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The Archive

March 2003

Rivaldo rejects Reds rumour
31.3 || scharatz

Rivaldo has rubbished claims that he wants to leave Milan to embark on a Premiership stint with Liverpool.

The Brazilian was quoted in the ‘News of the World’ on Sunday where it was suggested that he wanted to end his career at Anfield.

Yet the World Cup winner has released a statement on the official Milan website in which he has pledged his future to the Rossoneri.

"I have no intention of leaving Milan as I have settled in well here," he said. "I’ve not spoken with any English journalists recently.

"The last time I dealt with the English media was a few months ago but even then I never spoke of a possible move away from Milan."

However, clouds of doubt do remain over Rivaldo’s future in Italy after he has failed to deliver his true potential.

The attacking midfielder arrived at the San Siro in the summer after he terminated his contract with Barcelona.

But the former Deportivo La Coruna man has struggled to make a significant impact to Milan’s domestic and European ambitions.

He has even been dropped to the bench recently by Coach Carlo Ancelotti after it was revealed that the player was dealing with some off the field problems.

Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier has also dismissed stories that he would be interested in bringing Rivaldo to Merseyside.

"Although he is a fantastic player, bringing in a high profile name like him is not my way," he stated.

"He would cost a lot of money for a limited number of years and I don’t want to take that kind of risk."

Maldini extends Milan deal
31.3 || scharatz

Milan have confirmed that club legend Paolo Maldini has extended his contract with the Rossoneri until 2005.

Maldini’s current deal expired at the end of this season but the veteran, who will be 35 in June, has agreed terms for an extension.

No financial details have been released but it is expected that the defender has accepted a cut in wages.

Maldini started his career with the San Siro giants in 1984 and is still going strong this term with two goals in 25 games.

The captain is having another exceptional season which has led to reports of a possible international recall.

Maldini quit the international scene after the 2002 World Cup Finals after making a record 126 Azzurri appearances.

Juve receive Red alert
31.3 || scharatz

Fernando Redondo has warned Juventus that Milan are still in the hunt for the Italian championship.

The Rossoneri are currently five points behind the leaders but the Argentine insists that his side can pip the Turin giants.

"I’m convinced that we will not drop any more points from now on," said the playmaker as just eight games remain.

"We have taken advantage of the international break to brush up on a few things and I’m certain that we will reap the necessary rewards.

"Milan are ready for one final push in order to try to regain the leadership and win the Serie A title."

However, Milan’s next game is a tricky test at in-form Parma who are fresh from beating Lazio.

Yet Coach Carlo Ancelotti has received a boost ahead of the Stadio Tardini tie as defender Kakha Kaladze has declared himself available after recovering from injury.

Morientes in Milan talks
31.3 || Seamus

The agent of Real Madrid star Fernando Morientes has announced he is in negotiations for a summer switch to the San Siro.

“In the last few months I have met with Franco Baresi as a representative of Milan,” revealed agent Gines Carbajal. “We discussed the current situation regarding Morientes.”

The Spanish international has been sidelined this season by rows within the club and the arrival of ex-Inter man Ronaldo.

It is widely believed he will leave Madrid this summer for around £10m and up until now there had been interest from Inter, Roma, Tottenham and Chelsea.

“Just to be clear about this,” continued Carbajal, “Morientes does have a contract until 2006, but his future will be decided by the Real directors.”

Milan have been linked with a selection of strikers in the last few weeks, adding fuel to the fire regarding the future of Andriy Shevchenko.

Real Madrid would be his main destination should the Rossoneri decide to sell their former top scorer.

Albertini remains in Madrid
30.3 || scharatz

Demetrio Albertini claims he will reject a proposed return to Milan in order to end his career with Atletico Madrid.

“According to my contract,” commented the former Italian international, “I should return to the San Siro in June, but I don’t know if I fit in with their plans.”

The midfielder moved on loan to the Spanish outfit after he was pushed out of the starting line-up.

“As for Atletico, I would like to continue the work I started with the club this season. It would be nice to reap the rewards of all our efforts, but nobody has yet asked me to stay.”

Albertini’s interview is something of an appeal for the two clubs to work out his future before the end of the campaign.

After ten years in the red and black colours, it would appear that his time in Serie A has come to an end.

“Milan is my home, my family and my friend,” noted Albertini. “I still keep a close eye on their progress and I think they can catch Juventus in the Scudetto race.”

“Atletico Madrid came up from the second division and brought in so many new players. Now we know our strengths and weaknesses, we can aim for European Cup spots.”

Ancelotti still trailing the Treble
30.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti insists that Milan are still on track for the Grand Slam and reveals the reason behind Rivaldo's poor form.

“We are in the running for all three trophies and cannot make a conscious decision to favour one over the other.”

Milan will face Ajax in the Champions’ League quarter-finals, Perugia in the Coppa Italia Semi’s and are currently third in Serie A.

“The Scudetto is perhaps a more distant objective at this stage than the others,” he admitted, “but we shall certainly try.”

The Rossoneri are five points adrift of Juventus, even after beating the leaders 2-1.

“Juve can afford another slip-up, but Milan and Inter have no option but to win every game. I still believe the Scudetto will be in the balance until the final match.”

Ancelotti is experimenting various tactical changes during these weeks and performed well against Juve with Rivaldo left on the bench.

The Brazilian has been the real weak link in the squad so far this season, and it emerged a divorce is the reason behind his poor form.

“We will try to stick by him and help out, for all that it is possible to do,” noted the Coach.

“When a player has personal problems then it is up to him to sort them out. All we can do as his teammates is stick by him, confirm our faith in him and help him recover full fitness.”

The break for international duty is a welcome pause for the Milan medical staff.

“These days will allow us to get certain players back on track, such as Massimo Ambrosini and Serginho. We also hope to recover Kakha Kaladze for the game with Parma.”

These stars could prompt another change of tactics, but Ancelotti is refusing to give away his plans.

“Some opponents react better to a 4-4-2, while others can find problems with a three-man midfield and trident attack.”

“The real secret behind our success with Juventus was the attitude. As long as we retain that determination, Milan will always come out on top.”

Final memories raise the stakes
28.3 || Seamus

AFC Ajax and AC Milan's UEFA Champions League quarter-final meeting will see the sides facing each other for the first time in competitive action since the 1995 final.

Third victory:
Then, on a nervous May night in Vienna, Patrick Kluivert's goal in the 85th minute was enough to give Ajax the trophy. It was actually the third time that the Dutch club had triumphed against their Serie A rivals that season, with Ajax winning 2-0 in two group stage meetings.

Tough group:
Despite a young squad boasting some of Europe's rising stars, this latest Ajax team, double winners in the Netherlands last season, have proved they can live with the best by coming through Group B, a pool that also featured fellow quarter-finalists Valencia CF along with the might of Arsenal FC and AS Roma.

Dream season:
Arie van Eijden, Ajax chief executive, said his team were "looking forward" to meeting Milan, especially as the club had already surpassed all its expectations for the season. "The goal was to try to get to the second phase, which we achieved," said Van Eijden. "Nobody thought Ajax could have come to the quarter final as well."

Wait and see:
However, Van Eijden added that the goal now was to get as far as possible. "The team is growing in their performances and gaining experience, he said. "They are now doing very well." When asked whether his team could repeat that triumph in 1995, he added: "Let's see what the future will give."

Final meeting:
Milan have won the European Champion Clubs' Cup on five occasions, one more than Ajax. The first meeting of the two clubs came back in the 1969 final, when Milan triumphed 4-0 in Madrid thanks in part to Pierino Prati's hat-trick.

One win each:
Adriano Galliani, the Milan president, was well aware of the two previous finals between the two clubs. "I've both good and bad memories of Ajax, in 1969 and 1995. I hope this time there will be a happy ending," he told the club's official website.

Italian contingent:
However, Galliani was happy with the draw, not least because Milan were not paired with Internazionale FC or Juventus FC. "We have avoided to face another Italian team and I'm extremely happy," he said. "We have the possibility to have three Italian teams in the semi-finals."

Fine performances:
Another reason for his confidence was the way Milan cruised through the second group stage. They won their first four games in Group C, including a 1-0 success at home against holders Real Madrid CF, to qualify in some style. In the quarter-finals, Milan will travel to the Amsterdam ArenA for the first leg on Tuesday 8 April before playing host to Ajax at San Siro on Wednesday 23 April.

Rivaldo set for marriage break-up?
28.3 || Seamus

According to Brazilian daily Estado de S.Paulo, Milan star Rivaldo could be about to split up with his wife.

This, then, could explain some average displays from the Brazilian and also his request of a two-day leave of absence from the Seleçao, with the official line being "personal matters"

"You'll see the real Rivaldo soon," vows Milan star
28.3 || Seamus

Milan playmaker Rivaldo has promised that his form will improve after a slightly disappointing first season at the San Siro.

"I'm happy to be at Milan and Milan are happy to have Rivaldo," the Gazzetta dello Sport quoted him as saying. "If I said I'm in form and at my best, I would lie. I'm going through a difficult period, as I'm separated from my wife and distanced from my children. But I'm sure I'll get over it through playing. You'll see the real Rivaldo soon: with Milan and the National side."
SA Italy

Gattuso denies Trap theory
28.3 || scharatz

Gennaro Gattuso maintains that injury - and not a misunderstanding with Giovanni Trapattoni - is the reason for his Azzurri absence.

The Milan man was not included in the squad to face Finland on Saturday because of a back problem but speculation in Italy has suggested otherwise.

Some reports claim that Gattuso didn’t want to respond to the call after an incident in the 2-1 loss against Wales late last year.

The former Rangers man came on as a second-half substitute only to be replaced for tactical reasons just 20 minutes down the line.

But Gattuso has insisted that he isn’t faking injury and that his relationship with Trapattoni is as strong as ever.

"I do have a bad back," insisted the midfielder. "I have always given my very best for Italy and these rumours are annoying because they are doubting my honesty.

"At this moment in time my connection with the Coach is exceptional, as it has always been," he added.

"I have never argued with him and I have never refused to be part of the international set-up."

Puyol shuts Milan door
28.3 || scharatz

Barcelona defender Carles Puyol has rejected newspaper claims that he is on the verge of a move to Milan.

The highly-rated Spaniard was supposedly looking for a transfer to the Rossoneri but claims he has been misquoted.

"I’ve never said that I was dreaming of signing for Milan because my real desire is to stay at Barcelona for life," stated the stopper.

"I have never thought of leaving Barca but only claimed that if I was forced to leave the Nou Camp then Serie A could be an option."

Puyol, whose Barcelona side face Juventus in the Champions’ League quarter finals, also wanted to readdress one more issue.

"I would like to make it clear that I never stated that I was hoping for a Barca-Milan final at Old Trafford.

"As far as I’m concerned Barcelona are favourites for the European Cup and that Milan are second favourites."

Puyol, 25, had been linked with the San Siro outfit as veterans Paolo Maldini and Billy Costacurta are coming to the end of their glittering careers.

The international has also been linked with a move to Juventus in the past.

Abbiati gets late Trap call
28.3 || scharatz

Milan ‘keeper Christian Abbiati has been called into the Italian squad as a replacement for the flu hit Francesco Toldo.

The Inter man awoke this morning with a fever and boss Giovanni Trapattoni, after a brief consultation with his medical staff, decided to send the goalkeeper home.

