Kaladze suffers new knee injury
31.12 || scharatz
Milan will be without Kakhaber Kaladze for the big showdown with Roma on Jan 6 after he suffered another knee injury.
The Georgian defender has barely featured so far this season following a series of thigh and knee problems.
He pulled up during training this morning and the official Milan website confirms that he has strained the collateral ligament in his left knee.
The medical staff wishes to wait for a few days before making an accurate prognosis, but it is believed he will be sidelined for three weeks.
As Alessandro Nesta is also battling to regain fitness following knee surgery, this leaves the Rossoneri with limited options in defence.
Inzaghi: We'll end Roma run
31.12 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi insists that Roma’s unbeaten run will come to an end when Milan visit the Capital on Jan 6.
“It will be a fantastic battle that any player would love to be a part of,” noted the Rossoneri star.
“We absolutely want to win this match and if we play to the best of our abilities then that result is certainly there for the taking.”
Both these sides were unbeaten in Serie A until Milan’s final match of 2003, a 2-1 home defeat to Udinese.
“Recovering a lot of our injured players will be crucial so we can step into the Stadio Olimpico in the right frame of mind,” continued the Italian international.
“2003 has been a fantastic year for all of us here at Milan and especially for me. These last two seasons have been the best of my career on all levels – physical, psychological and in terms of results.”
The former Juventus hero claims he is not sated by the Double – Champions’ League and Coppa Italia – and the fightback begins in Rome.
“A few slips here and there are inevitable,” he concluded, “but the important thing is to start 2004 with the best foot forward.”
Meanwhile, it is reported in Japan that a prestigious friendly match between Milan and Real Madrid has already been organised for next summer.
The showdown, already nicknamed the ‘Dream Game’ by the local press, is set to take place in Tokyo on August 8.
Ancelotti: I could be Italy Coach
31.12 || scharatz
After Marcello Lippi and Fabio Capello ruled themselves out of the race, Carlo Ancelotti has hinted at an Azzurri future.
“I would be the ideal replacement for Giovanni Trapattoni at the helm of the Italy squad,” insisted the Coach in an interview with the ‘Corriere della Sera’ newspaper.
“I have all the right qualifications and a similar tactical outlook,” he added, “but I have no intention of leaving Milan.”
Ancelotti was considered the nearly man of Italian football after a series of second place finishes with Juventus and Parma.
However, in 2003 he put his name in the history books by guiding the Rossoneri to the Double of the Champions’ League and Coppa Italia.
There is the very distinct possibility that he will end his relationship with Milan at the end of this season following a disappointing Intercontinental Cup defeat to Boca Juniors and their tricky start to the Champions’ League.
The press in the peninsula is now seeking the man who will replace Trapattoni following his announcement that he would leave the Italy post after Euro 2004.
With Capello and Lippi, the two most successful club Coaches in the country, ruling themselves out the options are limited.
Under-21 boss Claudio Gentile did not seem particularly keen on the step up, while Gianluca Vialli has never even Coached a club side in Italy.
Hope for Kaladze kidnap end
28.12 || scharatz
Milan defender Kakha Kaladze is nearing the end of his nightmare amid reports his kidnapped brother is set to be released.
“I have spoken to the authorities in Georgia,” revealed the Rossoneri star, “and it is 90 per cent sure my brother is still alive.”
An armed gang kidnapped Levan Kaladze on May 23 2001 near the hospital in Tblisi.
A police investigation failed to discover his whereabouts and last year there were reports that the Kaladze family had paid a $1m ransom.
The Milan player even refused to play for Georgia in European qualifiers as a protest against the handling of this case.
He has now returned to his homeland for the Christmas holidays and is optimistic that this nightmare can soon come to an end.
French press prize Serie A stars
27.12 || scharatz
After Pavel Nedved scooped the prestigious Balon d’Or, French newspaper l’Equipe has also praised the Italian League.
There are five Serie A stars in the annual Top Eleven team picked by the pundits of this esteemed publication.
Newly crowned European Player of the Year Nedved is part of the midfield, while Juventus teammate Lilian Thuram is also included in an almost entirely Italian-based defence.
In fact, three Azzurri heroes help make up the Team of the 2003 with Gianluigi Buffon and Champions’ League winners Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta.
L’Equipe’s writers note that Juventus goalkeeper Buffon “has all the indispensable qualities for a Number 1.”
Nesta represents “the archetypal Italian defender,” while his Rossoneri teammate Maldini “remains the best example for a football player.”
L’Equipe’s Team of 2003: Buffon; Thuram, Nesta, Maldini, Roberto Carlos; Makelele, Beckham, Zidane, Nedved; Ronaldo, Henry
Prso set for Milan switch
24.12 || scharatz
Dado Prso is reportedly set to join Milan in January despite the club insisting that there will be no changes to their squad.
The Croatian’s agent claims that he has held talks with the Rossoneri and is confident a deal will be done.
"Prso will be moving to Italy," Marko Naletelic told a Croatian newspaper. "We are holding negotiations with Milan and they are very keen on him.
"The chances of reaching an agreement are very high. There is also an option to join Sampdoria if no deal can be agreed with Milan."
Prso is currently at Monaco who are set to cash in on the player as he will be a free agent next summer.
A host of clubs were being linked with his swoop after his recent goal rush for his club and country.
The arrival of a forward player would definitely make sense for the European Champions who no longer have Rivaldo in their squad.
Even if chief Adriano Galliani insists that his club will not be using the January transfer window.
"There will be nobody going out of the door and nobody coming in through it," said the Rossoneri main man.
AC Milan 1:2 Udinese - report
21.12 || scharatz
Fava 2 (U), Sensini 51 (U), Cafu 69 (M)
Stadio San Siro
The Rossoneri suffer their first Serie A defeat of the season and risk slipping out of the top two ahead of the Winter break.
Milan traditionally struggle in the last game ahead of the Christmas break and have won only one of these encounters in the last ten years.
The Rossoneri were forced to do without the flu-stricken Andriy Shevchenko. Pippo Inzaghi was able to make his first start in almost two months due to thigh problems. The defence was reshuffled following Alessandro Nesta's knee surgery.
It took just 90 seconds for Udinese to take a shock lead at the San Siro. Marek Jankulovski cut across for Dino Fava to sweep in from the edge of the box. The finish was accurate and slotted in by the near post past the outstretched hand of Dida.
Inzaghi had the opportunity to draw level soon after, but he ballooned over from eight yards.
Milan seemed to struggle under Udinese's midfield pressure, but there was a very controversial moment on 19 minutes. Inzaghi charged into the box and clashed with Morgan De Sanctis. The referee pointed to the spot, but replays suggest an element of doubt.
Nonetheless, Andrea Pirlo stepped up to take Milan's first Serie A penalty of the season, only to slam it on to the near post. The midfielder was almost infallible from the spot last season, but also missed in the Intercontinental Cup shoot-out with Boca Juniors last week.
Carlo Ancelotti's men continued to make errors as the Udinese players pressured them all over the field, Muntari drilling wide after taking the ball off Pirlo.
The Rossoneri got themselves into scoring positions, but Kaka's diving header was easily gathered. The young Brazilian tried to earn another penalty when he fell under pressure from Pazienza, but the referee booked him for diving.
Udinese wasted another opportunity on the counter-attack, when Dida lost the ball but Fava's header was too central to trouble the goalkeeper.
It was a lively encounter and Marcos Cafu brought a tough save out of De Sanctis with an angled drive at the near post.
Milan replaced the disappointing Martin Laursen with Alessandro Costacurta and tried to fight back at the dawn of the second half with Kaka' and Inzaghi, but it was Udinese who doubled their lead.
Six minutes after the restart Valerio Bertotto slammed in a stunning free kick that took a touch off Nestor Sensini to lift it over Dida. There was controversy in this incident as well, as replays suggest Sensini might have been offside when the kick was taken.
Milan finally got back into the game with 20 minutes left on the clock, as a free kick fell to Marcos Cafu for a well-taken volley at the near post.
However, the atmosphere was tense and Kakha Kaladze lost control. He was accidentally kicked in the stomach by Giampiero Pinzi, then a scuffle broke out and he swung out at Bertotto. The red card was inevitable following this reaction foul from the Georgian.
