| DO OR DIE: Nesta
|INTER ACE: Crespo
Milan: AC Milan and Inter renew their Derby battle in the semi-final of the Champions League Tuesday and after a goalless draw in the first leg, drama is guaranteed at the San Siro stadium.
“Now there is no chance to say ‘we will sort it out next time’. At the end there will be either smiles or tears,” said Milan defender Alessandro Nesta.
The odds are slightly in the favour of Milan who are the ‘away’ team at the San Siro the two clubs share. Inter’s failure to pick up a goal in the first leg means that a scoring draw would send Milan through on ‘away goals’.
Recent form also points towards success for Carlo Ancelotti’s side — they have not conceded a single goal to Inter in the three matches they have played this season, having won both meetings in Serie A before last week’s stalemate.
But Italy international Nesta says Inter are a team that can strike at the most unexpected moments. “They are a very unpredictable team who can score against you even when you seem to have them under the control of your game plan,” added Nesta.
Hector Cuper’s side almost did that in the final seconds of the first leg when Hernan Crespo came close to a late winner after Inter had been under pressure for most of the second half.
Argentine Crespo, who last season was Nesta’s teammate at Lazio, is the main threat to Milan’s ambitions of reaching the final against either freshly-crowned Italian champions Juventus or defending European champions Real Madrid.
Inter’s top-scorer in Serie A, Christian Vieri has failed in his bid to be fit for Tuesday’s game.
Crespo, with nine Champions League goals this season, is expected to lead the line for Inter alongside Uruguayan Alvaro Recoba and he is convinced the 77,000 capacity crowd will be in for a treat this time.
“It is going to be an evenly-balanced game like the first leg but it will certainly be more entertaining because to get to the final someone needs to score. There is nothing to hold back anymore,” said the striker.
Inter’s options are increased for the second leg with midfielder Cristiano Zanetti returning from suspension and Frenchman Stephane Dalmat back to fitness.
Zanetti is likely to start in the centre of midfield but there remains a doubt over the fitness of left wing-back Francesco Coco who has a shin injury.
If Coco is fit then Cuper is likely to again play with three central defenders with Coco and captain Javier Zanetti working the flanks.
Without the former Milan player then Inter could switch to 4-4-2 with Turkish midfielder Belozoglu Emre moving out to the left and Portuguese winger Sergio Conceicao on the right wing.
Milan also welcome back a midfielder with Massimo Ambrosini in contention for a place in the side, probably at the expense of Cristian Brocchi.
Coach Ancelotti was reported to have been considering a change in attack with Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo touted as an alternative to out-of-sorts Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko.
But Rivaldo looked well short of form and fitness in Milan’s 0-1 defeat against Brescia in Serie A Saturday and it would be no surprise if Ancelotti stuck with the Shevchenko-Filippo Inzaghi pairing in attack.
Inter Milan: Francesco Toldo; Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, Ivan Cordoba; Javier Zanetti, Luigi di Biagio, Cristiano Zanetti, Belozoglu Emre, Francesco Coco/Sergio Conceicao); Hernan Crespo, Alvaro Recoba.
AC Milan: Dida; Alessandro Costacurta, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze; Cristian Brocchi/Massimo Ambrosini), Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf; Rui Costa; Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi.
Referee: Gilles Veissiere (France).
Ronaldo in squad
Real Madrid midfielder Claude Makelele will miss Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final, second-leg tie against Juventus, while injured striker Ronaldo has little chance of recovering in time, adds a report from Madrid.
However, Real Madrid included Ronaldo in a 21-man squad on Monday, despite the striker’s calf injury. It is unclear, though, whether the Brazilian star, who was injured in the 2-1 first-leg win after scoring the opening goal, will be fit to play in Turin.
The good news for Real is that striker Raul will be available after making a quicker than expected recovery from an appendix operation. “If nothing out of the ordinary happens he should be able to play,” said the club’s chief of medical staff Alfonso del Corral.
“Makelele is definitely out for the Juventus game and will be unable to play for two weeks,” club doctor Juan Carlos Hernandez said Monday. The French international strained a thigh muscle in Saturday’s goalless draw at Recreativo Huelva in the Spanish league.
About Ronaldo, del Corral said: “We are doing all we can to get the player ready and there is still a little time left,” he said. “But the truth is that I think it will be almost impossible.”