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Milan in buoyant mood

Published: Wednesday 18 September 2002, 13.17CET
Milan AC are eager to make the most of their return to the UEFA Champions League against RC Lens.

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Published: Wednesday 18 September 2002, 13.17CET

Milan in buoyant mood

Milan AC are eager to make the most of their return to the UEFA Champions League against RC Lens.

Milan AC return to the UEFA Champions League tonight after a one-year absence and coach Carlo Ancelotti is confident that his team can get off to a good start against France's RC Lens at the San Siro.

Inzaghi double
The five-times European champions beat Modena FC 3-0 in their first Serie A game of the season on Saturday after two goals from Filippo Inzaghi and another from Dario Simic - and Ancelotti hopes that his players will be able to show the same determination in European competition.

'Special tournament'
"We play Lens following a good league performance and that has given us a lot of confidence," Ancelotti said. "The players are in good shape and we are looking forward to starting our Champions League campaign. It is a very special tournament and one, considering the club's history and tradition, Milan should be in."

Strengthened squad
Milan last won the competition in 1994 but the fans feel that their team now have the chance to challenge again following the summer arrivals of, among others, Brazilian Rivaldo, Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson and defender Alessandro Nesta.

Rivaldo to start
Rivaldo was on the bench for Saturday's game but Ancelotti said that the FIFA World Cup winner will start against Lens - together with Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa. Unless Rivaldo plays up front, the two attacking midfield players will receive cover from two defensive ones, expected to be Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo, but Ancelotti feels that his team will cope defensively.

'Thinking player'
"I am not worried about us focusing too much on attack or that Rivaldo and Rui Costa can't play together," Ancelotti said. "Rivaldo has settled quickly and the thing with great players such as Rivaldo is that they are thinking players - and thinking players can play with anyone."

Ancelotti warning
But while Ancelotti is confident, he has warned his players against underestimating Lens. "They have good players and some of them showed that during the World Cup, especially the Senegalese players. We want to attack and win but we will have to look out for counterattacks."

Lens focused
Lens arrived in Milan yesterday boosted by a hard-fought 1-0 win over Stade Rennais FC at the weekend. Coach Joël Muller expects his team to give Milan a close match, saying: "We are going to Milan full of confidence and that will pose them some problems."

Bak back
Young Nigerian striker John Utaka scored the winning goal against Rennes and could partner the impressive Dagui Bakeri up front while Polish defender Jacek Bak is expected to return after missing the game at the weekend. Milan, meanwhile, welcome back goalkeeper Christian Abbiati and midfield player Massimo Ambrosini from injury.

Last updated: 18/09/02 20.36CET