Milan v Shakhtar
Milan require just a point from tonight’s game in the San Siro to qualify for the next round but will want to win as they strive for top spot in the table.
Shakhtar, meanwhile, need to win to keep their hopes of qualification alive. At the very least, victory would assure them of a UEFA Cup spot in third place if Celtic also lose against Barcelona.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti insists his Rossoneri side will not be playing for the draw though.
“One point would only be good enough to qualify, but we want to qualify as group winners so we want to win,” he said.
“It can become very dangerous if we play thinking a draw is enough. We must play our own game and try to attack. Obviously Shakhtar will do the same as they need to win, but we have to play an attacking game.”
Milan will start Hernán Crespo as a lone striker because Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson are both ruled out with slight muscle injuries, while Filippo Inzaghi is out of action until February after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this month. Brazilian midfield player Kakà may move into a more advanced position to support the Argentinian striker.
The Milan coach is not concerned about Milan’s lack out-and-out strikers on the pitch.
“Shevchenko and Tomasson are unavailable, but it’s not important how many forwards I field because I want ten players ready to attack and ten ready to defend,” Ancelotti said.
Milan defeated Shakhtar 1-0 in the corresponding fixture but Ancelotti is keen to see a better performance.
“We have improved a lot since we faced Shakhtar in our first Champions League game,” he said. “So I expect my team to play much better.”
Crespo scored his first goal in a competitive game since joining Milan in the Coppa Italia last Saturday, but Ancelotti has every confidence the striker is coming into form.
“I don’t think we took a chance when we signed Crespo because we knew his qualities perfectly,” Ancelotti said.
“He has had a bad period, but it looks like it’s over now. I just hope he repeats the good things he did last weekend.”
Ancelotti was very satisfied with his side’s overall performance in that 2-1 win against Palermo.
“We played as a team,” he said. “It was a very good game for us and we consider it a starting point. Our approach to the game was very positive. I want my players to face Shakhtar with the same mentality.”
Shakthar coach Mircea Lucescu is no stranger to Italian football after spells at Inter and Brescia.
Ancelotti is aware of this. “Lucescu is a very experienced coach,” Ancelotti said. “He knows international football perfectly and will do everything to give us trouble. His teams always play good football.”
Lucescu will be without defenders Cosmin Barcauan and Anatoliy Tymoschuk, who are both suspended after being sent off in defeat by Celtic three weeks ago.
Brazilian playmaker Matuzalem is also doubtful with an ankle injury.
“I don’t know if the coach will let me play because I haven’t been able to train in the past week,” Matuzalem said.
“However I’m ready to give everything and I hope to play for the whole 90 minutes.”
Lucescu, who will wait until the final training session before naming his starting eleven, said:
“With a victory we can still qualify for the Champions League knockout stage, while a draw could be good for qualifying for the UEFA Cup.”