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Bayern target historic Milan scalp

Published: Wednesday 8 March 2006, 1.39CET
Felix Magath hopes to lose his traditional popularity with AC Milan supporters when FC Bayern München visit the San Siro for a crucial second leg tie.
by Trevor Haylett
from Milan
Published: Wednesday 8 March 2006, 1.39CET

Bayern target historic Milan scalp

Felix Magath hopes to lose his traditional popularity with AC Milan supporters when FC Bayern München visit the San Siro for a crucial second leg tie.

Felix Magath, the FC Bayern München coach, has had a special place in the hearts of AC Milan supporters ever since the 1983 European Champion Clubs' Cup final when his goal for Hamburger SV was enough to defeat Milan's great rivals Juventus. But in the San Siro on Wednesday night, Magath can destroy that relationship by guiding his team past the Rossoneri and into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

No more gifts
Twenty-three years ago Milan fans honoured Magath's achievement by presenting him with a gold chain. On his return to the Italian city for a game that is critically poised after the first leg ended 1-1, they again showered him with gifts - but the Bayern coach believes his side will ensure there won't be any more coming his way by wreaking revenge on the club who have always held mastery over the German champions.

Clash of styles
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti was striking an equally bullish note, however, predicting that his players' technical superiority will carry them through. "It will be a game between two different football styles," he said. "Bayern are very aggressive and physically strong, while we are more skilled technically. They suffered against us when we started to play our usual football in the second half in Munich. I just hope we can do that for 90 minutes this time."

Weight of history
If that is the case, it will maintain Milan's tradition of beating Bayern in two-legged combat. They have always then gone on to lift the trophy - it happened in the UEFA Champions League of 1989/90 and 2002/03 and also in the 1967/68 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Milan confidence
Ancelotti added: "Bayern need to score and I expect them to play as they did in the first half in Munich, when they were aggressive and attacking-minded. However, we are more focused, self-confident and aware of our strength now compared to a few weeks ago, so I'm very optimistic about our chances of progress."

Goalkeeping problems
With the teams evenly matched in the first game and the return likely to be just as closely fought, much could rest on the form and fitness of the goalkeepers. Milan will leave a decision on Dida's availability until after their final training session, while the visitors are reassured by the return of Oliver Kahn. A thigh injury kept the German international out a fortnight ago, while Dida was forced off after 70 minutes and has missed the two subsequent league matches, including Saturday's 3-0 success against Empoli FC.

Khan hurdle
Andriy Shevchenko, whose penalty cancelled out Michael Ballack's stunning strike in the Fußball Arena München, sees Khan's return as an additional hurdle for his team to overcome. Ancelotti's biggest fear is that the suspension of midfielder Gennaro Gattuso could impact on Milan's effectiveness.

Gattuso blow
"Gattuso's absence is very important for us because he is unique in his role for his great determination and heart," Ancelotti said. "He is irreplaceable. However, [Johann] Vogel is a very good player, especially from a tactical point of view. He will not have particular problems."

Bayern subsidence
Bayern go into the game having just surrendered their unbeaten home record at their new stadium, and all too aware that they have lost to Italian clubs on their last five visits to Italy. Magath said that Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Hamburg came about because the glamour European tie was already starting to intrude on his players' concentration.

Thoughts elsewhere
"My players were busy last week thinking about Milan," he explained. "That was the reason we did not perform against Hamburg. We have a very important match here and we will be doing our utmost to reach the quarter-finals.

Shevchenko threat
"Milan will play like a typical Italian team and their defence is very strong. But they have possibilities with some excellent players in attack and we will be giving Shevchenko extra attention."

Last updated: 08/03/06 22.46CET

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