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Holders begin with Benfica

San Siro can expect to welcome back an old favourite when AC Milan begin the defence of their European title against a SL Benfica side boasting Rui Costa.

Rui Costa is going back to Milan
Rui Costa is going back to Milan ©Getty Images

San Siro can expect to welcome back an old favourite when AC Milan begin the defence of their European title against SL Benfica. After their 2-1 final triumph over Liverpool FC in Athens, the Rossoneri embark on a new campaign against Group D opponents who include in their ranks the Portuguese veteran Rui Costa, himself a former UEFA Champions League winner with Milan in 2003. There will no room for sentiment, however, for a Milan side bidding to become the first team to win two successive UEFA Champions League titles.

• Milan's triumph in May was their seventh in Europe's élite club competition and served to banish the demons of their 2005 final defeat by Liverpool in Istanbul. Filippo Inzaghi was their two-goal hero in Athens but it was Kaká, the ten-goal top scorer last term, who received the award for the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year at last month's group stage draw in Monaco.

• Milan overcame Celtic FC, FC Bayern München and Manchester United FC en route to the final last season, having earlier beaten FK Crvena Zvezda in the third qualifying round and then finished top of their group ahead of LOSC Lille Métropole, AEK Athens FC and RSC Anderlecht.

• The Rossoneri began the new season by collecting another European honour thanks to a 3-1 victory over Sevilla FC in the UEFA Super Cup on 31 August. Inzaghi, Marek Jankulovski and Kaká were the scorers.

• This is Benfica's third successive season in the UEFA Champions League and follows a 2006/07 campaign where they finished third in their group-stage section behind Manchester United and Celtic. After stepping into the UEFA Cup, they reached the last eight of that tournament before succumbing to eventual finalists RCD Espanyol.

• Benfica booked their place in this season's group stage thanks to a 3-1 aggregate success over FC København in the third qualifying round.

• Rui Costa, who spent five years with Milan from 2001 to 2006, struck either side of Atiba Hutchinson's goal for the visitors – the second on 85 minutes – to earn the Lisbon outfit a narrow home win in the first leg. Konstantinos Katsouranis secured their progress with the only goal of the return in Denmark.

• Benfica had a different coach at the helm for the two legs of that qualifying tie, Fernando Santos making way for José Antonio Camacho after the first fixture.

• Milan have happy memories of facing Benfica, having twice beaten the Portuguese team to win the European Champion Clubs' Cup. The Rossoneri collected their first European crown by coming from behind to beat Benfica 2-1 in the 1963 final through two goals from José Altafini.

• They also prevailed when the sides met in the 1990 final, Frank Rijkaard scoring the only goal of a game in which both Carlo Ancelotti and Paolo Maldini played. Milan's success was the last time a team won back-to-back European Cups.

• Maldini was also in action when these teams met in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and again the Rossoneri ran out winners, 2-0 on aggregate through two Marco Simone strikes at San Siro.

• It is not just San Siro that has been an unhappy hunting ground for Benfica: they have lost on eight of their last nine visits to Italy.