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"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," Kevin Spacey's character Verbal declares during The Usual Suspects. Manchester United FC defenders would do well to keep that in mind when veteran striker Filippo Inzaghi returns to the AC Milan side on Wednesday.
For a player used to the spotlight, Inzaghi has spent much of this campaign in the shadows. A succession of injuries have taken their toll on the forward, yet as he proved with a crucial goal in the quarter-final against FC Bayern München, he remains one of Europe's most lethal penalty-box predators. He may turn 34 this year and cannot boast the shot or dribbling skills of Kaká, but give him the opportunity and Inzaghi will punish any mistake in familiar style: the blind-side run to the edge of the six-metre box before springing the offside trap by the tightest of margins to score.
Bayern learned that to their cost and United will need to heed the German club's lesson. Although Inzaghi was back on the substitutes' bench for the 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford last week, coach Carlo Ancelotti is ready to put his faith in him above the disappointing Alberto Gilardino. "Gilardino has scored only once in the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "There is more pressure in the Champions League than in the domestic league and Gilardino is not experienced enough to handle it yet. Inzaghi is in good shape and there is a good chance he could play on Wednesday."
Trust to repay
Inzaghi was rested for Milan's 1-0 win at Torino FC on Saturday, the Rossoneri's fifth straight Serie A success, and he trained alone over the weekend to regain full fitness. He is looking forward to the challenge. "I'm very happy to hear everybody is counting on me against United," the Italian international said. "I love to feel the trust of the people around me. It helps me perform better. We will give it everything. We know our strengths and we will be playing in front of our fans who will give us tremendous support. We have to play a great game but we know we can beat them. These are the games you always want to play."
Inzaghi has scored 36 times in this competition. His 12 goals in 2002/03 fired Milan to the final which they won on penalties against his old club Juventus; four strikes this term have helped Milan to the verge of another final appearance. He is expected to play alone up front supported by Kaká and Clarence Seedorf, with Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso - who has overcome a foot injury - in midfield. Inzaghi might be nearing the end of an illustrious career but his professionalism remains an example to all. "He has been eating the same healthy food for 30 years," Gattuso said. "I feel sick just watching him eat while every day I'm dreaming of my wife's tiramisù." Should Inzaghi hit the heights against United, even he might indulge in a slice.
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