Toldo wasn’t expected to start against Finland on Saturday as Trap is to keep faith with Juventus shot stopper Gigi Buffon.

Trap’s choice to bring in Abbiati has raised a few eyebrows. The Rossoneri ‘keeper is currently second choice at the San Siro behind Brazilian Dida.

The Azzurri boss has recently called up Ivan Pelizzoli of Roma but he’s been struggling of late with fitness problems.

Chelsea ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini was also an option but Abbiati, who travelled to the 2002 World Cup Finals, gets the nod. He will meet up with the squad in Palermo later today.

Meanwhile, Finland have confirmed that Ajax ace Jari Litmanen will not feature against the Azzurri.

"He’s got an Achilles injury," said spokesman Timo Walden. "He told us that he needed to be 100 per cent fit to play. Therefore the decision not to is totally down to him."

Serginho ready for action
28.3 || scharatz

Milan’s quest for domestic and European honours has been boosted with the return to fitness of Serginho.

The Brazilian has given the Rossoneri some much needed width at times this term but has been struggling of late with a number of injury problems.

"I’ve recovered and am no longer suffering," said the international ace. "In these next few days I will give my best in training to get back to full fitness."

The absence of the former Sao Paulo player has been blamed by many as one of the reasons for Milan’s recent slump in form.

But the left-footer is convinced he can help cut Juve’s five-point lead over his side starting from the next game against Parma.

"I’m ready to play at the Stadio Tardini because I know I will be firing on all cylinders by then," he maintained.

"Admittedly five points are a lot to make up and we can’t afford to make any more mistakes from now on.

"Yet if we can play like we did at the start of the campaign then the Scudetto could be ours."

No Maldini return says Nesta
27.3 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini won’t come out of international retirement according to teammate Alessandro Nesta.

"I don’t think he will change his mind and return," said the Milan defender. "He’s made his decision and whether that is right or wrong, that needs to be respected."

The Rossoneri legend, 34, quit the Azzurri scene after the 2002 World Cup Finals but there have been numerous calls for his return.

Boss Giovanni Trapattoni has actively tried to change his mind, while some reports in the last year claim that Maldini could be back for the 2004 European Championship Finals.

"It is only logical that everyone hopes that he decides to play for Italy again," added the former Lazio stopper.

"Especially me because he has always been a hero of mine and it is great to be at Milan with him.

"Yet I don’t think he will return, even if we do qualify for Euro 2004. As far as he is concerned he just wants the matter closed."

Maldini (pictured) won a record 126 caps for Italy since making his debut for the side in March 1988 in a 1-1 draw at Yugoslavia.

Bonera fancies Milan move
27.3 || Seamus

Parma defender Daniele Bonera has hinted that he'd prefer to join Milan over Juventus at the end of the season.

"Clearly Milan and Juve are two great clubs," he said. "It would be an honour to play for either of them. But I have always been a rossonero fan."

The Italian international is widely expected to leave the Gialloblu in the summer.

Galliani still chases Salgado
27.3 || Seamus

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani continues to press for Real Madrid full-back Michel Salgado.

This despite news that the Merengues want to extend the player's contract which currently runs out in 2004.

Galliani has already spoken with Real about the player, but he again looks set to try and convince Florentino Perez and Jorge Valdano to let go of the right-back.

Di Canio - Milan are Juve's closest rivals, not Inter
27.3 || Seamus

West Ham striker Paolo Di Canio has told the Corriere dello Sport that he believes Milan will push Juventus the furthest for Lo Scudetto.

"I feel that the most difficult opponent for Juventus are not Inter, but Milan," he said. "Milan were already strong before, now even more. The problem is the concreteness, but this is inevitable in view of the way that we have decided to play: an offensive, spectacular soccer, dedicated to movement... At this point Milan have faith in themselves, the courage and the physical ability necessary to combat Juventus."

Nesta illness worries Trap
27.3 || Seamus

Alessandro Nesta may miss Saturday’s game with Finland due to a flu virus, but Christian Vieri made a fine comeback.

The Milan defender sat out today’s friendly encounter with the Italian Under-18 squad after becoming the latest victim of a flu epidemic sweeping the country.

If he is unable to recover in time for the weekend fixture, it’s believed that Chievo star Nicola Legrottaglie will step in to central defence.

Trap fielded what should be the starting eleven in today’s test with the Azzurri youngsters and ran out 10-0 winners.

It seems as if Giovanni Trapattoni will repeat his 4-2-3-1 experiment used in the 1-0 win over Portugal last month.

“I saw a side that was enthusiastic, creative and able to perform throughout the match,” commented Trap after today’s test.

“The lads have the right spirit and I am confident we’ll do the job against Finland. Francesco Totti had to adjust his usual position and I am glad to say this test proved he can do it.”

Christian Vieri made his comeback following months of injury worries and scored a brace in the first half.

Roma man Marco Delvecchio also did well by netting two and setting up Vieri’s first goal for a tap-in.

There were sweeping changes after the break and Bernardo Corradi proved the star of the show with a hat-trick.

Fabrizio Miccoli also impressed, scoring two and setting up Corradi’s opener. The final strike was an own goal by D’Agostino.

Meanwhile, Trapattoni turned his attention to newspaper reports that Marcello Lippi is being lined up to take over the Azzurri post.

“The Federation would do well to investigate options after my tenure comes to an end.”

“Lippi is a good friend of mine,” he added, “and I know he wants to take this role one day. I also know he doesn’t want it too soon, because my successor will learn that an international bench can burn up a Coach very quickly.”

Italy 10-0 Italy U-18
Scorers: Delvecchio 6, 10, Vieri 28, 32, D’Agostino og 51, Corradi 53, 70, 80, Miccoli 60, 66

Italy First Half: Buffon; Panucci, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro, Zambrotta; Perrotta, Zanetti; Camoranesi, Totti, Delvecchio; Vieri

Italy Second Half: Toldo; Birindelli, Ferrari, Foglio, Canini; Fiore, Tommasi, Pirlo, Bentivoglio; Miccoli, Corradi

Milan derby moved forward
27.3 || Seamus

The Milan derby will be played on a Saturday evening, while the League has also confirmed the new dates for the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

The Week 28 fixture is set to be a decisive day in the Serie A calendar as second-placed Inter take on their city rivals, currently in third spot.

Leaders Juventus travel to Bologna’s Stadio Dall’Ara on the Sunday evening of that same weekend.

The Easter holidays mean that all of the Week 29 fixtures will be played on Saturday April 19.

There will only be one different kick-off on that day, as Juventus welcome Roma to the Delle Alpi in the evening game.

The Giallorossi face another tough test the week after when they take on Milan in the Capital, with kick-off set for 20.30 local time on Saturday April 26.

Inter face Lazio, the side that ruined their title hopes last season, at the San Siro on Sunday evening,

The Coppa Italia Semi-Final dates have also been announced after the original second leg encounters were scrapped due to a clash with the prestigious Sanremo music festival.

Milan aim to improve on their 0-0 first leg result with Perugia on Tuesday April 15, while the Rome derby is the evening after. The Giallorossi have a 2-1 first leg lead.

Serie A
Week 28
Sat April 12
Como-Perugia (18.00 local time, 17.00 GMT)
Inter-Milan (20.30)
Sun April 13
Bologna-Juventus (20.30)

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals
Tue April 15
Milan-Perugia (21.00)
Wed April 16
Roma-Lazio (20.45)

Rui Costa in Milan pledge
26.3 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa has reassured Milan fans that he has no intention of moving to Benfica until 2005.

The Portuguese ace was freshly linked with a return to his former club yesterday after he admitted it was an objective to play for the Estadio de Luz outfit once more.

However, the former Fiorentina playmaker claims a move back to his homeland is not imminent.

"I am very happy at Milan and I have never thought about leaving this club, my teammates or the fans," he told the official Rossoneri website.

"I simply wanted to tell the Benfica fans that it was still a desire of mine to end my playing days with the club that launched me.

"This is a fact that many people already knew. But I have no intention of moving there until after June 2005 – when my contract with Milan expires."

Rui Costa first made an impact on the European game with the Portuguese giants in the early 1990s.

The 30-year-old spent three wonderful seasons with Benfica before moving to Fiorentina in 1994. He then joined Milan in 2001.

Speculation earlier this season had suggested that Benfica could make a summer bid with the help of kit suppliers Adidas – who also equip the player himself.

Ancelotti aiming for the title
23.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti does not hide his intentions of going all the way for the Scudetto after tonight’s crucial victory over the leaders.

“We are happy to have played on level terms and even beaten a great side like Juventus,” commented the Milan boss, “and the gap is now only five points. We’re certainly hoping to take the title.”

The Rossoneri would have been out of the running altogether without a victory at the San Siro this evening, but the 2-1 result puts them right back in it.

“My team was very organised and concentrated and we took full advantage of the good passes coming through for the strikers, especially in the first half.”

Milan have not been on form recently and came into this game with three draws on the trot, but it was one of their finest performances of the campaign.

“Everyone worked really hard,” continued Ancelotti. “The strikers often went deep to get the ball, while Paolo Maldini and Billy Costacurta did very well despite hardly training all week due to fitness problems.”

When these two teams met at the Delle Alpi in November, the midfield was where Juventus won the game, but this time the tables were turned.

“Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso never stopped running and putting pressure on their opponents,” added the Coach. “Manuel Rui Costa also made sacrifices for the team by moving out to the right, but it was essential to keep Pavel Nedved quiet.”

Andriy Shevchenko scored one of the goals of the season in this fixture last year and was voted man of the match tonight with another well-taken strike.

“It was a wonderful evening,” commented the Ukrainian, “and I am very happy with this victory. We played well and made the most of Juve’s weak points.”

The striker has been below par so far this season with a string of injury worries.

“I thank all the fans who have been close to me during this difficult time. Pippo Inzaghi and myself proved we can play in the same line-up without problems and now the title race is wide open. Every game is decisive.”

AC Milan 2-1 Juventus - match report
22.3 || webmaster

AC Milan are right back in the thick of the title-hunt thanks to a hard-earned 2-1 win over league-leading Juventus. Shevchenko and Inzaghi were the goal-scoring heros for the Rossoneri in what was a magnificent showcase for Italian football.

Lippi decided against risking either the recently recovered Del Piero or the lightly injured Trezeguet and opted instead for a defensively oriented lineup. Broad-shouldered Uruguayan striker Zalayeta was entrusted with the lone striker's role with Nedved acting as a half-forward directly behind him. Ancelotti didn't spring any late selection surprises and as expected opted for a front-tandem of Shevchenko and Inzaghi at the expense of the woefully under-performing Rivaldo.

The richly entertaining game was played at a break-neck pace and after some intense early pressure by the home side, Shevchenko immediately justified his selection by pouncing for the breakthrough after just four minutes. Fed sublimely by Rui Costa from the right, the Ukrainian hitman cleverly eluded the offside trap and, after initially failing to pick out Inazaghi with a square-ball, slotted home the rebound following Buffon's desperate intercept.

Juventus, who had picked up 31 out of the last 33 points up for grabs before this match, continued to be put under the kosh and struggled to put passes together against the supremely motivated and concentrated San Siro side.