Despite being a man down it turned into a siege during the final stages, as Sensini and De Sanctis desperately charged down efforts from Inzaghi and Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Milan: Dida; Cafu, Laursen (Costacurta 46), Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo (Ambrosini 68), Serginho (Borriello 61); Kaka'; Inzaghi, Tomasson
Udinese: De Sanctis; Bertotto, Sensini, Kroldrup; Jankulovski, Pinzi, Pazienza (Gargo 79), Alberto (Pierini 68), Jorgensen, Muntari; Fava (Jancker 76)
Missed penalty: Pirlo 19 (M)
Sent off: Kaladze 80 (M)
AC Milan vs. Udinese - preview
21.12 || scharatz
Milan return to Serie A and must immediately pick themselves up after losing out to Boca Juniors for the Intercontinental Cup.
That defeat on penalties has hit morale in more ways than one, as Alessandro Nesta’s knee injury was found to be more serious than initially thought. Exploratory surgery on the meniscus ligament has been performed and the defender will be out of action for a month.
Despite having a game in hand, as last week’s Serie A clash with Siena was postponed until Jan 28 due to that Intercontinental Cup tie, the Rossoneri are still firmly in second position and can catch up to leaders Roma.
Their form at the San Siro has been exceptional so far this season with four wins and a single draw, 1-1 against Juventus, in which just two goals were conceded. The defence has been their saving grace and Nesta’s absence will push veteran Alessandro ‘Billy’ Costacurta into the centre as a partner for Paolo Maldini. Pippo Inzaghi should now be ready to start alongside leading Capocannoniere Andriy Shevchenko following a series of thigh problems.
Udinese have no intention of coming here to be sacrificial lambs, as they have notched up three consecutive victories. The fact that arguably their most talented player, midfield maestro David Pizarro, has been frozen out of the squad has not affected the team performance. Vincenzo Iaquinta is struggling with fitness problems, so Carsten Jancker will retain his spot alongside Martin Jorgensen and top scorer contender Dino Fava.
Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Udinese (probable) : De Sanctis; Bertotto, Sensini, Kroldrup; Jankulovski, Pinzi, Muntari, Manfredini; Jorgensen, Jancker, Fava
Ancelotti fears Roma rivals
21.12 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi replaces the flu-stricken Andriy Shevchenko, while Carlo Ancelotti admits Roma are the Scudetto favourites.
“The worst is over for Inzaghi,” confirmed Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti after a series of thigh problems that have seen him barely feature for six weeks.
“He is in form and scoring a goal in the Coppa Italia midweek was crucial for him. Now that he is training consistently he just needs to work up some match fitness.”
He will have the opportunity to test out his true condition when Milan welcome Udinese to the San Siro this afternoon.
However, all eyes are already looking to the future, as the first game of 2004 will be a top of the table showdown with leaders Roma.
“Between the contenders Juventus, Roma and Inter, I fear the Giallorossi the most,” confessed Ancelotti.
The Coach has a long history with the Capital club as he starred for them as a player in the 1980’s.
“I know the atmosphere in the city so well and realise how important that can be when results are coming in. That is why I think they are the favourites for the title.”
Cafu counters Christmas curse
21.12 || scharatz
Marcos Cafu hopes that the Rossoneri can put their Christmas taboo behind them, as the team tends to stumble on the final game of the year.
“I know that in the past Milan have never really performed well in the last match before the Winter break,” conceded the new arrival, “but now is the time to turn that negative trend around.”
They have a game in hand, welcoming Siena on Jan 28, but will already know Roma’s result when they take the field against Udinese on Sunday afternoon.
“We must win our match at all costs and stay close to the leaders,” continued Cafu. “The disappointment of losing the Intercontinental Cup is behind us now.”
January will be a curious month for Cafu, as he will face former club Roma three times between Serie A and the Coppa Italia.
“It is always an entertaining duel, but it will give me a particular charge to step back into the Stadio Olimpico again. Besides,” smiled the Brazilian, “I’ll have a chance to visit all my old friends.”
Milan dismiss Max move
19.12 || Seamus
Milan have angrily denied claims that they are willing to allow Massimo Ambrosini to join Sampdoria.
Reports on Friday suggested that an agreement had been reached over a six-month loan deal but those stories have been shot down.
"I’m very angry," stated Milan chief Adriano Galliani. "I woke up this morning and was greeted with stories that Ambrosini was joining Samp.
"That is totally false. We’ve not spoken to Sampdoria or Ambrosini. Our market strategy is known to everyone – nobody will leave in the New Year."
Coppa Italia: AC Milan 1:0 Sampdoria - report
18.12 || scharatz
Pippo Inzaghi ensured that Milan saw off Samp and set up a clash with last year’s beaten Finalists Roma.
The trophy holders were already 1-0 up from the first leg in Genoa and both sides made sweeping changes from their first choice eleven.
This was their first match since losing the Intercontinental Cup Final on Sunday and a morale-boosting performance was required.
Luigi Turci had an early scare when handling a backpass, but made up for his error by palming out the indirect free kick from Clarence Seedorf.
The Dutch midfielder started his Serie A career with Sampdoria and surprised the fans by cutting off his trademark dreadlocks.
Any Samp hopes of getting back into the tie were cut down after 14 minutes. A corner was taken quickly and Kakha Kaladze’s angled drive found Pippo Inzaghi ready to tap in at the back post.
The Blucerchiati proved dangerous with a few long-range Sergio Volpi efforts, but there was bad news for the home side when Christian Abbiati limped off with a thigh problem.
There was controversy just before the break, as Bratislav Zivkovic appeared to bring down Serginho, but the referee waved away penalty appeals.
Milan fans were then greeted by the traditional sight of Martin Laursen looking for his contact lens on the field of the San Siro.
Valerio Fiori fumbled an effort from young Cameroon starlet Job, but Atsushi Yanagisawa failed to take advantage of the loose ball.
Serginho also wasted a golden opportunity set up by substitute Kaka, but Milan waltz away with the victory and a ticket to the Quarter-Finals.
Milan 1-0 Sampdoria (2-0 on agg)
Scorer: Inzaghi 14
Milan: Abbiati (Fiori 35); Simic, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze; Brocchi, Redondo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Kaka 57); Inzaghi (Borriello 68), Serginho
Sampdoria: Turci; Sacchetti; Grandoni, Carrozzieri, Zivkovic; Antonini (Doni 70), Volpi, Donati (Job 46), Zenoni; Colombo, Yanagisawa
Coppa Italia: AC Milan vs. Sampdoria - preview
18.12 || scharatz
AC Milan take a one goal lead into this second-leg Coppa Italia match with Sampdoria at the San Siro.
The Rossoneri are still smarting from last Sunday's Intercontinental Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Boca Juniors. This would have been by far coach Carlo Ancelotti's toughest week of the season, but no doubt he'll have picked the players up and they'll be raring to go for this clash.
"It is not easy against Samp," Ancelotti noted. "We have not completely recovered from the journey back from Japan. We will have to avoid any risk and be wary of a group who have done well recently."
And on tonight's team selection, he added: "Who didn't play on Sunday has the priority. The game against Boca forces us to make some changes."
This should give a few clues as to who will be included.
Mirko Conte's own-goal in the first leg was an unfortunate affair indeed. But as Ancelotti points out, Samp are in good form just now, and created many chances in the 3-3 draw at Perugia on Saturday.
Francesco Flachi scored a lovely brace in that match, with Cristiano Doni netting the other. Neither are expected to start tonight.
AC Milan (4-4-2): Abbiati, Simic, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze, Brocchi, Redondo, Seedorf, Serginho, Inzaghi, Borriello
Sampdoria (4-4-2): Turci, Sacchetti, Grandoni, Conte, Bettarini, Diana, Palombo, Volpi, Antonini, Job, Colombo
Rossoneri rage at Awards snub
17.12 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti and Gennaro Gattuso have bitterly criticised the lack of Milan players up for the Balon d’Or and FIFA Award this season.
“I wonder whether we won the Champions’ League or whether it was all a dream,” sniped Ancelotti after not a single Rossoneri star was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
“I think I will go to the trophy room at our club headquarters and check whether the Cup is there or not. I want to be sure.”
Milan were crowned the Champions of Europe and lifted the Coppa Italia, but despite doing the Double they were largely ignored in the votes for top players of 2003.
Zinedine Zidane was a controversial choice for the FIFA Award, beating Thierry Henry and Ronaldo, while the highest placed Milan star was Paolo Maldini in ninth.
It now seems almost certain that Juve’s Pavel Nedved – who did not feature in the Old Trafford Final due to a ban – will be handed the prestigious Balon d’Or.
“I don’t believe in these awards any more,” added Gennaro Gattuso. “I have no problem with the French voting system, but in my view the best player very rarely wins. The victory goes to the man with the biggest sponsors.”
