Milan face arch-rivals Inter in what the Italian press have dubbed the ‘the derby matches of the century’ at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.
A place in the Champions League final is at stake for the winners, but for the losing coach, the portents are not good, with both Carlo Ancelotti and Hector Cuper reported to be managing for their futures.
Inter, who lead their neighbours by in the two points in the table, will have to cope with the loss of Christian Vieri, Serie A’s leading scorer this season. The striker is sidelined with a knee strain although hopes to be fit should Inter make the final.
Inter will also be without Cristiano Zanetti for Wednesday’s first leg at the San Siro, as the midfielder is suspended.
Milan will be without the suspended Massimo Ambrosini but midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf are expected to be fit again after recovering from injury.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged the magnitude of the tie.
“Any Champions League semi-final is important but playing against Inter makes it even more special,’ he said.
‘There will be a lot of pressure on both sides and we have to try to stay calm. It won’t be easy but we have to try. It is a very important game for the people of the city, but also for me, for the players, and for the club.”
Tonight’s first leg sees Milan having the nominal home advantage, which will ensure they command the bulk of the support.
“When you get this far in a competition, it doesn’t matter where you play,” Ancelotti said.
“We realise we are the home team and we will have to be careful not to concede an away goal as this could prove decisive in the end.”
“We want to play well and we want to honour the occasion with a good performance. However, our priority has always been to win games and avoid conceding goals.”
Despite losing both derby matches this season, Inter’s under-pressure coach Hector Cuper denies that his team will be at a psychological disadvantage during the tie. Cuper, a naturally cautious coach whose brand of defensive-minded football has not endeared him to the Inter faithful, will be desperate to shed his reputation as a choker.
“We may have lost both games in the league but I don’t believe that is a disadvantage,” Cuper said.
“If you say to me that Milan are in a better state mentally than us, or that they are playing better football than us, then I will tell you that I disagree.”
“Even if we were tired, we would get our energy from another source – be it from our heads, our hearts or our legs. I have total faith in my team,” the Argentinian added.
Milan: Dida, Costacurta, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze, Brocchi, Gattuso, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Inzaghi.
Inter: Toldo, Zanetti, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Cordoba, Conceicao, Di Biagio, Dalmat, Emre, Crespo, Recoba.