The visitors were unquestionably up for it, however, and pulled level with their first shot at goal on ten minutes, as a dangerously delivered Nedved freekick from the corner of the box took the slightest of deflections from either Tacchinardi or Tudor. The replay proved inconclusive as to who actually got the final touch but the scorekeeper awarded the goal to the barrel-chested Croatian international defender. Dida was made to look bad on the goal but it was really a situtation in which he couldn't be blamed for anticipating a more significant change in the trajectory of the shot.

Irrespective of who scored, the Bianconeri were back level and now - albeit briefly - looked the more effective team. Credit to Milan, they held their nerve and stuck to their gameplan, which was evidently to attack their opponents as aggressively and as directly possible - this after having so often been criticized for playing the game at too languid a pace.

A terrific example of their change in mentality occurred on 20 minutes after a visionary cross-field pass by Pirlo eventually resulted in a clever layoff by Sheva, which was, however, screwed just wide by Inzaghi.

It was really 'blink and you miss it' stuff, and you would have hated yourself for blinking and missing Super Pippo's 25th minute equalizer. A sublime chip in the box by the inspired Pirlo was controlled in full-stretch by the goal-addicted Italy striker, who somehow managed to turn and shoot under the legs of Buffon despite almost having to piggy-back Montero in the process.

Although Juventus clearly weren't at a lack for motivation, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances due to the inherent predictability of their formation, which was made even more managable for AC Milan's defense by the combined failure of Camoranesi and Zambrotta to create anything from the wings.

Lippi reacted by introducing Del Piero in place of Zambrotta at the half but bar a couple of entertaining cameos Juve's understandably rusty golden-boy failed to assert his usual dominance on the game.

Davids was the focal point of much of Juve's best moments and on 55 minutes the hyper-charged Dutch international did well to locate Zalayeta in the box. The Uruguayan's magnificent first touch left Maldini for dead but his scorching left-foot shot was brilliantly punched over the bar by Dida. That was Zalayeta's final contribution to the game as he was replaced by Trezeguet just minutes after having been denied what would have been a stunning equalizer.

As the Bianconeri got increasingly desperate, Milan found more and more space, which they, however, failed to make much use of. Their best chance to put the game beyond the league-leaders arrived via a sweetly struck Pirlo freekick on 65 minutes, which was alertly tipped over the bar by Buffon.

Juve's first-choice frontline then so nearly combined for the equalizer but Del Piero's seemingly corner-bound shot deflected wide off Laursen, who had just minutes earlier been inserted in place of a clearly drained Costacurta.

With just minutes left on the clock a brilliantly worked freekick by Juve - after the increasingly lively Camoranesi was chopped down on the wing - so nearly resulted in another wonder-goal by Nedved. The Golden Ball candidate from the Czech Republic produced an outrageously powerful header from just inside the box, which was somehow palmed from the top-corner by Brazil's undisputed number one.

The final whistle was met by a deafening cheer by the San Siro faithful and affectionate hugs amongst the Rossoneri players, who now have ultimate belief that they can make up the five point difference on the defending champions.

MILAN: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta (Laursen 73.), Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa (Ambrosini 71.); Shevchenko (Serginho 80.), Inzaghi

JUVENTUS: Buffon; Thuram, Ferrara, Montero (Pessotto 70.), Tudor; Camoranesi, Davids, Tacchinardi, Zambrotta (Del Piero 45.); Nedved; Zalayeta (Trezeguet 60.)

Maldini relieved to avoid fellow Italians
22.3 || scharatz

AC Milan skipper Paolo Maldini was a happy man after Friday's quarterfinal draw setup a tasty rematch of the 1968/69 European Championship final which the Rossoneri won against Ajax.

"I'm happy that we weren't paired against an Italian team" said the legendary Italian defender first of all. "We were hoping to draw Ajax, but it won't be easy just ask Roma and Arsenal.

"They are young and play delightful football, but also concede a lot of space, as they like to push forward en masse," he opined before identifying Roma target Zlatan Ibrahimovic as "a promising talent and their biggest threat."

Ancelotti: It's all or nothing
22.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti concedes that anything less than a victory over Juventus tonight will rule him out of the Scudetto chase.

“This is a crucial encounter for Milan,” commented the Coach. “We will fight until the end of the season, but our title hopes could only really be revived with a win at the San Siro.”

The Rossoneri started the campaign as favourites for the League, but a string of disappointing results have left them eight points adrift of leaders Juventus.

“The team is charged up and ready for this showdown. I think we are preparing in the right way and have a real desire to win.”

The last month and a half have been wildly different for the two teams, as Juve have notched up seven wins on the trot while Milan have drawn their last three.

“Juve have been remarkably consistent,” added Ancelotti, “especially in the delicate January and February months, while we have lost a few points along the way.”

It will be a particularly personal clash for former Juve boss Ancelotti and ex-Bianconeri hitman Pippo Inzaghi.

“I have no feelings that the other Milan club members don’t also have for this encounter. I am part of this side that wants to re-open the title race.”

There is good news from the medical centre at Milanello, as Andriy Shevchenko, Serginho and Paolo Maldini have recovered from their injury setbacks.

The Ukrainian should start alongside Inzaghi in the long-awaited 4-3-1-2 formation with Manuel Rui Costa as support.

Rivaldo could be dropped so he can regain match fitness, as his disappointing campaign so far has brought on anger from the frustrated fans.

“The crowd at the San Siro has always been good to us,” insisted the tactician. “The results are not helping us to stoke their enthusiasm, but Rivaldo is not unfit.”

”As everyone knows, this is not an ideal period of form for the Brazilian, but there is no physical reason why he cannot get back to his old self very soon.”

The press has also been filled with column inches on Ancelotti’s alleged battle with Shevchenko, but he took another moment to deny the claims.

“There are no problems with the club or with Shevchenko. The only problem at Milan is the eight points that separate us from the leaders.”

Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori

D: Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic

M: Ambrosini, Ba, Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Pirlo, Redondo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho

F: Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson

AC Milan vs. Juventus - match preview
21.3 || scharatz

A huge game takes place at the San Siro on Saturday night that could well throw the scudetto race wide open again. Should AC Milan upstage Juventus, they would bounce back to within five points of the leaders and Inter Milan would have caught up with the bianconeri at the top as well. However, anything but a win for the home side would all but rule them out of this year's title race.

Milan were keen favourites to win the title at the half-way stage. Their form and style had both come in for great praise all across Europe. But, the rossoneri have faded away into oblivion in 2003 and will be looking to use this game as a launching pad for a late sprint to both domestic and European success.

Juventus on the other hand will be keen to not only eliminate Milan from the title race, but also keep the pressure on Inter by winning at the San Siro. With the Milan derby still to come, Juve would be very well poised to claim their 27th title should they succeed in beating the red-and-black society on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti has suffered greatly over the past few weeks with the injuries to Serginho and Kaladze. The duo have given the coach limited options on the left wing, a tactic which Milan usually used with great aplomb. Paolo Maldini has started deputizing for Kaladze at left back, which means that Billy Costacurta will continue to partner Nesta in defence. The lack of goals in recent matches will mean that out-of-form World Cup winner Rivaldo finds himself on the bench as Ancelotti opts for the Shevchenko-Inzaghi partnership up front supported by Manuel Rui Costa. Andrea Pirlo plays as the deep-seated playmaker supported by Gattuso and Seedorf.

As if Marcelo Lippi's team were having problems scoring goals, they have all but recovered skipper Alessandro Del Piero for this game. Whilst the elegant playmaker is expected to start on the bench, he could play some part in the game forming a tri-dent of terrifying proportions (Nedved-Del Piero-Camoranesi) just behind the over-exuberant David Trezeguet. Marco Di Vaio should recover in time to make it to the bench. Veteran Ciro Ferrara's fine form means that he will continue to partner Paolo Montero in defence whilst Thuram and Pessotto operate the wings. Davids and Tacchinardi will provide the extra bite in midfield.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): WDDLDL
Three draws and two losses in the last five games have suggested that there is a crisis looming at Milan at one of the most crucial junctures in the season. The rossoneri are to find out on Friday who their CL quarterfinal opposition is and it might well be a good time to get their season back on track by beating the Italian champions (who incidentally could be their quarterfinal opposition).

Juventus last 6 (all comps): LWWWWL
Despite some rather ordinary performances in Europe, the bianconeri have been blazing away in the league with ten wins in their last eleven games, scoring an astounding 26 times whilst conceding just 4 goals. It would be a grave understatement to say that Milan will need something special to put an end to that magnificent run.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Juventus (4-2-3-1): Buffon; Thuram, Iuliano, Montero, Pessotto; Tacchinardi, Davids; Zambrotta, Nedved, Camoranesi; Trezeguet

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan): Last time the two sided met (in the Delle Alpi), Andrea Pirlo got burnt too many times to count. The holding midfielder was almost directly responsible for one of the opposition's goals and really did not play well at all. He will have to play a far more crucial role if Milan are to win this one.

Pavel Nedved (Juventus): He surely must be one of the world's best and most on-form players at present. Nedved plays with the vigour of a 22-year old and the skill of two players put together. His recent scoring exploits should be a huge threat to the Milanese side who are anyway susceptible to the Czech.

Sao Paulo Vice-President Italy bound for Kaka talks
21.3 || Seamus

According to reports, Sao Paulo vice-president Carlos Augusto de Barros will jet in to Italy for talks with a mystery Serie A club about Kaka.

The playmaker could leave the club this summer, as officials don't want him going for free when his contract expires.

They'll be no shortage of takers for the highly talented youngster, with Milan and Real Madrid both linked.

Champions League Draw
21.3 || Seamus

The draw for the quarter finals of the Champions League has taken place in Nyon, Switzerland.

The tie that stands out is between the holders Real Madrid and Manchester United. The two club are the first and second favourites to lift the trophy according to the bookmakers.

The three Spanish side have been kept apart, as have the three Italian teams. However, there is the potential for Real Madrid to meet Barcelona in the semi-final for a second season, while Inter Milan could face AC Milan if they beat Valencia and Ajax respectively.

Inter Milan's coach Hector Cuper faces his former team Valencia in a repeat of last seasons Uefa Cup quater-final.

AC Milan's chash with Ajax is a repeat of the 1995 final, which the Dutch side won 1-0.

Quarter-Final Draw:

Real Madrid V Manchester United
Inter Milan V Valencia
Ajax V AC Milan
Juventus V Barcelona

Semi-Final Draw:

Real Madrid/Manchester United V Juventus/Barcelona
Ajax/AC Milan V Inter Milan/Valencia

Ties to be played on April 8/9 and 22/23.

The semi-finals will take place on May 6/7 and 13/14, while the final will be held at Old Trafford on the 28th May.

Milan may move for Van Der Vaart after Chivu
20.3 || Seamus

Christian Chivu is not the only young Ajax prospect that Milan are targeting, as they now have their eyes on team-mate Rafael van der Vaart, according to Tuttosport. Indeed the Romanian international could arrive at the San Siro for 14 million euros in June, with the Rossoneri also securing an option on Van der Vaart.

Pirlo denies crisis claims
20.3 || Seamus

Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo has denied that the Rossoneri are in a crisis, despite the fact that they've not won in three Serie A games and are seven points behind this weekend's opponents Juventus.

"I don't believe we are in a crisis," he said. "It's true we are not playing as well as we did earlier in the season but it's not as bad as all that.

"The problem is goals - we are not managing to score."

Shevchenko looks forward to Juve clash
20.3 || Seamus

Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko missed the Borussia Dortmund match because of a muscular injury to his right thigh, but should line up against Juventus on Saturday night.