Milan agree Alex deal?
17.12 || Seamus
Reports in South America suggest that Milan have reached an agreement to sign Alex next summer.
The Santos defender has been linked with the Rossoneri for some months now and a deal seems to have been done.
Speculation claims that the Italian giants have agreed a £3.5m fee with his club and his agent who each own 50 per cent of his contract.
The centre back, whose full name is Alex Rodrigo Dias da Costa, is widely regarding as one of Brazil’s most promising youngsters.
He is also renowned for his offensive qualities as he’s scored 10 goals over the last three seasons. He also netted three in the last Coppa Libertadores.
Meanwhile, Milan are understood to have reached an agreement with Como over the proposed signing of Ayodele Makinwa.
The young African striker is set to arrive in January to boost Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking options after the departure of Rivaldo.
Nesta eyes capital comeback
17.12 || Seamus
Alessandro Nesta has undergone knee surgery, but hopes to be back in time for the top of the table clash with Roma on January 6.
“The operation was a complete success,” revealed Milan medic Professor Andrea Campi, “and it is not out of the question that Nesta could recover for the Roma match.”
The defender has been struggling with a meniscus problem for a fortnight and was forced out of Sunday’s Intercontinental Cup Final defeat to Boca Juniors.
“The operation lasted approximately 50 minutes and a section of the damaged meniscus ligament in his left knee was removed. Everything went according to plan.”
The former Lazio defender was in Rome for the surgery and will stay in his hometown for a couple of days to aid the recovery process.
For this type of keyhole surgery a player will usually be sidelined for between 15 and 20 days.
The Rossoneri have a good record of helping stars get back to full fitness quickly, as Paolo Maldini and Serginho have already made remarkable comebacks this season.
Meanwhile, Jon Dahl Tomasson has looked back on the Intercontinental Cup Final in Yokohama, which Milan lost on penalties.
“I thought that my goal would help us win that trophy,” sighed the Dane, “but this is football. Penalties went well for us against Juventus in the Champions’ League Final, but not this time.”
Nesta set for surgery
15.12 || scharatz
Milan stopper Alessandro Nesta will go under the knife on Tuesday in a bid to resolve a knee problem.
The Italian international missed the Boca Juniors defeat on Sunday because of a meniscus injury to his left knee and will be operated on in Rome.
The Rossoneri medical staff believe that the former Lazio player will be out of action for around four weeks.
Nesta arrived back in Italy earlier today along with the rest of his teammates after they missed out on the Intercontinental Cup.
The Rossoneri lost on penalties to the Argentine side but Vice-president Adriano Galliani has praised his men.
"It’s been a marvellous 2003," he stated. "We won three trophies, it could have been four but anyone can lose on penalties."
The Irony Of Penalties
15.12 || scharatz
Life can be really ironic at times. Ask Milan fans what they think about penalty shoot outs and you would probably just receive a groan or two. A week earlier, the same question would have evoked great memories of a wonderful night in May, but a day after the Intercontinental Cup final, 'penalty shoot-out' is something that the milanisti want to erease from their vocabulary, at least for the time being, so do not even bother as the irony would be lost on them.
Was it just the penalty shoot-out that led to Milan's downfall in the Intercontinental Cup Final or were there other motives? Well surely whenever you lose from the penalty lottery, luck plays an important part. However, as they say, luck always helps the strongest and it would be unfair on Boca to say they only won through luck. The Argentinean team was very solid throughout the match, and even though they relied on counter attacks, they still were able to worry the Milan defence and at the same time not allow too much space to the rossoneri forwards
Milan were clearly the most technical team of the two finalists as Boca are more of a team than individual flair, however Ancelotti's team was unable to make use of their superior technical abilities on the pitch. It is tough to really find where the merits of Boca end and the demerits of Milan start, but what's for sure is that ultimately, the most deserving team won.
In recent weeks, Shevcenko and Kaka have been systematically leading Milan to wins both in Serie A and Champions League, however on Sunday, neither of them played a good game and were hardly involved in Milan's attacks. The Brazilian forward's star shined only a few times and that was not enough for the rossoneri. Shevcenko is currently very important for his team as Inzaghi is still far away from his best form following the injury and if the Ukrainian forward does not bang them in, then the rossoneri find it hard to score goals.
Many will easily point fingers towards Ancelotti who opted for Kaka instead of Rui Costa. The Portuguese midfielder seemed to be more adapt for this kind of match as soon as he set foot on the pitch and things might have been different if he had played from the start since his team seemed to lack creativity in midfield to create real goal scoring chances which did not involve long passes by Pirlo from the midfield line.
Boca were overall more ordinate, especially in defence, where every time a Milan player was in possession of the ball, at least two Boca players would be surrounding him and preventing him from creating any important chance. Their fast counter attacks became even more effective when Tevez was sent on the pitch by Bianchi and Boca were very close to snatching the victory late towards the game.
Back to the first point: the penalties. Ancelotti stated that he chose the players himself, based on his technical knowledge of the players. If that's the case, then his technical knowledge is really bad. This is obviously not so, as Ancelotti is a good tactician, however the choice of penalty takers was clearly not a happy one.
After Beckham's terrible miss kick from the spot in the match Turkey – England, no one would have thought that any player was capable of shooting a worse penalty. No one except Costacurta. The veteran defender, who granted that he is not a specialist in penalties, probably shot the worst penalty of the past 10 years. Not that Seedorf's penalty was much better, but at least his shot did not trot agonizingly towards goal.
Losing the final was not a great sensation, and this might be the reason behind Seedorf's angry after match words. He accused some players that they did not want to take the penalties, while he took the responsibility. Apparently his words were aimed towards Inzaghi and Cafu. Obviously both the player and club will try to play down these claims, but such a reaction can only be harmful for the dressing room.
Italian media will be quick to say that Milan are in a crisis because of the back to back defeats in the Champions League (at home against Celta) and this Intercontinental defeat. This is obviously ridiculous as Milan have had so far an excellent season but we all know that Italians try to sensationalize even the small stories.
On the other hand it is true that this is the second final they lost this season (first one was the Italian Super Cup against Juventus) and both came from the penalty shoot outs. After last May, Milan and their fans probably thought that luck was on their side when it came to penalties, however this season proved otherwise and will be hoping to avoid the lottery from the spot in future fixtures!
Ancelotti: We didn't give 100 per cent
14.12 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti has accused his Milan side of not giving 100 per cent to win the Intercontinental Cup after losing on penalties to Boca Juniors.
“It was a difficult game,” sighed the Coach after the 3-1 shoot-out defeat. “I can say that Boca gave everything they had and we didn’t.”
The Rossoneri had the chance to become the most successful club side in the world by taking this trophy for a record fourth time, but instead lost their third Intercontinental Final on the trot.
“It had started well for us with Jon Dahl Tomasson’s goal to take the lead,” confirmed the Coach, “but the equaliser came far too quickly.”
A defensive error allowed former Venezia midfielder Matias Donnet to draw Boca level just five minutes after the opener
“We really struggled to break them down throughout the match. Boca were fast-moving, compact and we had a few problems dealing with their pace.”
“There are obviously regrets looking back at our chances, especially when Kaka hit the woodwork and Andriy Shevchenko’s attempt was well saved in extra time.”
It is ironic that they should lose the World title the same way this side earned the European one in May.
“Penalties are always a gamble and we cannot have too many regrets about that,” insisted Ancelotti. “In Manchester it went well and this time it didn’t.”
“I thanked the lads for helping us get to this stage and we went so close to a wonderful dream end to this year. We are sorry, but must use it as something to push us on in future.”
Carlos Bianchi was on the Velez Sarsfield bench when Milan played – and lost – their last Toyota Cup tie in 1994.
“This is not just a triumph for Boca Juniors,” said the former Roma Coach, “but a triumph for all Argentinean football.”
This is his third victory in this competition, becoming the most successful manager in its history.
“We played very well throughout and to have put in a performance like this against the Champions of Europe makes us very proud,” added Bianchi.
“This squad has always had faith in its own abilities, regardless of the star names on the other side of the field. That is why we were so relaxed.”
INTERCONTINENTAL CUP: AC Milan 1:1 Boca Juniors (2:4 on pens) - report
14.12 || scharatz
Tomasson 24 (M), Donnet 29 (B)
Penalties went against Milan this time around as Boca Juniors lift the Intercontinental Cup after a shoot-out.
Milan made a record seventh appearance in the Intercontinental Cup and had the opportunity to lift the trophy for the fourth time.
