By Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Despite having already won UEFA Champions League Group H, and ahead of the European/South American Cup match against CA Boca Juniors in Japan on Sunday, AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is promising a "professional and motivated" performance against RC Celta de Vigo at the San Siro.
Big names missing
Milan have a decisive four-point lead at the top of the section, leaving AFC Ajax, Celta and Club Brugge KV to fight for second place. However, Ancelotti – who is without a number of first-team regulars on Tuesday, with Paolo Maldini, Cafu, Alessandro Nesta, Andriy Shevchenko, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Giuseppe Pancaro all having left for Japan – wants the holders to end their group campaign in style.
"There is no question of us not taking this game seriously," said the coach. "We have a very strong squad. The motivation for a team like Milan is always strong. Nobody can question our professionalism and we will demonstrate this against Celta.
Playing for places
"Those who play will be playing for a place in the starting lineup on Sunday, so I am convinced they will give their all. Gattuso, Cafu and Shevchenko would not have played anyway because they are not fully fit."
Strength in depth
Striker Filippo Inzaghi will miss the tie with a muscle injury, which could give Italian Under-21 international Marco Borriello his chance, and Ancelotti believes the match offers his squad an opportunity to show their strength in depth, saying: "To call the team against Celta second-string is unfair, because at least four of them will start against Boca.
I will be able to field great players who don't deserve to be second choices."
The trainer confirmed that Fernando Redondo and Christian Abbiati would be joined in the starting XI by Serginho, who has recently recovered from a knee injury, while Massimo Ambrosini and Kakha Kaladze will have late fitness tests on minor injuries.
Three points are imperative for Celta, who must also hope Ajax fail to beat Brugge. Miguel Ángel Lotina is without Russian international Aleksandr Mostovoi, who tore a thigh muscle last week, and long-term injury victims Edu and Juan Velasco, and knows that his side face a considerable challenge in Milan despite the holders' big-name absentees.
No easy task
"We will face players who want to prove they deserve to play regularly," Lotina said. "They are all internationals and they will not be thinking about Boca. We cannot think it will be easy because it won't be like that."
Saturday's 3-2 defeat by CA Osasuna left Celta perilously close to the Primera División relegation zone, but midfield player Peter Luccin insisted they forget their league form. "We are eager to win and show that we are a good team despite our current bad period," he said. "We have to focus on winning and hope the result of the other match goes our way."
Lotina also believes Celta have to rediscover their verve, saying: "We have to forget about the league and focus on Milan.
We have to cancel doubts and fears because this is a great opportunity for ourselves and for our fans."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.