"I feel better and I'm very motivated," he said. "I don't look obsessively for a goal: for me it's fundamental to help Milan in this difficult moment. If we'll all be united, we'll be in the ideal conditions to face Juve."

Laursen keen on move to Spurs
20.3 || Seamus

AC Milan defender Martin Laursen has revealed his interest in joining Tottenham.

Glenn Hoddle's side have been linked with the Norwegian international in the past, while this week were also linked with Inter Milan's Marco Materazzi.

It is understood Hoddle is looking for someone to join Ledley King and Dean Richards in a central defensive trio.

The 25-year-old has rarely featured for Milan this season and he's desperate for first team action. He could join Spurs on a year-long loan.

"Tottenham is definitely a possibility," he said:

"I've always been fascinated by the Premiership and want to test myself there.

"I know Tottenham have been interested in me for a while and their genuine interest means a lot.

"We have seven international players at Milan competing for two places. And I will not take another season like this one."

Gattuso: We must beat Juve
20.3 || scharatz

Milan must beat Juventus on Saturday if they are to have any chance of Scudetto glory says Gennaro Gattuso.

The Rossoneri have fallen eight points behind the current Italian champions but the midfielder is convinced the fun and games are not over.

"It won’t be easy to beat Juventus but should we collect the three points then Milan will be back in the Scudetto race," said the Italian international.

"We will be playing for everything in the next two months and we are awaiting a number of real battles."

Despite still being in with a chance of winning an historic treble, Milan have been heavily criticised in recent weeks after a number of disappointing results.

"We’re playing quite well," added Gattuso. "It is easy for us to keep possession and move forward but we are just struggling of late to get the ball in the back of the net.

"Inzaghi has been scoring but the rest of the side really need to start helping him out. He can’t be expected to score in every game.

"We don’t envy anything from Juventus or Inter. In recent weeks we have just been lacking in front of goal. We need to show a bit more determination."

The draw for the Champions’ League quarter-finals takes place on Friday where Milan will face either Ajax, Juventus or Inter.

"I would like to miss the Italian sides to avoid the build up of pressure," said the former Rangers man. "If we were drawn against Inter, we wouldn’t sleep for 15 nights before it."

AC Milan 0:1 Borussia Dortmund - match report
19.3 || scharatz

Borrusia Dortmund were denied a place amongst the final 16 despite valiantly battling out a 1-0 victory away to AC Milan on the final matchday of the second group phase. Jan Koller's 80th minute goal proved to be in vain as Real Madrid edged them to the second place in the group on the strength of a nervy 1-0 win away to Lokomotiv Moscow.

Milan went into this game with nothing but pride on the line due to the fact that they had already guaranteed themselves top-spot in the group a fortnight ago. Despite their lack of incentive the hosts bossed the first-half of the game and rarely looked under pressure from the German's strike-force which was being led by Koller and Amoroso.

Matthias Sammer was forced into a tactical rethink and succeeded in injecting more impetus into the game by replacing Stefan Reuter with the more attack-minded Lars Ricken on 50 minutes.

The game opened up much more as a result, which suited the Borussen just fine as anything less than a win would surely not suffice.

With ten minutes on the clock, the irrepressible Koller handed his team a lifeline by turning at the top of the box and banging a trademark low-drive into the corner of the net.

Czechzilla's heroics were all for naught, however, and the disappointment was obvious on the 'Yellow-and-Black' faces when the scoreboard confirmed that Real had succeeded in scraping out a 1-0 win in Moscow.

AC Milan vs. Borussia Dortmund - match preview
18.3 || scharatz

Borussia Dortmund travel to the San Siro on Tuesday knowing that should they fail to better Real Madrid's result in Moscow, they will be out of the 2002-03 UEFA Champions League thereby eliminating every single German team from the year's European competitions. In fact, it has been nineteen years since not even a single German side will play in the quarterfinals of any major European club tournament. But, all is not lost for the Bundesliga title-holders who, whilst almost vanquished from the domestic title race, have still great hope in Europe. Real Madrid for all their form, face a very tricky trip to Moscow, and as the Russians showed in their first away game, they are well and capable of springing the odd surprise. Add to that the fact that Milan are desperate to get back into their own domestic title-race and face a trying game against Juventus on the weekend, and you may well have a recipe for German success! While Ancelotti has promised to field his 'best side', few will doubt that he is far more concerned about the scudetto challenge than defending his pride in an inconsequential fixture.

Injuries to Thomas Helveg, Kakha Kaladze, Jose Chamot and Roque Jr. mean that Ancelotti can only rest a few of his first-team players at the back. In fact, it is expected that only Alessandro Nesta will be rested which means that Martin Laursen and Billy Costacurta will play in central defence and may struggle against the pacy Dortmund attack. Up front, Jon Dahl Tomasson is expected to start alongside Andriy Shevchenko and Rivaldo. Fernando Redondo gets another run-out after his rather eventful appearance at the Bernebau last week.

Coach Sammer will be without some of his finest as the Czech duo of Rosicky and Köller are both ruled out due to injury. This means that in a side packed with efficient Germans, it will be up to the Brazilian quartet to do the job. Dede and Evanilson will man the wings to provide width to the side while Metzelder and Wörns in the centre. Up front, two other Samba-boys, Ewerthon and Amoroso (who wrecked AC Milan with a stunning hat trick in last year's UEFA Cup semi-final) will be working the magic. Torsten Frings, who opened the scoring at Lokomotiv last week, will be heading up the midfield party.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): WWDDLD
Milan's form has been anything but impressive in this past month. The truth is that the rossoneri have never woken up from the winter break. They have all but surrendered the domestic title race and risk taking their sluggish form into the knock-out stages of the CL as well.

Borussia Dortmund last 6 (all comps): DDWLWW
A series of poor results combined with the awesome power of opponents Bayern has ruled Dortmund out of retaining the German crown. But, they know that their whole season could take a big step forward should they continue with their very respectable CL form. Last week's away demolition of Lokomotiv (achieved without Tomas Rosicky) should be a sign to Milan that their opponents are a very strong side.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Simic, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini; Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Redondo; Rivaldo; Shevchenko, Tomasson

Borussia Dortmund (4-3-3): Lehmann; Evanilson, Wörns, Metzelder, Dede; Reuter, Ricken, Frings, Kehl; Amoroso, Ewerthon

Ancelotti to field real Milan
18.3 || Seamus

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti says he will play his strongest side possible against Borussia Dortmund – despite already qualifying for the Champions’ League quarter-finals.

The Rossoneri take on the German side at the San Siro tomorrow night and the tactician is hoping for some answers after recent difficulties in the Scudetto race.

"We need to try to get back some belief and enthusiasm before the game against Juventus on Saturday," said the former midfielder. "I intend to play the best team possible."

The Italian giants have been heavily criticised of late after some poor results has left them eight points behind leaders Juventus. With some pointing the finger at Ancelotti’s tactics.

"Whoever says that our footballing philosophy only works in Europe is wrong seeing as we did excellently in the first half of the season," added the Coach.

"Unfortunately we haven’t been able to keep our cool in the Scudetto race as we have been doing in the Champions’ League.

"Tactically speaking I think changing to a 4-4-2 now would be the most difficult thing to do because I don’t have the players with those characteristics."

There have also been rumours recently at unrest within the camp, especially between Ancelotti and striker Andriy Shevchenko.

"There are no problems between us at all," he added. "At Reggina I didn’t bring him on sooner because he’s been suffering with a fever lately. But he could start against Borussia.

"Shevchenko also has no problems with Inzaghi. They work well together and we are counting on them to end the season well."

Ancelotti then answered questions on his own future with stories on Monday suggesting that he could be replaced by either Roberto Mancini of Lazio or Gigi Del Neri of Chievo.

"I don’t feel as if my job is on the line," he maintained. "After all we still have a chance of winning the treble."

The Coach has called up 21 players for the tie against Borussia but Clarence Seedorf won’t play as he is not fully fit.

Squad: Abbiati, Fiori, Dida; Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic, Stefani; Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Pirlo, Redondo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Dal Bello, Pastrello; Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson.

Maldini - "We are better than Real"
17.3 || Seamus

Milan captain Paolo Maldini says his side are better than Real Madrid, despite their 3-1 defeat at the Bernabeu.

"I don't know how many teams can come here and dominate," he was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "I think it's quite normal to suffer their attack."

"In the first half we were not determined enough, but Milan must be given credit to have qualified early for the next Champions League stage. We are better than Real Madrid, we can't forget it."

Milan always closer to Chivu
17.3 || Seamus

According to a report in the Gazzetta dello Sport, Milan are closer than ever to signing Ajax defender Christian Chivu.

The Rossoneri are keen to strengthen their defence, and such a versatile player who be ideal. His price is 18 million euros, although Milan may be able to get him for 12.

He currently earns 800,000 euros a season, but the Italian giants would increase this.

The report also suggests that they are keen on re-signing fellow-countryman Cosmin Contra from Atletico Madrid as they need someone for the right side.

No Milan move for Del Neri
17.3 || Seamus

Milan have confirmed their faith in Carlo Ancelotti after dismissing reports that they were in contact with Chievo boss Gigi Del Neri.

Media speculation on Monday suggested that the Veronese tactician had been targeted as a potential replacement for the former Italian international.

"Nobody from this club has ever contacted Del Neri," said Vice-president Adriano Galliani on the official Milan website.

"Our Coach is and will continue to be Carlo Ancelotti, someone who has recently extended his contract with us until 2005."

It has been suggested that Milan could axe Ancelotti if he fails to win either the Champions’ League or the Scudetto this term.

Lazio tactician Roberto Mancini has also been linked with the post should the former Parma and Juve Coach be shown the door.

Del Neri (pictured) is one of the most highly rated bosses in Italy after the miracle work he has carried out at Chievo.

The former Empoli man has been talked about as the future boss of Roma and Juventus, plus the Italian national side.

Reggina 0-0 AC Milan - match report
15.3 || webmaster

Milan are further away than ever from the Scudetto after failing to beat ten-man Reggina away.

The Rossoneri were six points adrift of leaders Juventus going into this game, while relegation strugglers Reggina were looking for a sixth consecutive home win.

Paolo Maldini was celebrating his 500th Serie A match at the Stadio Granillo, having made his debut with the Milan shirt at the age of 16.

Carlo Ancelotti continued to resist pressure to field two men upfront and left Andriy Shevchenko on the bench.

The first real shots on goal were from the Amaranto as Gianluca Falsini's drive was deflected wide and Dida safely blocked an Aimo Diana effort.

However, on 23 minutes Maldini brought a fine save out of Emanuele Belardi with his fierce attempt from the edge of the box.

Up the other end of the field a Shunsuke Nakamura free kick caused problems for the Brazilian goalkeeper.

Just before the break both sides hit the frame of the goal. Clarence Seedorf volleyed Manuel Rui Costa's corner kick onto the near post from close range.

Moments later the goalkeeper was forced into another difficult save on the Dutch midfielder.

But in the final kick of the first period, Dida missed a corner kick and Emiliano Bonazzoli thumped the woodwork of an open goal.

Neither side made changes over the break and Rui Costa drilled a powerful effort over the bar from 25 metres.

Milan looked uninspired and left Inzaghi isolated upfront, so Jon Dahl Tomasson replaced the very disappointing Rivaldo.