The Rossoneri are representative of Europe after winning the Champions' League, while Boca Juniors are the reigning club side in South America with the Copa Libertadores under their belts.
There were injury worries ahead of the game, as Alessandro Nesta pulled out with a meniscus problem and Pippo Inzaghi was not considered fit enough to start.
Brazilian Kaka' has done enough in recent outings to earn his spot in the starting line-up and push Manuel Rui Costa on to the bench. Nesta's injury means that the defence had an average age of 34.
Milan have not been particularly fortunate in this tournament over the last few years, losing their last appearance in 1994 to Velez Sarsfield. Carlos Bianchi was on the bench that day and is again their opponent in Tokyo.
19-year-old star Boca striker Carlos Tevez started from the sidelines after suffering a series of knee injuries over the last few weeks.
The Italians had a bright start and after 2 minutes Kaka' gathered a poor clearance to send a dipping volley over the bar.
There were fears before the game that Boca would use tough tackling to reduce Milan's threat, but referee Ivanov stamped his authority with a yellow card after six minutes for Luis Perea's late challenge on Clarence Seedorf.
Soon after the Dutchman's cross was off target as Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson ran into the box.
There was a curious moment during the first half when Boca Coach Bianchi made an official protest to remove Italian journalists on the sidelines as he accused them of spying. Bianchi is a familiar face to Serie A as he flopped during his time at Roma.
Boca Juniors went close on 19 minutes, as ex-Venezia midfielder Donnet was left completely unmarked from six yards and Dida pushed out his volley.
On the resulting corner kick the Brazilian goalkeeper was again called to palm out a Schiavi header at the near post.
But just as Boca began to increase the pressure, Milan took the lead. Andrea Pirlo recovered the ball in the centre circle and placed a perfect slide-rule pass forward to set the two strikers running. Shevchenko's dummy allowed the unmarked Tomasson to turn through the goalkeepers' legs.
The Rossoneri nearly made it two moments later when Tomasson couldn't quite get his head on a Marcos Cafu cross from a good position.
However, a defensive error allowed Boca Juniors to draw level within five minutes. Cafu lost the ball in midfield and although Dida parried the first effort from Iarley, Matias Donnet was able to volley in the loose ball.
The game sprung into life and Milan could not have gone closer to restoring their lead 60 seconds later when Kaka's swerving drive from the edge of the box slammed on to the upright.
Boca tried every trick in the book to make the Europeans more tense and kept Milan waiting for several minutes to start the second half.
The Rossoneri had the first chance of the second period when a defensive error sent Shevchenko running on goal and he was hacked down by Burdisso. The resulting Pirlo free kick was deflected wide of the goal.
Boca tried to push forward on the counter-attack, but Paolo Maldini performed a curious and effective backheel clearance to prevent the through ball reaching Iarley.
Seedorf was particularly poor and seemed to be not 100 per cent fit, often passing the ball to opponents in midfield.
On the hour mark Inzaghi made his entrance in place of goalscorer Tomasson, as the Italian international is not 100 per cent fit.
Within moments Milan almost took the lead. Shevchenko nodded a free kick back across the face of goal and Maldini's finish was parried by a fine Abbondanzieri reaction save.
Pirlo placed another slide rule pass for Inzaghi, but the goalkeeper rushed off his line to block his path, then Kaka's volley from a very acute angle shook the side netting.
There was a moment of panic at the other end of the field when Pirlo's poor backpass was intercepted by Schelotto, but as the move continued it was halted by an offside flag.
Carlos Tevez eventually stepped on to the field for the final 20 minutes, his first real appearance since suffering that knee injury on Nov 2. There were fears he wouldn't available at all following a row between Boca and the Argentine Federation.
The 19-year-old saw his first touch charged down and Cagna's follow-up was also deflected over the bar.
From the resulting corner Schiavi's looping header seemed to be going in, but fell on to the roof of the net.
Kaka was not up to his usual standings and Manuel Rui Costa took over from the 77th minute.
The Portuguese international saw a fierce effort from distance deflected out for a corner kick, while at the other end Battaglia ballooned over.
Deep into stoppage time Pirlo gave the ball away under pressure and Tevez fired inches over from just inside the box.
That was the last real move of the game and the Final went into extra time with the Silver Goal rule in Tokyo.
Ancelotti made his last substitution and replaced Gattuso with Massimo Ambrosini.
Milan thought they had grabbed a winner at the dawn of the second period of extra time. Pirlo took a free kick quickly and Shevchenko brought a desperate save out of Abbondanzieri.
Inzaghi hit the back of the net when he nodded in a Pirlo free kick, but the move was halted as several Milan players were offside.
Boca had the chance to sneak the trophy in the last minute of extra time, but Seedorf managed to block a Tevez effort after a poorly cleared set-piece.
There were no goals and, like the Champions' League Final that qualified Milan for this match, it went to penalties.
Pirlo was the first up and Milan's regular penalty taker saw his effort saved by Pato Abbondanzieri.
Schiavi converted successfully to send Dida the wrong way as Boca took an immediate 1-0 lead.
Rui Costa drilled a low effort in by the near post and Dida saved Battaglia's spot-kick to draw the Rossoneri level.
Seedorf capped off a dreadful performance in this Final by ballooning his penalty well over the bar and Donnet turned a powerful effort in to restore Boca's lead.
Veteran defender Alessandro Costacurta made matters worse with a very weak effort that was easily saved by the Argentine goalkeeper. It proved decisive, as Cascini converted the final kick to hand Boca Juniors the trophy 4-2 on penalties.
Milan: Dida; Pancaro, Costacurta, Maldini, Cafu; Seedorf, Pirlo, Gattuso (Ambrosini 100); Kaka (Rui Costa 77); Tomasson (Inzaghi 60), Shevchenko
Boca Juniors: Abbondanzieri; Schiavi, Perea, Burdisso, Rodriguez; Cagna, Cascini, Battaglia; Donnet; Schelotto (Tevez 72), Iarley
Ref: Ivanov (Rus)
INTERCONTINENTAL CUP: AC Milan vs. Boca Juniors - preview
13.12 || scharatz
The annual meeting of the champions of football's leading two continents looms, as AC Milan prepare to face CA Boca Juniors for the European/South American Cup in Japan's Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday 14 December at 11.15CET.
With the two clubs holding five wins and nine appearances in the competition between them, they are no strangers to the spectacle. UEFA Champions League holders Milan are aiming for a record fourth success on their seventh appearance, while Copa Libertadores winners Boca hope to join Milan, Club Nacional de Football, CA Peñarol and Real Madrid CF on three victories.
Milan's debut came in 1963 - a narrow defeat by Santos FC - but six years later they beat Argentina's Club Estudiantes de la Plata 4-2 on aggregate. They have since travelled to Japan on four occasions, after the tournament became a one-off fixture in 1980. The Italian side were champions in 1989 and 1990, overcoming Atlético Nacional de Medellín and Club Olimpia, but in 1993 and 1994 they lost against São Paulo FC and CA Vélez Sarsfield.
Boca, meanwhile, took their tournament bow against VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1978, drawing the home leg 2-2 before winning 3-0 in Germany. In recent years they have become the outstanding South American team, and are appearing in Japan for the third time in four seasons. In 2000 they saw off Madrid 2-0, Martín Palermo scoring twice to clinch South America's sole triumph since 1994, but the next year FC Bayern München beat them 1-0.
These sides also represent the nations most dominant in the competition. Argentina lead the way with eight victories in 17 attempts, but Italy's clubs are close behind, having won seven times in eleven appearances. If Milan do prevail, they will not only bring the two countries level, but also help Europe equal South America's 21 tournament successes.
There are some familiar faces returning to Japan. Veteran Milan defenders Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta could appear for a fifth time, although the latter will want to forget his 1994 cameo, which ended with a red card. Cafu also played for São Paulo in 1993, against his current club Milan. Meanwhile, Guillermo Schelotto and Nicolás Burdisso could both feature for the third time for Boca.
South American pride
Certainly, the Buenos Aires club will be keen to restore South American pride after Madrid's comfortable 2-0 triumph against Paraguay's Olimpia a year ago. But with the chance to draw Europe level in the series, and also become the first team to win the trophy four times, Milan will want to secure their continent's eighth victory in nine seasons.
Nesta out of Intercontinental Cup
13.12 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta is officially unable to take part in Sunday’s crucial encounter with Boca Juniors due to a knee injury.
