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Tense finale for Deportivo

Published: Wednesday 13 November 2002, 0.36CET
Javier Irureta is demanding total concentration as RC Deportivo La Coruña face AC Milan.

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Published: Wednesday 13 November 2002, 0.36CET

Tense finale for Deportivo

Javier Irureta is demanding total concentration as RC Deportivo La Coruña face AC Milan.

By Marcus Christenson

RC Deportivo La Coruña coach Javier Irureta is taking no chances as his side face AC Milan at the San Siro stadium.

Close finish
In a finely poised Group G, either Deportivo or RC Lens could join Milan in the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League after Wednesday's games. However, Irureta has urged his side not to think about the result of Lens' final game at FC Bayern München, and concentrate on winning in Milan.

'In our hands'
"I prefer my team to be focusing on their own game and I am not worried about the result in the other game," he said. "The good thing is that it is all in our hands and we know that we will qualify for the next phase if we win."

Players rested
Two points clear of Lens in the group, a draw or even a defeat could still see the Spanish side through to the next stage, but Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti's decision to rest some key players for the game could do Deportivo a favour.

No pushovers
However, Irureta took little comfort from the news, saying: "Milan have so many good players at their disposal and the players coming in will be looking to show to their coach and the home fans that they are worth a place in the team."

Milan nerves
Deportivo striker Alberto Luque was certainly not overconfident about the prospect of facing Milan, whether they were fielding their strongest side or not. He said: "Milan will probably not play with the same eleven that beat us earlier in the season but they will not want to lose this game, even if they have already qualified."

Injury list
Deportivo are still without playmaker Juan Valerón and Irureta has problems in defence with Noureddine Naybet, César Martín and Jorge Andrade all injured. The lengthy injury list could force the coach to play with four full-backs in defence (Lionel Scaloni, Héctor Berenguel, Enrique Romero and Joan Capdevila).

Players' responsibility
Milan coach Ancelotti, meanwhile, wants his side to finish the first group stage with a win after their 2-1 defeat against Lens on Matchday Five. He said: "We want to win the game and to perform at our highest possible level," he said. "We have a responsibility to the fans to do our best. I expect the team to bounce back from Sunday's 2-1 defeat [against Juventus FC]."

Shevchenko role
Ancelotti added that there were no problems with striker Andriy Shevchenko, following newspaper speculation that the Ukrainian was ready to leave the club after failing to get his first-team place back after injury. Ancelotti said: "I have never heard that he is unhappy. Of course he is going to be disappointed to be on the bench but so are all players, but he will play against Deportivo."

Defenders rested
Clarence Seedorf is suspended while Gennaro Gattuso, Dida and Marco Borriello are injured. Centre backs Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini are likely to be rested.

Last updated: 14/11/02 10.30CET