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Wednesday, September 29, 2004 

AC Milan - Celtic Glasgow (CL Preview)

For AC Milan, the task against Celtic FC will be to reproduce their superb away form on home turf - while the visitors are desperate to finally show their true ability on their travels.

Mixed fortunes
Milan may have a perfect record on the road this season, including a 1-0 victory at FC Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening UEFA Champions League Group F fixture, but their results at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza have been a 2-2 draw against AS Livorno Calcio and a 2-1 defeat against FC Messina Peloro, both Serie A newcomers. Celtic, meanwhile, may have held a 19-game unbeaten home European record prior to losing 3-1 to FC Barcelona a fortnight ago, but they have never secured a Champions League point away from Glasgow in six attempts.

Respect for Celtic
Despite that record, though, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti considers the Scottish champions a real threat. "We always have problems against small teams who only play to defend," Ancelotti said. "Celtic would be considered a top team even in Serie A and I am sure they will come here to play their usual game, not only to defend."

Victory vital
Victory is important for Milan, looking to hold six points before meetings with in-form Barcelona in their next two matches. "We really want to win this game in order to put us in a strong position in the group," Ancelotti said. "Celtic have a great tradition but I am confident because we usually do not fail in this kind of matches."

Stam doubt
Ancelotti will probably be without defender Jaap Stam, who is recovering from an ankle injury, the coach revealing: "He did not train [on Monday] and it is unlikely he will play." Andriy Shevchenko is set to start up front on the day he turns 28, but the coach would not say if Filippo Inzaghi, Jon Dahl Tomasson or Hernán Crespo would partner the birthday boy.

Lennon intelligence
But Ancelotti is also focusing on the opposition lineup. "Like every Scottish side they are very strong physically and very aggressive in midfield," he said. "However, they are also very technical. In attack they have lost [Henrik] Larsson, but [Henri] Camara is a very good player. Juninho [Paulista] is also very good but my favourite player is [Neil] Lennon. He is very intelligent and determined, he has more or less the same characteristics I had when I was a player."

Sutton hope
Celtic striker Chris Sutton, who scored as a substitute for Juninho against Barcelona, damaged his hamstring in that game but could start against Milan, while defender Didier Agathe has overcome a leg injury to rejoin training. Manager Martin O'Neill admits that he will need his team at full-strength - and on top form - to progress from such a tough pool.

Point needed
"We knew how difficult the group was going to be with two very fine sides in our group," he said. "So it is a simple equation - we have to try and get something out of the game to stay in the competition."

'Hell of a task'
It will be hard for Celtic, though, who quite apart from their lack of away points in the Champions League have never won in Italy - and the manager admits that Milan and Barcelona are formidable obstacles. "If we are going to qualify then we have to knock out one or the other, which is a hell of task," said O'Neill.

Source: uefa.com


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