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Milan AC's spirits have been lifted by their 2-1 victory over Torino Calcio at the weekend and their coach Carlo Ancelotti is confident they can overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in Thursday's UEFA Cup quarter-final at the San Siro.
Season in the balance
Milan's season hangs on the outcome of this game; a good result against the team from Tel-Aviv could have a beneficial effect on their Serie A fortunes as well keeping alive their hopes of a major honour. "Tel-Aviv will meet a different Milan team this time," promised Ancelotti. "Our spirit and morale has changed radically after Sunday's victory. Last week we came from a heavy defeat against Bologna [FC]. But following our fine performance against Torino we have won back a lot of confidence."
Good rhythm needed
"We want to play intelligently and we will have to," Ancelotti continued. "We have to avoid being hurried in the beginning but impose a good rhythm and play as we can. We are convinced we can make it, and we will play with a lot of determination. We want to reach the semi-finals."
Inzaghi and Ambrosini back
The return of Filippo Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini has added to Milan's confident mood. Inzaghi's form against Torino, in the continued absence of Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko, proved crucial, and Tel-Aviv will have to pay particular attention to the Italian international, who did not play in the first leg in Cyprus.
Fans confident again
While having Inzaghi back in the team may be important, having the Rossoneri fans back on side could prove even more crucial. "We have proved that we have a good group of players," said Martin Laursen, "and we have won back the confidence of our fans. However, one match is not enough."
Several thousand travelling fans
Tel-Aviv, as Alessandro Costacurta pointed out, will be highly motivated by the difficult political climate in their own country and will bring with them 6,500 fans determined to make themselves heard, even in the San Siro. There will be special security measures in and around the stadium, although the city
authorities do not consider the match of a higher security risk than any other of this type and Parma AC encountered no problems when they received Tel-Aviv in the fourth round.
'The occasion of their lives'
"For them it will be the occasion of their lives," said Costacurta. "We have shown some signs of improvement. When you start winning your games everything becomes easier and you can concentrate with less pressure and more serenity."
Apart from Shevchenko, Milan will also be without Cosmin Contra, Serginho and Roque Junior because of suspension, while José Mari Romero, the Spanish striker, is suffering from fatigue. Tel-Aviv have a problem at left-back where Yigal Antebi is suspended and have tried out Yacov Hillel as a stand-in. Dror Kashtan, the Tel-Aviv head coach, has shown his players video footage of Milan's win against Torino, concentrating on the stars who did not feature in Nicosia.
'A fragile lead'
"We are taking a very fragile lead to face one of Europe's strongest sides," said Yossi Abuksis, who set up Serghey Clescenko's winning goal in the first leg. "But, just like in the previous away matches we had, our intention is to score a goal to ensure that everything remains in our hands."
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