The visitors began to steadily increase the pressure, but Inzaghi and Tomasson could not convert their chances.

However, eleven minutes from time Reggina were left in ten men as Belardi rushed off his line to clear off Tomasson and handled the ball outside the box. The red card was inevitable and Shevchenko was thrown on for the final push.

A well-worked move in stoppage time came to an abrupt end when Rui Costa fired straight at the goalkeeper, but Reggina remained dangerous on the break and Paredes drilled over the bar.

Reggina: Belardi; Jiranek, Franceschini, Vargas; Diana, Cozza (Mamede 72), Paredes, Nakamura (Mozart 68), Falsini; Bonazzoli, Di Michele (Lejsal 80)

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Maldini; Gattuso (Shevchenko 81), Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Rivaldo (Tomasson 63); Inzaghi

Ref: Trefoloni

Sent off: Belardi 80 (R)

Reggina vs AC Milan - match preview
15.3 || scharatz

A legend shall reach another milestone in Serie A this weekend. When he steps out on to the pitch in Reggio Calabria, Paolo Maldini will be making his 500th appearance for AC Milan. However, the circumstances couldn't be more trying for such a low-profile match. Milan's championship hopes could well go up in smoke should they fail to beat Reggina as they are already six points adrift of Juventus and three behind Inter, with both those sides facing rather easy home fixtures that they are expected to win.

Reggina on their part will be well aware of Milan's recent frailties. The rossoneri have failed to seal the points at home and don't have exactly the most impressive away record. Put those together, and you have the perfect formula for an upset. Gigi Di Canio will hope that he can do precisely that as his team is now just two points away from safety and are in fact tied with Atalanta for the last of the relegation spots. A win over Milan would mean not only a fantastic achievement, but three extremely valuable points.

Luigi Di Canio is still without long-term injury victim Bogdani. The Albanian striker has a serious knee injury and is not expected back any time soon. However, another striker, Savoldi returns from suspension to provide much-needed cover for youngsters Bonazzoli and Di Michele. The former Udinese coach will stick with his trusted formation which sees Jiranek, Vargas and Franceschini in a three-man back line supported by wingbacks Diana and Falsini. Cozza and Nakamura will provide the necessary bite from midfield and supply the two strikers.

Carlo Ancelotti is still without Kakha Kaladze, Massimo Ambrosini and Serginho. Billy Costacurta will partner Nesta in defence with Maldini playing at left back. Gennaro Gattuso returns to the fold after missing the game against Real Madrid due to suspension. His partners in midfield will be Andrea Pirlo and in-form Dutchman Clarence Seedorf. Up front, Ancelotti has decided to play both Rivaldo and Rui Costa to ensure that chances are a plenty, which means that Andriy Shevchenko is relegated to the bench. Red-hot Superpippo Inzaghi takes up the role of the sole-striker.

Reggina last 6 (all comps): WLWLWL
Reggina may be getting torn to shreds on their travels, but they have now won five home games on the trot in an attempt to pull away from the bottom. This will count for a lot against a side that has had tremendous trouble travelling away from the San Siro, and with a win here Reggina could really make an honest attempt at clambering in to the safety zone.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): WWWDDL
Milan's last loss to Real Madrid may have been inconsequential, but their league form has hardly been any better. The rossoneri have lost two of their last three away games and have drawn all three of their home games during the period. That is rather despairing record for a side aiming for scudetto glory. Ancelotti's men need to get their act together this weekend and maintain the pressure on Juventus, at least till they play the bianconeri head-on.

Reggina (3-5-2): Belardi; Jiranek, Vargas, Franceschini; Diana, Paredes, Cozza, Nakamura, Falsini; Bonazzoli, Di Michele

AC Milan (4-3-2-1): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Rivaldo; Inzaghi

Abbiati to end career with Milan
13.3 || Seamus

Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has revealed that he is likely to stay with the club for life.

The 26-year-old has been at the centre of transfer speculation after being dropped in favour of Nelson Dida this season.

But the second-choice shot-stopper says he has no intention of leaving his hometown club.

"I’ve already spoken to chief Adriano Galliani and he confirmed that the club has total faith in my abilities," said the former Under-21 international. "He said I’d be a Milanista for life."

Abbiati made the revelation on Thursday after he returned to first team action in the insignificant 3-1 Champions’ League defeat to Real Madrid.

"I did my very best last night and I’m happy with my performance even if it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat," he continued.

"But now we just need to concentrate on the game against Reggina because we know it won’t be easy for us.

"A win at the weekend is a necessity because we really need to narrow the gap to Juventus with the Bianconeri set to face us the week after."

Abbiati joined the San Siro giants in 1998 after two impressive seasons with Monza in Serie C1 and B.

Stam denies Milan deal
13.3 || Seamus

Lazio defender Jaap Stam has not agreed terms to join Milan at the end of the current campaign.

Reports in Italy have suggested that the stopper is set to sign for the Rossoneri but his agent has put the brakes on the proposed deal.

"I’ve heard that Stam will go to Milan but that is simply speculation," Pasquale Bruno revealed to Italian TV station ‘TeleLombardia.’

"The situation is very clear. Stam has received numerous offers, especially from England and Spain, but it is his intention to stay in Rome because he is happy there.

"The problem is that Lazio’s financial difficulties may see them forced to sell a number of players at the end of the season.

"Everyone is aware of this but we will have to wait and see what happens. It also depends on whether Stam would prefer to stay in Italy or move back home to Holland."

The Dutch international is also being tracked by Juventus who have confirmed that they will be purchasing an established defender for the 2003/04 campaign.

Ancelotti shrugs off Real slip
13.3 || Seamus

Carlo Ancelotti admits he used the trip to Real Madrid as a way of blooding fringe players.

“This was a useful exercise for players who have not had too much room on the field of late and it will help them regain match fitness.”

Real had to win this game to stay in the competition, while Milan were already assured the top spot in their group following four consecutive victories.

“We had motivation too as we wanted to make a good impression,” assured the Milan boss, “but when Real absolutely needed to win it became difficult to counter that attitude.”

The Rossoneri have been struggling of late and the press claimed his meeting with Vice-President Adriano Galliani was to adjust his tactics.

“Recently the press has been blowing everything out of proportion. I often speak with the club directors to explain my choices and moves. There was nothing unusual about it.”

The reigning Champions could have been knocked out tonight, but Milan opted to rest many of their stars, including top scorer Pippo Inzaghi.

“We were a little slow in reacting, but that improved after the break when we introduced Manuel Rui Costa.”

Real are still not qualified, however, as they face a tough trip to Lokomotiv Moscow while Milan will field a second-string side against Borussia Dortmund

“Real certainly deserve to be in the quarter-finals,” noted Ancelotti, “as they have a great deal of quality.”

Milan are already certain to top their Group regardless of the final results, so if all four Italians qualify in second place they will face a Serie A rival.

“I couldn’t possibly choose which one I’d rather face,” smiled Ancelotti.

Fernando Redondo was given the opportunity to play at the Santiago Bernabeu once more and his substitution was met by a standing ovation.

“It was a moving experience for him and he left wonderful memories here.”

Real Madrid 3:1 AC Milan - match report
13.3 || scharatz

Raul 12, 57 (R), Rivaldo 81 (M), Guti 86 (R)

Milan have missed the opportunity to knock Real Madrid out of the Champions' League with a sluggish performance, but the Spaniards are still not qualified.
Milan were already qualified for the quarter-finals going into this game and rested many of their star players, leaving top scorer Pippo Inzaghi in Italy. Gennaro Gattuso was suspended, while Massimo Ambrosini, Serginho and Kakha Kaladze are injured. However, Real Madrid were desperate for points and Ronaldo won his fitness battle to start upfront against his former derby rivals.

The Rossoneri did field former Real hero Fernando Redondo in midfield and he received a warm welcome from the Bernabeu crowd.

The first shot was on ten minutes as Christian Abbiati palmed a Flavio Conceicao long range effort round the post.

Abbiati has been dropped in favour of Dida this season and showed he is not on form. Zinedine Zidane set up Raul's angled drive, but although the goalkeeper got both hands to it, the ball squirmed into the net.

That was the first goal Milan have conceded in the second phase following four consecutive 1-0 victories.

Raul almost snatched a second soon after, but Abbiati blocked it with his feet.

The Rossoneri looked sluggish and Ronaldo took advantage of a defensive error, but Abbiati turned his weak effort round the post.

Ex-Barcelona star Rivaldo nodded Paolo Maldini's cross over the bar, but Abbiati looked extremely shaky in goal and fumbled a Luis Figo corner kick.

Milan tried to boost their creativity after the half-time break with Manuel Rui Costa on for former Chelsea man Sam Dalla Bona.

The visitors made more of an effort with chances for Rui Costa and Rivaldo, but Raul increased his tally with a well-worked move. Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Raul combined before the captain rifled in from the edge of the box.

Ancelotti's side created a few more chances with Clarence Seedorf and Rivaldo before the Brazilian nodded in a Maldini centre from eight yards.

However, Zidane cut in from the byline for a Guti tap-in Real's third, though Abbiati was again caught in the middle.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Pavon, Roberto Carlos; Conceicao, Figo; Makelele, Zidane (Solari 88), Raul (Portillo 89); Ronaldo (Guti 68)

Milan: Abbiati; Simic (Nesta 62), Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini; Brocchi, Redondo (Pirlo 79), Seedorf, Dalla Bona (Rui Costa 46); Rivaldo, Shevchenko

Ref: Kim Nielsen (Den)

Real Madrid vs. Milan - match preview
12.3 || Seamus

Carlo Ancelotti is hoping that Milan can put on a show in tonight’s Champions’ League clash with Real Madrid.

The Italian outfit are already through to the quarter-final stage but the tactician still wants his much changed side to honour the competition.

"We are off to Madrid to make a good impression," said the former Milan midfielder. "I do have some injury problems and the suspension to Gattuso but I won’t make that many changes.

"I am looking to field a very competitive side because we want to show people what we can do on the biggest stage possible."

Milan have been on fire in Europe after winning all four of their Phase Two games to date, but they’ve not been replicating that sort of form domestically.

"Our recent results in the championship race have been disappointing but we have still been able to entertain the fans.

"We have been drawing too many matches of late but I am content with how we have been playing."

Milan are now six points behind Juventus in the Scudetto race and Vice-president Adriano Galliani admits that winning in Europe has now become their primary target.

"It has always been our number one aim," claimed Galliani. "And I’m not just saying that because we are six points adrift in Italy."

Real are desperate for the points this evening as Borussia Dortmund are still in with a chance of pipping the Spaniards for qualification.

"In all honesty I don’t care who goes through with us," continued the Rossoneri official. "The most important factor is that Milan have a place in the last eight."

Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Pavon, Roberto Carlos; Conceicao, Figo, Makelele; Zidane; Raul, Ronaldo.

Milan: Abbiati; Simic, Costacurta, Laursen, Maldini; Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Redondo, Seedorf; Rivaldo, Shevchenko.

Ref: Kim Milton Nielsen (Den).

'Special night' as Redondo returns
12.3 || Seamus

Fernando Redondo knows better than most that there is no room for sentiment in football. Back in the summer of 2000, barely two months after playing a pivotal role in Real Madrid CF's UEFA Champions League triumph over Valencia CF, the elegant midfield player was hastily transferred to AC Milan.

