By Christian Châtelet & Paolo Menicucci
AC Milan may already have secured qualification from UEFA Champions League Group G with four wins out of four but their hosts on Tuesday, RC Lens, will be confident of victory against an Italian side without several key players and coming off a rare defeat.
Inzaghi heads absentees
Milan, beaten 3-2 by AC Chievo Verona on Saturday to concede the Serie A lead to rivals Internazionale FC, have travelled to France without Alessandro Nesta, Rui Costa, Rivaldo and Filippo Inzaghi - the latter having scored eight goals in the group stage so far - while Christian Abbiati replaces Dida in goal.
"They have played many matches in a row while missing training sessions," explained Milan's medical officer Jean Pierre Meersseman about the decision to leave the outfield quartet at home. "They will work hard for the entire week to reach their peak physical condition".
Their absence will give Lens hope of a win that could take them into second place ahead of RC Deportivo La Coruña - who face FC Bayern München in Spain - with just one game remaining. Lens are full of confidence after a 3-1 win against the Spaniards last week and on Saturday they ended OGC Nice's spell at the top of France's Ligue 1 with a 0-0 draw.
'A positive sign'
Their visitors' own weekend travails have given Lens extra confidence. "I remember Deportivo lost their last match as well before coming to Lens," said club chairman Gervais Martel. "It might be a positive sign." Lens's performance against Deportivo - who had beaten them 3-1 on Matchday Three - offers hope too. Trailing 1-0 with less than half an hour left, Adama Coulibaly, Daniel Moreira and Olivier Thomert all scored to secure their first win in the section.
'More space and more chances'
Moreira is enjoying the competition. "What is fantastic about the Champions League is that opponents do not come only to defend," he said. "This means I have more space and more chances." However, he knows a tough game lies ahead. "AC Milan have great strength in depth as the likes of [Andriy] Shevchenko come in to replace Inzaghi, and can produce an excellent game at any time," he added.
'I'm really happy'
Shevchenko's return could indeed prove vital. After two months out with a knee injury, the Ukrainian was back on Saturday to score against Chievo, and looks set to partner Jon Dahl Tomasson on Tuesday. "I'm really happy about my goal," said the Ukrainian international. "It was a bad result for the team but scoring a goal is always a boost for my morale."
Dalla Bona hope
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti can call on Danish internationals Thomas Helveg and Martin Laursen and veteran Alessandro Costacurta in defence, while Samuele Dalla Bona could start in place of Rui Costa in midfield. Even a much-changed Milan will present a formidable challenge to Lens.
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