“I have not announced the starting eleven to the team yet,” revealed Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti, “but I can confirm that Nesta is out of action.”
The former Lazio captain has been struggling with a meniscus problem for a week now and limped out of Friday’s training session with a recurrence of the injury.
It is now likely that veteran Alessandro Costacurta will take over the central defensive role alongside Paolo Maldini.
A victory in Yokohama tomorrow morning would make Milan the most successful club side in history.
“We have done a great deal this season,” continued Ancelotti, “but this would be the icing on the cake.”
“I spoke to all the players and thanked them for giving everyone the chance to win such an important trophy.”
The Rossoneri are in Japan as representatives of Europe, having won the Champions’ League in May, while Boca Juniors lifted the Copa Libertadores.
“It will be a tough Final against a very strong opponent, but the team is on fine form going into the game.”
This will be Milan’s seventh Intercontinental Cup appearance – a record in itself – and shall mark the occasion by wearing their all white strip, while Boca maintain their traditional blue and yellow jerseys.
Kaka charged up for Boca clash
13.12 || scharatz
Kaka is increasingly likely to start Sunday’s Intercontinental Cup clash, but top Boca star Carlos Tevez claims he should be benched.
“I think that I can quite happily share the field with Manuel Rui Costa,” said the Brazilian midfielder.
“We already have played together on several occasions and it always went well. Naturally the decision is up to the Coach, but Rui is a dear friend and he helped me settle in quickly.”
Few expected the former Sao Paolo starlet to make such an immediate impact on Serie A, but he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“I have a great deal to learn, especially on headers and passing the ball long. In Brazil we tend to play close together so you don’t need to think about that, but in Europe you need to pick out the unmarked teammate.”
Kaka also notices other differences from the South American game and warns that this could be a deciding factor on Sunday.
“I confess that in Brazil and Argentina the players aren’t always very sportsmanlike,” said the Selecao hero. “I only hope that Boca Juniors will try to play football rather than provoke us.”
Both sides have injury worries going into this ‘World Cup’ for football clubs, as Alessandro Nesta limped out of a training session with a recurrence of his meniscus problem.
Boca’s top star is young striker Carlos Tevez, who has been wracked with a series of setbacks leading up to the game in Tokyo.
A dispute with the Argentine Federation almost saw him banned from taking part, but a knee injury is keeping Coach Carlos Bianchi on his toes.
“If I were Bianchi,” said Tevez, “I would start me from the bench on Sunday. Obviously if I do start then I’ll give 100 per cent, but I must be honest and admit I am not ready.”
The young striker, who missed the Under-20 World Cup due to the same injury, has not played an official game since November 2.
Czech test for AC Milan
12.12 || scharatz
AC Milan have been drawn against Sparta Prague in the Second Round of the Champions’ League.
Although the Czech side did eliminate Lazio in the first stage, the Rossoneri will be confident of reaching the quarter-finals.
The tie of the round is definitely Bayern Munich against Real Madrid. While Chelsea face a difficult task against German League leaders Stuttgart.
First leg matches will take place on February 24 and 25. Return games are scheduled for March 9 and 10.
Stuttgart – Chelsea
Porto – Man Utd
Real Sociedad – Lyon
Celta Vigo – Arsenal
Bayern Munich – Real Madrid
Sparta Prague – Milan
Dep La Coruna – Juventus
Lokomotiv Moscow – Monaco
Nesta & Inzaghi worry Milan
11.12 || scharatz
Alessandro Nesta and Pippo Inzaghi remain doubts for Milan’s Intercontinental Cup clash against Boca Juniors on Sunday.
"We’re not excluding the possibility that they will play but obviously it all depends on how they react to their treatment which will continue until Saturday," said boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Both men are struggling with fitness problems, as is combative midfielder Massimo Ambrosini.
The whole squad is now in Tokyo preparing for the tie in which they hope to become the most successful club in world football.
"This is certainly a very important game for us as another trophy at the weekend will see us lead the honours chart," added the Coach. "That is definitely an extra stimulus."
However, Ancelotti is ruling out the possibility that his European Champions may be affected by nerves.
"There is very little stress around right now," he added. "That is because we are extremely satisfied to have got this far by winning the European Cup."
The former Milan midfielder, who has already won this trophy as a player, is paying their Argentine opponents great respect.
"They are a side that should be feared because they are physically strong and have great character," added the tactician.
"They are a side that are built perfectly in order to play Carlos Bianchi’s style of football," he continued. "We’ll also have to keep an eye on Tevez who is definitely their best player."
However, the young striker may not start the game after he limped out of a training session earlier today.
Rui Costa and Kaka could both start against Boca - Ancelotti
11.12 || Seamus
Ahead of Sunday's Intercontinental Cup clash with Boca Juniors, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti says that if Filippo Inzaghi fails to recover from injury, playmakers Manuel Rui Costa and Kaka will both start the game.
"If Inzaghi doesn't play, Kaka-Rui will play together," he said.
"It was a tranquil trip. The Intercontinental Cup is for the players. And it's a wonderful thing. I've seen what a reception they have received, above all Rui Costa. These are great games to prepare for and live through."
Rui Costa himself, added: "I didn't sleep that much the night before the flight, however, I slept a lot on the plane. It's gone how I planned so it's morning for me as well now, and I would like to thank the Japanese fans from my heart for their wonderful welcome. To be here for this game means to be on top of the world and to be able to play in a game like this gives the team a great feeling."
Shevchenko was also impressed by the reception from the fans: "There is a great enthusiasm around Milan here in Japan, we are in a country in which football has been growing a lot following the last World Cup. The Intercontinental Cup final seems to have even increased this passion. I've been most impressed by the organization of this country, the order of all structures and the cleanness of the roads."
Alex wants Milan move
10.12 || Seamus
Brazilian youngster Alex is hoping that Milan’s interest in him will lead to a Rossoneri switch.
"I would love to play for a club like Milan," said the 21-year-old defender. "However, I do think that nothing is imminent.
"As far as I know, no club has made a concrete offer to my club or my agent at this present time."
The Santos stopper is highly rated in South America, which has also seen Inter keep an eye on his development.
Yet Alex is hoping that he can soon team up alongside his good friend Kaka at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
"Playing alongside Kaka is another reason why I would like this move to happen," he continued. "We’ve already played together at international level."
Ancelotti looks to Tokyo
10.12 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti has shrugged off Milan’s predictable defeat and took it as a test match for the Intercontinental Cup.
“We started very well,” noted the Coach of their 2-1 setback to Celta Vigo, “but the fact they equalised just before the break was a psychological dent for a team that already had little motivation.”
“The second half saw some changes and the side was nowhere near as impressive, especially with a three-man defence.”
This game was mostly used to suggest who out of Kaka’ and Manuel Rui Costa would start against Boca Juniors.
“There were some useful tests for me to make my decisions,” continued Ancelotti.
The young Brazilian took another step towards that first team place after his stunning goal.
“Serginho has recovered from injury and played very well, while there are no further fitness problems after this match.”
Milan have sent out seven of their top stars to Japan already in order to prepare for the showdown with Boca.
Dario Simic is not expected to start in Tokyo this coming Sunday and assured the second string side did remain concentrated.
“Celta wanted it more and we certainly didn’t perform as well after the break,” conceded the Croat. “Our approach was all wrong and the Spaniards raised their game.”
Before this match, Ajax had voiced fears that Milan would allow Celta Vigo to win, therefore pushing them out of the competition.
“The Ajax criticism did push us to start well and prove a point, but we would have given 100 per cent at the beginning anyway.”
“The Intercontinental Cup is certainly an important game that doesn’t come around every day, but those of us who stayed in Milan concentrated only on Vigo.”
The Rossoneri top Group H and can count on one of the most unbeatable defences in Europe.
“The squad is even more solid than it was last season,” noted Simic, “and we proved that with two great performances in Bruges and Amsterdam.”
AC Milan 1:2 Celta Vigo - report
9.12 || scharatz
Kaka' 40 (M), Jesuli 42 (C), Jose Ignacio 71 (C)
Milan's second string side dominated the first half and rather gave up after the break as Celta Vigo earn a 2-1 win.
Milan were already qualified and assured of the top spot in Group H going into this game, so a second string side was fielded at the San Siro. Seven first team members had already flown out to Japan in order to prepare for Sunday's Intercontinental Cup clash with Boca Juniors.
There was one reason to mark this occasion, however, as this was the 3,500th official match in the club's history.
Celta Vigo still had a chance of qualifying ahead of Ajax, so the two sides had very different motivation going into the match.