Madrid fallout
At the time Madrid's incoming president, Florentino Pérez, implied that the 31-year-old Argentinian international had expressed a desire to complete the €8m move to Italy, leaving an incredulous Redondo to make a public announcement to the contrary.

Injury misery
With little or no time to say 'adiós' to his adoring public in Spain, Redondo was on his way to Milan and out of football for two seasons after rupturing a cruciate ligament in his right knee during pre-season training.

No resentment
Complications set in, leading to two further operations. Redondo did not return to competitive football until December 2002, but as he contemplates an emotional return to the Santiago Bernabéu for the Champions League Group C encounter against Madrid, 'the Prince' harbours no resentment towards his old club.

'Special night'
"I still feel something special for Madrid," Redondo said. "I'm still a fan and I can't wait to return and see my former team-mates even though it will be strange to see them wearing different colours from me. Having said that, it promises to be a special night that's for sure."

Devoid of bitterness
Despite professing an undying love for the team, Redondo could be forgiven for not holding the same feelings when it comes to the Madrid board, but he remains devoid of bitterness, even towards Pérez. "This is football and it has its own rules and maybe it was an end of an era for me," he said. "I would have liked to have left the club in a better way but I can't blame the president."

Mixed emotions
A Milan victory in Madrid could witness the world's most expensively assembled team crashing out of the competition before the knockout stage - a prospect that leaves Redondo with mixed emotions. "Obviously, we want to win but we don't want them out of the competition," he claimed. "In fact, I'd love to meet Madrid in the final and I'm convinced they'll qualify for the next round."

'Packed with stars'
Redondo, who still considers the current Primera División leaders the strongest side in Europe, admits that he would have enjoyed playing in the current side alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane. "It's packed with stars and I would have loved to have been part of it, but I've had my moment and I don't regret anything," he said.

Popular figure
He may be resurrecting his career in Milan, but Redondo remains a popular figure in the Spanish capital. "I've still got a house in Madrid," he said. "Each time I go there I realise I am not forgotten. Now I'll have a chance to say goodbye to the fans, which I couldn't do two years ago."

Milan debt
Although his heart still remains in Madrid, the former AA Argentinos Juniors and CD Tenerife star is well aware that his responsibilities are with his current club, who only last week extended his contract for another season. "I have gone through some rough moments, but I never thought of throwing in the towel," claimed Redondo. "Football is such a passion for me and I never wanted to end my career in a such a miserable way. I have a debt to pay to the Milan fans."

By María Bretones

Thigh strain floors Kaladze
10.3 || Seamus

Defender Kakha Kaladze will miss the remainder of AC Milan's UEFA Champions League second group stage campaign after picking up a thigh injury in Sunday's 0-0 draw against AC Chievo Verona.

Strained muscle
The 25-year-old has strained a muscle in his left thigh and is expected to be out of action for at least two weeks. He will miss the last two matches of the second group stage against Real Madrid CF and BV Borussia Dortmund.

Second-half substitution
The Georgian international was replaced by Martin Laursen after 15 minutes of the second half during the Serie A draw at the San Siro stadium. The 2001 and 2002 Georgian Footballer of the Year has played nine matches in the current Champions League campaign for the Rossoneri.

Defensive cover
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti could cover Kaladze's absence by moving team captain Paolo Maldini to left-back and fielding veteran defender Alessandro Costacurta or Danish international Laursen in the middle of the defence alongside Alessandro Nesta.

Quarter-final prospects
Milan have already qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals after winning all four of their second group stage games so far 1-0.

Ancelotti still believes in Scudetto
10.3 || webmaster

Carlo Ancelotti has urged his men to keep believing in the Scudetto despite the six-point gap from leaders Juventus.

“The team did everything it could to get a win tonight,” he said after the 0-0 draw with Chievo, “but just failed to break through.”

“The performance was positive, although I must admit the standings do not look good. We must not stop believing in this title.”

Milan were meant to take advantage of a string of home games in March, but have so far gathered just two points against Atalanta and Chievo.

“All we can do now is maintain our concentration and play every game at the top of our potential.”

Ancelotti has been criticised in the past for playing a lone striker system, but even with Andriy Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi from the start they failed to score.

“I was content with the performance of both players,” noted the tactician.

Gigi Del Neri treated this draw at the San Siro as if it were a victory and celebrated this achievement.

“My men played an excellent game and did not stop pushing forward until deep into stoppage time,” said the Chievo boss.

“The key to this match was keeping the Rossoneri strikers as far away from the goal as possible with the offside trap, and it worked wonders tonight.”

The Flying Donkeys are now just one point adrift of the fourth and final Champions’ League spot currently held by Lazio.

“This is a fantastic season for us,” concluded Del Neri, “because it is very difficult to repeat what we managed last year at this level.”

No Real clash for Inzaghi
10.3 || webmaster

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has decided to omit Pippo Inzaghi from the squad that will face Real Madrid on Wednesday.

The Italian striker has been left in Italy to rest as the Rossoneri are already through to the last eight of the Champions’ League.

Kakha Kaladze is also missing after picking up an injury in the game against Chievo last night, while Massimo Ambrosini, Serginho and Gennaro Gattuso will also be absent from the Spanish tie.

Full squad - Goalkeepers: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori.

Defenders: Aubameyang, Costacurta, Helveg, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Simic.

Midfielders: Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Pirlo, Redondo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Seedorf.

Forwards: Leonardo, Shevchenko, Tomasson.

Milan chief targets Europe
10.3 || webmaster

Milan’s primary objective for the season is now winning in Europe according to President Silvio Berlusconi.

The Rossoneri chief made the statement after last night’s 0-0 draw with Chievo left them six points behind leaders Juventus.

"Before the game we were looking to win everything possible," said Berlusconi. "But the result against Chievo now means we are more focused on the Champions’ League."

Milan are already through to the last eight of the competition but can prove their strength on Wednesday when they travel to Spain to play Real Madrid.

"It will be a great game," continued Berlusconi. "I did think that Real were playing like Milan but now Milan are playing like Real. We’ll see who can do better in midweek.

"But if we play like we did against Chievo then I will be happy. We entertained the crowd but just couldn’t manage to score the first goal.

"There are teams that play far worse than we do but still score. That is unfortunately not the case with us.

"But there is still a glimmer of hope in the Scudetto chase. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens."

AC Milan 0-0 Chievo Verona - match report
10.3 || webmaster

Despite a late siege on Cristiano Lupatelli's goal, Milan could not get past Chievo and drop further behind the leaders.

Milan were forced to get all three points if they were to keep up with Juventus and Inter in the Scudetto chase, while Chievo are closing in on Lazio's Champions' League spot.

Oliver Bierhoff started against his former club, but the big news was the return of Andriy Shevchenko in a deeper role behind Pippo Inzaghi. Andrea Pirlo was also back after a flu virus.

The Rossoneri had a strong start and Shevchenko's powerful header glanced wide of the woodwork before the Ukrainian blasted over the bar from distance.

Milan had more of the possession, but Chievo were a constant danger on the counter-attack with the pace of Luciano and Ivano Della Morte.

A Pirlo free kick caused problems on 26 minutes as Oliver Bierhoff deflected it out for a corner before a Milan player could pounce.

The best chance came on 34 minutes when Shevchenko's glancing header was moving into the path of Inzaghi, but goalkeeper Cristiano Lupatelli just fingertipped it out of reach.

The Chievo defence was kept under constant pressure and scrambled efforts clear from Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf.

Before the break Fabio Moro dived in to intercept another Shevchenko assist for Inzaghi.

In first half stoppage time Lupatelli's palms were stung by a rocket from Andrea Pirlo at the edge of the box.

Inzaghi also wanted a free kick for a clash with two Chievo defenders, but it appeared that the striker had run into a space that was not there.

At the dawn of the second half the siege continued as Seedorf's taut cross missed Shevchenko and Inzaghi by a matter of millimetres.

Moments later an Inzaghi volley struck the side-netting and Lupatelli blocked an angled Pirlo free kick by the near post before getting down to cut off Shevchenko's turn and a deflected Seedorf drive.

There was bad injury news for Milan when Kakha Kaladze limped off with an upper thigh problem.

On 69 minutes Seedorf thought he had broken the deadlock, but his volley was disallowed for a correct, albeit tight, offside decision.

Chievo were also looking for a late goal and Alessandro Nesta's brave challenge on Sergio Pellissier proved crucial, while Dida neutralised a Federico Cossato counter-attack.

Milan's strikers were almost always caught in the remarkably accurate Chievo offside trap and they became frustrated as time wore on.

The Rossoneri could not believe they did not score on 92 minutes when Lupatelli palmed a Seedorf drive onto the post only to make a stunning one-handed save on Rui Costa's follow-up.

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze (Laursen 60); Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa, Shevchenko (Tomasson 80); Inzaghi

Chievo: Lupatelli; Moro, Legrottaglie, Mensah, Lanna; Luciano, Perrotta, Corini, Della Morte (Franceschini 57); Bierhoff (Pellissier 69), Cossato (Bjelanovic 83)

Ref: De Santis

Ancelotti dismisses Sheva saga
9.3 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti assures that Andriy Shevchenko is happy at Milan and could feature against Chievo this evening.

“I noticed that recently the atmosphere outside the training ground is much more agitated than inside,” commented the tactician.

“I read in one newspaper that the club is angry, in another that they are looking for another Coach, and one more press report states Shevchenko is furious. I see none of that here.”

An interview was published which claimed the Ukrainian striker wanted more first team appearances after a season beset by injuries.

“Shevchenko is physically fine now,” continued Ancelotti, “and has trained with the team all week. We will do a final fitness test before the game and make a decision on whether he’ll play against Chievo.”

Tonight’s match is not only crucial to get the Rossoneri back into the title chase, but also for Chievo’s Champions’ League ambitions.

“This will be a very important result, but not a decisive one. What will be crucial is a victory to get us back on track.”

Milan were expected to surge up the standings this month with a string of home games against mid-table sides, but last week they were forced into a fightback from 3-0 down against Atalanta.

“We need to show that same attitude and fight from the start rather than when we are a goal or two behind.”

Chievo have always given Milan problems and earlier this season grabbed a 3-2 victory.

“Chievo’s really strong points are their power in the air and ability to strike on the counter-attack. But we must not forget that we have beaten them before this season.”

In fact, the two sides also met in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. A 0-0 draw at the San Siro paved the way for a confident 5-2 victory at the Stadio Bentegodi.

“We enter this match well aware of our own potential,” noted Ancelotti, “and will only need to tighten up in defence and upfront.”

It is an intriguing week for the Rossoneri as they face a trip to the Bernabeu Stadium next Wednesday.

Milan are already qualified for the Champions’ League quarter-finals, but another win could knock the holders out of the competition.

“It is clear that we want to make a good impression in Spain and hopefully beat Real Madrid, but this is true of any players I send on to the field.”

AC Milan vs Chievo Verona
8.3 || scharatz

AC Milan have fallen from the summit that they once proudly sat upon and are dangerously close to losing a grip on the title-chase. The rossoneri are four points behind Juventus, a gap not too distant considering they are yet to host the bianconeri this season. But, any more points dropped against the most unpredictable of Serie A teams could signal an early demise of the Scudetto dream.

Chievo Verona on their part have more than achieved their initial objective of staying in Serie A. In fact, they have done it with 11 games to spare, so once again they will focus on Europe. They failed rather miserably in their first Euro adventure last season, but are intent on not only trying to finish in one of the European spots again this season, but Del Neri claims the Flying Donkeys want to make sure it's a Champions League spot.

