| SHEVCHENKO: Fit for selection
Paris: Real Madrid have been given fair warning — AC Milan will show them the utmost respect by aiming to win their Champions League quarter final tie at the Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday.
In different circumstances the reigning European champions might be pleased by the Italian giants’ offer of playing to their full potential.
Borussia Dortmund, third in the same group and who take on Lokomotiv Moscow the same evening, will certainly be happy about the Italians’ sporting promise.
However, AC Milan have already qualified for the quarters, and Real’s pre-match nerves will be strained in the knowledge that star Brazilian Ronaldo, who has been so influential recently in their domestic campaign, could be sidelined.
“He might or might not play,” said Real’s doctor Alfonso Del Corral on Monday, who explained that the Brazilian was carrying a thigh injury.
“But the possibilities of Ronaldo playing are not enormous.”
Ronaldo’s absence is arguably irrelevant to a Real side brimming with stars. The situation would definitely be worse if Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul and Guti were all on the injury couch.
However the fact is that Real, second in Group C on five points — only one ahead of Dortmund — are still battling to secure their quarter final place.
AC Milan, on the other hand, have breezed their way to the top, claiming 12 points from their four matches so far, and their renaissance as a European football power does not appear to be slowing down.
With influential Ukrainian Andrei Shevchenko fit for selection, after his promising return to the league last weekend, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has the luxury of resting striker Filippo Inzaghi.
But they will nevertheless be without midfielder Massimo Ambrosini and 22-year-old Georgian defender Kakha Kaladze, both injured.
Borussia Dortmund will be hoping AC Milan stick to their promise they have never lost to a Russian team in European competition.
Dortmund also won their away match 2-1 in the Russian capital before Christmas — although that was their only win of the group phase.
In Group D fixtures are just as delicately poised.
Manchester United, also qualified following their 3-0 win over a flu-hit Juventus, are in a similar position to their Milanese counterparts.
And going on recent performances in Europe, Alex Ferguson’s men would have to have a severe breakdown before allowing FC Basel to leave Old Trafford with three potentially life saving points.
Basel have been the revelation in Europe this season a though their only points in the group came from a 1-0 win over Deportivo Coruna in February.
The Swiss minnows may take solace in the knowledge that United could field a more youthful side in the absence of key players such as Roy Keane, while Argentine Juan Sebastine Veron is doubtful.
Juventus, who sit second in the group on four points, host Deportivo, third on four points, in a crucial match where coach Marcello Lippi will ask French phenomenon David Trezeguet to come up with more of his magic.
Trezeguet came off the bench on Sunday to score a spectacular goal to end Udinese’s unblemished home record and hand Lippi a 1-0 league win which pushed Juventus three points clear of Inter Milan.
As far as history is concerned, Juventus have the upper hand, only conceding one defeat from 17 matches against Spanish teams at home. But Lippi would be wise to command his troops to keep tabs on Deportivo’s Dutch striker, Roy Makaay, who has netted 27 times in all competitions this season.