A Potential Banana Skin
Talk to Silvio Berlusconi and he will tell you that Milan have the Champions League encrypted in their DNA. Which isn’t necessarily an exaggeration given that the Rossoneri are the second most successful club in European Cup history, but in coach Massimiliano Allegri they do have an inexperienced tactician and that could cost them dearly.
If Milan had won their opening three matches in Group G, one wouldn’t have questioned Allegri’s Champions League credentials but the fact is that the Rossoneri are staring at elimination in the eye. They may be second in the group with four points from three games but Ajax have the same number of points. On Wednesday evening while the Dutch giants are up against point-less Auxerre and should garner a win, Milan host a Madrid side who have won all three matches and have yet to concede a goal.
Winning is the only thing for Milan in this game as they wouldn’t like the prospect of playing catch-up to Ajax. However, the Diavolo will have to step up their game in order to defeat an imperious-looking Madrid side as two weeks back they were crushed 2-0 at the Bernabeu.
Moreover, the Rossoneri are coming off the back of a 2-1 defeat to Juventus in Serie A at the weekend but Allegri remains defiant and said, “We are a strong team. We lost against Juventus but they scored two lucky goals. Milan played very well on Saturday and did not deserve to lose. It was the same thing against Real Madrid two weeks ago.”
He added, “This is a strong group of players, playing at a good level, so we have everything needed to win. We have to keep Real Madrid under pressure – we can’t repeat the technical mistakes we made in the first leg.”
Back In Milan
The match against Milan at San Siro will be Jose Mourinho’s first visit to the city since the summer when he left Inter after leading them to a historic treble. He was already welcomed by the Nerazzurri supporters, who will also hope for a Milan defeat after their 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Tuesday.
Madrid are one of the most in-form sides in Europe at the moment. Their 3-1 win against Hercules at the weekend saw them remain in pole position in the Spanish Primera Division; it was also only the fifth time that Madrid had conceded all season.
The nine-time European champions will qualify for the second rounds as group winners if they win against Milan and they will go into the match believing that they can. Two weeks ago los Blancos destroyed the Rossoneri 2-0 with Cristiano Ronaldo proving that he is not a big-game flop (well, not always) and the Portugal international will be keen to do likewise on Wednesday.
However, Madrid must be aware that last year in the corresponding fixture they could only draw 1-1 and that they have never won at San Siro. Mourinho knows this and said on Monday, “When a top team loses, they rarely lose two in a row so I think they will be stronger than Saturday. They will be more focused, and there’s more pressure on them, but not that much as this game is not decisive.
“We’re doing well now and want to continue that here. To play against Milan in San Siro is something everybody wants to do.”
Massimo Oddo is out for four to six weeks with a left thigh problem he sustaining during training on Friday. However, Ronaldinho, Gianluca Zambrotta, Thiago Silva and Massimo Ambrosini are back to full fitness.
Kaka, Ezequiel Garay and Fernando Gago are long-term injury concerns. Lassana Diarra has recovered from a groin injury but he has not travelled with the Blancos squad to Milan.