Carlo Ancelotti returns to the tried and tested formation of the early season, which sees Pippo Inzaghi, spearhead an attack that will be supported well by Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Seedorf and Pirlo. The back four reverts back to the Simic-Nesta-Maldini-Kaladze, though if the Georgian should fail to recover from a niggling muscle strain, Maldini will take his place, forfeiting the halfback slot to Billy Costacurta. Serginho and Ambrosini are still unavailable for selection, but Andriy Shevchenko returns to fitness to earn a place on the bench.

Del Neri has decided that he will bench both Oliver Bierhoff and Sasa Bjelanovic for the match against Milan as Sergio Pellissier, scorer of a wonderful goal last weekend against Torino partners Federico Cossato up front. Another week 23 scorer, Lorenzo D'Anna is injured, so young Ghanaian John Mensah should deputize. Luciano and Franceschini will man the wings, while the Flying Donkeys' orchestrator should once again be skipper Corini.

AC Milan last 6 (all comps): LDWWWD
Milan are reaching some sort of peak again, but have been let down in their last two home matches by a rather slack start. The two draws in recent times have been incredible comebacks as the rossoneri have fought back from 0-2 down against Lazio and 0-3 down against Atalanta, but even that will simply not do are they to win the Scudetto. They must win their home games.

Chievo Verona last 6 (all comps): LDDWLW
Chievo themselves have been some sort of a roller coaster. A fantastic draw against Lazio and a win over Inter have been followed by a loss to Modena and a narrow-win over bottom-placed Torino. Del Neri's men have not been able to settle into a groove, but are still up there in the table. What's more, they have hurt Milan before on more than one occasion, so they will fancy their chances to upset them again.

AC Milan (4-3-2-1): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rivaldo, Rui Costa; Inzaghi

Chievo Verona (4-4-2): Lupatelli; Moro, Legrottaglie, Mensah, Lanna; Luciano, Perrotta, Corini, Franceschini, Pellissier, Cossato

Bierhoff comes back home
7.3 || scharatz

Oliver Bierhoff says that his trip to the San Siro will be like coming home, but the Chievo striker aims to beat his former club.

“It is my first time back here as an opponent,” commented the former German international. “It will certainly be a special moment for me, there is no doubting that.”

Bierhoff was instrumental in winning the Scudetto during his first season at Milan, netting 20 goals to pip Lazio to the post.

“Alberto Zaccheroni was one of the most conscientious and well-prepared Coaches I have ever worked with. My entire time at this club was wonderful and I remain very close to the Rossoneri colours.”

However, the hitman already has a plan on how to work through his nerves.

“Once you are out on that field,” he added, “the desire to score a goal takes over everything else.”

Bierhoff left Milan for French side Monaco last year, but is back to finish his playing career at Chievo.

“I had a few problems when I first arrived because I was lacking the full summer fitness regime. I was also playing in a deeper role than I was accustomed to, but now I hope to give my very best for this team, starting from Sunday’s match with Milan.”

Chievo have only ever played here once in Serie A competition and left with a controversial 3-2 defeat. The Flying Donkeys are confirming their position as one of the top sides in Italian football this season.

“Milan are still the number one favourites for the title in my eyes,” noted the former Capocannoniere. “We will try to give them problems, but it won’t be easy.”

Win or bust for Rivaldo
7.3 || scharatz

Milan will have to beat Chievo on Sunday if their title dreams are to remain intact according to Rivaldo.

The Rossoneri are currently four points behind leaders Juventus and the Brazilian is adamant that his side can’t afford to let the gap increase.

"It will be a very difficult game against Chievo but we have no option but to beat them," said the former Barcelona player.

"Juve are clear of us and we need to decrease their lead so that we can take advantage when they come to play us at the San Siro in a few weeks time."

Rivaldo also looked forward to the Champions’ League game at Real Madrid next week – despite the fact that Milan are already through to the last eight.

"It will be a tough encounter because they will be desperate for a win while we have already qualified," he added.

"But this will be a great chance for us to demonstrate our power and that we are realistic contenders to win the European Cup."

The World Cup winner was also asked on his thoughts surrounding the rumours that Roma ace Emerson and Brazilian youngster Kaka could be Milan summer signings.

"It would be great but I don’t make those decisions," he stated. "Kaka is a fantastic player who despite his 20 years of age has vast experience. I think he would be ready for a move to Italy."

Redondo signs until 2004
7.3 || scharatz

Milan have officially confirmed that Fernando Redondo has signed a one-year contract extension.

The former Argentine international, who admitted on Thursday that he was close to signing a new deal, has prolonged his stay until 2004.

Redondo would have been a free agent at the end of this season but wanted to pay back the club who have stayed close to him during his two-year injury nightmare.

The classy playmaker was signed for £10m in the summer of 2000 from Real Madrid but didn’t make his debut for the club until late last year.

Redondo picked up a serious knee injury just days after his switch to Italy but is finally performing for the club after three operations.

"I still haven’t been able to demonstrate what I can do and I feel as if I owe it to the club to prove my worth," said the 33-year-old.

Boss Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with the news. "I’m happy for him," he said. "He deserves to stay at this club and we deserve a player of his ability.

"I always believed that he would return to action because he was desperate to play football again."

Kaka acknowledges Milan interest
7.3 || Seamus

Sao Paulo playmaker Kaka is flattered by the interest shown in him by Milan.

"I played with Leonardo in Sao Paulo and he is an incredible person, splendid, someone who gave me a great deal of advice not only as a player," Milan's official site quoted him as saying in the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He explained how to face the pressure from the fans and the press and he taught me many things away from the pitch as well. He is a true maestro.

"Rivaldo is one-hundred per cent, a good person. One that you can always count on. It would be great pleasure to play along side of him because he is a champion and a friend.

"I am very happy for the interest of Milan, not that I prefer Italy over Spain, but I want to go to Europe and sign with a prestigious club."

New deal for Redondo
6.3 || Seamus

Fernando Redondo has revealed that he is on the verge of signing a new contract with Milan.

The Argentine midfielder only has a few months left on his current deal but is ready to extend his stay with the club.

"I’ve already spoken with the management and they have offered me a new agreement," he told Spanish TV station ‘Antena 3’.

"I don’t think that there will be any problems which could see me leave the Italian side in the summer.

"I still haven’t been able to demonstrate what I can do and I feel as if I owe it to the club to prove my worth."

Redondo,33, joined the San Siro giants in the summer of 2000 but had to wait over two years to make his official debut because of numerous knee operations.

But the South American returned to the professional game in the autumn of 2002 and could feature against former club Real Madrid in the Champions’ League next week.

"Real will always remain in my heart because I spent some of the happiest days of my life at that club," he added.

"They are a great outfit and I would love to play against then next week. But I have no regrets about joining Milan."

Redondo has proved an excellent alternative to Andrea Pirlo in the deep midfielder role used by boss Carlo Ancelotti this term.

Shev wants Milan action
6.3 || Seamus

Andriy Shevchenko is desperate to add his contribution to the Milan season after another knee injury.

The Ukrainian has been hampered by fitness problems all season but may return for the game against Chievo on Sunday.

"I am really desperate to play because I’m fed up of all the fitness problems that I’ve had this season," he said.

"I just hope that I won’t miss any more of the campaign from now on. Scoring goals isn’t that important but being on the field is.

"I’m tired of just watching the team from the stands. I only want to give my very best in a bid to help the side win major honours."

However, in his absence, Milan have been guided by the goals of Pippo Inzaghi who scored his 40th in 60 games for the club on Sunday in the 3-3 draw against Atalanta.

Costacurta Still Holding Back The Years
5.3 || Seamus

"Age shall not weary them" seems to be the new moto at AC Milan these days, after the club announced that 36-year-old Alessandro Costacurta had signed a new contract, while 34-year-old Paolo Maldini was in talks over a one-year deal.

Both players, along with Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti formed the invincible back line of Milan in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Their legendary meanness along with their introduction of a zonal system under Arrigo Sacchi made them the most feared back four in the world game. Opponents would spend entire games being flagged offside as Baresi gave the signal to step up and raised his hand in the air.

While those days have passed into club legend, Costacurta shows no signs of going quietly as he approaches his forties. The Varese-born centre back has provided effective cover for the first choice back four of Simic, Nesta, Maldini and Kaladze this season, and his form and fitness have spurred Milan into offering him a new contract, which he was happy to sign.

It marks a glorious turnaround for the man known as Billy, who was certain that his career was finished with Milan in the summer, when the club released him at the end of his contract. Feeling that he had a few more tackles in him Costacurta was close to signing with Major League Soccer in the USA and a move to Derby County was also suggested, though swiftly disregarded.

At some point in the close season though, Milan had a change of heart and asked him to return to add depth to the defence. His old mate Franco Baresi helped him regain his match fitness by giving him a game for the youth team, meaning a 15-year-old striker found himself being marked by a man with nearly 400 Serie A games under his belt.

The trial separation over Costacurta and Milan took up where they had left off. As well as providing cover for the back four, his input on the training ground has been important, as Milan's defence has tightened up considerably, providing the basis for their current pursuit of Serie A, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia.

Such silverware is commonplace to Costacurta by now though. Perhaps the least heralded of the famous back four, his career at Milan began back in 1987, when after a loan spell at nearby Monza, he broke into the first team under Sacchi. Since then he has ever-present in the Milan back line, winning six league titles, or Scudetti and three European Cups. During a long and distinguished international career he won 59 caps.

The news will be a boost to Milan as they seek to shake off the new year torpor that has threatened to undermine their campaign. However, Serie A goalkeepers will not be losing too much sleep. Over the past sixteen years the defender has stuck to his task at the back, racking up a grand total of two goals in 396 league performances. His last strike came in November 1991, against Roma. Perhaps he is due one.

By Oliver Thompson

New non-EU player rules in Italy
5.3 || Seamus

Italian football chiefs have agreed to limit the signing of non-European Union players from the 2003-2004 season onwards.

In Serie A only the departure of a non-EU player will allow another to come in, although in Serie B and C, clubs will be unable to sign any.

"The position of the Italian Federation is the same as other European Federations and Uefa," FIGC president Franco Carraro said.

"The aim is to have a decrease of non-EU players in Italy from the 2003-2004 season."

Clubs in the top flight, such as Modena, who have no non-EU players, will not be able to sign any whatsoever.

Shevchenko recovery boosts Milan
5.3 || Seamus

Andriy Shevchenko is set to return for Milan after a four-match absence due to a thigh injury.

"I want to play, I'm tired of being injured and this time I hope I won't stop anymore," he said. "The most important thing, when you have spent a moment like this, is not to score but to be there. I'm tired of watching, I want to help the team."

Milan closing in on Kaka
5.3 || Seamus

Serie A title hopefuls AC Milan are said to be counting on the powers of persuasion of their Brazilian legend Leonardo to lure Sao Paulo sensation Kaka to the San Siro in the summer.

According to reports from Rio, the presence of Leonado in Milan's team should give the Italian giants the inside track in negotiations for the highly coveted Brazilian whiz-kid.

The stylish 20-year-old midfielder, who is valued at $20m, is either still totally unsure as to where his future lies or is keeping his cards close to his chest.

