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Milan await Rijkaard's return

Published: Wednesday 20 October 2004, 13.08CET
Frank Rijkaard returns to the San Siro with high-flying FC Barcelona to face his former club AC Milan.

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Published: Wednesday 20 October 2004, 13.08CET

Milan await Rijkaard's return

Frank Rijkaard returns to the San Siro with high-flying FC Barcelona to face his former club AC Milan.

By Paolo Menicucci in Milan

FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard returns to the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, scene of some of his finest moments as a player, as the Spanish league leaders face off against his old club AC Milan, the other side with maximum points in Group F, on Wednesday.

Glittering spell
The 42-year-old Dutchman won two Italian league titles and two European Champion Clubs' Cups during a five-year spell with the Rossoneri between 1988 and 1993. Scorer of Milan's winning goal in the 1990 European Cup final against SL Benfica, he said: "It is always a great pleasure to return to Milan. I have many friends here but now I'm working for Barcelona, so it's a completely different thing."

After taking six wins from seven Primera División matches so far, Rijkaard is clearly satisfied with the way his team are playing. "You can defend well only when the forwards help the defenders and vice versa. Football is a team sport in all its aspects," said Rjikaard who admitted, like Carlo Ancelotti, that he learnt a lot from his former coach at Milan, Arrigo Sacchi.

'Here to play'
Looking ahead to Wednesday's match, Rjikaard continued: "Milan are a strong side but we are here to play our game not to just stop them. I think Milan and Barcelona have many similarities. Both teams play attacking football and have players who can always make the difference."

Praise from Ancelotti
Milan coach Ancelotti praised his former team-mate - and his Barça team - saying: "He was one of the first midfielders who was able to do everything on the pitch. I played alongside him many times and he was a great professional. Now he is also doing well as a coach. Barcelona play quality attacking football and also manage to defend well. It's not easy to find the right equilibrium when you have so many attack-minded players but Rijakaard managed very quickly and he deserves much credit for this."

'Entertaining game'
Still Ancelotti is confident of his own team's strengths. "I'm very confident because Milan always play well in this kind of match," he said. "Against top European sides we don't win all the time but we always play at our very best. Barcelona are one of the best teams in Europe and I'm sure both sides will consider a draw a poor result. This will lead to an entertaining game."

Puyol fit
Last Saturday, Barcelona defeated city rivals RCD Espanyol 1-0 despite suffering fresh injury worries. Ludovic Giuly (thigh) and Gerard López (groin) are missing, but Carles Puyol should recover from a knee injury in time to bolster their defence - good news for Rijkaard, who is already without the injured Edmílson, Thiago Motta, Gabri García and Sylvinho.

Tomasson absent
Meanwhile Ancelotti can count on the return of Jaap Stam from his ankle injury. The Dutch defender should play alongside Alessandro Nesta in the centre with Paolo Maldini moving to the left side of the defence, and Cafu, who was rested in the 1-0 win over Cagliari Calcio, returning to the right. Jon Dahl Tomasson was not 100 per cent fit after playing from the start at Cagliari and left out of the squad.

Inzaghi target
Meanwhile Hernán Crespo has returned to full fitness but should start from the substitutes' bench with Filippo Inzaghi joining Andriy Shevchenko in attack. After scoring his 48th goal in European club competitions in the 3-1 win over Celtic FC, Inzaghi is just one goal behind former Real Madrid CF legend Alfredo Di Stéfano, who stands fourth in the overall scoring records.

Last updated: 20/10/04 13.25CET