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By Eduard Nisenboim
For AC Milan, victory in Moscow tonight will secure the Group C leaders a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Whatever the result against FC Lokomotiv Moskva, it promises to be a special occasion for the Rossoneri captain Paolo Maldini, who will make a record 118th appearance in UEFA club competition. Maldini, who has played the full 90 minutes in all but five of his previous 117 European games, equalled the record of the former Internazionale FC right-back Giuseppe Bergomi, in last week's 1-0 home win against Lokomotiv.
Maldini will be 35 in June, but has maintained his high standards this season after moving into a central position from his more familiar left-back role. A veteran of Milan's European crown-winning sides of 1989, 1990 and 1994, and it would be unwise to rule out a sixth final appearance at Old Trafford in May after Milan's three successive wins in the second group stage.
All or nothing
The pitch at the Lokomotiv stadium has been protected by a special inflatable cover throughout the winter so it is expected to be in a reasonably good condition. It is not the pitch but the players who are the main worry for Semin, whose side - with just one point to their name - must win to have any hope of continuing in the competition.
While Vadim Evseev has served his ban and returns to the squad, Jacob Lekcetho is now suspended and Oleg Pashinine is doubtful with 'flu. Nigerian striker James Obiorah is still injured and Julio Cesar and Marat Izmailov face a race against time to be fit.
Goals have not come easily for Lokomotiv against Italian opposition in the past: a 1-1 draw with S.S. Lazio is as good as it has got, with 1-0 defeats against Juventus FC and AS Roma more representative of their struggles. "We play top teams and we match them but have lost because of one or two mistakes," Semin said. "If we are to win such a game, we should create more chances than our opponents".
Yet despite the need to get a result, Semin, who claimed Milan "did not create a single chance in the first hour" at the San Siro prior to Jon Dahl Tomasson's winner, warned against a gung-ho approach, saying: "We will not charge forward forgetting about defence. Yes, we could play open football, but it will be over in 15 minutes, with very bad consequences for us.
We will not sacrifice our strengths for the sake of attractive football."
Rivaldo to play
Milan also face personnel problems. Andriy Shevchenko, Roque Junior and Andrea Pirlo have not travelled, while Rivaldo missed training on Monday, although he will surely play. Alessandro Nesta and Fernando Redondo, meanwhile, have 'flu symptoms but are also expected to appear.
'More chances' for Milan
Milan were beating Torino Calcio 3-0 on Saturday before their match was abandoned because of crowd trouble at the Stadio Delle Alpi and coach Carlo Ancelotti is, not surprisingly, optimistic. "
Everyone can see the quality growing but I am hoping that we will play even better than on Saturday," he said. "I am sure that we will see different football from what we saw in Milan. Surely, Lokomotiv will attack more and our defence will be under pressure, but we will get more chances on the other end".
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