"I am not up-to-date with what´s happening but it would be great to work with Leonardo," said Kaka. "I would like to play in Europe but I don´t know if that will happen any time soon."

Inzaghi: Milan can pip Juve
5.3 || scharatz

Milan can beat Juventus to the Serie A title according to Rossoneri striker Pippo Inzaghi.

The Bianconeri are currently four points clear of their great rivals but the Italian international maintains the fun and games are by no means over.

"The gap between us in the table can be reduced," said the former Juve man. "There are going to be some decisive games in the next month which could help us to climb the table."

The Rossoneri lost further ground on the Turin outfit at the weekend when they only drew 3-3 at home with Atalanta.

"It is just vital that we return to the Milan side that we were at the start of the season," added Inzaghi – who netted twice on Sunday.

"And we can take heart from our second half display in the games against Lazio and Atalanta when we came from 2-0 and 3-0 down to grab a point."

Inzaghi is currently Milan’s most in form player and his two goals at the weekend saw him become more lethal than legend Marco Van Basten.

"I am playing the best football of my career but don’t compare me with van Basten," added Inzaghi. "He was a great and I hope to win just a fraction of what he did here."

The Italian has now scored 40 goals in 60 official matches with the club, giving him a 0.66 goal average. Van Basten recorded 0.62, while Shevchenko is third in the list with 0.56.

Milan deny Ancelotti rift
4.3 || scharatz

Milan have rubbished reports that Carlo Ancelotti and Vice-president Adriano Galliani clashed after the 3-3 draw with Atalanta.

Speculation suggests that the Rossoneri chief was unhappy with a number of decisions taken by the Coach during Sunday’s Serie A game, where the San Siro side fought back from 3-0 down.

But the Italian giants have today released a statement in which they claim that there are no problems within the camp.

"Milan and their Coach are working together in a positive climate, based on close collaboration," it stated.

"There isn’t a lack of confidence in Carlo Ancelotti from the club as a whole or from Adriano Galliani.

"This is best illustrated by the fact that the club have recently renewed Ancelotti’s contract.

"The harmony between the two parties today is the same that existed when the new contract was signed, the same that will continue in the next few years.

"In this strong and consolidated atmosphere, there will be no space for anything else."

Galliani is believed to have been upset at the decision to just play with Pippo Inzaghi up front and the second-half substitution of Manuel Rui Costa.

Rui fears devastating Juve
4.3 || scharatz

Juventus are Milan’s number one rivals for the Scudetto according to Rossoneri ace Manuel Rui Costa.

The Portuguese international was left impressed by the Bianconeri’s performance in the 3-0 win over Inter which sent them clear at the top of the table.

"I have no doubts whatsoever that Juventus are the team to beat," said the San Siro playmaker.

"The Juve-Inter game brought back memories of our match in Turin a few months ago when we were beaten 2-1.

"The Bianconeri were simply devastating. It is no coincidence that they are the Italian champions so obviously if we want to win the League then we will have to beat them to it."

Milan are now four points behind the Old Lady of Italian football, and one behind Inter, after a disappointing 3-3 home draw with Atalanta on Sunday.

"We did drop points but we were also 3-0 down at one stage," added the former Fiorentina ace.

"We showed great character in fighting back and the fact that we got a point will help morale without a shadow of a doubt."

Tomasson: "I deserve more playing time"
3.3 || Seamus

Milan striker Jon Dahl Tomasson says he is frustrated with being on the bench so regularly this season.

"I'm the most natural goalscorer at Milan after Filippo Inzaghi," he was quoted as saying in Danish newspaper BT. "That should count for something.

"I deserve to have more playing time than I get. I've deserved my chance for a long time now but there's a lot of competition. It's clear that I play in a position where there's a fair bit of rivalry."

Galliani: We Won't Buy Chivu
3.3 || scharatz

Acting Milan president Adriano Galliani says the club have no plans to sign Ajax centre-back Christian Chivu.

On the Rossoneri's transfer agenda, he said: "I don't really want to name names when talking about transfers because the price of a player would double in a second if that happened. But we won't buy Chivu."

Inzaghi: I’m at my very best
3.3 || scharatz

Milan’s Pippo Inzaghi maintains that he is in the form of his life after scoring twice in the 3-3 draw with Atalanta on Sunday.

The Italian international continued his amazing goalscoring form this season as he helped inspire his teammates fight back from 3-0 down to grab a crucial point.

"I really do believe that this is my best ever season as a professional footballer," said the former Piacenza and Juventus striker.

"I am in good shape physically and yesterday I simply did what was required even if I do have regrets to how we made life difficult for ourselves.

"If we play to our full potential then we would win games like that all season. But we will recover from this minor setback."

One of the main reasons behind the amount of goals scored by Pippo this term is down to the quality behind him – especially Portuguese international Manuel Rui Costa.

"I would like to just say a few words about Manuel," continued Inzaghi.

"Against Atalanta he served up another extraordinary assist that made my goal possible. He is quality."

Ancelotti: "Two points lost"
3.3 || Seamus

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti felt his side lost two points despite coming from 3-0 down to draw with Atalanta at the San Siro.

"As against Lazio we have played two different games," he said. "We could have won, but we didn't make it. Having lost two points is the greater sorrow. Usually the defence is reliable, today things went the wrong way. It happens..."

AC Milan 3-3 Atalanta - match report
2.3 || webmaster

Scorers: Maldini og 1 (A), Rossini 28, 30 (A), Inzaghi 34, 79 (M), Tomasson 69 (M)

The comeback kings do it again as despite an own goal and a missed penalty, Milan fought back from 3-0 down against Atalanta.

Milan had the opportunity to make up ground on Juventus and Inter, but faced a tough test against Atalanta. The Orobici were unbeaten in nine games and there was a shock start to the match.

Within 45 seconds of the kick-off, Paolo Maldini completely mis-hit a harmless throw-in and accidentally turned into his own net.

Despite the lead, Atalanta did not sit back and kept on pushing to take advantage of the psychological blow. On ten minutes Davor Vugrinec brought a difficult save out of Dida.

It was Fabio Rossini's 25th birthday and he celebrated in some style with two goals in the space of two minutes. First he slammed in a fierce right-foot shot following another Maldini defensive error, then rose to nod in and put relegation strugglers Atalanta 3-0 up at the San Siro.

The Rossoneri got back into the game with Pippo Inzaghi. The former Atalanta striker turned his marker and slid a low drive into the far corner.

Inzaghi took the leadership of the shell-shocked Rossoneri upon himself and almost doubled his tally soon after with a backheel that dribbled wide.

SuperPippo carried on pushing and in first half stoppage time he was brought down by Tramezzani in the box. There was certainly contact, but Inzaghi did not appear to put too much effort into staying on his feet. With the final kick of the first half Rivaldo slammed the penalty onto the woodwork and out.

Milan have already fought back from 2-0 down to Lazio for a 2-2 draw earlier this season and threw on Jon Dahl Tomasson for the second half. He was the only other striker at their disposal as Andriy Shevchenko is injured.

Within 30 seconds of their the restart Manuel Rui Costa rattled the crossbar with a dipping shot from the edge of the box, then a swerving Rivaldo effort was parried.

The Rossoneri finally got back into the game on 69 minutes. Siviglia clattered into Inzaghi as he squared up to shoot, but the referee gave the advantage as substitute Tomasson picked up the loose ball to make it 3-2.

It turned into a siege and Atalanta were pushed back into their own half. Gennaro Gattuso's fierce drive was parried by former Milan goalkeeper Massimo Taibi and Maldini nodded wide.

The comeback kinds completed their latest miracle on 79 minutes with Pippo Inzaghi's looping header. The striker was facing away from goal, but managed to sweep Rui Costa's cross into the far corner and draw Milan level.

Andrea Pirlo was suffering from flu but was thrown on for the final minutes, but Rivaldo fired straight at the goalkeeper when he had been sent clear on goal.

In stoppage time Tomasson attempted a bicycle-kick in front of an open goal, but was charged down by defenders.

Milan: Dida; Costacurta, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze (Helveg 55); Gattuso, Rui Costa (Pirlo 79), Serginho; Seedorf (Tomasson 46), Rivaldo; Inzaghi

Atalanta: Taibi; Siviglia, Natali, Sala, Tramezzani (Bellini 60); Gautieri, Zenoni, Dabo, Doni; Vugrinec (Foglio 70), Rossini

Ref: Farina

Missed penalty: Rivaldo 45 (M)

A Whole lot of Milan
2.3 || Seamus

02/27/2003. As of today Milan are the only Italian squad to qualify for the quarterfinals of Champions League.
Milan, the only Italian squad still fighting on the three fronts.
Milan, the only Italian squad that up until now can still keep pace with the other great qualifier of the next round of Champions: Manchester United, host of the final at Old Trafford.

They can be compared both on a technical basis (victories, made goals and goals against) and on an economic level. The Corriere della Sera put this morning the Rossoneri on the same level as the Red Devils: in regard to the number of participations in European tournaments, the bonuses for every round advancement and every victory, the sum that can be distributed among the remaining teams in regards to television rights, and the sale of daily and two-day tickets, Milan gained a sum of around 32-35 million Euros.

If the adventure should continue for Milan, the amount of money the club will earn will increase as well, it can be compared to when the fans have on the pitch Pippo and Sheva, Rui and Riva, and Nesta and Maldini.

Milan dismiss Beckham bid
1.3 || Seamus

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has expressed doubts on David Beckham’s ability to impress in Serie A.

“I don’t know whether or not Beckham could do well in the Italian League,” noted the transfer guru.

The Rossoneri have been linked with a swoop for the Manchester United star after Galliani told the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ that they already had an option on a big star.

“We won’t need any major changes to the squad this summer, because we intend to confirm the team at our disposal.”

However, he did add that any new arrivals would be well-known stars.

“It is Milan’s policy to buy players who are already confirmed on the world stage in order to win immediately. Younger talents will be loaned out to mature elsewhere.”

There have been reports that the big summer buy will be Luis Figo of Real Madrid.

Nesta ready for Milan role
1.3 || scharatz

Alessandro Nesta believes he has settled into the San Siro and is now prepared to give his all to Milan.

“I would look at this first season in two parts. The first was disappointing on a personal level, but now I have overcome all those problems and am aware I can give a great deal to this team.”

It was never going to be an easy transition for the lifelong Lazio fan to leave his hometown club, but Nesta has finally relaxed into the Rossoneri atmosphere.

“The defence is the area of the side that has really clicked right now,” continued the Italian international.

“But we must also thank the hard work of the midfield for making sure we are well protected. Some stars in particular are really making sacrifices for the squad.”

Nesta is particularly pleased to be playing alongside Paolo Maldini and in the last few months the veteran also appears to have regained his form.

“It is a shame that Maldini retired from the Italy squad,” added his teammate, “but we must respect this decision.”

The defence will be tested once more on Sunday when Atalanta come to the San Siro in search of points for the relegation battle.

“There are no easy games in Serie A, so to win the Scudetto you must beat the big teams and the smaller ones."

"I hope that Atalanta come here looking to attack, because we tend to struggle against opponents who shut up shop.”

This weekend would appear to be in Milan’s favour as joint leaders Juventus and Inter face off at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

“We must be wary of assuming we already have the points in the bag against Atalanta,” noted Nesta.

“As for the game in Turin, a draw would be just the ticket. In my view they are two teams on a similar level.”

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