Milan vBayern Munich
Despite being one of the favourites to win the competition at the outset, German giants Bayern Munich face an embarrassing early exit from GroupG tonight when they take on Milan at the San Siro.
Bayern have only taken one point from three CL games in a pool dubbed this year’s ‘Group of Death’, which also features French side Lens and Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruna. Both Milan and Depor have beaten Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side at the Olympic Stadium, previously an impenetrable fortress for the Germans.
Regardless of events in Italy tonight, if Depor beat Lens, Munich will be fighting for third spot and a humbling place in the UEFA Cup. But they are in typically ebullient mood, with goalkeeper Oli Kahn spearheading the club’s determination for a Champions League revival.
“We are going to Milan to win,’ he said. ‘We have the capability and we have dropped enough points already,” he said. “We have eight games in four weeks now and we need to get off to a good start.”
Coach Ottmar Hitzfield expressed the need to prove the doubters wrong. “I am pleased that this game is finally taking place so that we can show everyone that we are better than they seem to think,” he revealed.
Strangely, Munich’s from in the Bundesliga has been impressive, sweeping all before them and opening up a five-point lead at the weekend.
“We are playing well in the Bundesliga but you can’t compare that to the Champions League and especially playing away against Milan,” Hitzfield reasoned.
Milan have been majestic in recent weeks, scoring ten goals in their last two games and are sitting proudly on top of Serie A.
A win will not only see Milan keep up their 100 per cent Group G record, but also clinch progression to the next stage.
“We know that Bayern will be out with a draw, but we must care only about Milan,” says Paolo Maldini.
“We have the possibility to eliminate difficult opposition, but we especially aim at being top of our group because the first spot will help us in our campaign”.
As well as winning games, Milan have been entertaining too, something certainly not always associated with Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The side contains much creative, attacking talent these days, including Portugal’s Rui Costa, Dutchman Clarence Seedorf, Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson,the prolific Filippo Inzaghi, Andrea Pirlo, and of course Rivaldo.
The team have even been criticised for over-playing sometimes
“That can happen to a side with our qualities, but we’d better do it when we have already ensured the victory and not when we are winning 1-0 away,” Ancelotti warned.
“But people like our spectacular football andwe can dare to run some risks,” he said.
Thankfully for Bayern Rivaldo misses out tonight after limping off at the weekend. But Milan can now call upon brilliant Ukranian Andrii Shevchenko after he declared himself fully fit. He has completed his recovery from injury and could be on the bench.
Bayern are without England midfielder Owen Hargreaves and French defender Willy Sagnol.
Milan: Dida; Simic; Nesta; Maldini; Kaladze; Ambrosini; Pirlo; Seedorf; Rui Costa; Serginho; Inzaghi.
Bayern: Kahn; Sagnol, Kovac, Kuffour, Tarnat; Salihamidzic, Jeremies, Ze Roberto ; Ballack; Elber, Pizarro.
Lens v Deportivo La Coruna
Lens must win tonight at all costs, but they will have to find some form first. Their last six games have brought only one win, along with three draws and two defeats, and they have only fashioned ten goals in Le Championnat so far this season and currently lie eighth.
However coach Joel Muller is unconcerned.
“Our performance in the league doesn’t worry me,” he said. “But sometimes we play well, then we are inconsistent again. We could have won over there in Spain [against Depor first time around] and we also can beat them here.”
Victory for Deportivo could see qualification confirmed tonight, but that would only gloss over a crisis at the club. This season has seen Depor’s worst start to a season during Javier Irureta’s four years at the helm of the club, and they have lost their last two La Liga games, dropping to ninth place in the table.
This run has coincided with two big injury blows, with key playmaker Juan Carlos Valeron likely to be out for some time, and the shock news that goalkeeper Jose Molina has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Injury has also robbed them of defenders Jorge Andrade and Goran Djorovic tonight.
Lens are missing injured defender Zoumana Camara plus Sebastien Chabbert, but midfielder Cyril Rool is expected to play. Deportivo ran out 3-1 winners against Lens three weeks ago, and the Champions League has been a welcome distraction so far for the Spaniards. They will be looking to use qualification to Phase Two as a kickstart for their faltering season.
: Warmuz; Coly, Song, Coulibaly, Rool; Coridon, Utaka, Bouba Diop, Pedron; Sibierski,Moreira.
Deportivo de La Coruna: Juanmi; H‚ctor, C‚sar, Naybet, Romero; Acuna, Mauro Silva; Scaloni, V¡ctor, Fran; Makaay.