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Three more seek safe passage

Published: Wednesday 12 March 2003, 11.46CET
Who follows AC Milan and Manchester United FC into the last eight from Groups C and D could be answered tonight.
Published: Wednesday 12 March 2003, 11.46CET

Three more seek safe passage

Who follows AC Milan and Manchester United FC into the last eight from Groups C and D could be answered tonight.

The question of who follows AC Milan and Manchester United FC into the UEFA Champions League last eight could be answered tonight. Holders Real Madrid CF face Group C winners Milan at the Santiago Bernabéu knowing victory could take them through, while Juventus FC and RC Deportivo La Coruña face off in Group D.

'A true cup tie'
Juve's meeting with Depor is their third in successive years at the Delle Alpi and, according to the Italian side's coach, Marcello Lippi, it could well decide the pair's fate in the competition. "This is a true cup tie - if you lose you are out," said Lippi, who expects greater drama than seen in the two previous goalless draws in this fixture. A victory for either side would secure second place in the group should fourth-placed FC Basel lose to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Basel retain hope
Basel have not given up hope yet, however. A point behind Juve and Depor, their coach, Christian Gross, has described tonight's match as "the hugest game in the club's history". Although United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stressed the group winners would not be taking it easy "in fairness to all the teams". They will be missing Roy Keane and Juan Sebastián Verón in midfield, and have doubts over Diego Forlán, Wes Brown and Quinton Fortune. Hence Gross's optimism. "Teams playing at Old Trafford always get chances and we have got to be cold-blooded when the opportunities come our way," he said.

Milan promise
Like United, Group C winners Milan have promised - in the words of coach Carlo Ancelotti - "to be competitive" against Madrid, despite the absence of Filippo Inzaghi, Kakha Kaladze, Massimo Ambrosini and Serginho. Midfield player Rui Costa went even further when he said: "If we really want to win the Champions League, it's better to eliminate Real. There's not a man among us who would be sad if they were no longer in our way."

Dortmund must win
That may not be entirely true given the presence of Fernando Redondo in the Rossoneri ranks. The Argentinian returns to the Bernabéu for the first time since leaving the club in summer 2000 and has admitted he is "still a fan" of the European champions. Madrid, who are a point above third-placed BV Borussia Dortmund, will ensure progress if they win and the German champions fail to take all three points from their home match with FC Lokomotiv Moskva.

Ronaldo passed fit
Dortmund are missing Tomáš Rosický and Jörg Heinrich but welcome back Stefan Reuter and Lars Ricken against a Lokomotiv side who, according to coach Yuri Semin, "have no chance of qualifying". As for Madrid, there is the familiar sight of a question mark against Ronaldo's fitness. The Brazilian is included in the squad despite a muscle strain, but he may have to settle for a place on the bench, meaning a possible start for Guti or Javier Portillo. As ever, you can follow all the action live on from 20.45CET.   

Last updated: 12/03/03 21.46CET

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