Serginho made his comeback after several months out with an ankle injury and was fielded in an unusual more advanced position alongside Under-21 international Marco Borriello.
Milan had the first real effort when Kaka' cut back for Serginho and his daisy-cutter was well saved.
The home side gradually increased the pressure and took control, as Serginho provided the cross for a Borriello header, low drive and went for goal himself, but the goalkeeper was ready for all of them.
The talented Brazilian went closer than anyone on 25 minutes when his curling free kick rattled the crossbar.
Soon after Kaka' saw a goal disallowed as the ball had already gone out of play before Serginho swept in his cross.
Cavallero then made a tricky one-handed save to palm out Clarence Seedorf's piledriver, while Borriello nodded another Serginho centre over the bar.
Milan finally capitalised on their first half domination after 41 minutes. Fernando Redondo cut back for Kaka' and the young Brazilian unleashed a stunning rocket to beat Cavallero in the top corner.
However, a defeat would prove disastrous for Celta Vigo and they equalised within 60 seconds. Jesuli skipped past a defender and drilled in from the edge of the box as he slipped.
Moments later the Spaniards nearly took the lead with the Savo Milosevic, but this time Christian Abbiati palmed away the effort.
Carlo Ancelotti switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half with Manuel Rui Costa and Jon Dahl Tomasson on for Kaka' and Seedorf. The Portuguese international was under pressure to deliver as either he or Kaka' will start the Intercontinental Cup game on Sunday.
Celta Vigo were more determined and a Juanfran strike shook the sidenetting, while Abbiati took two attempts to control the ball as Milosevic prepared to pounce.
Another powerful but central Borriello attempt was blocked and Abbiati was again tested by goalscorer Jesuli before Sylvinho's free kick curled wide.
Jesuli was a constant danger and wasted a golden opportunity to bag a brace when he ballooned over with only Abbiati to beat.
Milan gave youngster Abate his Champions' League debut after he performed well in the Coppa Italia last week.
However, the Spanish side was much more confident in this second period and took the lead with Jose Ignacio. The Milan defence left him plenty of room to miss Luccin's cross the first time, but get his second effort on target.
The Rossoneri seemed to give up and Juanfran's right-foot drive stung Abbiati's palms.
Milan win the Group anyway and qualify for the next stage with Celta Vigo. Incredibly, Ajax finish last following their 2-1 defeat in Bruges and leave the European stage altogether.
Milan: Abbiati; Simic, Laursen, Costacurta (Abate 69), Kaladze; Brocchi, Redondo, Seedorf (Rui Costa 46); Kakà (Tomasson 46), Borriello, Serginho
Celta Vigo: Cavallero; Berrizzo, Caceres, Sylvinho; Jose Ignacio (Giovannella 80), Angel, Luccin, Juanfran; Jesuli, Milosevic (Catanha 85), Gustavo Lopez (Contreras 89)
Ref: Vassaras (Gre)
Maldini craves world title
9.12 || scharatz
Paolo Maldini is hoping to cap off a splendid year by winning the Intercontinental Cup on Sunday.
Milan play Boca Juniors in Tokyo at the weekend as the European giants face their South American counterparts.
"It has already been a splendid past 12 months for us," said the Rossoneri captain. "But winning the Intercontinental would be the icing on the cake."
The Italian legend is already in Japan, with six of his teammates, as he looks to become the first player to win the trophy on three occasions.
"Boca are a good side," he warns. "They have the technical ability of an Argentine team but the compactness of a European club.
"But that fact that we are here to play them is because we have already won something important.
"We are hungry to win on Sunday and being crowned as world champions is something really special indeed."
However, Boca boss Carlos Bianchi has hinted that his side will start the game as favourites.
"Although both sides have a 50 per cent chance of winning, my side are in good shape physically and in good form," said the former Roma tactician.
"This is my fourth world final and there is less tension than nine years ago when I beat Milan in this tie."
Meanwhile, Milan owned stopper Roque Junior is reportedly a January transfer target for Bologna and Siena.
The Brazilian World Cup winner is currently experiencing a few problems on loan in the Premiership with Leeds United.
Milan shouldn’t lose Kaka
9.12 || scharatz
Milan should be able to rely on Kaka in January after he was omitted from the Brazilian Olympic squad.
The attacking midfielder has not been included in an initial 17-man squad as talks regarding his possible use continue.
Under-23 boss Ricardo Gomes wants to include the youngster in his plans but that means that Milan would be without him for the three week qualifying tournament in Chile.
The Rossoneri have already stated that they were not willing to release the player and they seem to have won the day.
Kaka may not be showcasing his skills in the New Year but there are a number of other Brazilians which Italian clubs will be keeping an eye on.
Gomes has called up Santos central defender Alex who has been linked with both Milan and Inter.
His Santos teammate Diego, an attacking midfielder, is also widely tipped to make a move to Europe.
The Brazilian Under-23 side will face Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile in the group stages of the event.
Should they finish in the top two then they will face a team from Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia in a bid to book their place at the 2004 Olympic Games.
AC Milan vs. Celta Vigo - preview
9.12 || Seamus
European Champions AC Milan face Celta on Tuesday evening with their minds already projected towards their Sunday Intercontinental Cup battle against Libertadores winners Boca Juniors.
The Rossoneri allowed themselves to 'snub' their match with the Liga side as they qualified to the Champions League knock-out phases a game in advance thanks to the win achieved at Ajax two weeks ago through a wonderful Shevchenko strike.
The lack of the 'real Milan' will surely be an advantage for Celta, who need to defeat the Rossoneri and Bruges to triumph over Ajax in order to clinch a historical qualification.
This is not a predictable scenario to occurr, especially because the Spaniards have been performing terribly in league action.
Celta currently stand close to the relegation zone after the 3-2 loss suffered at Osasuna on the weekend, and coach Lotina seems to have failed to hand his team the same offensive flair and determination that allowed them to qualify for the Champions League at the end of last season.
"But our league problems won't influence our performance against Milan. We want to qualify to the second phase, and then try to improve our league stadning," Lotina told reporters on Monday.
LATEST TEAM NEWS
Ancelotti will give many second string players the chance to shine on Tuesday as most of his stars will be rested in light of the Boca Juniors match. The only Rossonero starters expected to play against Celta are Costacurta and Seedorf.
Celta will have to do without their leader Mostovoi for this vital clash. Jesuli is expected to replace the Russian, even though he will play next to Savo Milosevic rather than behind him as Mostovoi usually does. Edu and Velasco are also injured and have not taken the trip to Italy.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Marco Borriello (AC Milan)-The Celta match represtents a huge chance for this young striker, who has rarely been able to demonstrate his skills this season.
Savo Milosevic (Celta)-The Serbian striker knows Italian defenses better than anyone else on his side, and his experience could be the deciding factor on Tuesday night.
AC Milan-4-4-2: Abbiati, Simic, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze, Brocchi, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Kaka, Tomasson, Borriello.
Milan snub Celta tie
8.12 || Seamus
Milan will leave out a host of key players in tomorrow’s insignificant Champions’ League game against Celta Vigo.
The Rossoneri have already qualified for the next phase which has allowed them to rest a number of men for Sunday’s Intercontinental game against Boca Juniors.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti has named a 19-man squad which is without Dida, Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Inzaghi and Shevchenko who have already flown out to Japan in preparation.
Their absence has seen Ancelotti promote four youth team players in the shape of Legati, Abate, Canini and Matri.
Goalkeepers: Abbiati, Fiori
Defenders: Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Legati, Simic
Midfielders: Abate, Ambrosini, Brocchi, Canini, Kakà, Redondo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho
Forwards: Borriello, Matri, Tomasson
Nesta might not play in Intercontinental Cup
8.12 || Seamus
Bad news for Carlo Ancelotti ahead of Milan's Intercontinental Cup final against Boca Juniors in Yokohama.
Alessandro Nesta picked up a knee injury in Saturday's Serie A match against Empoli and will have to undergo physio sessions to try and recover for Sunday's encounter.
The player will still go to Yokohama where a decision whether to play him or not is expected by Saturday. On a positive note, Filippo Inzaghi is recovering from injury and should be available for the match.
Ancelotti thanks Kaka
6.12 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti and Attilio Perotti admit that a moment of individual brilliance from Kaka’ proved decisive in today’s Milan win.
“It was a difficult encounter,” conceded the Rossoneri Coach after their 1-0 victory at Empoli.
“We struggled to break through a well-honed defence and the result was turned by a stunning Kaka’ strike.”
