Liverpool, Milan set for crucial matches

Updated: 01 May 2007 16:00 IST

The Champions League is the last chance for Liverpool and AC Milan to win a trophy this season.


The Champions League is the last chance for Liverpool and AC Milan to win a trophy this season.

To do so, they will have to reverse first-leg defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United.

It's not an impossible task - both trail by only single goals from last week's first legs and face teams missing key players.

When Milan hosts Manchester United on Wednesday it will have to turn around a 3-2 deficit.

The Red Devils have been decimated by injuries, particularly at the back. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Gary Neville will miss the match through injury, while Patrice Evra is suspended.

"With the problems we have in defense I think there's every chance we will concede again in Milan, but I think we'll score as well," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "What we have to do is step up a gear, play really well, and make sure we carry a goal threat."

Paul Scholes, who was suspended for United's 1999 winning final against Bayern Munich, is one booking from missing another final. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was below par in the first leg, and Gabriel Heinze also need to avoid being disciplined.

The trip to Italy follows a grueling fightback at Everton on Saturday to win 4-2, extending United's lead at the top of the English Premier League to five points and keeping United on course to repeat its 1999 treble.

Clash of the titans

The Reds Devils will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 19, four days before a potential meeting in the Champions League final.

"They are doing well in the championship and have extended their lead over Chelsea so they will have less pressure than they would have had with a bad result," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

"But a Champions League semifinal is something special. It will be a game where we have to play at our best without losing concentration but with the right level of intensity and serenity."

Milan, the only non-English side left in the competition, beat Torino 1-0 in the Serie A on Saturday.

Filippo Inzaghi is expected to start in place of Alberto Gilardino as Milan attempts to make up for its one-goal deficit. Inzaghi should be supported by Kaka _ the competition's top scorer with nine goals _ and Clarence Seedorf.

Milan captain Paolo Maldini is the only doubt after aggravating his left knee in the first leg when Milan's 2-1 halftime advantage was wiped out by two goals from Wayne Rooney.

Milan won its sixth European title in 2003 beating Juventus on penalty kicks, and has knocked United out of the competition three times, including the 1958 and 1969 semifinals.

Moving on

In the other semifinal on Tuesday, Joe Cole's goal gives Chelsea the edge against Liverpool.

When the sides met at the same stage in 2005, a 1-0 victory at Anfield saw Liverpool progress to the final and win its fifth European Cup.

To claim its first European Cup, the Blues will need to forget Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bolton that effectively lost them the Premier League title.

"When we lost the semifinal two years ago we beat Bolton two days before to lift the title," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. "This time we lost two crucial points against Bolton and we can hopefully go there to win the tie and go to the final."

On Wednesday, Mourinho will be without defender Ricardo Carvalho, who sustained a knee injury on Saturday, and midfielder Michael Ballack, who underwent ankle surgery on Friday.

Chelsea can still land three trophies. The League Cup was won in February and it will contest the FA Cup final.

Topics : Football
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