful, and could be replaced by Costacurta. The other cooncern involves the attacking options at Ancelotti’s disposal and specifically, whether he should persist with Serginho, or bring in Shevchenko and Rui Costa.

One player relishing the prospect of facing the European champions, is former Real player Clarence Seedorf.

‘For such games we don’t have to focus on motivation – it comes by itself,’ said Seedorf.

‘It will be an attractive, fascinating game between the two sides whohave won more than anyone in Europe and can count on so many stars in their squads. A show is almost granted.’

Real coachVicente del Bosque, echoed those sentiments.

“After a bad period they seem to be back at the level they were at in the past. It’ll be a great match between two of the best teams in the world,’ said the Real Madrid coach.

‘They have changed their style, they play more offensively and have a good passing game.”