The young South American was a substitute and now makes his bid to start in the Intercontinental Cup clash with Boca Juniors.
“Right now,” admitted Ancelotti, “it is extremely difficult to choose a starting eleven from this squad. Everyone deserves a place.”
Match-winner Kaka’ is fast becoming a star of Serie A and admitted he had been told to go for goal.
“It was a very important goal that enabled us to win a tough match,” said the young Brazilian.
“I am truly overjoyed at how my first season is going. The Coach told me to try and use my ability to shoot from distance, so when I saw a gap I went for it.”
Empoli were stunned by that late goal and thought that they had earned a point against the League leaders.
“I am satisfied with my players’ performance,” insisted Coach Attilio Perotti. “We are finding our identity after a terrible start to the season and I am optimistic when looking to the future.”
“It’s a shame,” he concluded, “as although Milan were always in it they could only beat us thanks to a moment of individual brilliance.”
Empoli 0:1 AC Milan - report
6.12 || scharatz
Kaka' 81 (M)
A late stunner from substitute Kaka' sunk Empoli and ensures Milan of another week on top of the table.
Milan needed a result away to the relegation strugglers in order to be certain of still topping the table after this weekend.
Injury woes ruled out Pippo Inzaghi, Serginho and Marcos Cafu, but the Coach did not take the opportunity to rest players ahead of the final Champions' League match with Celta Vigo.
The Rossoneri dominated the first half, but were unable to break through an organised and determined back four.
Andriy Shevchenko's early effort was deflected wide for a corner kick, while Paolo Maldini nodded an Andrea Pirlo free kick off target.
There was bad news for Empoli after 20 minutes, as defender Andrea Cupi pulled up with muscular problems. Ex-Roma youngster Maurizio Lanzaro stepped in to fill the breach.
Veteran goalkeeper Luca Bucci has been on fine form and performed a stunning save on Shevchenko just before half-time. The Ukrainian was clear on goal thanks to an intelligent Manuel Rui Costa through ball, but Bucci's instinctive block prevented Milan taking the lead.
However, there was controversy moments later as Empoli thought they had opened the scoring. Dida failed to control Antonio Di Natale's angled drive and it rolled into the net, but the referee disallowed the goal for Tommaso Rocchi's offside position.
Although the striker was certainly standing in an offside position, it is unclear whether or not he was interfering with play.
At the dawn of the second half Shevchenko again saw two efforts saved in quick succession, while it was the Rossoneri's turn to protest as a Rui Costa corner kick appeared to come off Antonio Busce's arm.
This was a dangerous trip to the Stadio Castellani, as last season Milan were unable to get the better of Empoli with a draw and shock home defeat.
The pressure increased on the Tuscan goal and Bucci flew to palm a Clarence Seedorf strike round the post.
Empoli relied on the counter-attack and almost caused an upset when Rocchi just failed to get on to Di Natale's cross.
The deadlock was eventually broken by substitute Kaka'. The young Brazilian had been on the field for just seven minutes when he unleashed a simply stunning right foot drive from 30 metres to leave Bucci beaten.
Just as he had in Bruges last month, a moment of brilliance from the young Selecao star gave the Rossoneri a deserved victory away from home.
Empoli: Bucci; Belleri (Carparelli 82), Cribari, Pratali, Cupi (Lanzaro 20); Grella, Ficini; Buscé, Cappellini (Foggia 59), Di Natale; Rocchi
Milan: Dida; Costacurta, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso (Brocchi 88), Pirlo (Kaka' 74), Rui Costa (Ambrosini 82), Seedorf; Shevchenko, Tomasson
Ancelotti: Milan are better than ever
6.12 || scharatz
Carlo Ancelotti maintains the European Champions can improve on last season’s Double, starting with the Intercontinental Cup.
“Compared to last year we are more determined and mature,” insisted the Milan boss. “That shows through in how we deal with difficult situations.”
The Rossoneri had a curious tendency to win against the big sides but struggle with minnows last season.
They were unable to beat Empoli home or away, results that pushed them out of the Scudetto race, and Ancelotti is eager to prove the change when they face the Tuscans this afternoon.
“Milan have very clear ideas on how to play, regardless of who is on the field. The true strength of this squad is to remain compact and confident of its own incredible potential.”
“Empoli are a dangerous side,” added the Coach, “particularly when going forward thanks to Antonio Di Natale and Tommaso Rocchi.”
There is the risk that they will be distracted by the upcoming trip to Tokyo, where a battle with Boca Juniors decides the Intercontinental Cup.
“I will field the best team at my disposal in Japan,” insisted Ancelotti. “The other trophies do not count now, as we must prepare for this match as best we can.”
If captain Paolo Maldini is able to lift that trophy on December 14, Milan will become the most successful club side in the world, a record currently held along with Real Madrid and Indipendiente.
Pippo Inzaghi and Marcos Cafu will not take part in the Empoli game and are in real doubt to feature against Boca Juniors.
Meanwhile, veteran Alessandro ‘Billy’ Costacurta has extended his contract until June 2005.
“Ten years ago I could never have thought that my career would last so long,” said the 37-year-old defender.
“The three months I spent away from Milan last summer made me understand how much I wanted to stay here."
"In four months’ time I will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the day I first stepped into the Milanello training ground.”
Empoli vs. Milan - preview
5.12 || Seamus
Milan have what is on paper the perfect opportunity to take sole leadership of the Serie A table. The reigning European Champions are currently joint top alongside Roma, but could take advantage of the fact Fabio Capello’s side is facing a tricky trip to Chievo while Juventus take on Lazio.
Last season their title hopes were ruined by the inability to beat the smaller sides and indeed Empoli grabbed a shock 1-0 victory at the San Siro. So far this year Milan have shown greater consistency across the board, as shown by their 2-0 win over Modena last Sunday.
The danger man is undoubtedly Andriy Shevchenko following 12 goals in 11 Serie A games, but the Rossoneri are still waiting for Pippo Inzaghi to recover form after his thigh injury. If both these hitmen are at their best then it spells trouble for any opposition defence.
That is particularly true of one of the leakiest back lines in Serie A, as Empoli have conceded 23 goals so far, just one less than Lecce. It was a dismal start to the campaign, but new Coach Attilio Perotti has instilled some more confidence in his men and the Tuscans are unbeaten in two games.
That was against less than impressive opposition and it will take something special to stop the Rossoneri juggernaut. Fabrizio Ficini and Francesco Pratali step in for the injured Flavio Giampieretti and Stefano Lucchini, while Tommaso Rocchi is again given the centre forward role.
Empoli (probable): Bucci; Belleri, Cribari, Pratali, Cupi; Grella, Ficini; Busce’, Cappellini, Di Natale; Rocchi
Milan (probable) : Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Costacurta delays retirement
4.12 || scharatz
Alessandro Costacurta will not hang up his boots at the end of this season after Milan gave him a new contract.
The 36-year-old was expected to retire once this campaign was over but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Milan have confirmed that the veteran defender will remain at the San Siro until 2005 after he penned a one-year extension.
The Varese-born former international has been at the club since the 1985/86 season and has won every major honour with the Rossoneri.
Coppa Italia: Sampdoria 0:1 AC Milan - report
3.12 || scharatz
It took a Mirko Conte own goal to give Coppa holders Milan a slender away win as they begin their defence of the trophy.
The holders began their title defence by travelling to Genoa for a less than simple clash with Sampdoria.
Kakha Kaladze made his comeback following almost three months on the sidelines with a torn thigh muscle, while Under-21 international Marco Borriello had his first start.
Milan could have taken the lead within four minutes when a defensive error let Jon Dahl Tomasson through on goal, but the Dane fired wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Rossoneri had the better of the first half with Kaka’ causing a few problems, while Fabian Valtolina’s solo effort for Samp was off target.
The two sides threw on some of their more experienced players for the second period as Christian Brocchi’s angled drive whistled past the post and Luca Antonini saw penalty appeals waved away.
Manuel Rui Costa had perhaps the best scoring opportunity of the game just after stepping on to the field, but Luigi Turci got a hand to his curling effort.
When Milan did eventually take the lead ten minutes from time there was a helping hand from Lady Luck.
A Brocchi low cross into the centre did not find Tomasson, but a wayward clearance was deflected into his own net off Sampdoria defender Mirko Conte.
Sampdoria 0-1 Milan
Scorers: Conte og 80 (M)
Sampdoria: Turci; Sacchetti, Grandoni, Conte, Domizzi; Valtolina (Yanagisawa 60), Antonini, Volpi, Palombo (Donati 46); Bazzani (Flachi 46), Job
Milan: Abbiati; Simic (Abate 68), Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze (Nesta 68); Brocchi, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Kaka’ (Rui Costa 74); Tomasson, Borriello
Coloccini set for Milan return
3.12 || scharatz
Milan have confirmed that they could recall Fabricio Coloccini. But they have no interest in Thierry Henry.
The young Argentine is still on loan in La Liga, this season with Villarreal, but he may be on the verge of returning to Milan.
"Coloccini is doing very well in Spain," conceded director general Ariedo Braida. "It is possible that he could soon be on his way back to us."
The 21-year-old is expected to be called back next summer as veterans Paolo Maldini and Billy Costacurta are coming to the end of their careers.
One player that won’t be arriving at the end of the campaign is Arsenal forward Thierry Henry.
Some sources suggested that the European Champions were set to make a bid but that rumour has been quashed.
"I don’t think that will happen," said boss Carlo Ancelotti.
"Anyhow, I wouldn’t sacrifice Andriy Shevchenko or Pippo Inzaghi for anyone right now."
Henry, formerly of Juventus, has also been heavily linked with a possible move to Real Madrid at the end of term.
Coppa Italia: Sampdoria vs. AC Milan - preview
3.12 || scharatz
Sampdoria face-off against AC Milan in the second-round's most eye-catching tie.
Samp, under Walter Novellino, have adapted well to Serie A life and are just three points behind sixth-placed Lazio. It was always going to be the club's aim to rack up most of their points against the league's lessor sides, as when they come up against the likes of Juventus and Roma, they will surely be found wanting.
And this may be the case here. Even against an under-strength AC Milan side. The Rossoneri, unsurprisingly, will be resting a number of first-teamers, although are likely to start with such as Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Jon Dahl Tomasson. Their starting eleven in this match would certainly hold its own in Serie A.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti used the competition to give the fringe players a run-out last season and the club ended up winning it -crushing AS Roma in the final- so his judgement can hardly be called into question.
SAMPDORIA: Turci; Sacchetti, Grandoni, Conte, Domizzi; Valtolina, Antonini, Volpi, Donati; Bazzani, Yanagisawa
AC MILAN: Abbiati; Simic, Laursen, Costacurta, Kaladze; Brocchi, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Kakà; Tomasson, Borriello
Milan: Kaladze ready for Sampdoria
3.12 || Seamus
Good news for Ancelotti that can use Kaladze again in tomorrow's Coppa Italia game against Sampdoria. The defender injured himself in the match against National Bucarest on the 23rd of august and has been recovering since.
These are the called up players for match:
Abbiati, Fiori; Costacurta, Dal Bello, Kaladze, Laursen, Nesta, Simic; Abate, Ambrosini, Brocchi, Kakà, Kalambay, Rui Costa, Seedorf; Borriello, Matri, Tomasson.
Shev makes Milan pledge
2.12 || Seamus
Andriy Shevchenko has again confirmed that he is ready to spend the rest of his career at Milan.
"I’ve always said what I think," remarked the Ukrainian international. "I’m happy at this club and I would love to end my playing days in this shirt."
Shev is currently enjoying one of his most prolific spells with the Rossoneri after scoring 12 League goals so far. His latest came in the 2-0 win over Modena when he netted twice.
"I’m in good physical shape and when you feel right then it is easy to play football," continued the forward.
"I had a lot of little injuries last season which affected my form but fortunately I’ve not experienced similar problems this time around."
Shev has scored 60 per cent of Milan’s goals so far this term, something he puts down to good old fashioned hard work.
"I am scoring a lot more this year but that is down to the fact that I have improved technically," he explained.
"I spend a lot of time in training focusing on getting that side of my game to a higher level."
Shev, linked with a switch to Man Utd on numerous occasions in the past, has been at the San Siro since 1999.
Pirlo shares out praise
2.12 || Seamus
Andrea Pirlo has thanked the Milan Coaching staff for his magical moment of form with the European Champions.
The former Brescia ace has played in every League game so far this term and is turning into a fundamental player for the Rossoneri.
"This is a brilliant period for me and the side," he told the club’s official website on Tuesday.
"It will now be important for us to beat Empoli at the weekend and then concentrate on the Intercontinental game in Japan against Boca."
Pirlo has received heavy praise in recent weeks. Dutch legend Johan Cruyff was left impressed by him in Milan’s 1-0 win at Ajax.
While boss Carlo Ancelotti labelled him as the best central midfielder in the world over the weekend.
"I have to thank Ancelotti and his assistant Mauro Tassotti," he added. "They give me crucial advice before every game regarding how I should position myself."
Pirlo was transformed from an attacking midfielder to a deep playmaker last season and he’s excelled in the role.
However, the former Under-21 international captain is still struggling to convince Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
"I just look to give my best at all times as it is up to Trap to decide whom he selects," he continued. "He currently plays with two combative midfielders in the middle.
"Yet I’m surprised that my teammate Gennaro Gattuso can’t get into the side. I find that hard to understand."
Gattuso hails deadly Shev
2.12 || Seamus
Milan warrior Gennaro Gattuso has praised teammate Andriy Shevchenko and city rivals Inter.
The Ukrainian striker netted twice on Sunday to ensure that Milan jumped to the top of the League, with Roma, after Inter won at Juventus 24 hours earlier.
"Sheva is an exceptional player," said the Italian midfielder (pictured) earlier today. "He’s simply the best around.
"Last season he was overlooked by many people because Pippo Inzaghi was scoring so much for us. We are just fortunate to have two great strikers."
The San Siro giants comfortably beat Modena 2-0 to take full advantage of Juventus’ slip up against the Nerazzurri.
"They did us a great favour by beating the Bianconeri," added the former Rangers fan favourite.
"Our city cousins gave us a real helping hand by playing an outstanding game against such a difficult team to beat like Juventus.
"However, if Inter continue to play like they did on Saturday in Turin then they will be in contention for the title themselves."
Milan confirm Rivaldo exit
1.12 || scharatz
Rivaldo is officially no longer a Milan player after the two parties agreed to terminate his contract with immediate effect.
The Brazilian revealed over the weekend that he would be leaving the Italian giants and the club have today waved goodbye to the international.
"We thank Rivaldo for the contribution he gave to the winning of the Champions’ League, the Italian Cup and the European Super Cup," read a club statement.
"We would also like to wish him all our luck for the continuation of his extraordinary career."
Rivaldo’s contract still had another 18 months to run after he joined the club on a free transfer from Barcelona in the summer of 2002.
He’s been unhappy with life in Milan for some time after failing to break into Carlo Ancelotti’s first team plans.
In fact, he’d already agreed to leave the club in September but was convinced to stay until the January transfer window was opened.
However, with Manuel Rui Costa and Kaka ahead of him, he’s now decided to end his stay immediately.
He’s made just one appearance for the club this season, as a substitute in the Champions’ League.
The attacking midfielder, who will be available for nothing in the New Year, has been linked with clubs in England, Spain and Brazil.
Ancelotti sees new title rival
1.12 || scharatz
Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti insists that city rivals Inter will be a threat in the Scudetto chase this term.
The Nerazzurri were seemingly out of contention but four wins in a row, culminating in a 3-1 victory at Juventus on Saturday, has seen them move to within five points of the leaders.
"The Scudetto chase will not only be between Milan, Roma and Juventus because Inter are in there too," he told ‘Radio Anch’io Sport’ on Monday.
"They’ve had a decent start to the season while the three clubs in front of them have been super.
"That is underlined by the fact that the leaders at this point last year had two points less than Roma and we currently have."
Milan and Roma both overtook Juventus yesterday, despite the Bianconeri having won eight and drawing two of their first 11 games.
The Rossoneri were aided to the top of the table after Andriy Shevchenko netted twice against Modena.
That has led to some claims that the Milan giants are too dependent on Sheva who has netted 60 per cent of his club’s goals this term.
"That is not a problem for us," maintained Ancelotti. "That is because I also have Pippo Inzaghi who is looking for his best form after injury.
"I can also count on Jon Dahl Tomasson who can play alongside any striker in the world. He is part of my plans."
One player that isn’t is Rivaldo who has now left the club after failing to break into the team this season.
"I’d like to say goodbye to everyone," he stated after he watched the game against Modena from the sidelines. "I’m now off to Brazil but who knows where I will be playing next."
The Brazilian international is expected to move to England with Chelsea and Liverpool being linked with a January swoop.